The backward position

Most beginners ski in a backward position. As ski teacher we always try to correct them, which works quit well with adults but is horribly difficult with children. Up to certain age I think there is no reason why we should spend time and effort to change children’s habit. In the following I will explain why I got there.

For years I thought, the reason where the hard boots of the children, too hard for their power. Then I discovered more and more boots, which were adapted to them. There still is the fear of falling forwards, straight on to the face. It hurts much less to fall on the bottom then to fall forwards. Adults and children feel the same, thus, all beginners will sit backward. I also noticed that children stand up very easily when they sit in the snow with the skis still in a snowplough position. On the other hand it is more difficult for them to stand up the way we teach everybody, their skis parallel below the body and then pushing up sideward. If they often stand up in the first mentioned position, it is because obviously they fall often in that position. They feel comfortable in this position, for when they fall, they doo not fall high. Sometimes they let fall, just to slow down their speed. Then, with a light movement they are up again, all that with rigid legs. Try to do the same, you won’t succeed!

Well, is it really impossible? If you are sportive you may get it with some trouble and some hurting. There must be a physical reason for it as for why animals in cold regions of the earth grow bigger than in the more temperate regions (polar bears are bigger than brown bears, which are bigger than bears of tropic regions).

Let’s consider the proportions of body length of both a child and an adult:

In a backward position we create a couple on the skis. With an angle of 30° we have about 45 cm of leverage at the centre of gravity with an adult (a) and 30 cm with a child (b) of 120cm of length (and 22kg of weight). That means a couple (force) of 36mkg for an adult and 6.6kgm for a child. The child needs 5.5 times less power than the adult in the same position. The kid is smaller and has less power, needs less power, but he is 3.7 times lighter than the big person. The power of the muscles is proportional to is weight (mass) and if we compare it proportionally, we see that the child needs one and a half time less power than the adult ( 5.5/3.7 = 1.48). Note that if we have some overweight we are even more penalized!
We can say that a child invests only 2/3 of the power of an adult in that position. Now, lift a weight you can handle easily, then you make this weight 50% heavier (2/3 +50% = 3/3) and try it again, you will see that this becomes difficult, the difference is huge!

It is very easy for children to ski in the backward position. It is difficult to convince it, with our intellectual arguments to ski differently, if he makes the opposite experience by skiing! Furthermore he is in a position of advantage if he should loose control: he sits down. Our professional argument that the foreword position is better is partly wrong. Moreover they are even agile. It is “only” our lack of power (and some other good reason) that makes us skiing in the forward position. When the kids grow up, the physical laws will work for us teachers and the advantages of leaning forwards will play fully their role.

So my suggestion is the following: speak about the forward position to the children, but do not insist too much because you were taught once that this is the way to teach. There are other things which are easier to assimilate by the children and make them progress faster. The correct position will come growing up, every thing at his time.


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