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How do you think about and or coach stack?


Horton
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I consider stack to be the most fundamental skill that separates 15 off skiers from 35 off skiers. In my mind stack is basically the alignment of shoulders, hips and feet. Unfortunately is simple to describe but difficult to master. I think about and coach basic stack in two ways.

 

First is my now infamous straight legs theory. A lot of you think this is blasphemy but it works for me. It is hard to have your hips behind you if both knees are equally straightened and as your back leg straightens your hips come forward. Simplest way to move hips forward is to straighten both legs or back leg. Some pro skiers can drive both knees forward and achieve something far greater than basic stack – advanced stack is another topic for another thread.

 

The second way I think and coach stack is not nearly as simple or as clear cut. Generally speaking when a skier approaches off side there is some amount of body twist. For most of us => our hips are pointed wide of the path of the ski & shoulders are pointed out more than hips. Call it counter rotation if you like. (some very advanced skies are moving away from this whole concept – again that is a different thread)

 

Skiers often lose alignment / stack on exit of off side because they untwist/un-counter at apex in an misguided effort to turn faster. As your upper body untwists and rotates towards the wakes your hips are forced back and to the outside. You may need to stand up on dry land and pretend you are skiing for this to make sense. The more you can delay rotating your hips and shoulders in relationship to your feet the easier it is to say stacked. There are also a number of side benefits to a later rotation/hookup.

 

So if we ever ski together and I tell you to try to keep your free hand off the handle a fraction of a second longer at the ball – This is what I am trying to get you to do. The free hand is connected to the shoulders and the shoulders are connected the hips… keep your hand off a little longer and you should find it easier to exit the ball with better alignment.

 

When you hear skiers going on and on about looking down the lake from apex to exit of the turn they are roughly dealing with the same mechanics as I am addressing here. Again that is another thread.

 

So how do you think about and or coach stack?

 

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I coach a process to obtain a stack while just riding right behind the boat first. I encourage skiers to use this same process every time they come up out of the water. It should be just as habitual as tugging board short legs down or wiping the face, etc. Every time you come out of the water, get stacked.

 

Here's the process I use/coach:

1) stand up, get tall. Sitting, squatting, bent knees, are all the opposite of stack. Get tall.

2) shift weight over your front foot. Even more precise - move your hips forward over your front foot.

3) Hide your toes. If you were to glance with your peripheral vision, you should not be able to see your front foot's toes.

4) Allow back heal to rise. There should be no pressure under your rear heal during this process of getting to stack. (edited: only during the getting into position process...)

5) Water the sweet spot. The water should be breaking in front of your front toes when you are there.

 

To simplify the above: Rise up and forward.

 

The whole process is done immediately after you are on top of the water. I try to get to perfect stack before the turn around is mid-way through. I can ride my stack through the turn.

 

This position should always be the position your are in BEFORE you move outbound for the gates. Then, we work to retain it during the lean out, and glide. Possibly even making recovery corrections during the glide.

 

The whole push with the legs/back leg concept is just one way to perform the "get tall and shift to front foot" parts of the process.

 

Regarding the stack out of the off side. That's a tough one. What works for me is how I think about the actions during the finish of the turn. @SethSki helped me with this. I think about pointing or rotating my front knee across course at the finish of the turn while letting my shoulders lag behind (or staying open a bit longer). That results in this "twist" concept that you mentioned, @Horton.

 

Old School - uber closed shoulders during an offside lean just makes the skier's body weak at the waist and causes the butt/hips to easily drop back and out of stack. The skier is often locked into a lean and gets broken out of stack at the second wake. Thus, the "twist" is a real thing and beneficial in the offside lean.

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@ToddL‌

Lifting your back heel is dangerous and or advanced stuff. No one who is not deep into short line should ever try to lift their back heel.

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@Horton - this is only part of the process of getting into stack while behind the boat. I am NOT advocating rear heal lift while in the course.

 

Somewhat related - Skiing the course with all your weight on your back heal is not good, either. Some beginners learned (incorrectly) that slalom is all about pushing with the back leg/foot. When trying to get a skier to shift their weight, I will ask them to focus on the ball of their front foot.

