Monday, April 20, 2009

Freestyle Skiing and the ATML Method

Many crazy people are always trying to bust the biggest move in the trauma park...I mean, the terrain park. However, few skiers really know how to approach new terrain features or how to grow comfortable and properly learn how to ski them. What's the real way to learn so that you don't tackle your tips and tails? Magic.

Actually, magic is not nearly cool enough for skiing. So instead we use the ATML method. What is the ATML method? Well it breaks down to the following: Approach, Take-off, Maneuver, and Landing. By focusing on each of these parts separately and then blending them together (in the correct order), it is much easier to develop your skills as a freestyle skier, whether it's for the superpipe or the small bump on the side of the green circle you are skiing. Skiers and snowboarders alike use this method.

Approach: This is where all the fun starts. Have you ever started toward the ramp of a wooly mammoth-sized jump and then realized you have too much speed? Well instead of letting your bladder go, try analyzing the approach beforehand. Before you even put on your equipment, walk to the beginning of the feature (a feature could be a jump, a rail, a box, etc.) and LOOK at it. Look at the differences between one spot and the next. Touch the feature and feel what it is like. If it is an icy, slick rail, you will approach it differently then if it were a rough, course, dry box. After analyzing the approach, determine what speed you think would be appropriate to enter the feature. Also look at where would be the best area to approach it from uphill (i.e. Would it be better to come from the left side or right?).

Take-off: The take-off is pretty self-explanatory. The main focus here is how you want your body to be positioned at the time of your take-off and how aggressive you are going to be with the entry.

Maneuver (or Method): This is the actual trick you will be performing. It may be simply keeping your balance in the air, a nosegrab, an iron cross, or sliding on the rail. It is important to know ahead of time what maneuver you plan on performing and how to do it.

Landing: In your landing, it is important to land with soft, flexed joints - somewhat bent knees, flexed ankles, flexed hips. You do not want to stiffen up your body in fear because you see that you are about to fall to a scary death. (The chances of that actually happening are slim - you usually won't walk away with more than a broken clavicle or a fractured vertebra). Stiffening up your body makes you less flexible and more prone to stress - that is, bones break more easily...ouch. Make sure you aim for a nice, balanced position so that you finish looking like a pro. Then smile for the judges/TV camera/mom/imaginary stadium there to watch your magnificence.

'Safety Culture - ATML Method' from
After you have figured out each piece of the puzzle independently, then piece them together to make a masterpiece. It is art really.

Two Additional Foods for Thought

First, remember that balance is essential to any type of skiing - including freestyle. Go back to the "Balance - The Foundation for the Rest" post to review some necessary balance skills.

SnowShack Ski and Snowboard Accessories
Second, wear a helmet, wear a helmet, wear a helmet. And if you are truly interested in deeper thought, wear a helmet. Wrist guards can help too. You can buy some cool ski accessories for low prices at SnowShack Ski and Snowboard Accessories.

Disclaimer: SkiBlog-SkiBlog and any of its authors are not responsible and are not liable for any injuries or deaths associated with your skiing. We will accept recognition or cash for gold medals or first place awards though.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Bend and Extend Concept: Leg Retraction and Leg Extension

The bend and extend concept is one of my favorite things to perform myself as well as to teach. For one thing, the words rhyme (so cool - this does not happen a whole lot in the skiing world). But what exactly is the bend and extend concept? Oh the suspense...

This is commonly known as leg retraction and leg extension. It applies mostly to more advanced, dynamic skiers at moderate to fast speeds and helps out a ton in starting carving turns. The principle is that through your turn, you want to bend your inside leg/knee and extend your outside leg/knee. If you need a review of what the inside and outside skis are, see the picture below.

So, you bend your inside leg, extend your outside leg, pretty simple right? Well, ya it is pretty simple.

To do this, you want to push down with your outside leg in order to extend it and then simultaneously bend, or retract, your inside leg by bending your knee and lessening that ski's pressure on the snow.

Why do this? While the modern world says, "Everything comes down to money," the physics world says, "Everything comes down to energy." When you extend your outside leg and pressure your ski, the ski builds up mechanical potential energy from the pressure you are applying to make the ski flex. On your inside ski, the retraction (bending) releases the energy and allows for a smooth transition from turn to turn. This will result in a feeling of your skis jumping forward beneath you as all the energy releases.

Martin Heckelman writes in his book, The New Guide to Skiing, "When you retract your leg, you release this energy, causing a rapid and fluid movement of your body downhill across the skis. This enables you to very quickly press onto the new outside ski, which will allow you to carve the ski very early in the turn."

A couple things to keep in mind while practicing these movements:

1.) Make sure you continue to roll and flex your ankles in the direction of your turn.

2.) When extending, make sure you are on the uphill edge of both skis. The outside ski will often be pushed downhill so that your stance opens so wide that little kids think it's a tunnel for them to go through. Monitor this and keep your stance at a constant width throughout the entire turn.

Share this technical tidbit with your friends. They will be impressed that you came with this knowledge out of nowhere. Then refer them to this site...

So, get out on the luxury ski mountain and bend your inside knee, extend your outside knee, and you will be well on your way towards becoming a better, more hip skier than your skiing buddies. And that's what everything really comes down to.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Skiing Those Things Called Moguls

Although bumps are a much different terrain than typical downhill skiing, there is a secret. You actually will use the same movements as normal skiing, just in a different fashion and using different tactics.

There are several different strategies to tackling moguls (metaphorically, not literally). You may want to vary yours depending on conditions, ability level, comfort level, etc.

Generally, the most common strategy (and the one I usually adhere to) involves the following:
1.) Plant your pole on the peak of the bump
2.) Turn on the side of the bump and across the back/downhill side of the bump.
3.) Continue your turn as normal.
4.) Stay in your turn until you slow enough to a comfortable speed while spotting your next bump to plant and turn around.

By simply focusing on planting on the top of the bump and then turning around its side, you will find a smooth rhythm that should help.

Note that this is not the same as skiing a "zipper" line down between the moguls like the pros. That requires much athleticism, strength, and endurance.

David Lind and Scott Sanders, in their book The Physics of Skiing, describe to readers, "When skiing moguls, the skier should unweight - that is, release the edge of the ski - at the sides of the trough where the normal force is reduced and then skid the ski using counterrotation of the body, which will set the opposite ski edge into the snow and initiate a turn."

A little technical, so let me explain. Basically, you are naturally going to experience some flexion and extension of your knees. Let them do this - don't go against it. You want to keep your hips the same distance from the ground so that your upper body doesn't bounce much vertically. The bounce is going to come from flexing and extending your knees underneath your body. Another way to think of this is that you will be picking up your skis off the ground and then landing back down on them.

Turning on the sides of the bumps, or ideally, the peak of the bumps, allows you to maximize your movements when the force on your skis from the snow is at a minimum.

Lind and Sanders summarize by writing, "Simply stated, this physical analysis shows that skiing a banked turn off the top of the mogul is the easiest and most effective strategy for skiing a mogul slope." Don't just take it from me - there you have it from the physics experts.

So, remember to NOT turn before a bump in the icy part where everyone and their brother tries to turn. Do turn on the peak of the bump where there is soft snow that no one skis on. This makes it much easier to turn your skis, and also is much easier on your knees and legs (especially beneficial to mature/experienced skiers and casual skiers).

Also, balance, the "Foundation for the Rest," becomes critical in the bumps. Make sure you have a good, central stance and that after your pole plants, you keep your hands and arms in front of your body.

Trying to keep it simple, this is what skiing the bumps all boils down to. Follow the above tips, and you'll look more like a skier and less of a linebacker on the slopes.