Analyse the experts
Watch an expert ski down an undulating slope; it is a picture of effortless fluency. To achieve this proficiency the expert skier has had to learn by experience how to adapt ski technique to meet each new situation. Years of skiing practice will have helped develop a highly sensitive feeling for the skis, so the skier is always ready to make a change in direction according to the terrain, speed and snow conditions.
There are several points on which the average skier can learn to recognize where they are going wrong, work to eliminate errors and gradually acquire the graceful skill of the experts. Here are some movements to analyse for improved technique.
The expert is constantly adjusting the stance over the skis, in a dynamically ready position – flexed through all the joints, arms and poles held in balance, ready to change edges, steer, and allow the skis to ride smoothly over the snow. The minimum of effort is used to turn the skis. Unweighting action is barely noticeable because the expert uses the strong mechanical leverage of flexed legs to turn the skis. The upper body moves only enough to reinforce a weight pressure change and to maintain the subtle shifts for balance control automatically.
A feeling for precise use of the ski edges to make the skis cut a steering line, is a hallmark of the expert’s skiing. Carving helps the skis to steer in narrow curved swings without allowing them to skid out and brake when it is not necessary. On long open pistes, using rounded turns linked together, carving your turns will maintain speed. Adjusting the pressure under the middle of the foot and edging to put the ski in reverse camber are, will make them carve in the snow rather than skid the heels out.
The expert will adjust the amount of body angulation required at any given moment to make the ski edges hold – upper body and head over the boots, knees and hips to the inside of the turning swing. In quick rhythmic turning only the lower leg is used to steer and edge the skis, the upper body has the absolute minimum of movement, the legs working like a pendulum underneath the body as they swing from one short turn into the next, as knee steering.
Using the pole-plant with precision is another indication of the expert’s attention to the detailed skills of technique. The start of any parallel turn is the most important part, and the pole-plant is an integral part of using the correct timing and co-ordination of the body’s flexing movements. Correctly reaching forward to place the pole for support is the trigger into the parallel turn -pole planted close to the tip is for longer radius turns, gradually planting further back and away from the ski as the turns become shorter, and the terrain gets steeper. Placing the pole downhill from the body leads to an anticipated outward facing of the upper body. This pre-turning produces a twisting force through the legs when the edges are released – pivoting the skis while using the pole-plant for support.
Using the terrain for turning is very much part of the way in which the expert adapts parallel techniques. Absorbing the humps and bumps by allowing the legs to fold up under the body as the skis cross over the crest, then stretching down as the skis slide into the hollows. Turning on the tops, as learned in basic parallel skiing, the expert has no need to unweight the skis, simply pivoting the skis round as the legs are compressed. Mogul skiing requires fitness and good reaction, but the same principle of absorbing the bumps is used, only the linking of turns becomes much more active and a quick eye to read the skiing line – either through the hollows or over and around the bumps. The pole-plant is again important for support when turning the skis. Plant it near the crest so that as the boots come on to the top, the skier can then use it for stability while the legs are rotated and then extended down into the next hollow.
Looking at World Cup Racers on TV you will notice how they are continually stepping from one ski to the other – changing from one line to the other through the Control Gates. Step turning is not the sole preserve of the racing skier, it is used by the expert skier to make a positive change of steering ski edge. From the completion of one parallel swing, the uphill ski is stepped out to the side with the leg flexed, immediately followed by transferring steering pressure to this ski and planting of the pole on the downhill side.
The stepping sequence is completed by lifting in the lower ski as the parallel swing phase begins to steer the skis in the normal way. Quick changes of direction can be made using the step turn, even accelerating your speed by skating off the lower ski with a more energetic action. It is a good way of warming up on those first few turns in the morning.
Deep snow turning
The expert stays square to the skis, equally weighting them so that they plane through the snow. A slightly sitting back position is taken up to allow the tips to plane near the surface. Using the normal up-unweighting movements for parallel turning, the action is smoothed out to give the skis time to overcome the resistance of the snow as they turn. As the skis are steered downhill, both weighted, the skier banks to the inside of the turn to maintain equal turning pressure on both skis. It is a new feeling to acquire as there is no hard edging of the skis, and requires time to get accustomed to the ‘floating’ feeling of the skis.