Counter and Counterbalance

Here are some of the best threads moved here for easier finding. (note - threads here are closed)

Counter and Counterbalance

Postby John Mason » Tue Nov 08, 2005 10:19 am

Rather than have the great 'functional stance' thread go down a different road, I moved it to classic threads as the descriptions of what functional stance means in a PMTS perspective were covered very well.

I love Hellava's direction that might have taken that thread too. It's what we have been working on in the camps and actually will be my personal focus in the instructor camp next week.

What are the proper use of counter and counterbalance in a ski turn. How does this vary by the intensity of the turn. How does it change through the arc of the turn. Are their roles for using these differently on very icy terrain. How does this differ in a slalom vs gs skiing.

I'll try to start this out Definition of terms:

Counterbalance - edging from the "C" shape of the whole body

Counter - hip counter - where the hip points to the outside of the turn to some degree rather than the direction the skis are pointing.

What are the official PMTS definitions of these terms?

Then the practical use of same.
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Postby Ken » Tue Nov 08, 2005 10:29 am

Sorry, John, but I hate using terms like these and many others. What I feel works best for myself and those I ski with is to just emphasize the way the skis should work on the snow and hold body movements and positions to allow that action of the skis. I do not want to strive for a body position so the skis are in a position by second-hand effects. I want to put the skis in the position they need to be, and just balance with the body, arms, etc.

I know, correct body positions allow everything else work, and incorrect body positions result in nothing working. I just don't want body position to be the first thing on my feeble mind. I want ski action on the snow to be #1.

I'm probably much wrong (as usual, the Mrs. says), but that's what works for me.

What usually happens in deep pow is that I slide several feet and the ski stays right where it came off. Of course, after the face plant, I have no idea how far I've slid downhill, so I have no idea how that ski got so far up hill. What is really wierd is to do a face plant so deep into the snow that it's dark...been there, done that.

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Secondary movements become SMIM's for some people

Postby John Mason » Tue Nov 08, 2005 12:53 pm

check out page 4 - you'll see two of the clinics are focused on (well the 2 day v1 movement analysis will be for me anyway - if it's my smim) secondary movements.

At some point the primary movements take you so far and your secondary movements can enhance or impede your skiing. Counterbalance and Counter are two secondary movements that were taught and worked on heavily at the Carver camp, the All Mountain Camp and the Race Camp and are well represented in HH's new book.

The traditional think - or what I hear most people say outside of PMTS is you don't have to worry about counter or counterbalance as these things will take care of themselves. Personally, from my experience so far with these concepts they are - at least for me - largely counterintuitive. The "go there" concept espoused over on another ski forum would be 'intuitive' and steering oriented. In PMTS its not intuitive or steering oriented.

Thus the subject Hellava brought up in the Functional Stance thread should be a very interesting read once HH's gets time to write here. Of course he could just say come to a camp or wait for the book, but I hope he'll give a glimpse here. Once you get the full descriptions and see HH ski, you will see he does this all the time and it's the secret to how gracefully he engages the very top of the turns right after transition.

I didn't get that far into tough bumps at the All Mountain camp as I was in the lowest group of the groups, but the higher groups told me that the use of these secondary movements made skiing bumps much easier as well. Hopefully I'll get to that this year and get to experience that.
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Postby Max_501 » Tue Nov 08, 2005 1:51 pm

John, nice job on defining Counter and Counter Balance. Perhaps they are poorly named as they cause much confusion. Perhaps Body Counter and Hip Counter would help clarify during discusssions.

Ken, as John has stated, at the higher levels you need to work on Counter. Without it you can't hold and edge in hard snow and you'll have a tough time getting big angles even in soft snow.
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Postby jbotti » Tue Nov 08, 2005 2:43 pm

I will second Max's comment. I feel like I truly learned to ski last year because I spent the entire season working on counter and counter balance. Without this I was not capable of carving the high C part of the turn. Interestingly, in powder skiing where you would think that carving oriented technique would be potentially unnecessary, I have found it to be essential. Skiing with a narrow stance in powder and also rotating the upper body with the turns immedaitely pushes me to the back seat and I am soon out of control. If add counter and counter balance to the narrow satnce in the pow, immediately my balance comes back, I can stay out of the back seat and it's Party Time!!
When it comes to skiing gates on hard snow or ice, have fun attempting this without counter and counter balancing.
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Counter Balance/ Counter Acting

Postby SkierSynergy » Tue Nov 08, 2005 8:30 pm

[Note: Originally I used the terms "counter balance" and "counter movement." My posts in this thread have been subsequently edited to use "counter balance" and "counter acting." This more closely match the terminology of Harald's new book.]

