Crossthrough* (Die Walkyrie)

 Optimal Skill Blending


A phrase just recently coined, crossthrough29a is a smooth blending of crossover and crossunder, a necessary component of upper level riding on steep terrain.  The square position of dynamic crossover, {maintaining the parallel relationship between shoulders and the snow}, is combined with the extension/ retraction of dynamic crossunder.  The key to successful crossthrough is timing, for there is a ‘window of opportunity’ during the turn through which this movement works most fluidly.  This moment occurs at an area past the halfway point of the turn, and before the turn begins to hook across the hill.


“You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.”–William Blake, Proverbs of Hell


A.  Hook (uphill) turn exits

In order to know where the crucial point in your turn lies for effective crossthrough, you must first know the parameters of your turn and its shape on varying terrain.  One of the better ways to do this is to experiment with hooked, or uphill, turn exits.  On a wide slope with low pitch, allow the turn to finish with a slight uphill hook, so that you must exercise patience with the new turn entry.  It should feel as though you are slowing to a stop before initiating the new turn.  Continue hooking until it is nearly impossible to start the new turn without falling, either into the old turn from lack of momentum, or outwards because of a downhill edge catch.  The stance should be relatively tall, since the turn mode is that of dynamic crossover, and there is no need to retract or extend to smooth the turn entry.  Once you have located the limiting point of your turn on relatively flat terrain, move up the mountain, until you have found that same point on all familiar terrain.  Expect to fall and flail.


B.  Double palm slides, steep and flat terrain.

Having defined your turn and the area in which crossover becomes difficult, try to put both of your palms on the snow throughout the entire effective arc of the turn.  In order to do this, it must be noted that you must lower your stance over the board, almost to the point of putting your chest on your knees.  Hinging at the waist is not the solution; the knees, and to a lesser extent the ankles, must be involved as well.  The crook of the outside elbow must be below and alongside the front knee, with the corresponding forearm reaching across the shin of the front leg.  Reach in early, when disruptive forces are at a minimum, and slide the palms of both hands across the snow.

If you wait too long, there will be a tendency for the board to chatter, since, by moving the body to the inside of the turn, you are trying to increase edge angle at a point in the turn where the speed is too high for the radius of the turn to decrease without a structural deformation of the snow.  Turning with the palms on the snow, it becomes readily apparent that there is a point at which you cannot link turns unless you take your hands off of the snow and move them across the board.  The moment at which you must throw your hand across the board is the end of your effective turn length, or the point at which the body can move across the board and the board can move under the body.  Practice turning using these ‘across the board hand throws’ until you are familiar with the timing necessary for a clean and smooth turn connection.  Gradually stand up and try to feel this point as your stance becomes taller.


C.  Connect the dots and make a pretty picture

As the pitch of the slope increases, you may slide your hands for a longer period of time.  As you get more and more comfortable with the ‘catch and release’ part of the turn, begin to blend in a small amount of extension and retraction of the legs.  Maximum extension should take place at the middle of the ‘slide zone’, with complete retraction at either end of this zone.  Bear in mind that this extension and retraction is by no means a dramatic movement.  Because the turn radius is larger, the timing and pacing of leg extension is much slower than during dynamic crossunder.

Imagine if you will, that as you approach the end of the effective turn length, you let your upper body collapse onto and across the lower body. Your upper body mass is pulled down the fall line and across the board by its momentum, and a relaxation of your supporting muscles.  Meanwhile, the board and your lower body continue along the arc of the turn, essentially moving under your upper body.  You are allowing your upper body to move towards the inside of the new turn while your lower body completes the old turn.  This is, by the way, the fastest way to effect an edge change, which makes this movement quite suitable for steep terrain.  Crossthrough, when properly executed, makes steep terrain rather simple, once you get past the fear of diving downhill across your board30.  Due to the fact that extreme edge angles are employed, zero boot overhang and sharp edges are a nice thing to have.





