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.


  1. Thanks a lot for the tip, it sure did helped a lot since I'm just a beginner in skiing, by the way have you been to lake tahoe? I heard that they had some pretty good deals on passes out there, it goes around like midweek + sunday adult pass for just $299 or rock the slightly filtered Alpine and Homewood seven day pass for $429. There are other steeply discounted options too..

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  2. I was scolded by an examiner in my level III teaching exam because long leg/short leg or Flex/Extend was too technical. He demanded that I say "stretch one leg and bend the other".

    There is no difference in the concept he just prefererred I say stretch/bend to the public.

    So when you are taking your next exam, it is a smart thing to pick the easiest words possible.

    Lastly, this is one of the best things that I know to teach at any level. It works. It is one of the first things that gets a novice to start edging successfully.

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