I’ve had Laura for a student for years. She’s been in the Mountaineers program and I’ve had private lessons with her a number of times. One of the things that I was always trying to do was get her to flex her ankles. When I first met her a few years ago she had rear entry boots that were way too stiff for a person her size. She was probably like eleven years old. This is a typical problem I have found with smaller people, their boots are often too stiff to allow them to effectively flex in them. As a result I think they learn to ride the backs of their skis and thus not ski as well as they could if they could flex their ankles and stand on their feet. Eventually I got her dad to get her some front buckle boots, but I think Laura had the bad habit of leaning on the backs of her boots and riding the backs of her skis. Well today Laura came to the lesson with band new boots and skis that she is very proud of and that actually suit her very well. Plus she has grown quite a bit. She’s now 14 and probably weighs somewhere close to a hundred pounds.
Since this was our first lesson of the season and her new focus is to become a ski instructor someday, I sort of tested her on some of the basic skills in our first runs. I wanted to see if she remembered the difference between skidded turns and carved turns. We played around with different turn shapes. We talked a little about directional movements. We watched other skiers and practiced a little bit of movement analysis. Her understanding of skiing has grown quite a bit over the past years.
She still seemed to be a little in the back seat to me though. We talked about how the ankle flexes. We stood in one spot and looked at how our shins pushed up against the front of the boots when we close our ankles and how the backs of our calves pushes up agains the back of the boots when we stand up real straight and tall while opening our ankles. Then we skied some more. Then when I thought she understood what I meant by closing her ankles, I asked her to try to closing her inside ankle, or the uphill ankle, in the finish of her turns. Wow it was like magic. What I saw was a young lady making really strong turns, flexing in the bottom of the turns, and opening her ankle to allow the new turns to start. She was standing in much better balance on her skis moving confidently into each new turn (rather than being in the back seat).
I think she knew how thrilled I was. I think this was a major change in her skiing that is going to set her up to become a truly hot expert skier. Of course there was lots more that we talked about, like how all the stuff we talked about was relative. Sometimes we flex our ankles with more intensity sometimes it’s just nice and easy. Next time we meet we’re probably going to focus on edging skills. Now that her flexing and extending has become so much better, enabling her to balance better on her edges.