Ski 101 – Top Ten Technique Tips I Give as an Instructor

 

1) Shoulders over knees…

We ski instructors often tell people to get into an “athletic stance” when skiing. This generally means flexing slightly in all the joints in a position of readiness… kind of like a soccer goalie or a tennis player ready to move anywhere at a moments’ notice. One way to gage if you are maintaining and athletic balanced stance is if you keep your shoulders over your knees. This is of course just a rule of thumb and there are always situations in skiing where you can break the rules, especially at higher performance levels… but for the average skier if your shoulders are over your knees, that’s a pretty good place to be.

2) Feel your feet…

In order to maintain balance throughout your turns try to think about the sensations you are feeling on the bottom of your feet.  You should feel pressure along the inside bottom of your outside foot. The actual pivot point should be the high point of your arch where it connects to the heel… but as you extend in the first half of the turn you may feel a bit more pressure towards the ball of your foot… as you flex slightly through the second half of the turn you may feel a bit more pressure towards the heel.

3) Turn with the legs…

Many intermediate and even advanced skiers initiate their turns by rotating their upper body. This can easily get you out of balance and put you in a position where it becomes difficult to effectively edge the skis. Instead try turning with the legs (rotate the femurs inside the hip sockets). This will allow you to keep a quiet upper body to maintain balance. It will also allow you to more effectively create “angulation” (see tip #4)

4) Inclination vs Angulation… Folding your body!

In order to deal with the forces in a turn most people understand that they need to lean towards the inside. This is called “inclination” and is all about finding that sweet spot between centrifugal force and gravity. You do the same thing when you turn a corner on a bicycle. The faster you go and sharper you turn the more inclination you will need. This is all fine and dandy, but most of time inclination alone is not enough. In order to increase your edging without falling over you will need to add “angulation” into the mix. This simply means creating angles in your body. Essentially you are counter balancing the movement of your knees and hips to the inside by moving your shoulders and upper body towards the outside of the turn. This way you can increase the edge angle without further increasing the inclination. I like to think of angulation like folding your body into a “C” shape. Trying to keep your chin over your outside toe piece towards the end of each turn will help you feel this sensation.

5) Balance against the outside ski…

Hard snow requires that you balance against the foot situated towards the outside of the turn… not only is your body much stronger balancing against the outside foot… it will also add more pressure to the edge of that ski allowing it to bite the snow. In softer snow you may need a more two footed approach but the outside foot is almost always the dominant one… so bend that inside leg and stay strong on the outside one!

6) Walking poles…

Got crazy hands? To help stabilize the upper body a good pole plant is a must in shorter turns and moguls. Keep your hands out in front and using only the forearms and wrists, walk with your poles. The pole basket should swing out in front of your hand as it enters the snow. It’s a good idea to practice this movement without turning at first so you don’t need to worry about the timing, just walking your poles straight down a bunny slope. Then once you have the muscle memory you can add it back into your regular turns.

7) Be mobile…

An “athletic stance” is great but skiing like a robot is going to give you a rough ride. Good skiers are dynamic and always moving in order to maintain balance and control pressure. A good way to work on balance and mobility is to ski through all those bumps and jumps on the side of a run. Try to go over bigger bumps while keeping your skis on the snow. You will need to bend and extend the joints in different combinations for each situation… lots of fun!

8) Release the edges to start a new turn…

Many people seem to think that in order to start a new turn they need to aggressively extend and almost jump off the snow… this myth probably derives from many misguided ski instructors. Although at slow speed in deep snow this can be a useful tactic, most of the time, it is not necessary and will even cause you to get off balance. Instead try releasing your edges by relaxing the downhill leg or tipping the knees and ankle towards the new turn. This will flatten out the ski on the snow for a millisecond making it nice and easy to turn those legs.

9) Tight core, Loose legs…

In off-piste and chopped up snow it is a good idea to keep a tight core to help stabilize your upper body and maintain balance. If you keep your legs nice and supple you’ll be able to absorb all those variations in the snow under you feet. They will of course need some tension so you don’t just collapse like a sack of potatoes but they should always ready be ready to flex… especially that inside leg.

10) Bicycle in the bumps…

The “backwards bicycle” is an analogy I often use for moguls but it is relevant to some degree in all turns because at the end of each turn pressure builds up and simulates a small bump.

When skiing in bumps there are two main things to think about…

The first thing is pushing your feet forward and pulling them backwards. These movements are required to maintain balance… As you come into a bump you will need to push your feet forward in anticipation of hitting it. As you hit the bump and prepare to go down the backside you will need to pull your feet back underneath you to avoid getting stuck in the back seat and losing control.

The second thing is flexing and extending the legs to absorb the bumps. As you hit a bump you will need to flex all the joints in your legs so you don’t go flying off into space. As you go down the backside of the bump you will need to extend your legs to maintain snow contact and so you have some range of movement to flex again for the next bump.

This seems like a lot to focus on all at once so to simplify things, think of the movement pattern like pedaling a bicycle backwards…. only you do it with both feet at the same time.


Give it a try!

The Skinerd

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.