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@ToddL‌ ok making sure

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This is going to be potentially an unpopular opinion but I don't believe that stack is coachable as a direct action item to work on and I don't think it's realistic to expect a beginning skier to "get" stack as a coaching point. We talk about it a lot, and it does make damn good sense, but when I hear deep shortliners preaching it, it reminds me of right time/right place entrepreneurs giving motivational speeches about getting rich systematically. It's easy when you have it.

 

At points here and there during my journey in this crazy sport I did think that it was the thing to work on but I'm generally not of that opinion now. Lord knows this could change. I feel like stack is more of a result than a direct action. A shoulder-heavy-no-preturn-iffy-gate guy like me can either make "stack" feel easy or impossible depending on how I behave in the pre-turn and turn. That's assuming I "have" stack, at least occasionally, and I believe I do though it could certainly be better. If I don't have stack then stack must be what separates 28off skiers from 38off skiers, in which case I haven't ever felt it and that either helps support or completely invalidate my case depending on how you look at it.

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@jhughes Very interesting viewpoint, but I completely disagree. Leverage position is the foundation of almost everything, and working on almost nothing but that was how I went from 34/-15 to qualifying for Nationals. Then I had to learn some new tricks.

 

There are definitely ways to get through -22 and even -28 with a pretty horrible leverage position, but there's only so far you can go with that, so I think it's very important to get it (somewhat) right as the very first thing. I never coach anything except 1) the fundamentals of leverage position and 2) how to get there, until the person is crossing with some degree of leverage and efficiency.

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Weird ! - your 4th paragraph is what I have just raised in another thread. Hadn't seen this one, sorry.

- My point was that im looking at it not as a delay of getting the hand back on, but rather making sure that as the hand comes on you rotate the inside hip and connect hips to handle at the same time? Kind of "collecting the inside hip with your handle connection" BEFORE taking direction and accelerating.

- Again difficult to understand without a handle in your hand - even then not easy :)

- This action also seems to promote the forward COM lean mentioned in another post.

 

Hadn't thought about it as part of the stack before - interesting....

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@jhughes‌

I agree with you to some extent. Being stacked outside the course as @toddL describes is easy but keeping your stack once you turn in for the gates is the problem. Being stacked is the result of doing a number of things right. So yes, telling a skier to just get stacked is crap coaching.

 

I find it unlikely that a skier at your level has a bigger foundational issue than stack but I understand and agree that you may need to work on other things that contribute to your stack.

 

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BTW, when you teach someone a new motion, you do so in drills or in a context which allows the student to focus on the new motion with as little distraction as necessary. That's why when teaching "stack" it starts outside of the course. If the skier can't obtain good stack right behind the boat or during a drill, then how in the heck do you expect that skier to have it when chasing buoys!?

 

To me, stack outside of the course is something like a head start in a race. You start out in first place. Then, if you cannot maintain your head start, eventually you get passed. In skiing, getting into stack before your first movement outbound is your head start. How long you can maintain it is a big factor in determining if you "win the race" or run that pass.

 

There is a different set of techniques for retaining stack vs. obtaining stack. So, maybe our responses should specify which aspect they are addressing. My initial post was about obtaining stack. My comment about the offside was about retaining stack during that movement.

 

@lakeaustinskier's comments (@TFIN's coaching) about loading and the impact on stack are another element of retaining stack. There are so many errors skiers make during the course which deteriorate or obliterate stack. We could probably write a book just to address each of those.

 

Still, if the skier doesn't have stack, I believe that the best time to learn it is away from or prior to the buoys.

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@ToddL‌ yea yea but it is 10000000 times easier outside the course. Clearly if you can't do it outside the course you will never do it inside. Lots of skiers are PERFECT until they turn for the gates and then all hell breaks loose.

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Yep.

 

I think it is somewhat of a linear progression of sequential building-block techniques.

1) Stack out side - check

2) Keeping stack during pull out - check

3) Keeping stack during glide - check

4) Keeping stack during turn in - check

5) Keeping stack behind the boat - check

 

It is my opinion that this sequence and mastery of it is very important. When all 5 elements of approach to the gate are done well, the skier has space before 1 ball. This provides calm, confidence into the glide out, turn, and finish of the turn. That calm, confidence and space means they are much less likely to lose their stack because they have no problems requiring a reaction. If you turn 1-ball with calm ease, you will be significantly better stacked heading to 2. That creates space before 2 ball and the benefits continue, and so on.

