Focus on the Fundamentals
Many of us in Quechee Lakes are familiar with the golf advice to “let the club do the work” and, properly employed, it does! After that perfect tee shot we think, Gosh, that was easy. Take a well-engineered piece of sports equipment (not a volleyball), apply the proper forces and let it go to work. So, why are you fighting your skis so much? You paid a lot of money for those things. They’re not 2 x 4’s you know! Pick a ski with the side-cut you enjoy, meaning how quickly and how tightly you wish the turn to be, stand in balance on it and watch it do its thing.
There are five fundamental mechanics of skiing as identified by the Professional Ski Instructor Association. You may apply them separately or, in most cases, in combination dependent on your terrain and conditions. Let’s skip all the boring jargon and parse them down into something sensible.
1. Control the center of mass (belly button) to the base of support (feet). After all, they really are connected. Become friends with your belly button because wherever that little devil goes, so will you and your feet. Move it down and into the next turn, and your feet will quite happily follow. Move it away and up from the turn and you have disengaged the downhill ski. Your butt will now follow you grudgingly into the snow. How do you do this? Well, always practice the ancient Chinese art of Shin-Tong. If your shin is not in contact with the tongue of that boot, then you are headed for trouble. When you feel you are in challenging conditions, or you are not skiing well, STOP! Is your shin contacting the boot? Do it, and off you go!
2. Tilt your skis. I once asked a student “Why do skis have an edge?” He answered, “Well if they didn’t they would go on forever.” Think about it. It was probably the most brilliant answer in the world, but not necessarily the one I was looking for. The boy is now a philosophy professor, while I am writing articles for the Quechee Times. Life is ironic. Anyway, that thin strip of metal on your ski is like the “steering wheel” of your car. Engage the steering wheel, and the car turns. Let go of the steering wheel, and you’re into a muddy ditch somewhere. Practice at home in your sneakers. Roll your ankles onto their sides: a little, some more and then a lot. Experiment with the feeling. Your expensive custom boots will take care of the rest.
3. Control the pressure from ski-to-ski. In the turn, you will feel pressure building from a 50/50 distribution to a 70/30 distribution on the downhill foot. What to do? Well, stand on it! Don’t move away! I would have to say that THE most common mistake made by the vast majority of skiers is that they are standing on the wrong foot into the turn. And the steeper the terrain becomes, the “more wronger” they get. They literally move away from what they consider to be dangerous (i.e., down the hill). It’s only natural, after all, we all want to survive until lunch break, but, when you stand on the uphill ski, you lose contact with the downhill ski and your “little steering wheel” is once again useless, and off into the ditch we go.
4. Twist your body. Anybody remember Chubby Checker out there? Apparently, he is still alive but was never known for being much of a skier. I digress. If the upper body is square to the tips, then the skis will continue to track across the hill. There is a time for this, but NOT when you want to change direction, or need to make short radius turns. The first thing to do when you want to turn LEFT? Well, STOP skiing to the RIGHT! How are you disengaging the heavily edged downhill ski? If the upper body is positioned countered to the tips, this becomes so much easier. For you golfers- loosen your grip.
5. Be prepared and adapt to changing conditions. This is my favorite. It is Zen-like. So, easy and subtle that it cannot be explained. Ommmmm… Once the first FOUR mechanics are mastered, we begin to blend them together with DIRT (duration, intensity, rate, and timing). Challenge yourself to different terrain and discover what skill you need to employ most. Bumps? You might need a lot of twisting. Steeps? Absorb the pressure on the downhill ski. Groomed? Adjust the edges for a smooth ride. Gym? You might want to start including a lot more yoga and stretching into your routine because good skiing is a fluid dance with gravity.
Here is hoping for a winter of good snow and seeing many of you out on the Quechee hill this year. (Members ski free!). It’s a great place to ski and learn so don’t hesitate to take some lessons and improve your confidence.
Think snow! Cap’n Ron