Alpine tip by Russ Peterson
Let’s say you have been trying to get a student to move their center of mass forward and diagonally to start the new turn but they have been unsuccessful. Until they build awareness of their ankles, and actually flex their ankles, they will not be able to move forward at the beginning of the turn.
If you are unsure about this, then stand up now! While standing tall, with ankles open (extended) try moving your hips forward and diagonally as you increase pressure toward the front of your feet. Yes if you hold your ankle joint perfectly still you can move the hips forward but this causes an arching of the lower back and your weight to move more toward your heels. Try it again, now, with your ankles open (extended) begin to increase the flex in the knees, hips and spine (like you are doing a squat) – once again you should feel more pressure towards your heels the farther down you go. OK, now finally try it as if you were wearing a ski boot, with equal and complimentary flex in the ankles, knees, hips and spine. You should be able to move your center of mass forward by flexing your ankles and simultaneously extending your knees and hips. Developing this awareness of the importance of the ankle joint is crucial to good skiing.
Here is a static on-snow drill I use when trying to develop ankle awareness in many of my students across many ability levels. When: Students with locked, stiff, open ankle joints and/or hips are behind the feet.
- Movements isolated to ankle
- Develop kinesthetic awareness of ankle joint
- Illustrate ankle influences fore/aft balance
What: Find and explore the range of movement in the ankles, how the ankles affect balance, and the importance the ankle plays in the ability to move into the turn.
How/Do: While perpendicular to a shallow slope, with skis hip-width apart, standing with only a slight flex in the ankles, knees, hips and spine, close and open (flex/extend) the ankles while holding all other joints still. Isolate the ankle, and explore its range of motion.
Insure correctness of the drill: movements in the waist, hips and knees are not allowed, but very common. Reiterate the importance of isolating movement to the ankle joint only. Spend an adequate amount of time so your students can actually begin to develop kinetic awareness.
Key points: ankle closed moves hips generally in front of the feet. As the ankle opens, hips tend to move behind the feet. Outcome: ankles play a key role in for and aft balance.
Explore (aka lateral learning): Once students have developed better movement and awareness in the ankles you can now explore how this new movement and enhanced awareness can help with efficient balancing (where the quadriceps are not getting over worked), rounder turns (instead of abrupt direction changes typical of turning movements originating in the upper body), engaging their tips and edges earlier in the turn (instead of pivoting their skis to an edge), and general flowing over-and-with terrain (instead of getting bucked and tossed around off-piste or the need to make frequent and gross re-balancing movements).[connection_list id=36 template_name=”div_staff_bio”]