 

Stacked start sets up the skier for a sequence of calm good turns and stacked wake crossings that build upon each other.

 

So, if there is a skier who is stacked all the way through the pre-gate glide, but loses it during the turn in, then that becomes the focus. That skier needs a different means to initiate or finish their turn in such that they retain their stack.

 

So, yes. Stack outside of the course is 10000000 times easier. Then, I guess stack during the pullout is only 100000 times easier. Stack during the glide is only 1000 times easier. Stack during the turn in is only 10 times easier, etc. But without stack in the former, you really aren't going to be successful "building" or repairing stack in the latter.

 

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Never mind. I give up

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I think the stacked position a skier finds himself in by the end of the first white water starts back at the completion of the turn. Good skiers tend to fall into two categories in the way they complete their turns. Some skiers fully complete the turn before taking the load from the boat, and some are still turning.

 

Good skiers who fully complete their turns before the load hits, tend to land in a perfectly balanced stack right over the ski’s sweet spot. From this sound position, there’s not much the skier can do with their ski or hips except stay stacked until unloading the ski for the edge change. Skiers that that are still turning when the load hits, are able to stay further forward on the ski for longer, adding load and speed into the white water as the ski catches up. Their ski and hips then accelerate past them through the maximum load zone behind the boat, into an early edge change—a more dynamic and energetic move.

 

If you take a picture of these two skiers at the end of the first white water, the first skier will be perfectly balanced over the center of his ski, and the second skier will still be leaning forward of perfect balance, but only for that fleeting moment. These stationary photos don’t tell the full story. The first skier finished the turn with his shoulders perfectly stacked over his feet. The only way for his shoulders to be ahead of his feet at the white water would be if his shoulders had been accelerating faster than his feet—on his way to a nice out-the-front. In the photo of the second skier, he is in the process of accelerating his feet and hips faster than his shoulders at this point, which is both contributing additional energy and eliminating any risk of an out-the-front.

 

@‌Horton

In Advanced Topics, you asked, “How do you think about getting from simply aligned to forward?” I’ve watched all your posted videos, and to my eye, you tend to fully complete your turns, landing in a perfectly balanced stack before the load hits. It is beautiful and effective technique, but you can’t move your upper body forward faster than your ski from there or bad things would happen. If you want to see your stack inclined further forward of center at the white water, you’ll need to be more ahead of your ski from way back at the finish of the turn, and only pass through being directly centered over your ski as it passes beneath you directly behind the boat.

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As a guy going through this I agree with lots of this thread- it's definitely helped try to ski tall at all times inside and outside the course- but this paragraph is golden

 

"Skiers often lose alignment / stack on exit of off side because they untwist/un-counter at apex in an misguided effort to turn faster. As your upper body untwists and rotates towards the wakes your hips are forced back and to the outside. You may need to stand up on dry land and pretend you are skiing for this to make sense. The more you can delay rotating your hips and shoulders in relationship to your feet the easier it is to say stacked. There are also a number of side benefits to a later rotation/hookup"

 

Telling me a thousand times to "get more stacked" doesn't do much good unless you give me something more actionable. I've had coaches give me long rambling thesis on proper ski form which is good and all- but as I'm sitting in the water listening I'm asking myself "ok so what do I actually need to do with my body?" The best simple piece of coaching I had last year was Odvarko telling me to "stand up taller before your offside turn". That did more for my stack after the turn than focusing on the stack itself. So did staying on the handle longer and coming back to it later.

 

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Two main points:

 

1) ski your hips to the handle, do not pull the handle to hips. This makes the skier lead with his hips...thus keeping hips forward at the end of the turn.

 

2) once the free hand and hips come back to the handle ..straighten your arms.

 

That's it...if the skier can do those two things they are well on their way.

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@disland‌ just get taller exactly how I think about it. Sometimes with different words but that is my key.

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Get taller works for me, too. Look at any Terry Winter vid. He is quite compressed through the last part of the edge change. However, he "gets taller" during his glide out to apex. That's one movement that I think advanced skiers take for granted or are doing purely by muscle memory. Mere mortals need to include that reminder just after every edge change. It's a wonderful feeling coming into the buoy tall and early. The resulting stack is always better.
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