Sorry for the long post, but I have been gone a long time and so I have to catch up. By the way, Valle Nevado, Chile is a great way to spend the summer. :D

I?ll weigh in here and give you 3 things. First a definition of terms. Second answer why a PMTS model uses the terms it does avoids more common uses of ?counter.? Lastly, how about a few practical exercises to get started on this stuff.

1. The use of counter is traditionally pretty vague/ambiguous in use. In addition, it is often used in a way that is incompatible with a PMTS model. Therefore, Harald has been pushing for the use of the terms "counter balance" and "counter acting."

These two terms (secondary movements) are quite specific in PMTS. They fall under the overall category of counter movements and they combine to create the Upper Body part of Lower/Upper body coordination.

Counter balance is the muscular effort of crunching of the shoulders sideways, down towards the skis. The direction is opposite to, or against, the tipping of the skis. This is why John describes it as putting the body in a ?C?

This is the most important secondary movement for maintaining balance at slow speeds (when gravity is primary and the forces developed in the turn are very low). An example of an exercise that isolates this is the following railroad track task. Glide across a fairly flat slope. Keep the skis flat and equally weight them. Now start tipping the free foot (you can lighten slightly if you want) and let both skis go onto as high of an edge as you can manage. Make sure that the stance ski is not edged more than the free foot ski. Do not widen your stance. As the skis tip on edge and the turn develops, crunch with the obliques directly sideways toward your skis to maintain balance. If you do this at very, very slow speeds and you not counterbalance, you will simply fall over. The more you tip the more you must counter balance in reaction.

If you widen your stance to avoid falling over, you will not develop the secondary movements necessary to maintain dynamic balance. Instead, you replace balance with static stability.

Counter balancing the upper body against the tipping action of the skis that creates the turn is simply necessary to maintain balance.

counter acting is the turning of the hips and upper body to the outside of the turn. First, this counters any rotation of the upper body in the direction of the turn. Second it allows the stance leg to straighten out more easily when the skier is in high angles thereby avoiding steering in the upper leg and making the leg more structurally strong. Lastly, it provides greater counter balancing effect then by using counter balancing alone. By adding counter acting, the upper body can stay upright more easily because the skier can recruit the muscles in front of the stomach and bend forward at the waist (forward in relation to the direction of the hips) rather than just isolating a lateral muscles and bending involved in counter balancing alone.

Harald believes that counter balancing is more important when gravity is more in play and counter acting is more important when the skier is balancing against the forces of the turn. In my experience, counter balancing alone takes more effort. It?s like doing an oblique crunch every turn while skiing. You can move your body back into balance over your skis more easily by simply turning your hips to the outside of the turn. Now you can use a more natural bending movement at the waist.

I believe that counter balance and counter movement are hierarchical. That is, counter balance is most effective and easiest to use and control early in the turn and at slower speeds. However, as the forces of the turn increase and the tipping angles get higher, it gets harder to increase the counter balancing effort to level that is needed. Also, in practical terms most people just have an upper limit (either in strength or flexibility) for how much they can counter balance. So as the turn progresses and the angles/forces get higher, it becomes easier to add in counter movement.

Though the two movements are usually used in concert they are distinct and I think might be best learned in sequence. However, if there is even a minute amount of ?into the turn rotation,? most of the good effects of counter balancing are destroyed. So in actual skiing, a skier will benefit from at least a small amount of counter acting right away in the turn.

There is a qualitative difference between using ?into the turn rotation,? and a very small amount of counter acting at transition. Once this can be achieved, then one can talk about adjusting/increasing the quantity of counter acting to match the edging effort of the feet. Until this is achieved, even a little amount of rotation creates a turn that is headed down the opposite path of an effective turn.

2. So why not just say ?counter? and be simple, but leave it somewhat ambiguous.

There are two reasons. First PMTS breaks the big notion of counter down into the two component parts as specific movements. This is much better for understanding the contribution of these movements to various effects and problems. It also means that instructions can be very specific and tangible.

Second the notions of counter in other systems of skiing are very different in purpose than the equivalent concepts in PMTS. Often counter is seen as a tension that one creates as the turn develops. It is a form of anticipation that is released at transition, so that it aids steering (or redirection) into the next turn. This keeps both the upper body and the lower body going in the direction of the turn and is therby supposedly more efficient.

I have over-heard regional instructors events in which the directions are explicitly to keep the eyes and upper body facing down the hill, allow the skis to ?ski? into a counter against the upper body and then release the skis and aloow them to unwind into the direction the skier is looking. All of this is at the least very different than PMTS . Personally, I would say more strongly that it is the opposite of PMTS.

