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Lessons on artificial snow: Yes or no?

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
For skiing, being limited to the easiest (green) trails can become boring. Once someone gets to ski the next level of trails, there is a lot more variation. With all the work you are doing on the rolling carpet, I have no doubt you'll surprise your friends next winter.
I remember the conversation I had had with my son who was my very first instructor, as we were driving to Slovakia where he taught me first basics. I was telling him, that I would be perfectly happy if I could learn enough to stay on the easiest slopes; I said I saw no point trying to learn more. And he answered: You will see for yourself that this is boring. Well, he had a point.
 
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EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Yes. Lifting the tail is used to diagnose people who ski "in the back seat." Anyone can diagnose this for themselves without taking a lesson. If your weight is positioned over the back of the ski, you can't lift it. You need to ski with your weight positioned over the front of the ski.

Pressing shins into the tongue of the boot is important but not enough to get your torso's weight hovering over the front of the skis. Positioning the entire torso (shoulders down to hips) forward, with the shins contacting the boot tongues, will do it. To get there, raise your belly button upward and forward when you have shin-tongue contact. Belly button needs to be in front of toes.

It looks like this:
View attachment 16048

...It feels like this (which is why people have trouble learning to do it):
View attachment 16050

This is what shin-tongue looks like when the belly button is not far enough forward.
View attachment 16053
Great tip about the belly button. Such visualisations are really valuable, seeing how hard it is to read one's actual body data. Part of my particular trouble springs from the fact that I have never before been told to stay on the balls of feet. I had my whole feet on skis, and so every time I would try to get lower or bend the knees more, my derriere would stick out like a sore thumb. Plus when I should be leaning forward I just bent down from the waist. Those bad habits became so ingrained and automatic that trying to replace them with better things is a piece of work indeed. I really appreciate your help!
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
LOL! For American ski areas, there are lots of seniors skiing midweek mornings. While most are men there are also plenty of women over 50 or 60 who have a very good time. While some of the women have been skiing for decades, there are those who didn't ski much when they were busy with family and work responsibilities. Multi-day clinics for women only have become pretty popular.
We are not there yet, though probably in the next twenty years, when the present quatrogenerians hit retirement , it will happen. At present the idea that people over 40 can engage in active sports is still very novel. There seems to be a schizophrenic divide: on one hand there is a general encouragement for everybody to keep fit, on the other, when you get to specifics, there will be all kinds of warnings about injuries threatening that age group who better not be running, skating or skiing. USA seems to me more liberated in that aspect. Are Americans generally fitter than Europeans?
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Are Americans generally fitter than Europeans?
There are huge variations among different subgroups of Americans for essentially everything. Meaning considering different geographical regions, urban vs rural, age brackets, and whether or not the people have parents/granparents who were born and raised in the U.S. or immigrated from another country. Even just considering people over 60, there is no way to make a general statement.

The population of the U.S. is 330 million. For context, the population of Poland is 38 million, the Netherlands 17 million, Switzerland, 9 million, France 67 million. From what I know of the Dutch and the Swiss, those they are generally very fit people.

It's probably fair to say that people who ski more than 4-5 days a season are in decent physical shape. Those who ski 20+ days and are over 50 are generally in good shape and often enjoy other activities during the off-season that help keep them fit.

However, some of those seniors who have been skiing for decades are working harder than they need to if they still mostly use the technique they used for skis made before 1995. After my primary ski buddy had some lessons and started shifting his technique, he could ski longer days because he was less tired by mid-afternoon. He's pushing 70 and was an expert skier by the time he was in high school in Colorado. I talked him into taking semi-private lessons with me starting in 2014.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
At present the idea that people over 40 can engage in active sports is still very novel. There seems to be a schizophrenic divide: on one hand there is a general encouragement for everybody to keep fit, on the other, when you get to specifics, there will be all kinds of warnings about injuries threatening that age group who better not be running, skating or skiing. USA seems to me more liberated in that aspect.
Over 40?!? For sure Americans don't think of people in their 40s as too old for activities like running, skating, or skiing. The cut point seems to be at some point after 60 or 65. Senior rates to encourage seniors to keep skiing often don't start until 70 or even 75. Used to be lower but too many younger seniors were taking advantage of the discount so the cut off age has been going up in the last decade.

Most organized sports have "Masters" events for seniors. For example, ski racing or swimming. The ski race age brackets keep going up past 80, by 5-year increments I think. There are also state level Senior Olympics annually.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Great tip about the belly button. Such visualisations are really valuable, seeing how hard it is to read one's actual body data. Part of my particular trouble springs from the fact that I have never before been told to stay on the balls of feet. I had my whole feet on skis, and so every time I would try to get lower or bend the knees more, my derriere would stick out like a sore thumb. Plus when I should be leaning forward I just bent down from the waist. Those bad habits became so ingrained and automatic that trying to replace them with better things is a piece of work indeed. I really appreciate your help!
Well, actually, you need to keep your weight centered over the whole foot. Do not stand on the balls of your feet. If you do this you will lose control over the back half of your skis.