D.  Movements of the arms which enhance stability and performance

The problem:  Body movement into the turn generates sufficient edge angle to turn, and yet the board is not stable throughout its carve and chatters off of its edge.  On soft snow anything goes, on ice however, proper body alignment is vital.


1. Toeside.  If your turn consistently seems to deteriorate around the 3/4 point, reach out over the heel edge with the heelside hand.  your arm should be somewhat perpendicular to the length of the board within a few degrees either way.  If this arm is fairly straight, the net effect will be to “pull” the shoulders back out over the  turning edge of the board, strengthening the effect of upper body angulation.  If your boards edges are sharp, it should stick to the snow like glue.


31As you experiment with this position, try to keep the upper body relaxed to avoid stressing the muscles in your lower back.  If you don’t stretch regularly, these muscles aren’t accustomed to holding this position for very long.  As a result, you may wind up tight and sore.  Be wary of tripping on the nose of the board, as the increased grip may cause the board to bend into a deeper reverse camber than you are used to.


2.Heelside.   If you find yourself falling to the inside of your heelside turns on hard snow, with your inside hand dragging, you either don’t trust yourself or your board. You probably reach for the snow in an attempt to reassure yourself of where you are, and to ensure that you have moved to the inside of the turn.  However, it is all too easy and common when reaching for the snow to drop your inside shoulder, which moves the hip out, which in turn reduces edge angle and grip.  You know the rest of that story.


So what would happen if we did not reach for the snow?  We would feel insecure for a moment as we hung in space with no concept of how far off the snow we were, or how far inside the turn we had moved.  Momentarily, the turn would happen, and we would begin to worry about how we would stay afloat during the turn.


The best method to deal with hard polished snow on a heelside turn is to commit to the turn early.  This allows the edge angle to rise progressively, so that the board doesn’t chatter or break free.  Of course this is not always easy to do, as it is hard to believe that a snowboard edge will stick to blue ice.  Keep the knees and feet moving, so that the board always moves forward along the arc of its turn radius.  A static position is a weak position which leads to instability etc.


As the turn is initiated, roll the knees forward and to the inside of the turn.  This should feel exceptionally sketchy, as though you could slip at any moment.  Ignore the urge to skid the turn.  Embrace the fear, make it your own, and move forward with certainty.


Once you have accepted the necessity of committing to a turn early, you can begin to redistribute your body weight to strengthen edge grip.  If it works for the toeside turn, why not try it out for the heelside as well.  The only drawback to this arm movement is that it looks rather silly, and we should try to avoid any excessive swinging of the arms from side to side.


Follow the same cautions as for toeside turns, and, at the same time, allow the inside forearm, to swing to the outside of the turn, across the board.  Make certain that you do not drop your inside shoulder as you do this!!  If you find this forearm movement works on the heelside turn, try it on the toeside.


The benefit of this exercise is that your forearm, if swinging towards the outside of the turn, is occupied in such a manner that you cannot easily reach for the snow, which would drop the shoulder or move everything too far forward and inside of your turn.  Continually modify the extent to which your arms move, so as not to adopt a static arm position from turn to turn.


3Both sides

Here’s something for all you wanna-be carve dogs still struggling with the concept of angulation, and who have a problem touching the snow.


The crab maneuver

Body square, elbows out and fully hinged, palms down, elbows and hands level with shoulders. Shoulders should be forward, hips back, body balanced slightly rear of center.  On the toeside turn, heelside arm should straighten, and as turn connection occurs, heelside arm should fold and toeside arm straighten.  This should be done smoothly, and the shoulders should always remain parallel to the snow.




