Transition - extension vs flexing

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Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby alex_aku » Fri Dec 18, 2020 10:54 am

Hi All

since we, recreational skiers in Europe, are practically banned from skiing at the moment, at least we have time to discuss a few details in forums :D

Reilly posted a video discussing 2 types of transition- extension / old school vs flexing / compact - as demonstrated by WC-skiers. I didn't like the quality of the discussion on youtube, thus post it here.


Myself as a recreational skier I discovered and came to appreciate the flexed transition thanks to PMTS. With this transistion I am much quicker edge-to-edge, can maintane contact with the snow better, gain confidence on steeps/narrow/bumps, and can re-center better.
Nonetheless I think it's ok to post the question - are there situations in which the extended / stand-up transition offers benefits?
I personally notice that flexed transitions lead to more dynamic skiing (more exciting), but as a downside they are more energy-expending - i.e. I get tired sooner. Especially after 3h of skiing and after having a good lunch I get lazy, unfocused and sort of unintentionally revert back to staying tall in transition.

Would appeciate PMTS crowd intelligence.
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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby ErikCO » Fri Dec 18, 2020 11:48 am

So, I'm sure that other who are more knowledgeable that I will chime in, but flexing to release does not have to be tiring. Certainly, if you are doing it to the extent that you see Hirscher or Hellofa doing, yes it is energy intensive. But you can do a flexion release from a fairly "tall" stance. It is a question of whether your action is relaxing your downhill/outside leg to transition to the new turn's outside leg (which puts you in proper balance to begin the next turn) or if your action is standing up on your inside leg, which will disrupt your balance and will tend to introduce an active twist/rotation to the beginning of your turn. If you want to stay with PMTS movements, you HAVE to use a flexion transition. Flex to transfer from outside/downhill ski's big toe edge to the inside/uphill ski's little toe edge. Flex some more to allow the inside/uphill ski to flatten, then tip the downhill ski to little toe edge to begin the next turn. (I'm sure some of the actual instructors will chime in with a slightly more precise explanation of that sequence if I didn't make that movement pattern clear.) The flexion only has to be a few cm, not the 20-30cm you see in WC racers, and it shouldn't tire you out.
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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby Robert0325 » Fri Dec 18, 2020 12:31 pm

The essentials book has a whole chapter on flexing and explains that flexing when done properly is not tiring at all – quite the opposite in fact. Well worth the read in my view and gives you lots of exercises to help with the timing of the flex etc.
The essentials video - flexing and fore and aft balancing covers the same ground if you’re a visual learner.

PS let me know if you find anywhere to ski in Europe besides Switzerland :lol:
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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby alex_aku » Fri Dec 18, 2020 3:55 pm

Thanks for replies, ErikCO and Robert0325,

The flexing is not tiring at all, it's easy, I'd rather say 2 things happen after a flex transition, due to the lack of skill on my side:
- I start low in transition and then don't manage to fully extend the stance leg in the turn and end up resisting gravity with the leg not quite fully extended, which is more tiring. I think I fail to drop my COM enough inside, and probably rush too quickly thru the float phase trying to get into the next turn too soon. Maybe also HH mistake #1 - not enough tipping.
- I fail to garner the rebound force, I stay in the curve for a moment too long. Instead of having a very brief pressure point I just keep fighting gravity a bit too long. I am envious seeing how Marcel Hirscher gets bounced from one turn to the next one, seemingly effortlessly.

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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby ToddW » Fri Dec 18, 2020 5:16 pm

Two comments about extension:

1. If in some unusual situation you need to extend in transition or in the top of the turn, your body will do so automatically without any training. Your challenge is to keep it from doing so except in those circumstances.

2. Ice is the amplifier that lets you easily observe the effects of movements that are actually present in all conditions. Extend while skiing ice and your skis will skitter out from under you. Push even a little in the high C before you have solid grip, and you lose the skis again. Retract and avoid pushing early, and you may be rewarded with a thin crisp line in the ice and a wonderful feeling. All of these things happen to one degree or another in most surface conditions — ice just forces you to notice the effect. Remember that counteracting is already an extension movement, so adding conscious leg pushing early in the arc is too much extension for the skis to hold cleanly.
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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby RyanAllen » Sat Dec 19, 2020 5:35 am

Certainly a better discussion than YouTube comments! I would love to have a better understanding of the connection between fore-aft alignment and flexing in transition. This old thread was interesting on the point: http://www.pmts.org/pmtsforum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=332&hilit=fore+aft+alignment. I tried ydnar's test and it took about 5mm of heel lift before I could avoid falling backward.