Moving the belly button forward of the toes, with shin-tongue pressure, does not remove weight from the heels. Well, it doesn't if you bend forward at the ankle enough.

So, repeating: bend forward at the ankle to press shin into the front of the boot, keep whole foot weighted, the ball-of-foot and the heel, equal weight on both of those. Then... lift your hips and shoulders up so your belly button moves forward over the front of your skis.

That's it.

The problem with telling people to get shin-tongue contact by bending the knees means they move their hips back, and when the hips go back, the weight goes back. It's not bending the knees to move the hips backwards that produces the right stance, it's bending forward at the ankle.

This ankle-bending is called "dorsiflexion." It moves the toes up and keeps the heel down. Avoid plantar-flexion when skiing. It moves the hips back and puts the skier in the back seat.
1623405960809.png

And when a skier uses dorsiflexion to bend forward at the ankles, it looks like this. It produces shin-tongue contact without any knee bending as she stands there.
Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 7.14.32 PM.png

Practice standing like this all the time when you are in your boots and clicked into your skis, as this skier does (Mikaela Shiffren), and it will come easy to you when you're skiing. It's a muscular action; you have to use your shin muscles to bend forward at the ankle. This is an unfamiliar action not used much in other sports. Maybe it's used in horse riding, to keep the ankle low in the stirrup, but I can't think of another sport where the athlete needs to hold this position with muscle action. If you do this with your ankles, you will have shin-tongue contact, you'll be able to keep the belly button forward, you will have heel pressure as well as ball-of-foot pressure so both ends of the ski will be under your control, and you'll be able to lift the back end of the ski while keeping its tip on the snow. Everything associated with ski control will become magically easier to do.
 
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liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
We are not there yet, though probably in the next twenty years, when the present quatrogenerians hit retirement , it will happen. At present the idea that people over 40 can engage in active sports is still very novel. There seems to be a schizophrenic divide: on one hand there is a general encouragement for everybody to keep fit, on the other, when you get to specifics, there will be all kinds of warnings about injuries threatening that age group who better not be running, skating or skiing. USA seems to me more liberated in that aspect. Are Americans generally fitter than Europeans?
@marzNC has it right. Every morning the ski areas where I ski are full of senior skiers meeting up for their daily (Monday-Friday) get-together. They get there when the mountain opens and leave around 11:00 or 12:00. They are close friends who do this each week all winter. Some groups are all men, some all women, and some mixed. They are having so much fun in retirement.

Here's an article about US ski areas where seniors (mostly 70+ or 80+) can ski for free.
https://thepointsguy.com/guide/free-ski-lift-tickets-seniors/

Here's a blog just for 50+ seniors who ski:

Here's an advertisement for the 70 Plus Ski Club.
https://70plusskiclub.org/about-us/
There are 80 Plus Ski Clubs too. I've seen these folks on the slopes.
1623406738036.png
 
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EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Well, actually, you need to keep your weight centered over the whole foot. Do not stand on the balls of your feet. If you do this you will lose control over the back half of your skis.
Now, that is a novel thing! I keep hearing to try and stay in front of my boots, "on my toes" , heels lifted slightly. I am finding this very problematic, especially with the unweighted foot, it feels destabilising, but if one must, one must, and I kept at it as best I could. I will most definitely try this approach with curling toes upwards (if it is not a misleading idea perhaps?). Sounds music to my ears. Come Monday I will secretly give it a try
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
Weight should be centred through your arch. In straight skiing we used a lot of weight on the forefoot, but it's not needed now with the shape of the skis.

@EdithP do you find that your feet hurt, on the bottom around the ball of the foot after skiing?
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Now, that is a novel thing! I keep hearing to try and stay in front of my boots, "on my toes" , heels lifted slightly. I am finding this very problematic, especially with the unweighted foot, it feels destabilising, but if one must, one must, and I kept at it as best I could. I will most definitely try this approach with curling toes upwards (if it is not a misleading idea perhaps?). Sounds music to my ears. Come Monday I will secretly give it a try
This is another source of instructor wars. I heard both for years from various instructors. The older ones tended to go for ball-of-foot. I decided on the "whole foot" approach when the tails of my skis would lose their grip on steep icy groomers. "Whole foot" fixes that. It was also promoted by my favorite mentor who is very high up in PSIA, the professional ski instructor organization in the US.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I will most definitely try this approach with curling toes upwards (if it is not a misleading idea perhaps?). Sounds music to my ears. Come Monday I will secretly give it a try
If you lift something, lift the ball-of-foot, not the toes. Your instructor will never know; he can't see inside your boot. Bend forward at the ankle, INTENTIONALLY, with muscle action, to get the ankles to dorsiflex. Here's the muscle that does that:
Tibialis anterior muscle - Wikipedia

It does not lift the toes. So toe-lifting doesn't tend to work to bend the ankle forward. You need that lower leg to tilt forward. Toes won't do it. Your instructor will be so happy to see your belly button forward and your new ablilty to lift the tail of the ski that he will assume you are on the ball-of-foot.