In PMTS counter balance and counter acting area set of movements in reaction to tipping. They are done to maintain balance, structural integrity, and maximum pressure in the face of edge angles. Their function is to make higher edge angles possible and easier. Secondarily, they counter natural tendencies to steer, rotate, and flail.

Instead of facing in the direction of the new turn as you transition and steer your legs where you are looking. PMTS advocates changing edges without changing direction and then counter balance and counter acting in the OPPPOSITE direction of your turn. That is the recipe for the highest edge angle as early as possible. Go upside down to the slope with both the lower and upper body.

While learning these movements in the release you might hear to look up the hill away from the intended direction of the turn. However, later in the learning process, PMTS instructors tend to drop this way of talking and avoid references in relation to a direction down or up the hill -- this just leads to confusion. In PMTS these movements are done only in relation to the tipping of the feet, irregardless of where they are pointing and they have nothing to direction on the slope.

So, I would argue that the concepts of counter balance and counter acting are more specific and often quite different in purpose than other more common notions of ?counter.? As such they deserve to be distinguished from them and that is the reason for the special terminology.

3. A few practical things for counter balance.
You can work counter balancing exercises in many ways.

To start, it is easier to practice the movements to enhance engagement in the bottom half of the turn. However, eventually, the same movement will be used to enhance the release and develop ?high C? engagement. Using these in the top of the turn is more difficult and gets harder, but more necessary as the slope gets steeper.

a) Start with some static drills on flat ground. Stand with equal weight on each ski. Tip your skis in one direction (remember to start with the new free foot and match the edge angle of the stance ski to the free foot). As you tip then skis as far as you can, counter balance with the upper body. See how far you can tip the skis while counter balancing and still maintain balance. Flatten the skis and release the counter balance. Tip again in the same direction, counter balance again; etc. Tip and counter balance in the other direction.

Addition.: when you are in your maximum edge angle lighten the free foot and pick it slightly off the snow. Balance on the stance leg by using a counter balancing movement in the upper body.

b) on a relatively flat slope, moving very slowly, tip and counter balance then flatten; Tip again in the same direction, counter balance again; etc.

Additional note: if you have trouble getting into the tip and counter balance, use a slightly steeper slope, but still gentle enough to be very slow speed. Face slightly down the fall line. Tip and counter balance while not moving. Now, begin to push yourself with your poles. Maintain tipped angle and counter balance until moving without pushing. Balance. Flatten and tip again, or start over.

c) As you traverse steeper slopes (often good for running across to a lift or other run) Tip up the hill and counter then flatten to the slope and allow the tips to glide down the fall line a little, tip and counter back up the hill. Tap or lift the free foot and try balancing on one foot on edge.

d) Flat slope, facing at a shallow angle to the fall line, tip and counter balance in one direction; flatten, then tip and counter balance in the other direction.

e) On a relatively flat slope with some movement and using very shallow turns, edge and counter balance and then roll through flat and onto the other edges. Counter balance in the appropriate direction to maintain balance. The higher angle to which the feet tip, the more counter balancing movement must be used.

f) On a relatively flat slope with some speed, edge and counter balance and then do a small hop (not a big jump with your whole body. Instead, just pull your legs off the ground in a small hop.) While in the air roll the skis through flat and onto the other edges while counterbalancing. Land on the new edges in a counter balanced position.

g) Do d-f above on slightly steeper terrain. Even slightly steeper becomes really challenging. Because you have to commit to going upside down to the hill with your skis, yet maintain balance before a direction change.

Note: There is often a tendency to do various movements to avoid having to rely solely on tipping versus counter balance for balancing. Some people will want to widen their stance. Some will widen along with going to big toe edge of the stance ski first (oppose the edges in the old and new direction to make the transition more stable. Others will want to steer into the turn with their upper body to get the balance over their new stance ski and down the fall line where it?s easier to balance without effective upper body movements. Avoid all of these temptations.

All of these exercises should be done with ?a change of edges with no change of direction,? then wait for the edges to change the skis direction as you learn to balance (i.e., go for the ride while direction change happens). This takes real patience. I?ll tell you, as you use these it?s very hard to keep from doing any cheat moves. Everyone at every level can benefit here.

This is your time to DEVELOP your balance. Don?t cheat. If it ain?t hard, then up the stakes: tip more; Do it on steeper terrain; do it in more difficult or more uncomfortable conditions, etc.
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Postby Ron White » Wed Nov 09, 2005 2:38 pm

I am new to this forum and not really well educated in pmts.
To me, counter, or skiing into counter is also the ability to move with the equipment. When we take a step around a corner, to the right for example. our foot, knee, theigh, hip, rib cage, sholder on the right side of our body, moves forward and to the right. A step to the left, and the same body parts on the left side of our bodies move forward and to the left.

