A NEW METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH IN TEACHING BEGINNER LEVEL SKIERS
Kr. Zgurovski, P. Yankov, D. Todorov
On several international meetings devoted to snow sports we have shared some basic problems connected with teaching beginner level skiers. One of them is the difficulty which students face in getting used to wearing ski boots and the resulting problems in acquiring the alpine skiing technique.
It is a known fact that the human foot is built up of 26 bones. Due to its unique construction, it not only supports the whole body weight, but it also acts as an absorber, influences body movements, balance, and provides tactile perception. During alpine skiing the ski boot to a great extent immobilizes the ankle joint. On the other hand, in normal walking the feet function together with the knees, hip joints and pelvis, so the restricted movement of the feet affects all other parts of this complicated system. Beginner skiers’ movements on the slope become awkward and clumsy, and they rather turn into a fight with gravity leading to fatigue and traumas.
In the surface tissues and in the muscles, tendons and joints of the foot, there are a great number of nervous endings, by means of which the brain receives all necessary information to control the position of the body. In natural movement body posture is coordinated unconsciously (e.g., When we walk, we do not think about the kind of movements we perform – we simply move). Consequently, increased or decreased sensitivity of some nervous endings in our feet could lead to malfunction or even to not functioning of whole muscle groups.
In modern design and production of alpine ski boots, special attention is paid on the improvement of the comfort and adjustment of the boots, which makes the adaptation of beginner skiers to wearing them a bit easier.
Nevertheless, our terrain research has shown that when we use exercises for the development of vertical balance in the beginner course – flexing and extending for unweighting or edge and pressure control, these present more serious problems for beginner skiers who have still not got used to wearing their boots. The most common ones are: leaning backwards, fatigue ensuing faster, lack of timing in the performance, loss of balance, etc.
For a better understanding of the problem we have made a research indoors using posturology to analyse the balance of the human body in basic ski stance. The method we applied was stabilometry. A stabilometric platform was used to register the movement of the projection of the Basic Centre of Gravity (BCG) in the course of time. In order to keep its balance, the human body constantly performs oscillating movements with an invisible amplitude (expressed as the amount of the surface to the support, related to the projection of the BCG to the supporting surface, registered in two directions perpendicular to each other) (fig. ?), while performing balance exercises.
The subjects of the research were absolute beginner skiers, putting on ski boots for the very first time. They were supposed to do the following:
- To take basic ski stance
- To perform half-squat and then return again to basic ski stance
- To take basic ski stance wearing virtual reality glasses
- To perform half-squat and then return again to basic ski stance wearing virtual reality glasses
- From the acquired results, it is obvious that beginner skiers lose their balance when performing vertical movements: the projection of the BCG moves backwards; when using virtual reality glasses the amplitude deviations of the projection of the BCG are even bigger in the same direction, reaching the verge of the support surface.
On the basis of all mentioned above, we can summarize that our terrain research, as well as the indoor experiment, present one and the same problem, which is our main argument in order to suggest a new methodological approach in teaching basic alpine skiing skills:
- When teaching basic ski stance, we do not recommend learning various types of vertical postures (low, medium and high). The main point is to develop side and front balance. Students also get used to the boots and the great longitudinal support surface of the skis, determining the natural body position. Another basic aim is for beginners to learn to distribute body weight on both skis, and also to transfer it equally well from one to the other. Here we use familiar exercises: first steps – walking on skis, turning around, going uphill, and straight running downhill on suitable terrains. The adjustment of the boots should be changed for each of the exercises, in order to help students gradually get used to the immobilization of their ankle joints.
- The next step is to develop the skills how to control speed and how to stop using the snow plough without performing vertical movements flexing-extending. The basic point again is the horizontal positioning of the body – centered with reference to the longitudinal and transverse support lines of the skis. Special attention is given to the legs and feet, with the skis set up to form the V shape. The basic exercise is snow plough gliding on a gentle slope and a gradual transition to stopping snow plough. We do not recommend upgrading of the exercise, e.g with the performance of an additional straight running downhill element, then snow plough and straight running downhill again, where flexing and extending are required.
- Changing directions and steering the skis in the snow plough turn requires first to learn to transfer the weight equally well on either ski. The appropriate way is to choose a gentle slope again, the skis should be in half-plough position along the fall line and students should perform connected turns with small deviations from the fall line. The transfer of weight should be performed by leaning the shoulders to the opposite side of the turn. Later we could introduce leaning and slight counter-rotation from the shoulders to make directing the turn easier. We can perfect the skill on different terrains using the snow plough with greater deviations from the fall line in the turns. Again we do not intend to study steering with unweighting and flexing.
- Developing alpine skiing skills continues in a group of exercises: (basic turn and stem turn with a support on the uphill ski) again without up-unweighting and flexing to steer the skis into the turn. Here the transfer of body weight to the uphill (outside) ski is done with a lean from the shoulders to it and a slight counter-rotation, as an easier way to direct the skis to the turn. Steering is controlled through angulation, in the process of mastering the skill students naturally start flexing in order to help complete the angulation.
- Performing the parallel ski turn becomes easier for students when vertical movements (extending-unweighting and flexing-steering) are integrated in the alpine ski technique and the common problem of “sitting back” on the skis, is avoided.
We consider the new methodological approach for teaching beginner skiers as very efficient for the following reasons:
- Students quickly adapt to the alpine ski boots.
- Тhey manage to get over the problem of “sitting back” on the skis more easily.
- The coordination between horizontal and vertical movements is established more smoothly.
- Students easily learn to keep their balance.
- They do not get tired so quickly and traumas are avoided.