What is the proper way to do a transition?

Should I Flex and Extend?

in Which Direction?


Hi Rick,

           I have been working for two years now on absorbing the concept of inside edge use, long leg short leg and am very aware of getting rid of "sequential edging" the term you used to describe the effects of holdover from the "old days" the last time I wrote you. What's confusing me is trying to integrate what I have seen and read from Harald Harbs' DVDs and book Essentials Of Skiing. I have been trying to get all the input I can and I may be on a bit of informational overload as well as just a lack of some of the information I need. In my level II skiing exam the examiners were clearly looking for flexion and extension. You might even say up and down. Yes I know it's not straight up and and down and the folly of that but they were clearly looking for movement in that direction. Harb advocates no "up and down" even if it is up and forward. The examiners were clearly looking for something like that(up and down). It was clearly stated, in wedge turns and wedge christies they were looking for movement. I on the other hand had been working hard on showing the move to the inside with appropriate use of the inside edge trying NOT to show any up because I thought that was critical. At this point though I have to say I'm pretty confused. I'm hoping that you can help clear some of this up for me. 

                                                  With many thanks,


Hi Allen,

I'm confident this new Transitions DVD will clear up most of your confusion over this transitions stuff, but I'm going to answer your questions in detail here anyway, so the DVD can then serve as reenforcement and supplementation.

I'm very familiar with Harb's teaching of the transition, and this is likely a contributing source of your confusion.  Harb teaches the retraction transition as the golden transition, with all other forms being flawed in comparison.   While the retraction transition is an excellent, efficient way to transition from one turn to the next, it is not necessarily the be-all and end-all transition.  Every transition type carries pros and cons, and are better or worse suited in various skiing situations.

Think of transitions in terms of Cross Over, Cross Through, and Cross Under.  Now be aware in your conversations with other instructors and examiners that these terms, like many others in our sport,  are unfortunately not used with universal definition.  You need to clarify what you mean when you use these terms in conversation, or questions those who are throwing the terms around haphazardly, even if a trainer you're working with, exactly what they mean by it.  I've tried in my DVDs to offer a popular set of definitions that make it very easy to understand and differentiate.   It would be good if over time the series becomes popular, and the definitions I'm presenting here would become standardized.  We'll see.

Cross Over and Cross Through are categories of transitions in which the body crosses over the skis, and Cross Under is one in which the skis/feet cross dynamically under the body.

In Cross Over the legs are extended to full functional extension by the time the skis have rolled off edge and reside at edge angle neutral.   In this transition, because of the extension, the Center of Mass takes a pendulum path of travel up and over the skis.  Understand that the full extension I'm speaking of does not necessarily equate to the traditionally recognized up unweighting move, where extension of the old outside leg was preempted  with a flexion in that leg to accentuate the unweighting effectiveness of that move.

In Cross Over, the outside leg can remain extended, and the old inside leg can be extended very gently/subtly, resulting in no unweighting effect on the body at all.  As a matter of fact, that ILE form of Cross Over transition actually provides the opposite effect by transferring weight support away from the loaded outside leg and bent outside ski, allowing the rebound affect of that outside ski coming out of reverse camber to dissipate into a relaxed leg and thereby not have any impact on unweighting the body.  It produces a very connected transition through the entirety of the transition that is hard to match with other transition types.

The other major advantage of the Cross Over transition is that extending the old inside (new outside) leg acts to pull the hips up over the feet for the immediate start of the turn, resulting in a very powerful center/fore balanced tip loaded turn initiation.    This fore/aft balance benefit is of great value to learning skiers, who often struggle with being stuck in the back seat.  The old inside leg is always more flexed than the outside leg, because of the biomechanics of what needs to happen when we tip our skis on edge.  That flexed old inside leg becomes the new outside leg, and at some point has to be extended to pull the skier forward on their skis and create a strong mechanism for supporting the forces of the turn.   Doing it early, as happens in a Cross Over transition makes it easier to learn.

Retraction transitions are of the cross through variety, where the legs are flexed through the transition, and the Center of Mass takes a direct lateral path of travel over the skis.   The advantage of the Cross Through transition is that it allows the extension to take place laterally, after the CM has passed edge angle neutral and is tipping into the new turn.  This allows the skier to avoid having to fight gravity when extending, so from an energy efficiency standpoint it's in that respect a more efficient type of transition.

The cons of the Cross Through (retraction) transition is that it leaves the legs flexed at edge angle neutral, and the hips therefore aft of the hips.  It takes a quick/strong extension of the new outside leg post initiation if the skier is to get that leg long and strong, and him/herself fore balanced by the time the turn's apex is reached.  It's very common for skiers trying to learn this deep retraction Cross Through transition (Harb vintage) to become stuck in the back seat, legs flexed and hips aft all the way through the turn as they anticipate the next deep retraction.  This is why Harb has to stress so heavily the pullback of the feet, to try to overcome that problem, but even pulling the feet back will not solve the issue completely if the outside leg is not extended in unison.

Another problem with Cross Through is that you  somewhat lose that solidly connected with the snow sensation through the transition.  What you get is something called "float", in which the skis become very light as the body cross the skis.   It happens because of the combined affect of down unweighting, rebound, and the virtual bump.  The sensations of the connection that comes from Cross Over and Cross Through are very distinct and noticeable.   Finally, that strong initiation that comes from the tall stance and center/fore balance of the Cross Over transition is lost in the hips aft Cross Through transition

You will find in the DVD I teach all these various forms of transitions, and explain and demonstrate with good video clips the pros and cons of each.  It will behoove you to learn to execute each of them.  Doing so will enhance your awareness of exactly what type of transition you're employing at anytime, and allow you to fine tune it in any manner you choose.  Once you develop the ability to do that, when trainers ask you to do a transition of a particular sort,  it will be no sweat, regardless of what he/she wants to see.  And when skiing you'll have a bigger tool belt to employ in whatever the mountain throws your way, spontaneously or by intent.

Hope that helps answer your questions and clear the fog of confusion, Allen.  Transitions can be a fuzzy topic, because there are so many ways to execute them, and so many variables in the performance qualities of each.  You' were not at all alone in your confusion.  Many instructors currently harbor many questions as to how the dots connect in this technical area.  I'm hoping my Transitions DVD helps bring some of the confusion to an end across the ranks.

If this has explained somethings, but also brought new questions to life, don't hesitate to follow up with me.  I'll  be happy to answer them.


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