This blog is meant for the ski enthusiast who wants to take their skiing to the next level. It’s assumed that you can already put in at least a parallel turn on an intermediate run. That’s when most skiers either stop taking lessons and/or find that they reach a plateau in their skiing progress. Before reaching this level, I highly recommend having lessons with a fully qualified and experienced instructor, mostly for safety reasons.
This blog assumes that you can ski parallel on an intermediate run.
Over my seasons as an instructor, I’ve come to realize that most skiers lack two major things that impede their ability to improve their skiing.
One is the time needed on the slopes to practice and develop skills. I can’t help much with that. Work and distance gets too much in the way for most people. Hence I made sure my work revolved around skiing but that was a choice I could afford to make and I get that not everyone can or wants to.
A lot of mileage is required to gain competency in trees, powder and bumps.
The second is simple instruction that is consistent. I’ll elaborate on that.
Consistent instruction – There are many good instructors out there but rarely do most skiers get the same instructor each time. At the moment I’m also doing a sort of self-study where I’m observing the effects of having too many instructors/ trainers at one time. Does it cause more detriment than benefit? Perhaps it serves to confuse more than clarify having so much differing instruction. Could one possibly relapse in development due to multiple instruction. I think it is highly likely.
Simple instruction – In my training I often faced oversimplification of skiing from many of my trainers. Phrases like “Bend ze knees” or “Just go down the hill faster” were thrown around quite a bit. These never helped me much personally. While they could often tell me ‘what’ I needed to do and occasionally ‘why’, rarely did they ever tell me ‘how’. Explaining the ‘how’ well, to me, is the essence of good instruction.
Its very zimple, you zust have to bend ze knees.
The other extreme was over-complication. Here’s an example that I overheard a fellow instructor giving in a lesson.
This exercise promotes an efficient balance – countered stance. Hip countering movements are an important component of advanced turns. Make sure that you are in the right stance. In order to separate your upper body from your lower body you must twist the torso firmly towards the fall line. Also turn both shoulders downhill, reaching with the arms over the downhill ski. Maintain a strong upper body with hips positioned fairly high and over the feet. Open the hips towards the fall line and keep the uphill hip, knee, and foot half a boot ahead of the downhill hip, knee and foot.
He lost me after the first sentence. (OK OK, it was actually halfway through the first sentence). I politely let him finish his spill, thanked him and proceeded to find an aspirin for the headache that was coming on. This is a part of a ski article I read recently that did actually hurt my head.
Now let’s review the following empirical formula: (E) = M x R translated into words it means the following: the energy E that skier gets out of the turn equals the product of momentum of inertia (M) and speed of the turn radius (R), in other words for the same given mass the farther away the parts of this mass are displaced from the turn axis the greater the turn Energy produced will be. Therefore racer B from the above picture will produce more energy by inclining and displacing his skis farther from under the body then racer A showing smaller displacement by using knee/ankle angulation.
That’s when I remembered why I was so glad I finished uni. I didn’t have to read anymore poorly written textbooks that had great content but were just so painful to digest. It was like a meal that had fantastic ingredients but somehow was messed up in the cooking process and you just found it pretty hard to swallow. If we all spoke the way textbooks are written…well, lets just say a lot of guys would be going home alone each night.
This blog can never replace a fully qualified and experienced instructor next to you the whole time you’re skiing. But lets be honest, not many of us can afford to do so. As if skiing wasn’t expensive enough. After flights/transport, accommodation, lift passes, rentals and overpriced resort food, there is very little money in the budget for regular instruction.
This blog is not the same as a real lesson but in some ways, its better.
I’m hoping this blog is the next best thing. A lot of my lessons are explanations, demonstrations and then lots of practice. From there I analyse movements and provide feedback to correct. I can do the initial section here with you going out to practise on your own. The second section I can’t replicate although I try to give as much indication of how to achieve self feedback.
The best thing is I get to do here is something I never got the chance to do when I was teaching most of my students; I get to go more in depth into the workings of skiing. In a normal lesson, its a pretty big ask to get someone to perform a new physical movement and grasp a complex technical concept at the same time. Most are just trying to keep up physically and subsequently throw all higher brain functions out the door. In any physical discipline, whether its a sport, dance or martial art, true proficiency lies beyond just mastering the physical elements. A deeper understanding must accompany physical prowess and it is by no means easy to attain. When I was training instructors, the feedback I received from them was that the indoor sessions we had helped them just as much as the on-hill training. The mental clarity they gained allowed them to better perform the physical movements they were learning. I now hope to share my experiences and knowledge to help you in your own journey to improve your skiing.