In skiing, when we turn to the right, our thigh, hip, rib cage, and shoulder, should also move progressivly toward the right and upward to compensate for the pitch of the hill. Skiing into counter position allows us to move with our equipment and not block the motion and direction of the turn. Skiing at moderate to high speeds on steep icy slopes (eastern ice) is the best test of moving with the equipment and skiing into counter position. If the movement is blocked by leaving a part of the body behind, you move against the equipment and chattering, or skidding accurs.
To be able to ski into counter position, you must counter balance very early (much before the fall line) and be on the downhill edges effectivally.

I'm not sure how my definition of skiing (moving) into counter position differs from PMTS. The movements are the same either way.

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Thanks Jay

Postby John Mason » Wed Nov 09, 2005 2:58 pm

Great synopsis Jay.

In PMTS counter balance and counter movement are used to increase edging and to allow balance to be maintained with edging.

Ron, I'm not sure what your describing if it's like PMTS or not. In PMTS it's on purpose and not 'skiing into counter' but counterbalance and countermovement are done right as you pass the transition point at the top of the new turn. Most traditional discussions of counter are the oppisite of this and you 'ski into it' and counter develops as you face down the hill and your body since it's held facing down the hill ends up in a countermovement position after the apex of the turn. This type of counter has nothing to do with what Jay was describing. What Jay was describing happens in the top 1/3 of the turn before the Apex and allows the top of the turn to be carved. PMTS use of counter is not a passive event that just happens but on purpose and quite early.
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Postby Ron White » Wed Nov 09, 2005 4:26 pm

What I am trying to describe as skiing into counter position is an active movement and not passive. It starts from early in the turn, at the fall line, the hips are square and after the fall line, the inside hip continues to move into counter position. With this, the inside half is strong and moving in the direction of the turn. The movement is progressive and done throughout the turn. If the movement happens all at once early in the turn, the body becomes stagnent or parked and can no longer move with the equipment (if your not moving with the equipment, then atleast some part is against the skis and somewhat out of balance). Maybe we are talking about different things. The test of efficient movements with the equipment is in extreeme conditions. WC racers use skiing into counter position and a strong inside half to keep their cm moving with the equipment. When they make a mistake, they are cought against the equipment and out of balance for some (usually very small) amount of time.

Most good skiers move some parts into counter position, but don't benefit because they leave some part or parts behind. The effect is either getting in the back seat, or poor edge grip after the fall line because of too much inclination (banking) to the inside of the turn without enough weight on the outside ski to engage it and lack of counter balance. A bad place to be to transition into another direction change.

Hope this claifiies what I mean by skiing into counter position.

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Counter and then counter

Postby SkierSynergy » Wed Nov 09, 2005 6:51 pm


Thanks for the comments and questions. There are some very definite differences in your description of skiing/moving with the turn into a counter and Lower/Upper Body coordination in PMTS.

There is a lot of stuff to talk about but I can't immediately. I'll try to find the time to respond better by tomorrow. Of course, anyone else can jump in with ideas.

Very quickly I will plant a couple thoughts.

First, you have an idea of counter that involves the whole body. One half of the body (inside half) moving into the turn and progressing from square at fall line to fully countered at the end of the turn.

First, on the level of movements PMTS is more specific. Counter balance is the crunching sideways that I defined in my earlier post and counter movement is a rotation of only the hips and upper body to the outside of the turn. The inside legs and feet do not move forward. In fact pulling the free foot (inside foot) back is the flip side of moving the inside hip forward. This also becomes easier as the free foot leg is flexed to gain more free foot tipping. Getting counter by moving the inside leg forward block edge angles and effective blance.

In any case the two movements are distinct and independent, and you can work on each seperately.

If one is inclined too much and wants to have a better balance position, or wants to decrease inclination to pressure the skis more, or one wants to increas edge angles more, tec., then (concentrating on the upper body only here for this example) the question is what single movement could you do that would help/facilitate the situation. Do you need more counter balance or counter acting movement? The prescription will be very specific. This is very different than something like "don't let your body (or some part of your body) get behind the turn in your countering." This is simply to point out that often times discussions of this are, in reality, pretty vague.

This leads to the second quick thought. In PMTS, The fall line is already way into the turn. By that time, you are already entering the maximum pressure part of the turn. The edge angles and upper body movements that support this stage should be set up well before you reach that point.

Different from what you describe, for PMTS, the transition is the only point when your skis are flat, the legs are most flexed (as a pair) and your body is square. At fall line you shold already be at maximum edge angle and maximum counter balance and counter acting.

