Sunday, February 7, 2010

What is Initiation in a turn?

Megan Harvey sent this out to some folks, and WOW... look at how many answers there are!!

I would like to know where and when in the turn you consider the initiation to be....
What constitutes the INITIATION to you?


Alpine Technical Manual (2nd Edition)

Initiation Phase:
This is where the turn begins. The mass of the body moves over the skis and to the inside of the new turn. This involves changing the edge and shifting weight from one ski to the other.

I think there is one answer: you initiate a turn when 1) you decide to change edges and 2) when you then change edges. These events are usually separated by varying time intervals, since you may not do 2) for a while after 1). So, you initiate a turn when you change edges. Of course, as in all human endeavors, you can change your mind and go back to the original edges before significant deviations of your path occur. As noted in discussions before, you have a couple of mechanisms available to actually effect edge change.

1. What Juris says.
2. There is no such thing as an initiation--especially from a traverse. Instead there is a seamless transition where all the big changes happen: speed change, edge change, steering direction change, and usually pressure change.
The idea of initiation implies coming from a non-turing traverse. Even by definition--initiation of what? Of a turn. What were you doing before initiating turning? Not turning.

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Vagners.
I believe that the initiation phase of the turn begins once the skis have flattened out and begin to engage the new edges. That is, the initiation phase follows the transition. Once the new edges are engaged, they have a few different options: skidding, sliding, carving, being bent or not, or how actively they will rotate into the turn. These options, in the initiation phase of the turn direct the behavior of the ski through the remainder of the turn.

What fun - if the traverse state is maintained because edges are used (and with shaped skis, this is actually a turn uphill ..) then changing edges would signal a change in the direction in which you are moving, or, loosely speaking initiation of a turn. Thus, even starting from a traverse, we make a turn of some sort, i.e. change in the direction of travel for our body.

The ski is not necessarily turning if the edge is used. There are other factors which could momentarily keep it pretty straight.
And starting from a traverse is not really how we ski. I'm thinkin' its more arc to arc. no?

Yep - and so am I, arc to arc. Otherwise, a bit boring.
My definition of a turn in general is any change of where the body CM is going at the moment, that is, a deviation of momentum instant to instant with respect to the hill. The skis are a tool to manage ski/snow interactions in addition to the action of gravity - these are the only external forces capable of changing momentum. I can indeed accomplish a linear traverse across the hill by judiciously balancing what my edges are doing with what gravity is trying to do to me.

I think Megan posed the original question..."what consitutes initiation to you"? To me...for practical purposes, initiation occurs with the change of edges. The word initiation implies the start of something, a new turn; and there is a lot which could be debated regarding what defines a "new turn",

The reason I would say "change of edges" is that once you do switch edges you are definitely going the other way - with intent. We were playing around in a clinic the other day, and a skilled skier can pass right through what we would normally call the "transition" and travel awfully close to the fall line of the "new" turn before actually switching edges. Until you pass the fall line, you are, in a sense, in a very shallow traverse out of the last turn. But once you do switch edges, you are definitely going the other direction - you can't keep traveling right once you move to the left set of edges. You are in the New Turn. Now we just need to decide when you should change edges?

What about initiating a wedge turn? There's no edge change, but I'd say
there's still an initiation. So I'd say the initiation begins when the skier
does something to get his or her body to the inside of the new outside foot
("inside" being in the context of the new turn) and the ski to eventually
engage the snow with its inside edge.
In a wedge turn, there is always a ski that's to the outside of the skier's
center of gravity, going in either direction, so the skier doesn't make a
movement to establish that relationship in each turn (because it's always
there). But in all turns made from a traverse or that start from the end of
a turn completed on matching edges, some sort of movement of the new outside
ski (edging, pivoting or displacing laterally) or the skier's body moving
laterally is needed.

I'd like to add something to the note I just sent: Supose you're linking two
advanced parallel turns with up unweighting. I think most people would say
that the initiation starts with the start of the up movement. But that
happens before the edge change. But that up movement is something you do inorder to get your skis and center of gravity to change sides, and help get
your skis to where they can engage their new inside edges.

