Today was the first day of our BASI Instructor training program. This consists of two sets of 5 days continuous assessment. The first five days focus on the technical skiing aspects and the second five days shift the focus slightly to include the teaching aspects.
Today was similar to the first day of the Trainee Instructor program only more in depth. We covered the Fundamental Elements; control of speed and line, flow, adjustments for snow and terrain, body management (posture, balance and movements), steering (rotation, pressure and edging). Most of the day was spent on drills to demonstrate how some of these fundamental elements affect how we control the skis and, hence, how we ski.
We spent most of the day working on the slope under the triple chair at the top of the gondola. Much of the mountain was closed this morning due to high winds; the quad, Militares, Lynch, Condor III and both drags were all closed until after lunch. Consequently the run we were on got pretty busy as the morning progressed; not Meribel, motorway piste busy, but a lift line of a few minutes is unusual here.
We began with a warm up based on the Fundamental Elements; after discussing aspects of correct posture we spent some time flexing all of the appropriate joints the appropriate amount. Ankles, knees and hips all flexing so that the upper body rises and falls in a controlled manner and doesn't move forwards, backwards or to the side as it does so. We did this with our boots flat, with slightly raised toes and then with raised heels and noticed the different ways that the foot position affected how the joints needed to flex for it to be 'appropriate', so that it kept our body movements correct and without any sway. We then did these flexing exercises on one leg to note the difference. Once we'd done that we had Stewy climb on our back to show the affect of the increased forces that are applied at speed. Stewy was passed around the group and when each of us had him on our back we flexed as before and noted the differences. Once we'd explored this flexing in a stationary manner we started to explore how it affected a moving ski. We skied some slow, medium radius turns and, at first, bounced in our centred flexing position as we moved through the turn. Once we were comfortable with that we practiced using our full range of flexion and extension throughout a series of short radius turns. All of us noticed how much more secure and flowing the turns felt when we moved throughout the turn rather than using part or all of our flexion at some part of the turn rather than spreading it out through the whole turn.
After that we practiced sideslipping; more difficult to do properly than you'd think! We included the previous flexing exercise to find the point where our hips were correctly aligned with our knees and feet such that our skis didn't change their edge angle as we flexed and there was no unwanted fore-aft movement. We then slid sideways whilst flexing and tried to eliminate any fore-aft movement.
Next we worked on steering a ski without forcing it. Finding the sweet spot where we were correctly balanced over the whole of the foot and the ski was free to be steered without catching the tip or tail. We left one of our skis by the top of the lift and then did some one ski traverses, followed by simple skidded swings to the hill; these were surprisingly difficult unless we were standing on the ski correctly. I've done quite a lot of one ski carving and rolling from edge to edge is much easier than pivoting and skidding the ski; you don't need to be quite so accurate about where your weight is to roll the edges. We then swapped the ski and did the exercise on the other leg. We then did some one legged traverses with a foot steered swivel to a diagonal sideslip; again, harder than it sounds!
Once we were comfortable with this we did some braquage and observed how we all had some unwanted hip rotation (sometimes more prominent on one side than the other). We broke the braquage down into a simpler exercise where we traversed at a shallow angle and then rotated the feet to sideslip, then rotated back, rinse, repeat... Again this was harder than you'd think and we shot some video for later analysis. To make the problem of unwanted hip rotation more obvious we hooked our poles together (strap of one pole hooked over the point of the other) and put them either side of our hips so that they stuck out to the left and right of our bodies. We then repeated the exercise, again on video, and it was easy to see the amount of hip rotation as the poles amplified it.
We then did some one legged traverses with rotation as before but where we kept the raised ski facing forwards; kinda like a traverse, swivel, javelin... By this point my knees and hips were aching from the 'new' movements that I was using. Finally we did some sideslipping with our eyes closed and it was amazing how sensitive you became to what was going on with your feet when you couldn't see; it was easy to know when you were in the right place and when you were too far forward or back...
At long last the exercises were over and we skied some short turns, with lots of foot steering, for the camera. My run felt a bit sloppy but all of us looked good in the video analysis session this evening.
The day was over and we finished with a free ski run down the Pista 6 bumps. Nice and slushy but getting bare in places. You can't now ski all the way to the ski locker.
This evening we had a discussion of the day's work, some discussion on mountain safety and the inherent risks of skiing and some video analysis. It was interesting to see just how much our hips moved when we were doing the exercises; obviously some of us were better at this than others, but we all seemed to get better as the day progressed. The final run of short turns looked good for everyone, the focus on steering and being in the correct position on the ski was obviously a fundamental element to our skiing as the work we'd done had fundamentally changed our skiing. I still need to focus on eliminating some slight fore-aft movement at the end of my left turn, but in general things were looking considerably better.