Sunday, January 23, 2011


Inclination is a dirty word in our coach's circle right now. But I am finally beginning to understand the principle in a way that I can vocalize.

Who here would deny that we learn every time we coach? Who here is the expert? I'm not. I'm constantly trying to understand the turn, the weight shift, the dance with gravity. Who here stands around during practice? No coach stands around. Drew might THINK we're standing around, but we're watching, studying. We're constantly studying the racers. What are they doing?? What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? What can I say to that child to improve his or her technique?

I'm no expert on inclination either, or really any particular aspect of ski racing, but I can explain what my current understanding of inclination is, and why it makes sense to me.

Gravity is our friend. But it must be tamed. Of course, taming gravity is a ridiculous proposition. Just an illusion, like any control you have in life, the only real control is how you respond to the world. So we control gravity by controlling our responses to it. It pulls us down the hill. It pulls us sideways, it pulls us in vectors relative to our stated direction.

What is the quickest way to get from 1000' to 0'? Free fall, with the lowest drag coefficient possible. Of course, we're required to follow a slope down, and we're required to make turns as we go, but gravity is our engine, and our goal is to be as close to a free fall as possible, while maintaining absolute control of our bodies.

Stacking. What are the five fundamentals of alpine racing?

Basic Skiing (Athletic Stance, Parallel Position)
Pole Plant
Carving Turns and Transitions
Jumping and Terrain

What is the most important fundamental? Yes, we pick favorites, and it's Basic Skiing, of course, and the most fundamental element of Basic Skiing is the Athletic Stance. Why?

Why is the athletic stance so important? Because we are perfectly "stacked". Our whole body, all joints, bones, etc., is aligned in a way that maximizes our stability - our CONTROL over gravity - relative to the surface we're resisting gravity against. When we're standing on flat ground, gravity pulls straight down on us, and we therefore have the canonical Athletic Stance. However, when gravity is pulling in a different direction, we must adjust our stance in order to remain stacked. Shown here:
These flagrantly simplified drawings do not take into account movement, of course. While we are moving down the course, we're making turns: initiating turns, performing turns, completing turns, preparing for upcoming turns. These are all simplified drawings of positions that can only be explained in the context of a dynamic, modern turn, but the principle is clearly illustrated.

Gravity pulls our body in vectors relative to our stated position. Gravity is the engine that pulls us down the hill. In order to maximize our control over gravity, we must maximize our stability, and we do that by FINDING the Athletic Stance w/r/t our given position, which may be at an ANGLE or INCLINE relative to the surface we're gliding across.

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