4.  Trailing heelside arm

On the toeside turn, the heelside arm is extended out over the heelside edge, which is currently off of the snow.  As the crossover is executed, allow that same arm to trail behind its respective shoulder, which should be parallel to the surface on which you ride.  The result should be an improved heelside turn, as the hips stay where they are supposed to due to the imposed twist on the torso, and an improved toeside turn entry as the tendency to rotate into the new turn should be diminished due to the inertia of the extended and trailing arm


E.  Passive vs. active crossthrough

A pattern to think about while riding.  The figure eight theory as proposed by Eric Ward (UMF).  Imagine a large figure-eight, with the fall line bisecting the point at which the two halves of the eight connect.  Your feet move side to side, and front to back.  Visualize for a moment, then give it a try.  If you really want to get sneaky, combine the figure eight concept with that of the knee roll and drive.(section H, following)  You may discover that your board has become a bit more tenacious in its grip, and that your turns are linked more smoothly.  Once you have grasped this series of movements (board, feet, knees), move up the mountain to slightly steeper terrain and focus on beginning your turns earlier relative to the fall line.  The cumulative result should be a redistribution of pressure buildup/dissipation throughout the turn, successfully eliminating the tendency of the board to chatter, since high edge angle is no longer coinciding with high application of pressure.


F.   Spanken Sie die Nase?  Ja, Ich kann es spanken!

With crossthrough we allow the knees to move upwards towards the torso/chest near the completion of the turn.  As we do so, the upper body crosses over the board as the board moves under the body.  Edge contact is maintained due to the absorbtion of ‘vertical’ rebound, thus stability between the edge and the snow is maintained.  As the body crosses the board, imagine that the center of mass of the body is being projected forwards at an angle of around 30 degrees or so off of the longitudinal centerline of the board (regardless of which side you are turning to).  As the board rolls up onto its new turning edge, pressure the nose of the board by carefully pushing the feet away from the body over a range of several inches.  Since you are moving your body further ahead of the board than usual, you may feel a distinct bending towards the nose of the board.  How much the nose bends depends upon the snow conditions and your overall sensitivity to the board and how it cambers/ decambers.  It is important not to extend too far as you push your feet away from your body, lest you move everything too far to the inside of the turn and have difficulty moving back out.

Imagine  that the board begins each turn slightly behind the body, almost as if you were tripping over the nose.  As the board moves through the turn, imagine that it is gradually moving out from under the body until it is ahead of the body, with the majority of pressure focused on the tail of the board with the rear foot.  Prior to this point, begin to bring the knees up, allowing the body to cross the board, moving the board back behind the body to begin the next turn.  This movement of the board fore and aft under the body allows the board to bend smoothly, without a lockout of the flex pattern which occurs when the rider stands on top of the board without moving it front to back.  This movement ensures a more complete separation of upper and lower body, which enhances overall stability and allows the rider to balance off of their movement flow and not the surface upon which they stand.


H.  Hip positioning and edge angle adjustment how they relate and why you should not always do that which is easy.


Perhaps the most common and pervasive bad habit in snowboarding is the tendency to use a swinging of the hip as a means of pressuring the nose of the board, thereby effecting a turn.  This habitual movement, while it seems to work on the rudimentary level, does not allow for an efficient release of the heelside edge, and does nothing to harness the energy supposedly stored within the decambered board.  (In fact, it is doubtful that the board will decamber much at all if the hip swing is used as a primary turning ‘force’).  While this interference with the natural order of a cambered and decambered board may seem the most obvious disadvantage associated with the hip swing, there are other less obvious problems which show up at the upper levels.

While many riders with greater skill development will not exhibit the easily detected hip swing, they may still suffer from the problems the rotated hip creates.  To be less ambiguous; when the hip swings forward on a heel edge turn, the front leg will have a tendency to straighten.  This straightening of the leg results in an inability to adjust the edge angle of the board, through a rotation of the front leg utilizing the ball and socket joint of the hip.  (With the knee no longer flexed, it is not possible to ‘roll’ the knee forward and backward across the width of the board).  In addition to a loss of edge angle adjustment, which definitely has its uses during longer radius turns, the straightening of the leg halts the forward movement of the board under the body.  In effect, this causes the body to momentarily move at the same rate as the board, or try to move at the same rate, which causes not only a moment of imbalance, but also a flat spot in the arc of the turn.  Pressure as applied by the feet and stored in the flex of the board is no longer moving from the tip towards the tail.  As the pressure stops moving, the board flattens out a bit, effectively ending that particular turn.