Reilly has hinted of an opinion on fore-aft alignment in relation to body dimensions and I wonder about femur vs tibia lengths for example.
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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby Max_501 » Sat Dec 19, 2020 10:52 am

alex_aku wrote:Nonetheless I think it's ok to post the question - are there situations in which the extended / stand-up transition offers benefits?


If you are asking about making linked turns then it is a hard NO!

alex_aku wrote:I personally notice that flexed transitions lead to more dynamic skiing (more exciting), but as a downside they are more energy-expending - i.e. I get tired sooner.


In recreational skiing, PMTS style flexing shouldn't burn a bunch of extra muscular energy. Done correctly it should use less energy than extension (relaxing vs contracting the quads).

RyanAllen wrote:This old thread was interesting on the point: http://www.pmts.org/pmtsforum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=332&hilit=fore+aft+alignment. I tried ydnar's test and it took about 5mm of heel lift before I could avoid falling backward.


Be careful when reading old posts, especially if the info isn't reflected in any of the official PMTS material. I haven't read anything from HH that suggests that test is applicable to PMTS skiing or alignment. Here's Joseph's (PMTS coach and alignment tech) comment from that thread:

Joseph wrote:What on earth are you guys doing? Would somebody please explain to me the relationship between a full squat and skiing. I may not have been around doing alignment as long as Harald, but I still have yet to see anyone doing full squats as they come down the slope. Why would you want to base your equipment on the ability to do so. If you're squatting when you ski, you're doing something wrong. Furthermore, if you're putting anything in your boot such as a heel/toe lift, you're changing the angle of your foot inside the boot.


During the transition there shouldn't be much weight on the skis (momentum is moving the CoM away from the feet towards the inside of the new turn) so it's nothing like performing a squat which is 100% weighted with the CoM moving directly towards the feet.
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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby blackthorn » Sat Dec 19, 2020 6:15 pm

Looking at the video there is a large difference in style between Zubcic and Odermatt. It is very apparent that Zubcic flexes to release, "stays low", then flexes to engage.
Although it is hard for me to tell, and my MA skills aren't especially well developed, I see no reason not to believe that Odermatt is also flexing to release and to engage, but allows himself to rise higher in transition and "vaults" more, as he "rolls" between release and engagement.
I would be grateful if expert others would clarify.
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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby ErikCO » Sun Dec 20, 2020 2:17 pm

alex_aku wrote:- I start low in transition and then don't manage to fully extend the stance leg in the turn and end up resisting gravity with the leg not quite fully extended, which is more tiring. I think I fail to drop my COM enough inside, and probably rush too quickly thru the float phase trying to get into the next turn too soon. Maybe also HH mistake #1 - not enough tipping.
- I fail to garner the rebound force, I stay in the curve for a moment too long. Instead of having a very brief pressure point I just keep fighting gravity a bit too long. I am envious seeing how Marcel Hirscher gets bounced from one turn to the next one, seemingly effortlessly.


Just a couple of comments here, keeping in mind that we don't have video of your skiing and that I am not an actual PMTS instructor. First, if you are not fully extending your stance leg by the end of the turn, then you are probably flexing too much, compared to the other essentials, in your transition. If I am just doing lazy/easy brushed turns on a green/easy blue run, I think the amount of flex I am doing is probably in the 1cm or under range. If I were to flex as much as when I am skiing more dynamically, I would end up in an ever lowering squat. Second, if you are "fighting gravity" in the lower 1/3 of your turn, then you may very well be trying to fit all of your flexing into a very short transition period instead of progressively flexing through the lower 1/3 of the turn. Video of you would really help those with good MA skills to point out what you are doing that is causing this problem. There is, of course, the possibility that there is something wrong with your boot setup or binding delta, but without video and in person analysis, that is also going to be very hard for anyone to diagnose.

blackthorn wrote:Although it is hard for me to tell, and my MA skills aren't especially well developed, I see no reason not to believe that Odermatt is also flexing to release and to engage, but allows himself to rise higher in transition and "vaults" more, as he "rolls" between release and engagement.


