I’ve delayed this post for years, because I have yet to get a picture of me demonstrating this key adjustment of the inside hip to facilitate better angulation. Apparently, I can only be filmed from the back when skiing?
At the end of the 2014 Bear Valley Free Heel Festival, a group of us were learning from Paul Henrickson’s vast store of techniques and tricks (Paul has been mentioned here previously). At the end of the lesson, he mentioned, almost in passing, that in order to make easier telemark angulation, the skier has to intentionally move her/his/their inside hip forward, and make the motion as early in the turn as possible.
Paul likes to say about telemark angulation, “twice the work for half the effect.” In other words, telemark angulation is hard. Telemarkers have to work at getting sufficient angulation (often called, “comma shape” or “C” shape) to maintain balance against the pull of gravity and to keep skis carving, rather than sliding.
Angulation is a key to great parallel skiing, whether telemark or alpine parallel. Angulation is just as necessary for telemark turns as for alpine parallel techniques, though angulation gets a lot more discussion, I believe, amongst alpine turners.
In any even, there is a significant difference between the two body positions that must be taken into account. Alpine skiing, even for skiers who don’t have great technique, doesn’t foster a trailing uphill hip. Telemark skiing, without intention, does.
In fact, many images attempting to document great telemark form show the skier with hips square to the skis, including every picture and video of me that I’ve posted to this site!
In the above picture, my hips are pointed towards the tips of my skis (if you were to review all the pictures of my skiing in this blog, you would see the same position). In order to angulate at all (which I’m trying to accomplish!), I have to bend my waist over my outside hip (forward ski). That’s a lot of work. In this photo, you can see that I don’t have much “comma” to my stance; I’m more “bent at the waist”, rather than getting a good “C” or comma form.
Why is my more upright stance important? I’m tilted towards the inside of the turn. A mistake will amplify my weight being on the inside of my turn, causing a fall or a tail out such that my ski tails go into a slide, losing edge control.
Steeper terrain will be (and has been) more difficult, since I’m not balanced sufficiently against gravity and the arc of my turn. I might have to compensate by skiing lower, or with a wider stance. Speed will be compromised – as greater speed requires greater angulation. And, this stance is less efficient; it’s more work leading to undue fatigue.
Here’s another “square hipped” picture of me that may illustrate:
The trick in alpine parallel turns is to move the inner ski, the “uphill” ski forward, usually about 1/2 a boot length or so ahead of the outer ski. My alpine form in the following picture is more or less correct: my inside hip is forward, even in this set of tight, fallline turns on a steeper, relatively narrow channel.
Notice how my inner hip, already turning forward, naturally causes my hips to turn towards the outside of the turn, which naturally facilitates an angulated posture. (I had just initiated the turn, so my angulation hasn’t yet developed fully in this picture – though you can see that I’m moving into an angulated position)
The essential telemark problem is that the inner leg must trail behind the outer leg! That’s what a telemark turn is: outer, downhill ski is forward; inner ski (uphill) is behind. Ugh – now there IS a physical challenge.
The telemark’s most obvious stance leads many telemark skiers to ski with their hips pointing at the tips of their skis, as I have. Worse, since the inner leg is back, a few skiers manage to turn more or less successfully with their hips pointing uphill, rather than down the fall line – which is an anti-pattern to good skiing.
As I trolled through images of telemark skiers, the majority of the images showed skiers with poor hip position; clearly, this is what we’re learning – probably unintentionally? No wonder it takes “twice the effort for half the effect.”
What Paul relayed that stormy, late March afternoon at Bear Valley, California added a key ingredient which has radically opened up my abilities to telemark ski varying conditions, pitch, and speed: a telemark skier should (must?) move the inner hip forward as soon as possible after initiating a new turn. I’ve been practicing this “trick” assiduously for the last few years to great personal success (though not apparently documentable?)
Let’s look at a telemark racer’s position:
Note how far forward he has his inside hip! His hips are canted towards the outside of the turn (often called, “downhill”). Look at the amount of angulation he achieves. His body has achieved a position that has gone beyond merely vertical (which would have been great skiing) such that his upper body can counter strongly against his hips which can then be carried low to the snow. This skiing position allows his legs comfortably to put his skis radically on edge. Now that’s telemark skiing! This racer achieves a near perfect “comma”skiing position.
Here’s another image that I hope the skier does not mind my using (pulled from google images: I have no idea who either of these 2 skiers are; I could not request use. There was no obvious copyright – please contact me if there’s a problem – thanks):
Great powder skiing stance. Feet fairly close together; body facing down the fallline (downhill, or more properly, the outside of the turn). His upper hip is not as extreme as the racer – probably doesn’t need to be?
Powder skiing likes a tight stance with weight a little further back than groomed or speed skiing. Hence, this skier’s inner hip is held as forward as is probably necessary for what he’s skiing. Just getting the hip a little forward (as this skier does) I have found, makes a profound difference.
The next time that you’re turning, may I suggest that you take notice of where you place your hips?
Perhaps yours is a turn involving knees deep, low stance, feet relatively far a part? If so, no need to change – this trick may not help much? I can’t make more than a few of these without using all available energy. Plus, if I try this telemark approach, I slide around far too much for my tastes. (one of the beauties of telemark is that there a numerous techniques and gradations that can be used to make a turn)
On the other hand, if you aspire, as I do, to a tight, modern telemark turn (as I’ve described in this blog and that I’ve tried to develop), try pushing your inner hip forward a little and see what happens. My turns are far better for it; it’s one of those little things that’s incredibly powerful, radiating profound effects to turns, assuming that most everything else that you’re doing is more or less working.
(I’ll try to post soon about some of the adventures I’ve been having so far this season)