Telemark Balancing skills – ALC how to ski series – feeheel stance and Balancing 2
Chapter 3 Telemark Balancing Skills part 2
it’s just Alpine skiing with one foot back, isn’t it?
No, not really. Here I’ll expand from part 1 and ready us for the next chapter on Lead-change.
Fore/aft plane – 0xo
We visited this idea in the alpine section (linked), in this the larger 0 is the ball of your foot. The smaller o represents the heel of your foot and x marks the centre. This means that the front foot in Telemark is very similar to Alpine (with all the variations as to where the pressure is felt at different times and speeds and terrains).
When in a Telemark stance the heel (o) of the rear foot is raised; so the ball 0 will be where the pressure will be felt. This will be mainly when standing still or sliding in a straight line downhill (flat skis and feet).
When in Telemark stance we are targeting to a definite outcome to begin with of 50% of the weight or pressure on the front foot (0xo) and the other 50% on the ball of the rear foot (0).
It could also be said that although we can feel centre through our feet, the true centre in a Telemark stance is external from us and exists somewhere between the feet along the skis/stances length and also width (diagonal).
Before doing what follows, make sure you can accurately find and achieve the targeted focus above.
It can be beneficial to deliberately make mistakes or experiment on easy terrain so you know the difference between the feelings and learn the actions and reactions of recovery, at any level of Telemarking. Note; it doesn’t matter how good you are but how good your reactions and recoveries are!
Adapt the scale idea from the generic section to experiment within your stance; starting form any point in reality but for this example – from the front foot or forward of centre +5 4 3 2 1 to x exact centre and back of centre -1 2 3 4 5 toward your back foot, accurately. Attempt to make the movements subtle and feet oriented rather than big movements with the upper bodies.
To take this idea further it will and is linked to pressure distribution where we deliberately place the weight and therefore feel the pressure on different parts of the foot/ski and along the length of the Telemark stance.
Not much is different to the alpine generic section in this plane; the knees are directly over the feet or skis and the hips are directly above the knees and feet and stacked like boxes one above the other as before. Our shoulders, spines and hips will resemble the capital I and as before the idea is to acquire the maximum benefit of the skeleton’s strength.
Note, all of the above are only there as a guide and not something you should force your body to conform to, as; your build may not allow these, you may be naturally bandy legged, knocked kneed or have a curvature of the spine.
Lateral 0 x o, Dice 5
This idea helps expand 0xo and is designed to allow you to explore the lateral plane
Move the x from the fleshy part of the foot to the side or use the dice 5 idea or a combination, whatever works for you to help develop a feel for the sides of your feet or the edges of the skis.
The important thing here is to discover the 4 different sides of the feet, in other words the x’s or dots on the sides of the feet! The front foot will basically be dealing with the inside/big toe side of the foot that will equate to the big toe edge of the ski. (See, Left, right, inside and outside in the Alpine section)
However the rear foot’s toe joints are flexed (compressing the bellows of the Telemark boot) onto the ball of the foot. During straight running the ball of the foot will be flat, so the x will be in the middle of the ball of the foot or both dots on the ball will be engaged.
During a turn or deviation you will feel the pressure on the little toe side of the ball of your foot, so the x is moved from the middle or one of the dots is not engaged and the other is.
(Tip) As in the alpine section feel free to get creative and complicate or simplify the Dice 5 to a dice 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9, on the front foot or stay with 0xo and then re-visit and build up the complexity later. Note that on the rear foot there is only 1 dot when on the ball unless going straight.
To begin with make things easy, either; standing still and rolling the whole foot as before in alpine stance from one set of dots –big toe dots- to the other side – little toe dots. Then really start to see the complexity of Telemark by rolling from the big toe side of one foot to the little toe side and as you do this raise the heel at the same time – multi-tasking.
Feet are comfortably apart – hip or shoulder width or somewhere between, it’ll depend on your build and ability.
Once again, as we start to explore this plane our feet and upper bodies are in different areas and not directly above each other because different forces will be acting upon us – not just gravity. And our stance from head on will not be stacked as before, our legs will lean over and our shape will have to evolve.
The more we explore this plane and get our centre of mass (generally around and behind the belly button, depending on build) away from being directly above our feet and our body’s shape changes and separates or bends at various joints, the more skill is required to not have to rely on muscle strength.
Because in Telemark stance the ball and toe joints of our rear foot are flexed it is a lot harder to relax this foot but not impossible. For the same reasons stated in Stances for Balancing, un-clench this foot as much as you can to take the tension out of the performance. Also because this foot is on the ball of the foot the pressure felt might seem greater as the weight/pressure is being placed through a smaller area.
Use the scale again and experiment with +5432112345- being most of the weight/pressure on the left foot, to most being on the right foot. If in a Telemark stance with the left foot forward the +5 will be on 0xo, 4 3 2 1 equal 1 2 3 4 5- onto the ball 0 of the right foot and of course the other way round if in the other stance – right foot on 0xo, left 0.