I’m in with the edge change camp. As soon as I start to change the edge I’m in the process of initiation.

I would add, that from my opinion, as soon as the committment has been made and we have exited the old turn (we are unable to return to it) that we have initiated the new turn---that would fall into the camp around the edge change having been made.

Is there a bet riding on this somewhere?

I, too, am in the edge change camp and apply the "change" to an initiation phase.
I think a skier is in the initiation phase of a turn when the old outside ski has released its edge to flat or to slightly tipped (non-parallel or parallel turns) and the edge of the new outside ski has begun tipping to engage the snow.

When I said that I didn't think there was an edge change in a wedge turn, I was thinking of the skis changing edges. If you define the edge change as "changing the edge that you're putting most of your weight against", then you'd have to say that there is an edge change in a wedge turn.
I like the element of intention that Katie (and someone else, I can't remember who) put it, and what Mike said about making a movement that results in an edge change. That would cover things very short turns from an edgeset where your skis change edges after your body has already started to move toward the inside of the new turn, and you're committed.

On this point - we should think of ""edge change" as any deviation from status quo of the edges and how the body is interacting with the edges. To transfer the forces from the edges to the body CM, there must be some mechanism at play. This mechanism is some combination of skeletal alignment and muscular tension. As soon as we alter these, the effective transfer of the forces from the edges to the CM is changed, and your body

moves in a new direction, usually towards the inside of the new turn because of the action of gravity, which we cannot change. Then the edge change happens. Of course, this isn't the only mechanism at play that results in "edge change" - we may use active rotation of the femurs in the hip sockets to "roll the knees downhill". These considerations move us from the "initiation" issue
to what one may call the "execution" issue - that is, what mechanisms do we have at our disposal to change edges.

Loving this!!!!! Such a great discussion.

A couple other thoughts to add to this discussion. It seems to me that these days there is more “multitasking” going on in a turn, (lets say the everyday medium radius, carved turn on groomers….) and between the turns, that a clear and defined initiation is much more blurred than in earlier days on the straight ski. Today while one turn is being completed the new turn has already been set up which blurs this initiation question. These days I think more of the word transition. My initial knee jerk response to this question was a sense and wonder if the word initiation could be considered a bit of a dated term. Consider this: (for carved turns)

70s skiing – to begin a turn one would flex to provide the room to extend into the turn allowing the ski to flatten and lighten for a direction change. While in motion this flex at the end of the turn also could be accompanied with an edge set followed by the extension……. With this I see a very clear and defined ending and beginning of a new turn. So at this time there didn’t seem to be such a thing as a smooth transition but that the completion of a turn and initiation of a turn was clearly identified/defined. Also back in the days of the straight skis one strived for less pressure at the top of the turn while entering the fall line. Less pressure would allow for more steering and placement of the ski at the top. Today we carve into the fall line which takes pressure and edge but to set this up successfully this preparation must happen earlier (back up and higher in the turn, just following the apex)

Today what I see, experience, coach – is a long transition beginning just as one exits the fall line and ending as one enters the fall line of the new turn. In my mind the initial move upon exiting the fall line is a pressure shift – not an edge change yet but certainly the new platform ski is being established at this point (I call this the multitasking phase because we are completing one turn while simultaneously “initiating the new turn?”). With this pressure shift, establishing of the new platform one is poised for the tipping of the ski and the extension of the “hips to the tips” into the fall line………………

With so much “multitasking” going on in this modern turn isolating out an initiation doesn’t seem to be what it was in earlier days when a clear and definite completion of a turn existed followed by an initiation. What seems to be more relevant at the moment in modern skiing is an understanding of the full extent and complexity of the transition.

I am opinionated here as you all know but my thought is that the transition is the least understood phase of the turn out there for our masses. I would also place pressure as the least understood skill out there for our masses.

