Counter rotation. Upper lower body separation. Scenes from an old Houdini magic trick? Nope. These are standard terms I try to decipher every year while standing atop an icy hill. This year I’m getting a head start and figuring out what they mean and how to improve my ski season before the hills open.
I consulted a friendly CSIA Level II ski instructor for some suggestions, which he was happy to share (and has more to follow). So, before it’s time to line up under the ski school bell, you may want to try this little move and improve not only your skiing, but quite possibly your dancing and golf as well.
If you watch mogul skiers, the only thing you notice are the bouncing knees. Take a look at the first clip. The upper body is silent. This demonstrates what the experts call upper lower body separation. You see it with ballroom dancers when their footwork propels them across the dance floor as they continue to hold their arms high and locked with their partner at an exact, unflinching distance. Golf is another sport where power and advanced play require this separation. According to Tom Watson in Golf Digest, “separation between the lower body and upper body is the key in any sport where you use the hips to create arm speed – think tennis serve or baseball swing.”
If you can figure out how to distinguish the upper from the lower, the top from the bottom, you’ll have an easier time progressing. All fine and dandy, but how do you practice this in the off-season? Brush your teeth.
Or at least use the minutes of teeth-brushing time to practice turning your leg from the hip socket. Hips and shoulders stay facing forward. Knees and feet turn from side to side with the turn initiating from the femur at the hip socket. Practice isolating and rotating one leg at a time. Just keep the hips and upper torso steady and solid. The clip posted below may not be as glamorous as the first, but even superstars need to build the foundation.
Incorporate the leg-turning practice into your dental hygiene routine and by the time snow starts to fall, you will be on your way to developing muscle memory that allows you to initiate the turn from the lower body rather than the upper. You’ll avoid looking like a robot, have more control, and most likely make someone very happy with your squeaky-clean teeth.