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Up and Down, whats the point?

To help us develop our sport it is important to challenge our beliefs, just because we were taught something when we were kids does it mean we have to teach it now?

Up and Down, Flex and Extend,  what are we doing? Working regularly on the beginner slopes i see “Up and Down” being taught, but sometimes i feel its just because someone once said it was a good idea and no one ever challenge why its a good idea.

Mobile joints that can extend and flex help maintain and recover balance, without that mobility it would be impossible to ski to the same level. When we ski in bumps we need to flex and extend like lunatics to maintain flow and balance.  However when we talk about managing pressure through flexing and extending,  i start feeling a little awkward.

How much pressure do we actually create by straightening our legs? or reduce by flexing? I think  that we flex and extend in order to keep our mass stable, under control and moving on the trajectory we want.

Go into the bathroom and stand on your scales (obviously adjust the ‘0 point’ first so that before you stand on the scales they read -1 stone, this helps with the ego) Then flex into a low position, then over the space of 1 sec (about the time of a gs turn for us mortals) straighten your legs.  As you do this watch the scale, how much additional pressure did you create?  Also try the opposite, stand tall and then flex smoothly over a second.  How much pressure did you reduce?  You still weigh the same right?

Now instead of relating pressure control to flexing and extending, think about the pressure felt through your legs when skiing fast, and carving.  What is the pressure difference between those moments when you are at maximum edge angle and when your skis are flat in the transition? When skiing fast we all aspire to carve the ski and create those incredible angles between our bodies and the snow just like our hero Ted Ligerty.  At that moment of maximum edge there is a great feeling of pressure in the outside leg, our muscles and skeleton are doing their thing to keep us from collapsing. If you were to flex to absorb pressure at that moment of high edge angle you might find it a little bit of a strain on the old quads! On the other hand when my skis are flat between the turns i feel as light as a feather.

Therefore we realize that pressure is more closely related to edge angle.

To create pressure we can just turn the skis across the line of our momentum and edge then? How much effect does straightening the leg have on pressure and more importantly for how long?

So next time you say to a client “flex to absorb pressure” or “straighten your leg to create pressure” ask yourself is this what i really mean? Maybe it is, and that’s great, but don’t be afraid to question it.

If you say to someone “At the start of the turn standup on the new ski to start the turn, ask yourself “Why?” Maybe to start a turn all we want to do is just flatten the skis simultaneously to reduce pressure, then in that moment of being “light as a feather” that I referred to earlier just turn the skis in the new direction.

“Up and down” these movements are great for mobility and balance.  They help keep the trajectory of our mass smooth.  When we flex over a mogul are we absorbing pressure? or could we  describe it as avoiding pressure,  trying to keep the flow of our mass smooth and not letting it get bounced around by terrain.  Our legs move lots so our torso doesn’t have too.

Food for thought? or old news? Take from these ramblings what you like.  If anything take away a feeling to not just teach something for years on end without ever really questioning it.

Verbier