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Why pull back the old lead ski?

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Why pull back the old lead ski?

Postby teletante » Thu Dec 01, 2016 2:06 pm

We were playing around on Sunday with initiating (alpine) turns at all levels by softening the downhill leg at the start of the new turn (old outside, new inside leg). By softening the downhill leg it makes moving the center downhill/towards the new turn practically automatic and makes the whole turn much quicker and smoother.

For years teaching alpine crossovers I've found that at some point in the first lesson, the quickest way forward is to teach a lead change of pulling the old lead back, rather then pushing the new lead forward. Since most alpineers are so heavy on their lead ski that pushing the new lead forward carries their canter with their foot leaving the trailing ski nearly unweighted. By pulling back the new inside ski to change leads it becomes much easier/more natural to keep weight on the trailing foot giving better control of both turn shape and edging.

After playing around the last couple days I've found that, for myself, I can not pull my old lead back without simultaneously softening the lead (downhill) leg. My question becomes, how much of the improvement in alpine crossovers comes from the ability to more successfully control their inside leg, and how much comes from the softening, rather then bracing against, the old outside ski?
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Re: Why pull back the old lead ski?

Postby Williamtele » Fri Dec 02, 2016 11:04 am

Great topic!!!! A common tactic among intermediate alpine and tele skiers is to stiffen the downhill leg and push off it to initiate the new turn. It pushes the COM (center of mass) away from the turn and locks the downhill ski on edge virtually requiring a full un-weighting in order to rotate it or change its edge for the new turn. For alpine cross-overs learning to tele, getting them to move their COM into the turn is fundamental to learning a modern tele turn. This supports the notion of introducing monomarks early in the teaching process. Pulling back the lead ski may be appropriate in certain conditions, but generally speaking it's literally a step backwards in the development of the new turn.
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Re: Why pull back the old lead ski?

Postby teletante » Sun Dec 11, 2016 2:20 pm

I will respectfully disagree that pulling the old lead back is

Williamtele wrote: generally speaking it's literally a step backwards in the development of the new turn.


I will agree in the development of a turn it's a "step backwards" for the development of the skier, particularly new alpine crossovers and those looking to add trees and bumps it can be a step forward in their ability.

If the goal is to get people 2 footed, the earlier you can get them move either/both feet the easier it becomes to get there. As most alpine cross overs are already outside foot centric, getting them to focus on the new inside foot early in their turns has been a big positive in my experience.

More importantly if the goal is to be able to comfortably ski trees and bumps short turns are a requirement. One of the easiest ways I've found to shorten the radius/time it takes to get into a turn for the average level 5 to low 7 tele skier is pulling the old lead back. It can save over a foot (sorry .3 meters) of lateral travel between turns, compared to sliding the new lead forward or even switching both feet evenly.

Lots of tele skiing so far this year, but no tele lessons yet. Things are looking good so far though.
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Re: Why pull back the old lead ski?

Postby Williamtele » Tue Feb 07, 2017 9:27 am

teletante wrote:I will respectfully disagree that pulling the old lead back is

Williamtele wrote: generally speaking it's literally a step backwards in the development of the new turn.


I will agree in the development of a turn it's a "step backwards" for the development of the skier, particularly new alpine crossovers and those looking to add trees and bumps it can be a step forward in their ability.

If the goal is to get people 2 footed, the earlier you can get them move either/both feet the easier it becomes to get there. As most alpine cross overs are already outside foot centric, getting them to focus on the new inside foot early in their turns has been a big positive in my experience.

More importantly if the goal is to be able to comfortably ski trees and bumps short turns are a requirement. One of the easiest ways I've found to shorten the radius/time it takes to get into a turn for the average level 5 to low 7 tele skier is pulling the old lead back. It can save over a foot (sorry .3 meters) of lateral travel between turns, compared to sliding the new lead forward or even switching both feet evenly.

Lots of tele skiing so far this year, but no tele lessons yet. Things are looking good so far though.


I think the devil in the details is how the ski is pulled back. In bumps and trees, it's a great strategy for quick turns and speed control, but I believe it is most effective if you keep it pressured throughout the movement. That's a difficult skill but keeps the skier 2-footed and allows the COM to move into the turn instead of away from it.
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Re: Why pull back the old lead ski?

Postby teletante » Sat Feb 11, 2017 6:46 pm

Williamtele wrote:
.....but I believe it is most effective if you keep it pressured throughout the movement. That's a difficult skill but keeps the skier 2-footed and allows the COM to move into the turn instead of away from it.


I totally agree you need to keep it weighted, but that in a nutshell is why I prefer teaching alpine crossovers to pull the old lead back. It's fairly natural for people to think of walking, and when they finish a stride with their foot they put their weight on it. Thus when they finish moving the foot back some of their weight stays with it, rather then transferring everything automatically to the outside ski as both their walking and alpine training encourages them to do if the lead change is pushing the new lead forward.

