How to improve your parallel skiing
How to improve your parallel skiing ? Let's talk motor cars!
In recent blogs I have been addressing issues of helping you to improve your skiing self confidence. I have not given up on that topic, but I felt a temporary change of subject might be welcome. I have chosen a technical issue – a matter of technique – that I haven't covered before.
I have one of those “Layzee boy” reclining chairs in the sitting room. The other day while waiting for some seemingly interminable series of TV commercials to come to an end I found myself staring at my feet. It was better viewing. For no particular reason I found myself rotating them first to the left and then the right, and so on. (Just to demonstrate my versatility!) I was idly trying to get them to do so to the same angles as one another.
What I found was that it was unnatural for them to rotate at the same angle as one another. When rotating my feet to the right, the left foot rotated easily through a greater angle than my right foot. It was the same the other way round as well. For, presumably biomechanical reasons our feet rotate more easily toward the other side than to their own side. They pronate more readily than they supinate.
The outcome was that even if they started out parallel to one another, I ended up being a bit “twine-toed”, with my toes nearer to one another than my heels. This got me thinking.
Ackerman Angles and skiing
Many years ago I worked for Michelin Tyre as a technical rep. There I became well acquainted with vehicle steering geometry – mostly because when it's incorrect tyres don't last long. One aspect of car suspension geometry is the “Ackerman Angle”. Back around 1812 I think it was, a German carriage builder – can't remember his name – employed a fellow German who was a patent lawyer in England to patent his idea. Said lawyer did it in his own name; naughty boy!
His principle is shown in the diagram above, and you will note that it has much in common with how we get around on skis.
What the carriage builder had cottoned-on to was that if your front wheels are parallel to one another and you drive around an arc, then one or both wheels are forced to “scrub” somewhat sideways to their ideal direction of travel. Because they're on different radius arcs. This wore out iron-hoop carriage wheel tyres, wears out rubber and synthetic tyres, and slows the vehicle down. Horses didn't like it because it made life harder work, and racing drivers don't like it because it slows them down.
Good parallel skiing has similar needs
You need both wheels – or skis - to have a common centre point for the arcs they are describing. Here's that diagram.
But notice something else too. When you execute good skiing technique by sinking down and flexing your outside ankle because you want your outer ski to be doing almost if not indeed all the “work” of steering you, your inside ski cannot but slide forward in advance of your outer one. Especially if you have been watching the bobski.com videos Check out the relationship of the inside and outside wheels on the vehicle in the diagram.
Our feet do not readily equally rotate, remember
Think of me on my recliner – I found it quite difficult to get my feet to rotate to the same extent, but as you can see, what is really needed is for the inside foot, tyre, ski, to rotate slightly more. How much will depend on the radius of the arc being described – the shorter the radius, and the smaller the circle being drawn, the greater that inside ski rotation would need to be.
You can check this out next time you're in a car park: when someone is manouevring at slow speeds and winding the steering wheel to its maximum you can see a huge difference between the two front wheels. The amount of difference will depend on your speed, the turning circle, and of course as ever with skiing, a host of other subtle issues too many to go into here.
I can remember when I was an intermediate skier, and beginning to ski fast enough for mother earth to want to push my skis into a parallel formation for me, that something in my biomechanics (though I didn't recognise as such back then) was leading my inside ski to not rotate sufficiently. I was skiing twine-toed or if you like, in the slightest of wedges, or snow-plough configuration.
So what's wrong with that? Nothing frankly but it can be better. When your inside ski rotates into the arc insufficiently, and forms that slight “wedge” with the outer one, what you are inadvertently doing is giving that ski an instruction to go the other way. If you're making a right-handed arc you're asking it to either make a left-handed one, or at least to make a much bigger radius right-handed one. Either way, it's fighting the outer ski.
If you were a horse you'd find it harder work. If you were a racer you'd find it slowed you down.
How to initiate a good quality arc while skiing
What I'm about to write is not “the” way to do it. It's certainly not the only way, but it is a way which is worth getting the feel for.
If it pleases you, when next you go skiing and if this comes to mind, go through all the pre-performance rituals that I always stress you should, and visualise by both sight and feel what you're going to do. And that is this – usually at slower speeds we would initiate the next arc by pressing the toe of our outside ski (your “beetle” as I like to put it – watch the videos) slightly more firmly into the snow by using a straightening of the outside leg.
This time, either just before that or simultaneously, deliberately “lighten” the pressure under your inside ski and make an effort to rotate it in the direction you want to go - supinate it - and rather more than you've done hitherto.
That's the experiment and provided you notice what happens it will be a success. The arc might not be such a success, you may or may not achieve the movement in motion that you were hoping for. None of that matters - what matters is that you notice what happens. Then repeats of the experiment will lead over time inevitably to improvement. How happy you will be.
I jest of course, what a merry jape! Think about all this though, it's actually serious stuff and will help you to improve your skiing.
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