Tech Talk Archive - Inclination

Inclination at Initiation

Inclination is often considered a bad thing because it is associated with banking at the bottom of the turn, yet, when used at the top of the turn it can help make turn initiation as accurate and productive as possible. Turn Initiation can be a difficult to master for many reasons: the leap of faith needed move your body to the downhill side of your skis; the willingness to accelerate as the skis point down the hill; and finally, the multitude of things going on as we connect the zig to the zag. To help make turn initiation more effective let's explore how inclination at the top of the turn improves performance.

First, take a look at the last shot in the photo sequence where the skier shows solid angulation and is carving away from the fall line. Specifically, notice the torso is somewhat vertical, and there are distinct angles created with the legs. Next, look at the preceding two images and notice that the angles aren't as prominent. Images 2 and 3 illustrate the top of the turn where a skier must move differently to effectively prepare for the higher loading phase of the turn.

Let's take a closer look at the top of the turn. In images 2 and 3 inclination is used to allow the legs to reach out and away from the body to the fall line. The legs stretch as the body and the skis move down the hill in slightly different paths. This is often referred to as a crescent moon shape where the torso travels in a tighter arc than the feet. At the top of the turn, the edges feel light due to the fact that the skier is moving with gravity. Because the skis haven't penetrated the snow as solidly as they will after the fall line, it's difficult to angulate. As the edges penetrate the surface, as seen in image 3 of the montage, a solid feel is achieved by directing energy to the outside ski. Then the skier can move through the rest of the turn, allowing momentum to help load the ski and angulating their body to carve across the hill. As a result, when carving, we commonly see a more inclined posture when entering dynamic, high performance turns.

A cool activity to develop this concept is something I call the non-retraction turn.  A retraction turn simulates bumps or rollers on the surface. Just like bump skiing, retraction turns are done by initiating the turn by lowering the body toward the snow to shorten both legs and then lengthening the legs to the fall line. It's kind of the opposite of what we do normally. For non-retraction turns, instead of lowering the body toward the snow at initiation, allow the skis to continue turning up underneath the body at the end of the turn. Since the legs are skied up and under the body, the legs need to shorten so the ski boots can fit between the hips and the snow surface. As the edges change, the skier stretches the legs out to the fall line where maximum length and maximum edge angle is achieved.  This drill effectively illustrates how we reach with the feet to the fall line and the resulting inclination that results through this part of the turn.

Inclination certainly isn't the only thing going on at the top of the turn but it is something that is often misunderstood and thought of as taboo. Hopefully now you can see how inclination and the activities used to develop it, can play an important role in helping a skier to maintain balance and accuracy in such a dynamic and ever-changing environment.

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