STRETCH NOW – SKI BETTER LATER
26th October 2016 | Katie Bamber, PlanetSKI
The Warren Smith Ski Academy is on a UK tour with its off-snow ski technique training sessions. It gives tests, stretches, advice and PlanetSKI has been along to sample and see what it offers.
Warren Smith is the ski trainer of Channel 4’s The Jump and the man with a ski academy in Verbier.
He runs courses all over the world and this autumn has been criss-crossing the UK to help those wanting to improve ahead of the coming season.
Earlier this week he was at the Ellis Brigham store in Covent Garden in central London for his academy and technique tutorial tour.
It has travelled the UK from Scotland to its close in London and is to wrap at the London Ski & Snowboard Show this week.
The main thing pumped throughout the tutorial?
Don’t rush the basics, it will create problems later.
The foundations of skiing with a successful stance and technique for intermediates, advanced and experts are taught when transitioning from snow plough to parallel turns.
“Ski tuition and lessons develop a skier’s ability to move from snow plough to parallel turns far too quickly, without the skier having the basics down,” Warren said.
With a lot of people rushing the first week in their keenness to move on to parallels, they end up missing the initial learning essential for developing technique.
“So much of the foundations are passed over,” Warren said.
There is also the obvious importance of a well fitted boot.
And there are a number of tests (and exercises to thus improve) to work out your flexibility, or the lack of, and if it is hindering your skiing.
There was the drop test for ankle flexibility…
Against a flat wall, with back flat and heels touching it, lower down slowly by bending the knees.
At some point your heels will lift.
Measure the distance dropped (by holding a tape measurer by the hip) to the point of the first heel lifting.
Warren was looking for, as an ideal flex, was a drop of 20cm.
Most were nowhere near, with six out of about 50 getting close.
Not that it says anything about one’s expertise, just how much our flexibility affects our technique and ski ability and how improvement can enhance performance.
From a physiological point of view this flexibility is needed to avoid accidental injury, which can be caused by minor things such as hitting the snow wrong.
Calf stretches needed!
There is the 10-second lateral control test.
On a slippery surface stand with feet on two pices of paper about 80cm to 1m apart with bent legs in a ski pose.
With someone supporting you drag the papers together slowly until feet touch.
Feel the shake!
The test aims to highlight the muscles needing to work (and be strengthened) to help with the problem of A-framing when skiing – a big issue for most.
“There’s a lot of lateral flex in the knee, not just the hinge movement – there’s around 80cm actually,” Warren said.
“Most skiers ski unaware of their knees laterally moving. Professionals work on these muscles a lot.”
Skiing is one of the only sports where the legs move in conjunction with each other. The aim is to get the muscles leg to work together, from feet to glutes.
It comes into play especially in freeriding and freestyle.
Check out the test here, and what Warren has to say on lateral control:
The third exercise looked into hip flexibility for the leg steering range test.
Warren and his team at the academy are looking for about 80-90 degrees of movement.
Feet facing forward and with someone holding your hips firmly in place step your feet round first to one side then the other, until they cannot rotate any further without moving your hip.
Warren gave the example of the importance of this when skiing steeps where your legs are required to rotate up to 90 degrees without your hips rotating round.
The angle is needed for control and finishing the turns.
Just two people in the crowd managed 70 degrees on both sides.
Definitely a problem area for me, reaching just 50 degrees of range to the left, and 65 to the right.
Stretches help an enormous amount so get to it before you get out there on the slopes to get the most out of your holiday, and lessons.
And here’s the guru getting stuck in, showing us one of the best for glutes.
“Video analysis is a great way to locate your problem areas,” Warren suggested.
“When you ski you usually push yourself to your limits. And that is usually to the limit of your good turn,” the well seasoned coach explained.
And this really just shows the necessity of stretching. Something, I dare say, a fair few of us abandon.
For someone who thought themselves at expert level, my flexibility and results on the test were under, on all three practices, what Warren says he looks for during the academy training.
He also advised that doing stretches for these muscle groups a couple of times a day can reach the desired flexibility levels in just a few weeks, giving the range needed for successful posture and technique when skiing.
STRETCH NOW, and prep for your ski holiday early. You’ll get so much more out of it.
Understanding the dynamics, technique and your own limits (and working on these problems areas) before hitting the slopes will get you improving much faster when out there.
Check out more of Warren’s ski sessions on the snow here:
Warren talking on The Jump:
To find out more about the biomechanics of skiing with Warren and the range tests, visit the website.
And of course you can catch up with Warren and his team at the London Ski & Snowboard Show this week.
See more on Warren at work here with PlanetSKI’s coverage of last year’s The Jump.
See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.
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