10 Balancing

Eight

Balancing

 

Angulation vs. Inclination 23Moving your body to the inside of a turn without tipping over.

The simplest turns on a snowboard on fairly flat terrain can be executed through inclination, provided the snow is not too hard.  Inclination is the formation of angles between the slope and your body.  If you keep your body rigid and tall, and tip the board onto edge by leaning into the hill, then you are inclining.  Angulation, on the other hand, is a formation of angles within the body structure, which strengthens our ability to incline.  This allows us to balance our body over the turning edge of our board, and against the natural forces that come into play in a dynamic turn.

 

Think of angulation as playing with a set of blocks.  If you make a pile of three blocks, and you set the second block atop the first block slightly off to one side, you must offset the top block in the opposite direction to avoid toppling the pile.  The first block is your board.  The second block is your knees and hips.  The third block is your shoulders and head.  As you ride on varying terrain and varying snow conditions, balance the pile.

 

A.  Pencil pinching

With a square stance, imagine that you are pinching a pencil between your rib cage and hip.  If done at the beginning of the turn, the upper body will be moved into a strong position immediately, rather than after the turn has begun and disruptive forces are building.

 

B.  Single palm slides to a stop

Reach forward towards the nose of the board with an open palm, touching snow in while in a slow carve.  This involves basic angulation in a lowered stance.  Practice both toeside and heelside until tracks are uniform.

 

If the palm of the sliding hand faces forward in the direction of travel, with the fingertips dragging in the snow, the shoulders will be tipped into the turn, leaving the hip to the outside of the turn.  This ‘reverse angulation’ puts you in a relatively weak position to counteract your momentum, and does not allow you an effective way to pressure the edgeof the board or achieve a wide range of edge angles.

 

 

If your palm is down and sliding on the snow, with your arm reaching towards the nose of the board, your shoulders will be square and forward, with the hips to the rear of the board and to the inside of the turn.  With the bulk of body mass balanced to the inside of the turn, the rider is in a stronger position, and, with the knees remaining flexed, the edge angle of the board can be adjusted somewhat throughout the turn.

 

C.  Toeside only.  Grab the spine of the rear boot/binding with heelside hand, reaching forward with toeside hand/arm for balance.  The grab must occur early, before the turn begins to take shape.

 

D.  Heelside only.  Moving slowly, try to grab the toeside edge of your board with your toeside hand.  Grab back near or behind your rear foot.  Once again, the grab must take place before the turn takes shape.  If the turn will not carve around to a stop in a continuous, sharp line, your hip is probably too far forward and/ or too far inside the turn. (Overpressuring the nose of the board results in a skid and loss of forward motion).

 

E.  Selective arm movements and moving slowly

Snowboarding, due to the arrangement of the feet relative to the direction of travel, provides the participant with a strong ability to balance fore and aft.  With one foot in front of the other, there is a lot of room to recover from the inevitable mistakes that accompany the grand slide down the hill.  however, the immense advantage in balancing front to back comes as a tradeoff to lateral stability.  As you have both feet on one surface, no option exists if you make a mistake from side to side.  Therefore, you have to be a little more conservative with gross bodily movements, lest your longitude become latitude.

 

Angulation allows you to balance against the demands of the turning snowboard and your change in direction.  Again, this is done through an alignment of large body parts.  The faster you go, and the harder the snow, the more the benefits of angulation become apparent.  Angulation, therefore, is somewhat proportional to rate of travel and turn dimension.

 

But what can the beginning snowboarder do, moving slowly and without the necessary coordination to properly angulate?  Well, since the feet are solidly attached to the board, they are not as available for balance correction as they are in skiing.  The arms and hands, however, have no prior engagements, and are readily available as balancing implements.   Remember, balance is inherently solid from front to back, and need not be addressed.  Hand and arm movements then, should be laterally oriented.

 

I don’t think I have ever seen a slow-moving snowboarder tip over to the outside of a turn.  Tipping over to the inside happens all the time, though, usually as a result of putting too much body mass to the inside of the turn without enough speed to provide the momentum to remain standing.  With a little practice, the arms and their position to the inside or outside of the turn can function as a ready counterbalance, allowing you to stand in the effective center of the board at all times.  The sooner you can find a neutral position on the board, the easier it will be for you to trust in its design and its latent turning ability.

 

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to find and maintain a neutral position at all times is through a variety of tasks performed on low level terrain.  These tasks should involve very slow movement.  The reasons for the flat terrain are manifold;  if you have no tangible momentum, you will not be able to balance against it.  Instead, you will have to rely on your position and your own ability to remain upright.  Additionally, slow movement encourages development through an aggressive, rather than defensive mindset.  If you are worried about gaining too much speed, you will concern yourself with slowing down rather than the task at hand.  Slow speeds on flat terrain also enable you to do some self analysis; there is enough time during the turn to experiment with different positions and inputs to the board.

 

F.  Handicapping balance with specific arm placement (belly up to the bar and try your luck)

Not only is this a good way to even out a class split (take note, instructors), it also makes you realize that the arms have little to do with turn initiation.  To that end, if you initiate your turns with your hands/arms, you will now find yourself in an awkward position. As this makes the problem of starting a turn obvious, you might instead try crossover as a means of turn intitiation. As mentioned earlier, the arms and hands are better used as a supplementary balancing device.  Experiment with a variety of turn shapes in addition to the ‘simple carve’.

 

Some things to occupy the hands

a.  Hands at sides

b.  Arms crossed in front/back

c.  Hold pants at sides of knees

d.  Hands on bindings or boots

e.  Carry bamboo (perpendicular and parallel)

f.  Hold front foot

g.  Hold rear foot

h.  Chest on knees using arms as outriggers (open palm slide)

 

(23) Angulation etc…Angulation, per se, gives us two things:  The first is the ability to achieve a higher than normal edge angle earlier in the turn without tipping over, while riding slowly.  The second is that when moving faster, it is possible to move from one edge to the other quicker, since the upper body mass is moving a shorter distance from the inside of one turn to the other.  These advantages are most noticeable and applicable to riders who have very little mobility of the ankle joints due to improper foot support and binding setup.  With full mobility of the lower extremities, it is not as important to angulate, since the shape of the turn can be fine-tuned with subtle movements of the feet.  Inclination allows for better bone stacking.  Witness trends in current DH and GS racing compared to 15-20 years ago.  They don’t ‘angulate’,  as much as they used to.

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