By Ron Kubicki, Director of Holiday Valley Snowsports School
From printed and video educational material of Professional Snowsports Instructors of America/ American Association of Snowboard instructors
As you are riding up the Morning Star lift first thing Saturday morning, what catches your eye is a continuous flow down the hill.
This skier’s body remains quiet, yet active, in engaging their skis, which are making continuous and constant size arcs in the snow and maintaining a consistent speed. The skier is poised and athletic in their movements.
This is blending of skills that exemplifies an accomplished high end skier.
There are a number of things all happening at once that you hardly notice because the rhythmic precise turns seem automatic.
Stance is athletic and balanced on the center/front of the foot, feet are comfortably separated to allow independent movement, and the entire body is engaged in subtle, precise movements.
The important factor in this is the skis, and the changing and engaging of the ski’s edges. In most groomed conditions, on hard or soft snow, you are looking for “progressive edging” of your skis.
The dominant ski is the outside ski, and it becomes the outside ski at the end of your turn, when it is still actually your uphill ski.
If you are moving your body down the fall line, you will notice your “new” outside ski will actually change and begin to engage the new edge before your ski even begins to turn. That engagement and the engineering in your ski will begin the ski turning and it will continue to develop more edge as it begins to manage the pressure and radius of the new turn.
With your body staying centered and angled to the inside of the turn, your ski edge increases more. Through flexion and turning your legs under your body, you manage the forces of the turning skis with increasing edge angle, leg and ankle flexion, until you complete that turn. Your body moves across your skis – still heading downhill before your skis – your edge angle decreases and flattens, then again begins to engage the new outside ski. Yes, all that is going on with that athletic elegant skier you are watching.
Take a trip over to Fiddler’s Elbow and stop on the side of the trail.
Do some “cowboy turns” – widen your stance like you are bowlegged, head down the fall line and just tip your boots one way. Let your skis engage and begin to turn, and slowly tip your boots the other way and let your skis begin the next turn.
Notice how your skis will just begin to turn more as your edge more. Play with the speed you tip your boots, and get a feel for the performance of your skis.
Now let the speed increase a bit, stand a bit taller and hold your edges a bit longer to make more of a turn.
As you pick up more speed, assume your balanced athletic stance and tip your boots by allowing your body to move downhill over and past your skis. Like magic, your skis flatten, develop a new edge, pick up speed and catch up with you. Your skis can skid during the turn to manage your speed and turn shape, but edge transition should be smooth and progressive.
These and many more techniques for improving your high end skills can be had by taking a lesson with one of our PSIA-E/AASI certified instructors.