While your description refers to moving with the turn and where you are pointed in relatiion to the slope, PMTS counter balance and counter acting happen irrespective of the turn cycle or where one is pointed in relation to the slope. Let me be clear here because PMTS coaches are always talking about getting a H"high C" and getting counter balance and counter acting early in the turn. However, the reason one wants early counter balance/acting is because of the desire for early high edge angles. If you decide not to have early high edge angles, then large amounts of early counter balance/acting would not be appropriate. The purpose of these movements is to facilitate and support the edging/tipping movements of the feet.

In most models in which the upper body stays square to the falline and the skis "ski into a counter at the bottom of the turn, the purpose is to Keep the upper body facing down the hill and create anticpation into the new turn. This both aids a redirected/steered relase; and of course this is consistent with the notion of keeping everything moving in the intended direction). Many people who follow this model don't actually start edging until close to the fallline. By this time a good High C skier has been at big edge angles for half the turn already. What I described is a very different purpose for Lower Upper Body coordination from that used in PMTS. It supports very different notions of how the release happens and even how the arms and pole plant functions.

By the way I think the issue of "Park and Ride is a good one. Maybe that could be a good new thread. What exactly that means. What movements are involved. How to avoid it. Etc. My tendency is to think that this is not mainly a counter balance/movement issue. Rather it is primarily an issue of continuing to increase the lower body movements (free foot tipping, free foot leg flexion, etc. through the turn). Of course these would require an increase in the secondary upper body movements also, but they are not really the issue. Others chime in?

There that should be enough for someone esle to jump in.
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Postby Max_501 » Wed Nov 09, 2005 7:26 pm

Alright, I'll chime in but for a different purpose. I think we need a new category for the open discussion of PMTS vs other techniques. I know that some of you really enjoy analyzing every little aspect of a turn and comparing it to other systems and that's cool. But it dilutes the PMTS material as it gets buried in these discussions. For example, if you have just finished book 2 and you are reading through this thread how would you know if a particular contribution is PMTS or not? You wouldn't until you got down to a PMTS response stating otherwise and by then I'm guessing you are so confused you don't know what to do. I'm not saying these discussions shouldn't occur, but I think we can find a better place for them.
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Postby John Mason » Wed Nov 09, 2005 8:28 pm

Ron - your clarification matches what I thought you were trying to say.

skiing into counter from the fall line on is what I thought you meant. That is very late in the turn from a PMTS perspective

Once you get to the fall line - what I called the Apex of the turn - in PMTS that's where you start your release. You don't need maxiumum edging there past the fall line because you start ending your turn there. Most skiers experience max g's in that bottom 1/3 of the turn. A PMTS skier is just getting into their float there.

The idea for a different section comparing might be useful, but the give and take I think is ok. Once a thread has enough PMTS definition to define what is meant, I'll move it to the classic area. The give and take helps with that clarification.

Clearly even the term 'early in the turn' means totally different things to people based on their ski instruction exposure.
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Postby Max_501 » Wed Nov 09, 2005 8:58 pm

John, I appreciate that you are one of the folks that enjoys the give and take of the comparison discussion. But for those of us that don't care about anything but PMTS its very confusing trying to figure out what we should or shouldn't be doing when it all gets mixed in together.

You have the PMTS knowlegde to read a response and say "nope, that's not how we do it". I read it and think, "crap, is that what I'm supposed to be doing"? Then I have to read a bunch of responses just to find out that the other stuff was none PMTS technique (not to denigrate the other's input, but its confusing because its under the PMTS heading so the assumption is that its PMTS we are talking about).
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Postby HeluvaSkier » Wed Nov 09, 2005 10:27 pm

Instead of making it PMTS vs. anything, maybe it should be PMTS and other teaching styles and techniques, or just and other techniques section... BUT, for those who want to learn about PMTS (like myself) some sort of a comparison to what most skiers already know. Plus I don't think it would foster healthy discussion to start an entire forum section based on pitting X technique vs Y technique... regardless of what parent forum is was part of.

Anyhow, back to this topic. I am really eagerly awaiting a response from Harald on this just to hear his thoughts on it. I am beginning to see what role counter balance plays in PMTS, but how about counter/hip angulation? This is the area that a lot of turns among ski racers and high performance carvers can really differ. I will leave it at that for now until someone comments since I am not at liberty to really comment on PMTS at all (just here to listen).


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Postby Ron White » Thu Nov 10, 2005 7:09 am

I think you are either mis-reading or mis-inturpeting my description of counter movements by your reply. I am fully aware of HC turns, the role of the free leg and the effects of body movements.

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