Depending on the position of the upper body relative to the lower body, and the inability to adjust the angle of the edge, it is entirely possible to get edge-locked at this moment, with the energy remaining in the board jetting it out from under the rider.  This jetting is often dealt with by twisting the board off edge with a rather rude movement of the upper body.


Obviously, becoming edge-locked and gyrating out of it is hardly a desireable situation for high performance riding applications, such as racing  and moguls.  The difficult thing to do is condition yourself not to use the hip as an aid in turning, even though it would seem the easiest way to either start a turn, or help to finish it off. If you are an aspiring slalom racer, take note!

Before I begin to explain this theory of mine, let’s reacquaint ourselves with an important feature in the design of the snowboard; it is intended to move forward, not sideways.  The board is designed to flex along its length, with the pressures associated with turning building at the nose and dissipating through the tail.   Assist this flow of pressure by consistently moving the board forwards throughout the turn.  Forwards, that is, relative to our center of mass and the arc it travels in. This is  not a dramatic movement.


Begin your revised turn by rolling your knees towards the center of the desired turn arc (for the sake of demonstration, let us assume we are working with a medium radius heel edge turn).  This is assuming of course that you are already riding proficiently, and that your upper body and hips are functionally square to the front of the board.  With the knees thus committed to the turn, you have the advantage of adjustable edge angle, and you have moved the hips closer to a point directly over the edge of the board.  This means more grip on hard snow.

Of course, rolling the knees into the turn is somewhat counter intuitive, if for no other reason that it makes it rather difficult to stand atop the board and thus facilitate a skid if necessary to bail out of the turn.  Yes, I would very much like to appropriate your security blanket!  Experiment with the results of increasing and decreasing the edge angle as you move through the phases of the turn.  This knee roll manuever is step #1.  Step #2 is as follows.


Stick close, this one could be a biggie.  With the knees rolled assertively towards the center of the turn, imagine pushing them forward along the desired arc.  If you have developed adequate separation of upper and lower body, this should have the effect of moving the board forward under the body.  You may notice that there is a more distinct sensation of pressure and/or weight shifting from the front foot to the rear foot.  Interestingly, edge lock is eliminated for the simple reason that as the board moves forward under the body, it reaches a point where the knees automatically roll the board onto its other edge.  Implement this change at first with a medium to long radius turn, maintaining full edge contact, familiarizing yourself with any new sensations you might encounter.  As you become more comfortable with the idea of totally committing yourself to the turn, gradually shorten the radius of the turn, becoming more aware of the pressure that rises and falls as the board is rolled from one edge to the other.

* 3/23/2012 Much like Sasquatch, Nessie, Champ, and the Yeti, Crossthrough is spoken of more than it is actually seen.

(29a) Cross-through …   While I can’t take credit for the actual concept (that goes to Tom Reynolds), I could probably take credit for the snowboarding version.  The necessary ingredients are: Unhindered articulation of the ankle joints, effective upper/lower body separation (such that the upper and lower body can move together, or separately as needed), selective range of movement in terms of flexion/ extension, generation and utilization of rebound energy in the board, and a sense of timing.  When it is possible to rearrange the base of support under the center of mass with discretion, affecting the path the cm follows, then it is possible to use the CM, rather than the snow, as a base of support.  Isolation and minimal displacement of the CM in a turn is not the goal, it is the means by which the board can be de-cambered and/or rebounded at any moment.  In other words, The CM becomes something to push against.  Which implies more consistent energy storage and retrieval.


(30) Cross-through…  You are not really diving downhill across the board, it just seems like it.


(31) Probably a simple cautionary note to the effect of ‘if it hurts, quit doing it’.