Four our biannual PSIA refresher class, Tyson and I took the video movement analysis class with Mike Innes. I like the video analysis format. Due to covid travel restrictions, it was also our only choice. Both Tyson and I needed a class this year to maintain our certification. Finding child care for Isaac was tough. We pieced together help from another family, kids lessons at Jackson, and some flexibility by our instructor.
This was the first time I have skied with Mike Innes. While many of the fundamentals were the same as other classes, he had his own unique perspective. There were three other students
- Chris – an instructor at Bear Notch touring center. Mostly teaches to first timers.
- Hannah – a new coach at the Bill Koch League club in Portland Maine. First time taking a PSIA instructor course.
- Deb – long time alpine instructor taking a cross country ski class for a change.
Tyson was looking for an overall refresher and tune up on his cross country technique. I wanted to learn by example how to do movement analysis. And I wanted to improve my uphill technique.
Both Tyson and I quickly discovered that without our prior bicycle commutes, we didn’t have the cardiovascular fitness to keep up with the faster skiers. We both did well on diagonal stride. I could not get an efficient double pole for the life of me. Tyson did. Tyson started out a bit shaky on his skating technique. By the end he was doing well. Mike presented a new way of thinking about the push off for diagonal stride. The more you could get your foot forward and flat, the less chance of slipping. It really worked for going uphill. The only thing that disappointed was we couldn’t gather together in the lodge to watch and discuss the video footage.
Saturday we started on classic skis. As is typical with PSIA classes, our morning “warmup” zoomed past every other classic skier on the Ellis River Trail. Mike videoed us once to give us a starting reference. We worked on three things in the morning
- an introductory diagonal stride progression
- uphill diagonal stride
- double poling
For the afternoon, we switched over to skate skis. We started on the flat golf course, then moved to a steeper blue trail.
- introductory skate skiing progression
- V1 refinement for uphill
- downhill parallel turns for end of day fun
Sunday we started on skate skis and then switched to classic as fresh snow began to fall. We parked on Valley Cross Rd at a parking lot that the locals (Chris and Deb) called the airport. Not far from the parking lot, there was a wide flat area groomed with double wide classic tracks and double wide space for skating. That abutted The Wave complex, which is a really fun set of rolling trails when you are in shape, and a real huffer and puffer when you aren’t. We, of course, “warmed up” on John and The Wave. Tyson found to get up the hills, he needed to slow down his cadence and work on form.
Tyson and I showed up late to morning skating because of child care.
- tunnel of power for refining skating technique
- V1 transitions from left to right side
- V2 timing
- Skating turns
After lunch for classic, we focused on kick double pole, plus some overall review.
This day was fun because Mike kept adding one more bit of complexity until there was smoke coming out of everyone’s ears. For me it was the increasing list of things to do in the tunnel of power. For Chris and Tyson it was the third V1 transition and alternating feet in the kick-double-pole.
General teaching techniques
Mike’s teaching style focused on “guided discovery”. He would give us a small piece of something, then another small piece of it, and let us figure out how they naturally fit together.
Whenever teaching students a technique, teach them how to do it and when to do it. Mike emphasized this after teaching downhill parallel turns, “when to do parallel turns — when you want to impress your friends.”
How to give feedback to students
- describe (“I think what I am seeing is”)
There are several structured ways to observe a student’s skiing
- top to bottom/bottom to top
- big muscles to little
- what are the skis doing
- technical model grid (Too technical for Mike)
I need to memorize PSIA’s fundamental skills for cross country skiing
- push off
- weight transfer
Mike also demonstrated some examples of teaching to different learning styles. The learning styles are
- Auditory – counted rhythms, pole tapping and ski slapping sounds
- Kinesthetic – the feel of the tongue of the boot against the ankle
These styles com from Neil Fleming’s VARK styles. PSIA leaves out the (R) for reading. https://vark-learn.com/introduction-to-vark/the-vark-modalities/
Shared Classic and Skating
In both classic and skating, you get more power by pushing off with a flat foot, not on the ball of your foot.
For classic, if you do an early weight transfer, the push off happens behind your CG. You will push from the ball of your foot, and the ski will slip out behind you. If instead you bring your hips forward, and let the new foot swing forward ahead of the old foot before pushing off, you get much better grab on the snow. The feeling is that you are pushing off with your whole foot.
In skating the phenomena is similar. If you try to push from the ball of your foot, you get either a twisting motion in the ski, or the ski slides backwards. Pushing on a flat foot pushes perpendicular to the ski and gets the most propulsion.
Once we had that working, the next thing Mike talked about was extension to get more glide. Now I thought you weren’t supposed to open up (straighten out) your ankle. But Mike had us do several exercises where we extended our foot slightly forward (or outward for skating) to get more glide before pushing off.