I'm not an expert in MA, but what I see is him very clearly doing a "stand up" at transition. Standing up after being very low and relatively compact in the middle 1/3 of the turn means, to me, that his primary movement is extension. A lot of the negative consequences of this are probably not immediately evident because he is a high level racer and the problems are small enough that my MA eyes aren't good enough to pick them out. But I am quite certain that if you or I were to start practicing this type of movement, the consequences for the rest of our skiing would be fairly noticeable
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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby go_large_or_go_home » Mon Dec 21, 2020 5:20 am

If you substitute the word ‘Flexing’ for ‘Relaxing’, you will get a better understanding when we say you need less energy to ski the pmts way...

Even leg extension - or should I say leg lengthening is not a muscular movement.. it happens as the skis move away from my COM, or my COM moves away from my skis...the only muscular effort required is to balance the forces that I feel coming back up the kinetic chain off the snow..much the same as when you walk.

Sure I get tired, but it’s only because I am skiing longer and harder than ever before..

I can’t speak for max or helluva, but the steeper the terrain the more I try and relax to initiate the transition... The deeper the snow, the more I think about pulling my feet off the snow - anything I can do not to extend.
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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby Vailsteve » Mon Dec 21, 2020 4:59 pm

go_large_or_go_home wrote:If you substitute the word ‘Flexing’ for ‘Relaxing’, you will get a better understanding when we say you need less energy to ski the way


For me, “Relaxing” is a good trigger word. And not always easy to do when trying to sharply pull my feet back under my hips.

Years ago, COSteve told me in PMTS, you “fall” into a turn. Took me a long time to understand what he meant. But he was right. Everything about PMTS is finesse...don’t push, extend, steer, rotate, etc.

Lift, tip and pullback.

I watched Reilly’s video and I think he makes a good point re staying in a flexed position takes more energy. Harald has commented even Reilly can’t do his flexed, high energy turns all day., beautiful as they are.

And, he is 30 plus years younger than me. So relaxing is one of my keys to skiing.
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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby Max_501 » Mon Dec 21, 2020 7:20 pm

Vailsteve wrote:Years ago, COSteve told me in PMTS, you “fall” into a turn. Took me a long time to understand what he meant. But he was right.


That is not a PMTS concept because "falling" implies you are out of balance and PMTS is built around maintaining balance in the most challenging conditions while moving at speed! That's the beauty of PMTS. If we put in the work to make the movements HH has given us we can do crazy fun stuff like:



When I move into the turn I am not out of balance. There is no feeling of "falling" unless I've made a mistake which leads to:


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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby Ken » Tue Dec 22, 2020 11:29 am

When to extend: to jump over a stump, or jump over a kid, or when the day is so great that it feels good to soar.

Relaxing/flexing to release is certainly easier on joints and muscles. During the arc stage of the turn the forces are supported on a near-straight outside leg, then the legs are relaxed, the skis flattened & unloaded, and we move into the next turn. Contrast this with the extension turn where during the arc the forces are supported on bent legs with greater loading on the knees and quads. Every turn needs both flexion and extension. The choice is whether to flex and carry the load, or to flex/relax to unload. The choice is whether to extend and push against the load, or extend before the load develops. I choose the latter for both parts.
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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby alex_aku » Wed Dec 23, 2020 1:59 am

Vailsteve wrote:I watched Reilly’s video and I think he makes a good point re staying in a flexed position takes more energy. Harald has commented even Reilly can’t do his flexed, high energy turns all day., beautiful as they are.


Why do you think HH made this comment?
Last edited by alex_aku on Fri Dec 25, 2020 3:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Transition - extension vs flexing

Postby ErikCO » Wed Dec 23, 2020 7:27 am

alex_aku wrote:
Vailsteve wrote:
go_large_or_go_home wrote:I watched Reilly’s video and I think he makes a good point re staying in a flexed position takes more energy. Harald has commented even Reilly can’t do his flexed, high energy turns all day., beautiful as they are.


Why do you think HH made this comment?


Not trying to be a smart-ass here, but probably because it is true. :) There is no question that high energy, hip-to-the-snow turns are athletically challenging. Just look at how out of breath WC skiers are at the end of a run.

One thing to remember is that the end goal of PMTS is not to make all skiers look like WC racers. You can certainly take the movements Harald has identified and practice them until you can ski like one, but that is not really the end goal most people have. I've linked a video of Harald skiing at a camp from a few years ago. This is the target for most skiers. Using the movements he has identified, essentially anyone with a moderate level of fitness, regardless of age, should be able to create turns like this on groomed blue and black slopes and do so with relatively little energy input. The more you crank up all the primary movements, the more energy you have to put into skiing. PMTS is still going to be the best/fastest way to get yourself to WC-slalom turns if that is your goal, but that is not really the goal most people have.

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