Moving the body down the hill and across the board

The “Norm” Series 24Functional body alignment

This series of exercises is designed to take you from whatever combination of inclination/ angulation you are currently using, and moving you in a direction in which you will be able to carve turns with a minimum of energy/body movement.  The essential concept is a movement of the body as a whole over (across) the board in order to move the board off of one edge and onto the other.  The various Norms progressively introduce body positions which become necessary(24a) at upper levels of riding.


By standing taller than normal, it is possible to break bad habits that come around as a result of weird body positions.  The more we flex our various joints, the greater the range of possibilities of flexing in the wrong direction.  The Norm Series employs far less joint flexion than we would otherwise use when riding, in an attempt to remove the unecessary movements and inappropriate body positions.


A.  The “Norm”  Over easy, no cholesterol

A variant of the simple carve, utilizing a minimum of angulation to initiate/ balance the turn.  On relatively flat terrain, with soft snow, Initiate simple carved turns by letting the upper body fall slowly over the top of the board into the fall line.  If possible, keep your hands loosely at your sides, so that they follow the tipping of the body.  Experiment with forward and sideways facing stances.  You should realize the importance of maintaining your balance point on the board throughout turn, as well as the blind spot that accompanies the sideways stance.  If this task is correctly executed, and the board remains on edge throughout the turn, you should feel a distinct shifting of weight from the front to rear foot as the board moves across the hill25.


B.  Norm with Torque  Choice of home fries or potato chips and pickle slice

Balanced on your back edge, them turn your shoulders and hips to point over the nose of the board.  Standing relatively upright, with minimal flexion of the joints, you should feel as though you are twisting excessively in the direction of a back edge turn.  At the same time, you should allow your joints to flex enough so that the twisting draws your knees and thighs together.  Try to ensure that your feet feel evenly weighted, so that the end result is a position which puts your body weight effectively over the center of the board (longitudinally speaking).  Try simple carved turns in this position, again with the goal of moving the body across the board to initiate a turn.  However, the emphasis here is on not allowing the board to turn under the body, putting the upper body in a weak position at the end of the heelside turn. If this occurs, initiation of a toeside turn will be difficult.  Throughout the heelside turn, you should feel as though you are twisting the upper body against the lower body, without physically twisting the board on the snow.  Since the board is tracking on edge, it should not twist anyway.  Should the board begin to twist, you are either not high enough on edge, or you are pressuring one foot excessively.  As an interesting side benefit, I notice that when I do a “Norm”, there is a distinct need to shift the weight to the back foot to avoid over turning and skidding midway through the turn. The immediacy of this weight shift is more intense during a shorter radius/higher speed turn.  Experiment with this as a means of encouraging stability near the middle/end of the carved turn.


C.  Norm with Scoliosis  With curlique fries and dipping sauce

This is little more than a torqued Norm with a tipping of the shoulders to add a bit of stabilizing angulation to the turn.  Riding in the torqued Norm position, lift your inside shoulder while dropping your outside shoulder.  If done correctly, you should feel as though the turn has become more secure, and you should feel more balanced during the turn.  As one turn is completed and the next initiated, you can begin tilting your shoulders in anticipation of the upcoming turn.  It is important to note that you must be habitually square to the board before any tipping of the shoulders is attempted.  The reason for this is that if you rotate yourself off square and then tip your shoulders, you will move your hips uphill and towards the nose of the board.  This is a habit that should be avoided at all costs, even if it means returning to flatter terrain and repeating remedial exercise lines.  Additionally, any angulation should be oriented across the board and not longitudinally.


D.  Prussian Norm  Resembles a Norm with a full-arm salute.  Goes best with sauerkraut and knackwurst.

Be forewarned, this one looks awfully silly.  Not recommended for liftline trails.  In the ‘Norm with scoliosis’ position, push your toeside hand towards the nose of the board, with the arm relatively straight and parallel to the toeside edge.  If the arm is held straight, and the hand extended to the nose of the board, the shoulders should effectively be held square to the board.  This may be more effective in squaring up than simply commanding yourself to not twist your shoulders.  Don’t worry about what the heelside hand and arm are doing; it may actually be beneficial if they are doing nothing at all, hanging loosely at your side.

This tactic seems to work well as a remedial exercise, to break the hip forward habit.


Work within the Norm mode, involving ‘Norm stacking’ to reach the desired goal of a continuously carved turn which is infinitely sustainable across the fall line.  The more joint flexion you involve in your exercise lines, the greater the opportunity to screw things up.  By the same token, when correcting errors or trying new movement concepts, make certain that you have a good foundation to build upon.  Look to your feet and what the board is doing before proceeding.  Functional plumbing is more important than an atrium.