This ball-of-foot thing won't be useful until you're on snow. And if you're not certain, just train yourself to be able to stand on ball-of-foot, then on whole foot, then on the heel with the ball-of-foot lifted, all the while bending forward at the ankle so you have shin-tongue pressure and while moving your belly-button forward. If you can switch at random on purpose, then you can check out both on the snow and see which works best for you. Versatility is always a good thing. On the carpet you have the perfect opportunity to work on these subtle but difficult to learn things. You don't run out of space and have to get on the lift, you don't have 5 year olds crossing in front of you, you don't have inconsistent snow and inconsistent pitch. It's a great learning opportunity.

If you fail to keep the ankle bent forward, and if you fail to move the belly button forward, then lifting the ball-of-foot will be VERY BAD for your skiing. It will put you in the back seat fast. This may be one of the reasons instructors don't teach their students to balance on the whole foot. To stay out of the back seat when the heel of the foot is weighted, one must also move the weighty upper body forward.

Here's an exercise for dorsiflexion. It will help you feel your tibialis anterior muscle working:
Here's one closer to what we do when skiing:

Does this make sense?
 
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MissySki

Angel Diva
If you lift something, lift the ball-of-foot, not the toes. Your instructor will never know; he can't see inside your boot. Bend forward at the ankle, INTENTIONALLY, with muscle action, to get the ankles to dorsiflex. Here's the muscle that does that:
Tibialis anterior muscle - Wikipedia

It does not lift the toes. So toe-lifting doesn't tend to work to bend the ankle forward. You need that lower leg to tilt forward. Toes won't do it. Your instructor will be so happy to see your belly button forward and your new ablilty to lift the tail of the ski that he will assume you are on the ball-of-foot.

This ball-of-foot thing won't be useful until you're on snow. And if you're not certain, just train yourself to be able to stand on ball-of-foot, then on whole foot, then on the heel with the ball-of-foot lifted, all the while bending forward at the ankle so you have shin-tongue pressure and while moving your belly-button forward. If you can switch at random on purpose, then you can check out both on the snow and see which works best for you. Versatility is always a good thing. On the carpet you have the perfect opportunity to work on these subtle but difficult to learn things. You don't run out of space and have to get on the lift, you don't have 5 year olds crossing in front of you, you don't have inconsistent snow and inconsistent pitch. It's a great learning opportunity.

If you fail to keep the ankle bent forward, and if you fail to move the belly button forward, then lifting the ball-of-foot will be VERY BAD for your skiing. It will put you in the back seat fast. This may be one of the reasons instructors don't teach their students to balance on the whole foot. To stay out of the back seat when the heel of the foot is weighted, one must also move the weighty upper body forward.

Here's an exercise for dorsiflexion. It will help you feel your tibialis anterior muscle working:
Here's one closer to what we do when skiing:

Does this make sense?

I was going to ask how we strengthen that muscle but then you already had it at the end. Thank you!
 

santacruz skier

Angel Diva
If you lift something, lift the ball-of-foot, not the toes. Your instructor will never know; he can't see inside your boot. Bend forward at the ankle, INTENTIONALLY, with muscle action, to get the ankles to dorsiflex. Here's the muscle that does that:
Tibialis anterior muscle - Wikipedia

It does not lift the toes. So toe-lifting doesn't tend to work to bend the ankle forward. You need that lower leg to tilt forward. Toes won't do it. Your instructor will be so happy to see your belly button forward and your new ablilty to lift the tail of the ski that he will assume you are on the ball-of-foot.

This ball-of-foot thing won't be useful until you're on snow. And if you're not certain, just train yourself to be able to stand on ball-of-foot, then on whole foot, then on the heel with the ball-of-foot lifted, all the while bending forward at the ankle so you have shin-tongue pressure and while moving your belly-button forward. If you can switch at random on purpose, then you can check out both on the snow and see which works best for you. Versatility is always a good thing. On the carpet you have the perfect opportunity to work on these subtle but difficult to learn things. You don't run out of space and have to get on the lift, you don't have 5 year olds crossing in front of you, you don't have inconsistent snow and inconsistent pitch. It's a great learning opportunity.

