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WHY CAN'T I GET HIGHER EDGE ANGLES?
There is a point in carving turns where it feels more difficult or scary to achieve greater edge angles. For simplifying this post am roughly saying beyond where your your boots are tilted about 45 degrees to the slope. Perhaps you've noticed in video of you "ripping" down the groomers and feeling like you're just inches from the ground you see it's actually much further away. You're barely tipped over at all. Why is this? Is it a matter of fear? Is it a lack of strength? What other factors could be at play? I'd like to share one insight around this particular frustration point in getting your skis tipped over further.
Two ways to make a ski turn tighter
You need to understand that there are only two ways to make a ski turn tighter. One is you twist it which will always result in some sort of skidding. Two you tip the ski over onto higher and higher edge angles so it can bend more. Twisting the ski is fine and necessary in certain situations like a short turn and on steeper terrain but it creates friction and is less stable as the tail of the ski is not following a similar path to the tip of the ski. Not great for higher speeds nor for efficiency. Tipping the skis over to higher edge angles allows us to keep the skis stable as the tail follows the same path as the tip. And why does a ski turn tighter the more its tipped over on edge? It's because of the parabolic shape of the skis. The hourglass shape allows you to bend the ski but only when it is really titled over. Look at the photo to see how little the ski bends at roughly 45 degrees to the slope. Notice how much more the ski bends on the right side image when the skiers leg is tipped over to around 60 degrees vs about 40 degrees on the left. Also note the ski tracks left with a higher edge angled ski.
If this method of creating tighter turns (that by the way control your speed!) are done simply through higher edge angles then why isn't everyone able to do it? Well here is one thing to consider. The feeling of what it's like edging past 45 degrees is more like dropping DOWN. Falling. This is as opposed to the sensation of moving sideways which is what the first 45 degrees feels like. See the next picture to visualise this difference.
Practice falling sideways
The tilting further part is really quite scary because you are moving further away from your base of support. Outside of skiing there are not many positive outcomes that result from you deliberately falling. However bigger edge angles in skiing require you to trust in this falling sensation part in order to continue tilting your skis to bend them. In order to help comprehend this change in motion going more towards falling try this. Visualise your ski pole standing upright then falling over. The first half of falling the handle of the pole (like your head) moves mostly sideways with a little bit of down. The second half of that fall the handle accelerates more downwards than sideways. So you would be experiencing similar motions to the ski pole. The first part feeling relatively slower to tilt, the second half of moving inside the turn is faster as gravity is able to pull you to earth more easily. Closer to free falling. Which is why this part feels the best but is the scariest and hardest to do! As long as the ski bends and the edges hold turning forces will hold you up and keep you balanced. Thats where trust in the process and practice comes in. When the snow is soft practice letting yourself do single J turns and be ok with just letting yourself gradually fall in but be conscious you're doing it to help keep tipping the skis to bend them.
Membership gives you access to videos that teach you how to work on getting higher edge angles.
In this video Tom teaches Emma in a series of 6 videos on how to go from steering her turns to full blown higher performance carving in just 3 days. Check out part 5 of the 6 part series to learn more.
Explore The Whole Series!
Common problem when getting lower
At this point I will point out a common mistake people make as they work on this "lowering" sensation. Because we sense "getting lower" mostly through where our head is in space people will try to get lower by bending at the hips to "feel lower". Your head drops and changes its position but the skis do not tilt further. Be mindful of this trap. You may also try to "feel lower" by bending both legs. Your outside leg isn't really bending at all. Yes your inside leg bends to allow your body to get lower but it can be difficult to distinguish bending only one leg. Many people when trying this bend both legs like in a squat as this is the only other relatable movement they have to work from. It is also due to the fact I pointed out earlier; you will be lowering/toppling quickly because gravity can pull you down more easily and your brain thinks "there is nothing ready to support us if we keep going! So let's just bend forward to feel lower."
The skier to the left is an example of this.
You must trust there are supporting turning forces as you tilt coming from the ski turning sharper. Invisible physics forces that are the same forces holding up Grand Prix motor bike riders and skate boarders riding a bowl. So pay attention to your outside quad muscles and try not to allow them to soften and bend the knee. Think that your outside leg is to be more like your ski pole, strong and straight as it tilts.
Get out there and give it a go
There are several other factors you need to consider in order for this tilting past 45 degrees to work out well for you. More than this blog article can cover. Factors like fore and aft balance, speed, radius of the ski, etc. I cover all of these with detailed videos in the video library as well as more exercises and drills to help give you the right feelings. I hope that this article has helped you perceive what you might be searching to feel for with your body in motion when carving at higher edge angles. Also it may have been surprising to see how little the ski actually bends even at around 45 degrees. Perhaps it will give you incentive to try and push the speed and edge angles a little more. Get to the point where you really feel the ski flex. It's an addictive rush of adrenaline. If you liked this article and are interested in learning more about skiing from my perspective I have a library of ski technique videos on everything from bumps to carving. All aimed to make you a better skier. Enjoy your turns.
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