E.  Hesitation or box turns  Take some home to the kids

The student enters the fall line, then hesitates for a short period before completing turn.  Time of hesitation increases for flat terrain, decreases for steep terrain.  Turn shape will appear elongated in the fall line.  Teaches patience in fall line and speed reduction/ redistribution in bottom/top of turn.


F.  Dynamic Stability and the square (rotated) stance

In recent years, giant slalom ski racing technique has moved away from pronounced knee angulation towards a greater emphasis on the movement of the hip to the inside of the turn.  The resulting position in one of great strength; with a straighter outside leg through the body of the turn, the skeletal system bears more of the load, allowing the skier to tackle a tighter line with less muscular effort.  Fine tuning of edge angle can still be accomplished with both the knee and ankle, which now have a greater range of available motion.  With the outside leg straighter, there is also less chance of having the whole structure collapse upon sudden impact with a rut or other irregularity in the snow.  In upper level snowboarding, riding with a squared stance with knees together accomplishes the same thing; the body is in an adaptable position on the board without inherent weakness26.


 A problem to solve

The other day, as I was working with a snowboarder with a modicum of ability, he asked why he was experiencing difficulty with his heelside turn.  It appeared that he was losing the ability to finish the turn due to the fact that his hip swung forward (towards the tip of the board) overweighting the tip and allowing the tail to skid out, dumping the individual on his butt.  I suggested that he rotate his upper body to a functionally square relationship to the tip of the board, strengthening his angulated position, thus keeping his hips over the rear foot, which better weights the tail near the end of the turn.  After a few tries, he turned to me with a look of desperation and insisted that what I had just told him made the situation worse.


Looking at his stance options, it appeared that while he faced across the board, he was able to pressure the tail of the board with the heel of his rear foot, as the foot remained flat in the binding.  As he began to rotate towards a square position, his rear heel began to lift.  I suppose that he either lacked sufficient ankle flexibility to keep the heel on the board, or he didn’t realize that the movement of the upper body to a new position need not negate the previously arranged distribution of weight from foot to foot, or from toe to heel.


Thinking back to the myriad of lessons taught in the past, it occurred to me that the majority of students who have trouble moving out of the sideways stance have a corresponding difficulty controlling tail skid as their upper body moves towards square and the rear foot heel lifts.  In order to correct this problem, statically arrange yourself so that your body position is functionally square, with pressure on the rear heel.  Usually you wind up looking like you are about to sit in a chair.  As long as your body is not unusually contorted, there is nothing wrong with this position.  Make certain you can feel pressure under your heel, and can find the ‘correct’ position on your own once you move out of it.  (Notice that this effectively brings the knees back together)27.


G.  Dynamic Crossover

Dynamic crossover refers to riding using the body positions acquired through the Norm Series without the physical contrivances of an actual drill or exercise line.  The most basic part of dynamic crossover is the relationship between the shoulders and the snow surface.  While one’s stance should leave the hips and shoulders functionally square to the board, once in motion you should focus on maintaining a parallel relationship between the shoulders and the snow.  The idea here is to move the body from a strong angulated position in one turn into the same position in the next turn without interruption.  There is a tendency, once you have discovered angulation, to overdue it, punctuating the end of each turn with a severe tilt of the shoulders.  Movements of this nature should be discouraged.


Riding with proper angulation feels so strong, you are not likely to want to move out of such a position.  Balancing effectively to the inside of the turn may lure you into holding on to the old turn long enough so that the new turn is difficult to initiate.  Usually, this movement is more evident while trying to make long radius turns, especially if the snow is hard or icy.


When viewed from behind, it appears that the hip is being thrown back up the hill, and that the shoulders are tipping into the new turn.  The hips and shoulders are still functionally square, but there is an attempt to create a platform to push off of at the end of the turn.  This movement is similar to the abstem in skiing, where the skier steps off of the old turning ski up onto the new turning ski.  In both instances, the sudden downward push often serves to break the edge free from the snow, and, rather than creating a position of stability to move from, it creates imbalance.  Additionally, each turn begins with a movement uphill, which is counter to the whole notion of always moving further downhill.


