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Advanced Counteracting

During the Tech Camp this fall, I had a lot of discussion (and movement analysis) with Harald about counter action in the transition. I thought I would share some of the main points and let things develop from there. 

 The standard description of the stages of counter action through the transition are as follows:

1. End of turn. Old edges at their highest tipping angle. Counter action and balance for the old turn.

2. Middle of transition. Flat skis. Square (facing the direction of the skis) and a slight counter balance for the new turn (if the skis are flat to the slope and the slope has angle, there is a need for some counter balance at flat).

3. New turn edges. New turn counter action and balancing movements increase as the edge angles increase.

This is the description you get in the video on my web site:

Understanding Lower /Upper Body Coordination

For the vast majority of us, these reference points are important images. Most people do not have an idea of active counter action that is referenced off of the angle of the skis. Instead, at best, many people ski the feet into counter action referenced to the position in the turn arc. That is, they keep the body always facing down the hill and just let the skis turn into a countered position at the bottom of each turn regardless of the tipping angle of the skis. More commonly, many people actually have a lot of active rotation somewhere in the turn.

So, for most of us the idea that there is active counter action of the upper body against a stable gripping base in the feet is a revelation. It suggests that as the feet roll from edge to edge, the upper body actions must change. The counter action of the old turn must unwind through square and then continue through to the opposite side for the new turn. Rather than the old adage to keep the upper body facing down the fall line, if the skis go to a high angle in the beginning of the turn, then the body must be turning towards the uphill side! Many of us have had to do this exercise with the hip-o-meter on.

As a general picture, to help change our old movement patterns, these standard stages of PMTS counter acting movements go a long way. However, for more dynamic turns, it turns out that the picture is a bit more complicated.

Advanced Counter Acting

Here is a point that forms the basis of a more advanced understanding.

  • Any movement of the upper body (either rotation or counter action) before you are solidly on new edges (edged enough to resist the effects of any upper body movement) will result in skidding of some type.

How is this different than the standard explanation? The standard explanation would suggest that as the edge angles are reduced in the beginning of the release, the upper body is unwinding -- outside rotating forward in concert with the flattening of the skis. Further, the standard description would suggest that while the skis move through flat, the unwinding continues and becomes the new turn counter action as the edges engage for the new turn.

However, there is a problem with this in dynamic turns. If the upper body is actively countering as the skis are flattening, and through flat, then the skis are susceptible to twisting through the basic physics of “action-counteraction.” There is not enough edge to provide a platform of resistance for the movements.

Instead, the old turn counter action must be held strongly all the way onto the new edges. Only when the new edges are firmly engaged can the unwinding happen. If the tipping actions of the new turn -- independently of the upper body -- are not enough, then the new countering actions will result in a “heel push” engagement at the beginning of the turn -- the mechanics of a classic pivot slip.

This whole process takes a well developed ability in lower upper body work. The torso must hold the old turn counter, but the hips must relax the counter enough to facilitate flexing and tipping. If the hips remain in the old turn counter too strongly then it is hard to flex the new inside leg, tip toward the new LTE, and move the hips across the skis ahead of the movements of the new stance leg.

The need for grip first

So, here is the short of it all. The feet must immediately develop the biggest angles they can while the torso holds the old turn counter. Once the edges are firmly engaged, the body can unwind and counter act for the new turn.

Of course, anything that blocks flexing and tipping, such as extending the new stance leg too early, will inevitably destroy any chance one has of making all this work.

There isn’t anything inconsistent with the standard description that we often use, but it does turn out to be a bit more complicated.
I hope you find this useful.

Marlie Schilde -Holding Counter

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