I'm still curious about the idea that pulling the old lead back also facilitates softening the lead leg / moving the COM downhill. My tele lessons so far this year have been mostly XC or snowboard crossovers so they were comfortable with weighting/striding and moving evenly over staggered feet respectively. The one true alpine crossover so far was a high level race program grad and could pretty much do anything I asked. Lots of fun but not much call for "bag of tricks" expansion.
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Re: Why pull back the old lead ski?

Postby Williamtele » Tue Feb 14, 2017 10:32 am

teletante wrote:
Williamtele wrote:
.....but I believe it is most effective if you keep it pressured throughout the movement. That's a difficult skill but keeps the skier 2-footed and allows the COM to move into the turn instead of away from it.


I totally agree you need to keep it weighted, but that in a nutshell is why I prefer teaching alpine crossovers to pull the old lead back. It's fairly natural for people to think of walking, and when they finish a stride with their foot they put their weight on it. Thus when they finish moving the foot back some of their weight stays with it, rather then transferring everything automatically to the outside ski as both their walking and alpine training encourages them to do if the lead change is pushing the new lead forward.

I'm still curious about the idea that pulling the old lead back also facilitates softening the lead leg / moving the COM downhill. My tele lessons so far this year have been mostly XC or snowboard crossovers so they were comfortable with weighting/striding and moving evenly over staggered feet respectively. The one true alpine crossover so far was a high level race program grad and could pretty much do anything I asked. Lots of fun but not much call for "bag of tricks" expansion.


Just to be (mildly) argumentative, I think that teaching a beginner to pull the old lead back is setting them up for having to unlearn it at a later time. I tend to promote the theory of decoupling the edge change from the lead change and so I'll try to get my students monomarking as soon as possible. If they can get to the point where they can decide when they want to do their lead change, independent of the edge change, it opens up many different options. If you teach them right out of the box to pull the lead ski back, it becomes a required step in the turn initiation and is therefore part and parcel with the edge change.

To your second point about softening the lead leg, I don't think that you have to pull back that ski to soften it. Flexion of the downhill leg flattens the ski and allows for the COM to move across it, regardless of whether it's been retracted or not.

But there are no absolute rights or wrongs, only differing opinions. Size of the smile is final judge and jury.
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Re: Why pull back the old lead ski?

Postby teletante » Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:15 pm

Absolutely agree. I do use monomarks a lot with beginners*. I also wish to decouple the lead change from turn initiation. I have just found it easier for most alpine cross overs to pull the old leads back to keep weight on both feet when I do introduce an active lead change. Most people are happy to try "Moon Walking" while they ski.

Williamtele wrote:
To your second point about softening the lead leg, I don't think that you have to pull back that ski to soften it. Flexion of the downhill leg flattens the ski and allows for the COM to move across it, regardless of whether it's been retracted or not.

Agreed. I do think it is an interesting artifact that softening the downhill leg happens automatically with pulling back the old lead and was curious if others used it as a way to kill two birds with one stone, without having to talk about one of the birds. So much of the time, especially with series lessons, I want to set up future movement patterns by working on a task in a way that also starts down the road to the next, without gumming up the brain with talking. IE Skating effectively developed into projection into the new turn moves the next hour or lesson.

That's the beauty or drawback of internet discussion, Too much time to think and add personal conjecture to a conversation. I personally love the tangents that crop up, but not so much the total misunderstandings that can happen. Still You've helped me clarify my own thinking on this, hope I've given you something to chew on as well.

*See your "Cross-over lessons" thread
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Re: Why pull back the old lead ski?

Postby Williamtele » Wed Feb 15, 2017 9:39 am

teletante wrote:Absolutely agree. I do use monomarks a lot with beginners*. I also wish to decouple the lead change from turn initiation. I have just found it easier for most alpine cross overs to pull the old leads back to keep weight on both feet when I do introduce an active lead change. Most people are happy to try "Moon Walking" while they ski.

Williamtele wrote:
To your second point about softening the lead leg, I don't think that you have to pull back that ski to soften it. Flexion of the downhill leg flattens the ski and allows for the COM to move across it, regardless of whether it's been retracted or not.

Agreed. I do think it is an interesting artifact that softening the downhill leg happens automatically with pulling back the old lead and was curious if others used it as a way to kill two birds with one stone, without having to talk about one of the birds. So much of the time, especially with series lessons, I want to set up future movement patterns by working on a task in a way that also starts down the road to the next, without gumming up the brain with talking. IE Skating effectively developed into projection into the new turn moves the next hour or lesson.

That's the beauty or drawback of internet discussion, Too much time to think and add personal conjecture to a conversation. I personally love the tangents that crop up, but not so much the total misunderstandings that can happen. Still You've helped me clarify my own thinking on this, hope I've given you something to chew on as well.

*See your "Cross-over lessons" thread


My mogul and tree skiing are the weakest parts of my skill set and I think I could definitely benefit from working on pulling back the lead ski at turn initiation....so yes, you've absolutely given me something to think about and hopefully to deploy in my lessons and personal skiing. Let's keep the conversation going as the season progresses.
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