Sorting out this errant movement pattern begins with an understanding of the relationship between the slope of the snow, and your shoulders.  If you maintain a functionally square relationship between upper body and the board, then the optimum relationship between shoulders and snow is one of parallelism28.


a.  Bamboo trundling

Hand the student a long piece of bamboo, and have them ride a variety of terrain, ensuring that the bamboo remains perpendicular to their board, and parallel to the snow surface.  The hands should be about one foot wider than shoulder width apart. The pole should be grasped with the fingers and the thumbs over the top of the bamboo, both to avoid injury, and to ensure that the elbows are out and away from the torso.  This is a great way to identify movement habits, especially when used with videotape.  You can figure out where you currently stand, and then move towards correcting the errors in body position.


If you are ‘under parallel’, with the pole dragging on the inside of the turn, the turn will be poorly defined, and perhaps, difficult to balance.  If you are ‘over parallel’, with the pole dragging on the outside of the turn near turn completion, then you are over angulated and will have difficulty initiating the new turn.  If you can focus your efforts on keeping the pole, and thus the shoulders, parallel to the snow at all times, you will find that your turns will begin and end more smoothly, with less chatter and greater edge grip.  So, just as edge angle should be decreasing near the end of a turn, so too should the amount of upper body angulation.


Once this shoulder-snow relationship has been developed, you will have opened up the door to balancing off of your movement flow rather than constantly trying to create a platform to stand on.  (This little principle becomes ever so much more important in broken, loose snow, or slushy crud and powder, not to mention rutted race courses).


Dynamic crossover should first be attempted on relatively flat familiar terrain, before moving on to slightly steeper slopes.  If you regress to sloppy turn entry or a tipping of the shoulders into the turn, refer back to the Norm series and drive the movement pattern home.  Make sure your chosen terrain is smooth and wide, and that you focus the turn entry somewhere in the middle of the trail’s width on each turn.

(24) Norm.  There was a photo once, in, I think, Transworld, of a guy dropping some air looking like he was standing on the sidewalk.  Casual, arms at his side, not going for a grab or anything.  At the time I was trying to get people to stand up more so as not to be kinked all over the place while trying to simply ride out the sidecut on easy terrain.  It worked, so it was used more often.  Terry, one of the wits on staff at the time, thought the drill looked a lot like the photo.  I don’t really know why he referred to it as ‘the norm’.  In retrospect, it makes sense since the basic sidecut turn is a reference point, and this type of turn can be made while standing totally upright…

This is the explanation that I recently posted on line: (Winter 2012)

My response begins at “Not PSIA…”

What’s in a name?

Quote Originally Posted by Jack Michaud
Anyway I didn’t name it. I think it was a PSIA term. I heard it from Beckman first.


From the (2005) footnotes to the original (1994) text.

“(24) Norm. There was a photo once, in, I think, Transworld, of a guy dropping some air looking like he was standing on the sidewalk. Casual, arms at his side, not going for a grab or anything. At the time I was trying to get people to stand up more so as not to be kinked all over the place while trying to simply ride out the sidecut on easy terrain. It worked, so it was used more often. Terry, one of the wits on staff at the time, thought the drill looked a lot like the photo. I don’t really know why he referred to it as ‘the norm’. In retrospect, it makes sense since the basic sidecut turn is a reference point, and this type of turn can be made while standing totally upright…”

Terry referred to the guy in the photo as Norm. As in Norman, though with the second connotation that his image represented a posturalbaseline.

Without the back story, it is easy to assume that ‘the Norm’ suggested a particular style or technique, when in fact it did not.

It was simply a tool for washing out all of the postural junk interfering with solid edge use, much as Hercules diverted a river to hose out the Augean stables.

(24a)3/23/12  Not so much.  Riding well is not so much about achieving positions, as it is in the efficiency of achieving effect with minimal effort.  In general, positions should be viewed as byproducts of, rather than the means to, an end.

(25) If this…  If the board is on edge, and the rider stands pretty close to the dynamic center, the board will create a clean arc that will lift the rider back up the hill slightly.  If, previously, the rider ended the heelside turn with a skid, due to ineffective posture, the rider would experience only a vague sensation under the rear foot.  In a carved turn, there is a more distinct sensation under the rear foot just prior to rolling into the new turn.


(26) In upper…  ‘No’ to the rotated stance with the knees together.  Properly set up bindings, on the other hand…


(27) Notice…  Again, de-emphasize the knee together thing.


(28) Parallelism.  As a tactic to achieve a better posture, this is a good idea.  Think of it as the opposite of reaching for the snow with the inside hand.  As angulation fades into inclination, however, the relationship between the shoulders and the snow becomes less important.

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