One of the simplest yet most difficult things I’ve had to change in many a skier is the bad habit of looking down at their skis. It is a habit often developing from their very first time on skis when they were learning the snowplough and constantly looking down to check if they had a triangle shape. A lot of my first timer lessons are spent on reiterating the need to look forward to feel their skis making a snowplough and not needing visual confirmation. I hope in doing so, it instils a good habit from their very first day rather than having to change it later on.
Once we put on skis, they become extensions of our body. Similar to a tennis racquet, it is equipment that now allows us to perform a specific function. As a fellow instructor commonly puts it, “We’ve now got planks on our feet to go for a slide on the snow”. So the tennis player never looks at his racquet when he’s playing. He or she knows its just there. They have a gauge of where it is, will be and how to wield it. Even the youngest child without any formal training, with racquet in hand will look at the ball and not the racquet.
|Looking ahead whilst skiing.|
Let’s try another analogy. Riding a bike or driving a car. Do you look at the handlebars or steering wheel? Perhaps the road just in front of your vehicle. I’d gather your answer to be no. You would look ahead. How far ahead? As far as you need depending on your speed and terrain. You look to the next corner or bend, the next vehicle or even the next rollover. The faster you’re going, the further you need to look ahead to anticipate what’s coming. Or, the more varied the terrain, the more you would need to look ahead to avoid certain sections.
|Left skier: looking down, right skier: looking ahead.|
A common response I used to give when I looked just in front of my skis was, “But I want to see the snow that I’m going to ski on”. And then I realised, what if it were a chunk of ice? (affectionately termed as death cookies). It’d be much too late for me to do much more than mutter a quick expletive under my breath and pray the fall isn’t going to hurt too much. On the other hand, if I had been looking ahead, I would have seen that massive death cookie and given it the wide berth it so deserved.
|Looking down at snow just in front of skis.|
Looking down has other detriments beyond merely hitting death cookies. More importantly, it usually puts your stance off. The way we ‘stand’ on our skis (stance) is very important. Looking down usually has the side effect of disrupting the way we should be standing on our skis which in turn effects all other aspects of our skiing adversely. What you actually try to look at when you look down is not your skis but your feet/ boots. Now if you were standing in the proper stance, your knees would usually be over your toes. They also happen to be in the way of your view of your boots. So what do you do, you move your knees back so you can see your boots. That movement of the knees would then make you ‘sit back’. That is how merely looking down at your boots would disrupt your stance.
|Looking down at skis.|
So try this the next time you’re in a lift line. Look at everything but your skis. As you’re inching forward in the queue, as you approach the lift, as you load, look at everything but your skis. You’ll be surprised how difficult it is, especially in the queue itself. Train yourself to feel the skis doing what they need to do, which in a lift queue isn’t much more than to keep you standing upright and moving a couple of inches each time. That’s the start where you’re going at about 0km/h to about 2km/h. If you’re looking ahead at that speed, you have a much better chance of looking ahead when you’re going at about 50km/h.
Oh and theres a big difference between looking down at your skis and looking downhill. Looking downhill is looking ahead. Just so you can see all that snow coming at you.
Related upcoming post: The peek – just to check that my skis are still on.