If you fail to keep the ankle bent forward, and if you fail to move the belly button forward, then lifting the ball-of-foot will be VERY BAD for your skiing. It will put you in the back seat fast. This may be one of the reasons instructors don't teach their students to balance on the whole foot. To stay out of the back seat when the heel of the foot is weighted, one must also move the weighty upper body forward.

Here's an exercise for dorsiflexion. It will help you feel your tibialis anterior muscle working:
Here's one closer to what we do when skiing:

Does this make sense?
Taos instructor said to practice dorsiflexion on the chairlift ride (tips up)..
 

MissySki

Angel Diva
Taos instructor said to practice dorsiflexion on the chairlift ride (tips up)..

One of my instructors last season would mention the name of this muscle and I had never heard of it before never mind where exactly it was! Interesting the things you learn skiing.
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
Sitting here at my desk, I can raise my toes, without bending my ankles. In fact it puts downward pressure on the ball of my feet. So I don't think that statement of raising your toes, would necessarily work for everyone. You cannot raise the whole foot (or even the ball) without bending your ankle.
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
@EdithP do you find that your feet hurt, on the bottom around the ball of the foot after skiing?
No. If anything hurts, it is my shins and the ankles , from the force I keep trying to exert. I see I do have the right idea, this of trying to push knees forward by bending at the ankle, but it is something I only started on the carpet. Before that I did all the wrong things you describe in your posts, which put my weight on the heels with the bum sticking out. Maybe the reason I am now told to try and stand on my toes is to wean me of those bad habits. I think they are slowly going.
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Does this make sense?
The pictures do make a lot of sense, and I will be happy to add those routines to my daily programme. I sense the need to improve my ankle flex. But something else now confuses me. If I lift the ball of foot, what do I stand on? The heel? Was that not the very thing I should avoid?
 

EdithP

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
If you fail to keep the ankle bent forward, and if you fail to move the belly button forward, then lifting the ball-of-foot will be VERY BAD for your skiing. It will put you in the back seat fast. This may be one of the reasons instructors don't teach their students to balance on the whole foot. To stay out of the back seat when the heel of the foot is weighted, one must also move the weighty upper body forward.
OH, I am sorry! I see you have answered that. Thank you, it is starting to make a lot more sense to me.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
....Maybe the reason I am now told to try and stand on my toes is to wean me of those bad habits. I think they are slowly going.
....If I lift the ball of foot, what do I stand on? The heel? Was that not the very thing I should avoid?
Yes, the reason your instructor is telling you to stand on the ball-of-foot is to get you out of the back seat. It will work. And it's only one simple thing to work on doing, so it's relatively easy to embed as a new habit. Many instructors tell students to do this for that reason. But it's not the only way to get out of the back seat. And once you are skiing on steepish groomers, at the end of your turns you will skid downhill because you not have enough pressure on the back of your skis. This downhill skidding, when you lose grip, will make it difficult to control your speed when the snow is hard and icy.

So learning to get out of the back seat another way is better. Bend forward at the ankle in order to get shin-tongue contact, move belly button forward in front of your toes so your body's weight hovers over the fronts of your skis. This means body weight is pressing into the front of your boot cuff, using that boot as a lever to press the front of your skis down onto the snow. This takes care of the front of the skis. Note: the boot functions as a lever, with your weight pressing down onto the front of the cuff, which in turn presses the front of the ski downward.

There are two conceptions for how to keep the back half of the ski also pressing down onto the snow. The most common is to have some body weight on the heel, keeping it there. So the admonition to center your body weight over the arch does that. Another way of saying it: Keep equal body weight on the ball-of-foot and on the heel.

The second way, far less common, is mine. Focus weight on the back-of-the-arch-front-of-the-heel. I wish there were a name for this spot. It's right under where the tibia comes down into the foot. The tibia bears a body's full weight, bringing it to that spot on the foot. It's not the arch, it's behind it. And it's not the heel, it's in front of it. No name for this spot in English, so sad. So this less common way to put weight on the back of the ski is to stand on that spot. And the way to do that is to imagine yourself lifting the ball-of-foot. It won't lift, but when you imagine lifting it, your weight will move back a little to this magic spot. My control of my skis went up a significant notch on the skill ladder when my mentor told me to do this.

This less common way only works if you also bend forward at the ankle and your belly button forward. So it has three parts to learn. It sure does put the skier in the back seat if those other two aren't working. This is why it is rarely taught. Everyone not familiar with it immediately things it will put the skier in the back seat.

For this reason I regretted saying it in my post, but by the time I felt that regret, it was too late to change the post. @EdithP, make your own decision about what to do. You are paying close attention to what your body is doing, and will be able to make a well-informed decision.

Report back about what works for you and what doesn't!
 

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