As for the wedge turn, I am in the pressure camp (surprise, surprise…..) a pressure shift comes first to establish the new platform. Once balanced with the new platform more effective edging or rotary follows……….

Food for thought. Megan, thanks for posing this question and including me. I appreciate it. I have loved seeing what folks have shared.

I thought initiation was where you drink a ton of beer and make applicants do really degrading things. Wow. I've missed so much!

It is killing me not to scroll down before I answer but here are my thoughts.
A very smart person once told me "you just have to get in there". So, for me edge change is the initiation. Now that being said, it could be the release of the old edge or the engagement of the new edge. An edged ski starts turning when it is weighted and that is the initiation.
And if the skis are not parallel you could say that the edges are always changed and all you have to do is shift your weight. In a wedge you are always inside the turn.
None of this addresses the mental aspect of initiation. But I do not think that is what you are interested about.

Hmmmm…. I’ve been pondering similar things as what Deb stated since Megan brought up the question. Precision in the transition allows for whatever type of redirection of the skis is desired (tipping, steering, pivoting, displacing, etc.). There’s a lot of preparatory stuff that goes on before the skis begin to change direction, but if initiation is defined as when the skis begin to change direction, then perhaps it is the giving up of the old edge(s), when the skier may opt to tip, twist, etc., etc, that is the initiation. So the “edge change” is not necessarily when the new edges are engaged so much as when the release of the edges results in the skis succumbing to gravity hence becoming the impetus at which time the skier determines which type of movement to use to continue to shape a turn.

Hi all-- I know I'm coming in late and I can only guess at the original question, but here are my thoughts about initiation. It's a cultish word that

inherently fosters a glitch by separating the old and the new turn. I like the word transition better--it connects the two.
But if you have to have the word I would say initiation is:
1) In the mind: when you intend to change edges and/or transfer pressure (pressure applicable only if you're on 2 skis).
2) In the body: when you move to change edges and/or transfer pressure.
3) In the skis: when the edges start changing (and there is no return).

What strikes me about this conversation is that most of the interpretations are one dimensional. As a turn is defined in the dictionary there are multiple versions that would apply to skiing.

1. to move to face in a particular direction or toward a particular location, or move something so that it does this
2. to go in a different direction when moving or traveling, or make a vehicle change direction

Changing edges or twisting the skis to point somewhere different does not always mean that a skier will change direction. This is the content that I feel is important to understand. Turning is not just about changing edges or twisting them to point somewhere different. It is important to bend the ski in addition to these things to impart a change in direction.

Years ago, Taos, we got a visit from Stephan Heinzsch, who was racing at the time. We asked him about his sequence in the turn.

He pointed his skis down the hill, leaning on his poles, and said, "Okay...I'm ready to start my turn." It was very clear to me at that moment what the difference between an advanced skier and a lesser skier was in terms of initiation. It was fall line to fall line, not traverse to traverse.

Through you posing this question it seems like we might be creating a new definition.
Really liked the last email from Weems regarding the racers perspective.
We often refer to a skier returning to neutral so I wonder if everything you do before you get there should still be considered part of the old turn. Making neutral the true staring point.

I have really enjoyed the responses to "the question", and it seem to me, if I can jump in, (now would be the time to erase this email as you can see its long) that we are reworking what we have known for years rather than what has become clearer with the equipment advances. Initiation for me, and the

definition that makes the most sense, is: starting something or the beginning of something. That seems to indicate the turn and then define it as when the skis edges engage the snow, resists the forces and go off in a different direction.

Now there is a bit of stuff that happens before this, but they are related to the previous turn. If the ski edges (in the previous turn) are relaxed. if the skier goes from a bent inside leg to a straighter one (in the previous turn), if the skier goes from a more inclined or angulated position to a upright position (in the previous turn), they may be expecting a traditional action that leads to a change in direction...but not necessarily. Someone pointed out that all of that could lead to a traverse ( I am sorry I don't remember who said it) or could lead to a side slip. To say they are initiation moves preceding the next turn seems to be presumptuous on my part. I have seen moves made on the world cup (relating to a skivit turn) where the skis are pointed in a different direction, but the skier is still moving in the same direction. It isn't until the edges engage the snow, that the skier moves off in a different direction.