The diagonal stride progression Mike taught assumes you start with someone who can walk or shuffle in their skis. This progression focuses on moving the hips forward to get more power and glide. Each time the student is directed where they should have their recovering foot land. The way to change the landing point is by flexing the ankles more and bringing the hips forward. See if they can find that through guided discovery.
- 0 – feet landing behind the other foot. No weight transfer
- 1 – complete weight transfer. Foot still landing behind front foot
- 2 – weight transfer occurs when feet are even.
- 3 – weight transfer & push off ahead of old foot
Mike first introduced the flat foot push off as part of this progression. In addition to feeling the ankle bend, he also had us feel where in the foot we were pushing off. The most forward weight transfer with the most power was a flat foot push off.
We practiced uphill technique on both days. Some of the drills we did were
- Ski bounding/moose hooves – high energy clomp up the his, again with a flat foot
- Add extension to a diagonal stride uphill. Extend just before push off (with that flat foot) to get extra glide.
- Scooter drill, except with both skis on. Normally you would have one ski off and use that boot to push yourself along the track. In this exercise, you still only use one ski, no poles, to push up the hill. The key is to focus on flat footed clawing.
Double poling progression
- hands up, pole tips at the toes (students push however they want)
- bend at the abs & ankles
- follow through with the hands releasing the poles behind you
Kick double pole
- static open/close practice for timing
- single foot kick up the hill
- kick double pole on one side. Emphasize getting kicking foot forward.
- alternation – not sure how you are supposed to get next foot ahead.
The single foot kick up the hill is the scooter drill, but with both skis on. Tyson had smoke coming out of his ears trying to figure out alternating feet. Emilie really liked the scooter drill because it focused on good uphill technique and uphill glide.
Emilie, Hannah, Chris, and Mike did an extra tour up the Henry. Hannah wanted to know how to get more glide going uphill. Mike’s answer: extend the push off foot up the hill before pushing off.
Mike had a skating progression that he seemed to reuse for all purposes
progression with no poles
- split skating — Push feet forward in V. Bring feet back together before doing the splits.
- standing in one place, step back and forth between the left ski and the right ski.
- gliding “weight transfer” — do just enough push to get complete weight transfer from one foot to the other
- gliding extension skate – kick each foot out a little bit at the end of the glide
- after picking up a foot, let the leg pendulum back underneath your body
- put everything together and just skate
First skate lesson, do the above sequence with no poles. Later in the sequence as the student gets faster, choose a slightly uphill spot so they aren’t scared of getting out of control. Next do the double pole progression. Then tell them to put it together — start by skating a few strides with no poles, and then add the double polling where it feels natural. Most people do a V-2 alternate.
This is a new approach to teaching skating, and everyone in the class found it odd. V-2 is the highest gear, used for flats and downhills. Why teach a beginner that rather than the traditional V1 which is good for uphills? It is
- more fun for student. They get skating earlier with less thinking
- trains people to use their legs on uphills rather than arms which is better in the long run.
We had a side discussion on the tilt of the unweighted ski when it is being stepped forward. If the tip is down and catching in the snow, the skier’s weight is too far forward. If the tail is down, the skier’s weight is too far back. Practice exercise: keep the foot low and slightly drag it across the snow to feel it’s level.
V1 practice on hill
- same sequence as no poles (skip split skating), but with V1 pole timing
- use a backwards snowplow to get into the correct position
- keeping upper body facing down
- smear inner ski by releasing edge
- useful for impressing friends
Tunnel of power. I knew this one as a single exercise, but Mike used it as a scaffold to teach multiple things.
- skate ski once staying under an imaginary culvert
- do it again lower
- do it again but let leg pendulum back under
- do it again but extension glide to hit the sides of the “tunnel”
V1 transitions. This is shifting from poling on the left to poling on the right (or vice versa). A normal V1 tempo is 3-1-3-1-3-1… The three indicates two poles and one ski landing simultaneously. The one indicates a single ski landing. Two in the following is a double pole while gliding on a ski.
- quickie – 3-3-1
- extra free skate – 3-1-1-3-1
- extra V2 (kochie) – 3-1-2-1-3-1
I knew the first two. The third is new to me. Mike explained it could also be used as a half way gear at the top of a hill when you are going to switch to V2 soon. Tyson didn’t know any of the transitions, and after trying to learn all three, he was completely flummoxed.
- same as no pole progression. Skip first step. Start at herringbone (instead of static)
- prerequisite do double pole progression
- in track, quick 2x-double pole holding other ski up
- in track, longer double pole
- out of track, double pole then step
- double pole then skate. Again reminded to let leg pendulum under
(can also do step-step double pole)
- keep hands forward (same as telemark don’t let hand/shoulder drop back)
- Never-ending circle of death: follow the leader in a tightening spiral.