Releasing: Methods to Start a Turn (2/2)

The Weighted Release - Releasing without Lightening

Modern skiing with shaped skis is very different from what we were doing fifteen years ago. Much of the credit for facilitating effective changes can be attributed to PMTS Direct Parallel. Unfortunately, efficient use of the inside foot, ski and edge are still largely misunderstood by those who have not yet educated themselves completely in PMTS techniques.

Even coaches that I know and have worked with on the US Ski Team development staff are amazed at the effectiveness and simplicity of PMTS techniques. The way we describe transitions, for example, breaking it down into releasing, transferring and engaging, is a new and more direct approach to describing how expert skiers ski.

The emphasis used to be on knee drive, big-toe edging, stance ski turning and weighting. As advocates of PMTS Direct Parallel we take it for granted that we use free foot, inside ski, and ankle movements first, to facilitate parallel leg shafts and equally tilted skis for carving turns. As recently as five years ago these concepts were not used or understood and were actually disregarded by ski teachers and coaches. PMTS Direct Parallel has been breaking the mold and driving the agenda for revising ski-teaching practices. It is encouraging to observe the gradual, though slow, incorporation of PMTS techniques into the ski-teaching lexicon.

In this series of articles I am expanding and defining the different ways the PMTS Direct Parallel system develops the release, since releasing is still the most misunderstood part of the turn.

Phantom Move Review

Releasing with the Phantom Move was my first topic in this series (click to read it).

This is the second article in a series; articles detailing the many possibilities and variations of PMTS movements available in all three phases of the turn will appear in upcoming issues.

We know that the Phantom Move is the initial method for becoming an efficient, balanced skier on shaped skis. Learning to balance and learning skiing movements are not and should not be exclusive. Does it make sense to learn turning and steering and then after two seasons realize that you aren’t making progress because you never learned to balance on your skis? In fact, many of our students don’t even realize that they were never introduced to balancing; that learning to balance should have been part of their learning experience.

Effective ski learning and skiing movements are based in a progression that includes balance. When skiers learn PMTS Direct Parallel from the beginning they never have these dilemmas. Their every movement begins with achieving and maintaining balance on or over their skis.

When we look at the Phantom Move release we can appreciate the effectiveness of the lifting and tipping because on closer analysis, the lift and tilt removes the base of support on the stance ski and transfers the support base to the uphill or old free foot of the previous turn. The secrets to making this move a success are clearly described in the previous article.

Weighted Release
The weighted release also removes the base of support, but more gradually and with more commitment of the body toward the next turn. The speed at which you move into the next turn in a weighted release depends on how aggressively you flex, bend and reduce the pressure on the stance ski. As we often see with ski racers, a quick, aggressive flexion for the weighted release can, if timed well, virtually launch the skier into the next turn. With more progressive flexion the transition can be easily controlled, therefore the body can move smoothly and controllably into the next turn.

How we move the body
Flexing or bending the support or stance leg releases the body from its inclination up the hill and lets it move to be over (vertically above) the skis. As the pressure decreases, the skier flattens the ski and allows this/her body to move with the tilting of the ski. Your old stance leg has to follow the ski’s tipping as it flattens; when the ski is completely flat the body should be directly over the ski. Here is the moment of truth: the ski has to continue tilting toward the little-toe edge. Much of the difficulty and hesitancy in performing a weighted release comes from the reluctance to move the body with the tipping ski. Tipping the ski toward the little-toe edge requires that the body incline downhill toward the fall line. Once flexing begins, the act of flexing should be continuous through the transition. Controlled flexing is called eccentric contraction and skiers need to be familiar with this kind of muscle activity. It means controlling load and pressure from skiing forces and body weight throughout the leg/knee-bending phase, while the ski is also flattening to the snow.

Another important aspect of the weighted release is that it doesn’t immediately produce a new stance ski. When you begin flexing, the transition of the body from old turn to new develops two-footed balance. As the skier flexes the old stance leg and extends the new stance leg or the new outside leg, this causes reduction of pressure on the old stance leg and an increase of pressure on the new stance leg, developing fairly even balance on both legs. This sensation may be scary for skiers when they first try the weighted release, because there is the feeling of no grip during the transition. This is almost a floating feeling as you change edges. As you continue to tip the old stance ski toward its little-toe edge, both skis engage due to the new edge angles. Continued flexion of the inside leg and balance on and extension of the outside leg develop the new stance ski.

Commit to the new angles
Back to the beginning of another turn - once you begin the flexing action of the release, the moment of truth arrives. This is the moment where you must commit to and continue your movement toward the new turn. Increasing the flexing and tipping of the previous stance leg accomplish this commitment. The previous stance leg must be tucked or collapsed under the body to get it out of the way so the body can move to the inside of the next turn. If the previous stance leg doesn’t get out of the way and stays rigid, in a bracing manner, stiffening or locking up, many inefficient movements will result. Locking or stiffening the old stance leg in the transition causes the body to move over (upward extension) or around the stiff leg, causing a rotation of the upper body.

As with all PMTS Direct Parallel transitions the old stance foot and leg are moved first to start the next turn. The movement is toward the little-toe edge. Many observers of skiing are discovering that moving the inside foot and leg really helps to develop the image of parallel leg shafts that is so desired in today’s technique. They often don’t realize the significance of the release - that’s where the movements for maintaining parallel leg shafts begin, just as we have described them for all PMTS Direct Parallel releases.

Using the weighted release means letting your body move with the actions of the legs early into the next turn. We have developed progression lines that introduce skiers to the weighted release and it begins with one-ski traverses and banana turns. These progression lines are demonstrated in the Anyone can be an Expert Skier 2 video, available now on video and on DV-D soon after you receive this newsletter.

As with much of PMTS Direct Parallel instruction, movement toward the little-toe edge is a big adjustment for many skiers. Skiing at expert and higher levels requires a free, uninhibited movement of the body to either side of both skis. PMTS Direct Parallel guides beginners to exactly what we are discussing here, movement of the body to either side of both skis. These movements begin at the base of support with the feet and ankles and the body follows. Diligent practice of the ski exercises that lead to the weighted release is the quickest and most direct route to freedom in the release. These exercises are beneficial for your own skiing and your teaching. It is important to review the weighted release progression frequently and use of the weighted release in your skiing. Let’s make this the official season of the weighted release!