I think traditionally, we looked at the initiation as a drawn out process that include moves we were making (pole swing, up motion, down motion, weight shift, etc.) that we thought were important or needed to start a turn, I'm not sure they ever were. I remember getting caught at this by a race coach trying to get met to "initiate the turn at the rise line". With a change in the equipment, I think things became clearer. There may not be a initiation phase, but more, an initiation point. A point at which the turn is initiated. When we looked at a dynamic turn track this morning, the edge change from one engaged turn to the next, looking at the edge marks on the snow, they were on top of each other. That's a short phase! I seem to be getting to two descriptor of a turn; the shaping phase and the initiation point.

We did play with a bump turn, but that's for another time....if anyone lets me talk again. Thanks again, I have really enjoyed your comments and insights and had the advantage of all your comments to play with, makes me really long winded hopefully you will continue to let me play.


judyanne said...

Wow, great discussion, my short take....if you hold onto the old turn's momentum in it's arc, and make no effort to allow gravity, body movement, or your intent to arc your skis to a new turn or straight downhill, you will eventually slow to a stop or traverse into a stationry obstacle (tree). If that is true (and what I teach..not the tree part), then it must be so that turn initiation comes at the very first instance of movement to capture the momementum you have got going and to continue the fluid movement of your intent, body, skis down the hill toward and arcing your next turn or steering straight down whatever you want. Therefore, I think that turn initiation is right at the instant of intent. it goes; snow, intent-mind, body-moves, ski-moves, turn happens, snow, and all in the dynamic rehlm. (and not for the faint at heart)

Bill said...

For myself, it is flowing over terrain and snow. One turn flows through the other. If I think, flow is lost

Later if analyzing the lines the skis make, i'd put the line in the snow where the curve changes. that is the point of initiation

Academic discussion:


1. Is it the mental process
2. Is it what our body does
3. Is it the skis: edge change

Patrick Hunter said...

Main Entry: 1ini·ti·ate
Pronunciation: \i-ˈni-shē-ˌāt\
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): ini·ti·at·ed; ini·ti·at·ing
Etymology: Late Latin initiatus, past participle of initiare, from Latin, to induct, from initium
Date: 1533

1 : to cause or facilitate the beginning of : set going
2 : to induct into membership by or as if by special rites
3 : to instruct in the rudiments or principles of something : introduce
synonyms see begin

— ini·ti·a·tor \-ˌā-tər\ noun

By this definition from Merriam-Webster, "initiation" happens prior to the turn. This answers "where and when". Except to say, the initiation of the "next" turn may often start while in the current turn.
As for "what" is the initiation, that depends on what is happening before, and what you want to happen next. You could be wedging as Ron mentioned, skidding sideways (in a "skivit"), traversing, in a straight run down the fall line, in the air, on the ground (worm turn), "preturning" up the hill, going backwards, etc. You could be going fast or slow, on ice or deep powder, on a flat or on a super steep. You may want to start a very long radius turn, or a very short turn. The next turn may be long in duration or very brief. In short, there is no one universal simple answer as to "what" the turn initiation could or will be.
You COULD raise the question as to what the "right" initiation would be. Or, what would be some desirable options. But that answer will depend on the given situation. This is where the ski teaching really gets started.
To Megan, why do you ask?

Anonymous said...

hmmmnnn many say the initiation is when the edges change, what causes the edges to change, will they do it on their own, pehaps, a little, if you put a sack of cement across skis strapped together and give it a push,,but does not the skier move toward the inside of the next turn, is that move of cm often triggered by a pole there any movement prior to the pole movement that ends the old turn and begins the the eyes shift to look where the skier will be next? Grasshopper, consider these things and decide,