Whilst running some training for the Peak Leaders group in Argentina I had some time to grab a bit of footage. This video should help to discuss the pros and cons of different transitions. Now I’ve been thinking on this subject since the recent Interski Congress in Bulgaria whilst watching skiers of different nations but also content produced after Interski. So why write a blog? Two main reasons, this often comes up in both Level 3 and 4 Teach sessions in order to develop both performance and understanding. It’s applicable to skiing overall but much easier show the movement paterns on piste. Then secondly, it is a fundamental way to help manage the forces and knowing which move to make and when helps us to perform desired outcomes.
Now we’ll go through these one by one but in reality there is a spectrum of Cross Under – Over and where we want to be is relevant to both the snow conditions, ski we are on and the outcome we wish to create.
The Cross-Under has many Pro’s but mainly it’s a fast way to get your skis from one set of edges to another. Everything is a trade off in skiing, for example if you take a wider stance width you gain stability but lose agility. Narrow that stance and that switches the other way around. Cross-Under’s are no different, you gain a faster transition but sacrifice posture to do it. It may only be for a brief moment but thats when we get it right, there is still a sacrifice of position as we soften the legs and end up in the back seat.
- Good at maintaining speed when close to our limits
- Can absorb lots of force due to greater range of movement
- Great for absorbing rollers whilst maintaining ski/snow contact
- Fast, takes less time than the other two methods
- No/Limited Build Phase
- Weight moves back as knees and hips do most of the flexing
- Extra loading in the work and release phase can be hard to manage
- Pressure is very on/off
Knowing these attributes makes it easier to choose when to use this transition, however there are a couple of things to remember. Releasing a sizeable amount of pressure and floating through the transition means we skip the build phase and initiate the new turn with a great amount of force in a very short space of time. Imagine taking the normal arc of a turn and cutting off the top and bottom quarters. This would reduce the influence time in the arc and give less time to build and release pressure. This creates a turn that isn’t suited to soft snow and flat piste due to the shorter impulse created.
What it’s great for is maintaining a speed that is nearer our maximum capability. This is because we miss out the build phase and less force is directed up the hill. A knock on effect is this creates less acceleration at the top of the turn which in turn helps control speed in steeper, firmer conditions.
An example I us often in teaching is to imagine you are at the side a swimming pool with your feet flat against the side wall. If you were to extend your legs and push which way would you go? Into the middle of the pool, push one way and you go the other. Its the same for skiing, push up the hill and you go down.
A good way to test this is if you make a cross under transition on a piste that turns from steep to flat, eventually you lose speed and the cross under becomes unwieldy as the limited forces we can create at low speeds stop us releasing suddenly.
Considering that the cross under in the video above is one end of the transitions spectrum its logical that true pedalling would sit somewhere in the middle. A combination of releasing/softening the old outside leg, whilst simultaneously lengthening the inside. This move brings the skier to a flat ski keeping snow contact. Now bear in mind if the hips are 10cm above the snow in the work phase then we will have to raise the hips in order to achieve this. The most important thing is that we have power to put down at the flat ski stage of the transition. We do this by having flexion, our legs need to act as coiled springs in order to press down and bend the ski in the work phase. You can see that in the transitions in the video below. This is key for increasing our amount of influence in the arc when it comes to pressure control.
- Helps build speed
- Helps spread pressure out in soft snow conditions
- Solid stable position
- Increases the amount of time we have to deal with the forces of the turn
- Takes more time to do
- More complicated movement
- Harder to achieve accurately as rate of movement increases
So from the info above we can assume its safe to say that we are looking for the in-between transition up until we have our limit, whether that is speed, snow conditions or terrain. Once at our limit it’s then a case of maintaining it. A move toward a cross under in this scenario is one way to help us achieve just that.
The Cross Over
Finally we have an outcome that is in most cases the least desirable. Well in todays era of technical skiing at least. Back when the skis were longer and straighter this move was the go to method and is still seen in many ski teaching systems today.
The reason it’s the least desirable is that we have most of the Con’s from the other two methods but none of the Pro’s. We don’t get a fast edge change and it still takes a long time to complete the transition. We lose position but don’t deal with the forces at the end of the turn either. It’s not all bad though, having straighter legs into a compression and keeping snow contact after a roller are both scenarios where you make use of a Cross-Over. Even more when you consider the whole mountain with all the various strands.
In relation to a piste long and short turn however there are not many benefits to the Cross-Over. The main drawback being that we are light at the top of the turn. Often airborne or stretching to stay in contact with the snow, in either of these scenarios there is a less accurate application of force to the ski and in turn the snow.
When should we Over, Under or In-Between?
One of the most appealing aspects of skiing is the variety in turns, snow conditions, terrain and strands. That variety is also vital in getting the performance we are looking for out of our skis. That performance can be skiing GS for the Eurotest, shorts for a Tech week or slaying the back country with friends. Pick a decent piece of terrain and you’ll require all three of the transitions in one section of skiing. So the take away information here is that there is not one true transition for piste skiing. Training all three is the key to having the tool box to deal with any scenario.