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Improve Your Skiing: Flex to Connect

Disconnected Skiing

Traditional ski technique has always used a large “up” extension movement to unweight the ski, so the ski can be steered or pushed to an edge. With this method the ski edge doesn’t engage until the skis are away from the body. The skis are disconnected from the snow.

Lessons from the Experts

Since the early days, good skiers have used a flexing or bending of the legs to release the edges; unfortunately, this technique never really gained favor with ski instruction. There have been times when the different traditional ski teaching systems (“TTS”) - whether it be Austrian, US or Canadian - have played with absorption or retraction as they call it, but they have never incorporated it into their regular or fundamental movements, especially not at the beginner or intermediate levels. This is where PMTS differs greatly from TTS.

Expert skiers, regardless of the teaching system they use in lessons, use PMTS movements when they ski - even if they don’t know they are using them. Naturally gifted skiers or athletes always use the easiest movements to create their skiing. Slalom skiing is the closest racing discipline to free skiing in speed and turn size. All slalom skiers use flexing to release the ski for the new turn.

Tip – don’t turn

If you ever take a PMTS lesson you will see how bending and flexing are integral to releasing and tipping. The Phantom Move begins with a bending of the stance leg. The Phantom Move and two-footed releases keep the skier and the skis connected to the snow. With this approach the skis are used as they are designed to be used: by engaging the sidecut and letting the skis make the turn. PMTS is the first complete ski teaching system designed to guide you correctly to the use of your shaped ski’s sidecut.

Skiing, contrary to what most people tell you or hear, isn’t about turning the skis. It is about tipping the skis off their edges and engaging the skis to the new set of edges, it’s not about changing direction. The only way you can tip to new edges and not turn the skis is by using a flexing or bending of the legs as to tip the skis to the new edges. The skis do not actually change direction or at least not toward the new turn while this is happening. It’s important for skiers to grasp the concept that when you flex to release, you are actually still headed in the same direction, not into the new turn. Flexing should not be a cue for pointing the ski tips downhill. Flexing is the cue to get the body to the other side of the skis. Let the skis engage while the body is moving and let the sidecut of the newly engaged skis take the body through the new turn.

Up = Disconnect

If one does not bend the legs to exit a turn, one does not release. An upward leg extension is not a release; it is actually a pressuring movement, resulting in unweighted skis. In this case the intent is to unweight the skis; this results in negative effects for the skier, who uses the push from the legs to lighten and then turn (not tip) the skis. It’s then difficult to control the entry to the new turn, since the skier is disconnected from the snow. Once the skier comes back down from the push, it’s more difficult to make the skis engage and use the sidecut. The skis are more likely to skid.

These methods rely on vertical extension or at least as vertical as you can get on a ski slope. These movements disconnect the skier from the snow and more importantly the edges. If this is your technique, then your shaped skis are largely unused.

I find it interesting that TTS have yet to incorporate and integrate bending or flexing movements with tipping movements, when PMTS has done so for years. The answer probably lies with the fact that TTS still aren’t tipping or teaching foot tipping, so why use bending or flexing of the legs? It is ineffective to tip, flex, or bend if the skis are not engaged in the snow.

Where is Leg Extension? Out, not Up

In PMTS we do have to extend at some point in the turn or we won’t be able to flex at the end of turns. We flex and bend to release and we continue to stay flexed until the skis are tipped onto the edges for the new turn. If you ski with just this cue in mind many of the forceful old movements might just disappear. This does mean you have to be very patient at the transition. Do not try to turn the skis or push against them; wait until the body goes across and the skis are on edge. Once the skis are on the new edges, you can extend the stance leg, but don’t try to do it too forcefully. Remember you are already on edge - if you extend the legs while you are on edge, your body will move further into the center of the turn developing a more solid position and more solid edge grip. Who doesn’t like more edge grip? This extension movement gives us a long outside leg and a flexed inside leg. Your body is actually moving to the inside of the turn at an angle, rather then straight up as in the extension used in TTS.

 phot montage harald flexes to connect turns

Dead End

Upward leg extension to create unweighting becomes a huge learning block for skiers. We see this in most of our campers. We have to undo so many movements developed from TTS that have become habits for the skiers. We don’t actually undo or change movements for skiers with TTS instruction; we have to first reverse them. It is not the fault of the student; they are willing to learn anything at the beginning, as they know very little about skiing.

Connected and Disconnected are Different

PMTS: Connected movements
1. Begin with tipping
2. Then moves to stepping, shuffling with tipping (add bending of legs)
3. Next comes balance/weight transfer and feet foot tipping (combine tipping and bending)
4. Parallel turns on green terrain are next (combine tipping and bending)
5. Parallel turns on blue with phantom move (combine tipping and bending, more of both)
6. Bending to release, tipping to release, tipping to engage
7. Extension through the turn

TTS: Disconnected movements
1. Begin with wedging
2. Moves to wedge turning
3. Wedge turn with skidded parallel finish
4. Bigger wedge turn on blue terrain with up unweighting
5. Pushing off the stance ski to unweight and move body around fixed stance ski
6. Up movement and body rotation to change direction

These are a few differences between traditional systems that result in disconnecting your skis from the snow and PMTS that keeps you in contact with the snow and your skis. I know that the intent of TTS is not to disconnect you from the snow and slow your skiing progress, but that is the reality. We see it at our camps year after year. People come to PMTS camps to learn how to ski like experts. People go to TTS lessons because they are caught in the beginner lesson funnel and we can’t expect them to know better. After all, they are beginners, and where do beginners go to take lessons? To ski schools. The beginner doesn’t know he’s going down a dead end road, especially since it’s the road traveled by most skiers.