Vertical plane/up and down
As before, think of this as suspension; the amount of movement in this plane needs to match the terrain. Although it can be used to influence the amount of pressure on the skis i.e. large rate of up movement will take the pressure off the skis and is useful now and again but it can be tiring and sometimes a wasted effort.
When moving from one Telemark shape to the other (See Lead Change) there can but doesn’t have to be upward movement. You can stay low as this action is happening or rise because you either want to or match terrain, pressures or forces. Vertical movement also doesn’t have to affect the length of your Telemark stance- you could stay short but go low. Use the scale idea to refine differing amounts of up and down mixed into the fore/aft movements. +54321012345-. This is complex as both planes are being utilised at the same time.
Light Shin Pressure
The shins and the pressure we feel in Telemark are just as important as in alpine, try to maintain light and creative contact with the cuffs of the boots. It doesn’t have to hurt, so should be subtle and as in the previous section. Because in Telemark we try to compress the bellows of the rear boot, you may be aware of, or feel a bit more pressure on this tongue of the boot/shin.
As we are compromised in our Telemark stance if compared to an Alpine stance, depending on our build and personal strength this can be a crucial to our being able to ski for long periods without fatigue. Head on it will look very similar to alpine – try not to kink too much during the load phase of a turn. Side on, the closer you are to the biomechanical principles template for your build the less tiring it will be. Be creative with the ever changing shape as this will also help with tiredness and relax as much as possible.
Happy Telemark Stance
If you’re following the biomechanical principles and have created a relaxed shape the same tell tale signs of a happy stance will be there:
- Less stress and strain on joints, muscles or equipment
- Consistent calm hands and arms
- Consistent width of stance
You’ll need to be quite fit as staying in a Telemark stance for any length of time will get the lactic acid (pain) building up.
- Relax as much as you can,
- Constant tiny movements and inputs will help remove the tension, remember you use less energy (muscles) to smile than frown!
When learning Telemark one of the most useful things is the traverse (travelling across the slope), this gives the learner the time to hold onto the shape and experiment with it. You can initiate the turn with whatever suits: wedge or parallel Alpine, adopting the Telemark stance at whatever point in the turn you find it achievable. To begin with you may just be linking turns with a Telemark traverse. Then as your balancing and Lead Changing skills improve you can make it earlier and earlier in the turn, toward the fall-line (when the skis are facing directly down the hill) and further on toward the start of the turn. The smaller the wedge and closer to parallel your skis are the more comfortable and easier it will be achieving a good Telemark stance and Lead Change. (See Learning Curves).
Note, there is a safety point when traversing, be aware that you are going across the slope and could be cutting across a main route for fast skiers, be careful and look up the hill before starting and keep checking.
- Light back foot, if this is the case the rear ski will slap about due to lack of pressure and input. Stand in Tele-stance and have a friend try to lift the rear ski’s tail off the snow, this ski will come up very easily if the rear foot pressure is light. You can then adjust your stance to make it harder to lift.
- Rear foot on tip-toes or heel too high. This will be noticeable by the bellows not being flexed. It can be from going too long in stance length and might cause a light back foot too.
- Not going long enough (Alpine knees). When starting to Tele we may have all done this-basically standing alpine and just lifting the heel a bit and allowing the knee to go forward. Sometimes called Tele-lleling/para-marking and given away by the fact that the knees will be alpine in other words uphill knee forwards instead of uphill knee back and lower than the other knee.
- Pain or discomfort, due to lack of fitness or maybe being biomechanically unsound. Ill-fitting Equipment Issues?
Muscle memory repetitions. Pick a focus and keep attempting to achieve it, then move away and back again. Over time and without having to look see how accurate you can be (you may need external help and feedback), some focuses:
- Length of stance; short, medium or long
- Height of stance; small, medium or tall
- Weight/pressure distribution, front foot, rear foot or equal
- Rear tibia (shin) parallel to ski/dipping beyond parallel to ski/staying above parallel to ski
- Rear thigh angle vertical/forward or backward of vertical (the variants of Skeleton Bob)
- Rear foot pressure, experiment where the pressure is felt – toward the toes (toey), front of the ball, middle of ball, back of ball
Challenges; use the scale idea in every plane of movement/balancing and wait until Lead Change there’ll be plenty. (See Drills in Lead Change)
There is one thing to note on the weight/pressure distribution in a Telemark stance or turn; although we may be searching or experimenting with a 50/50 focus especially to begin with, the true measurement may be very different, why? The front foot has a larger surface area than the rear foot, so, as the pressure coming through this smaller area of the rear foot it will obviously feel greater. Therefore when in 50/50 truly it may be 70/30! Once again don’t sweat about this, it’s not rocket science unless you want it to be.
Note when Telemarking around the mountain you may focus on 50-50, 70-30 or 30-70 but what happens, happens and you have to react to change and or influence what the percentages will really be.
Next will be Lead Change, which is the movement from one stance (left foot forward) to the other (right foot forward).