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
OK, I am not speaking about any of the minor deformities we all carry; we know which of our ears is larger than the other. I am talking about managing pressure on your skis throughout a parallel turn. We all know in the turn that the outside ski is the dominant ski, meaning it carries the most pressure and determines the size and shape of the turn. This does not mean your inside leg is just along for the ride, it also enhances the turn by you managing pressure and edging on it as well. But one leg has to be “shorter” than the other — actually one knee is flexed more than the other, which makes the other one “longer.”
It is commonly thought that the American ski technique is based on the GS turn. The dynamic, highly controlled turns of a giant slalom racer like Ted Ligety. These turns are often done at speeds in excess of 50 mph yet they need to be controlled and precise.
Take a look at a picture of Ted in the middle of his turn; his hip is close to the ground, both skis are up on powerful edges, feet separated — but take a look at his legs. His outside leg is flexed and holding a high edge the same edge as his inside leg, but yet look at how much shorter than inside leg is — actually his knee is just flexed more than the outside. Long leg, short leg.
Were he to straighten the inside leg — make it longer — he would put more pressure on the inside ski, less to the outside. Conversely, were he to bend his inside knee more, less pressure would be placed on the inside ski and more to the outside. These are very subtle yet effective actions to manage pressure and edging of skis in high-speed turns.
How do you do that in such a dynamic situation as a high-speed parallel turn? You need to practice. Go find an open wide slope and practice this yourself. Establish a rhythm of medium-sized fast turns and play with this as you are in your turns. Practice beginning your turn by extending your outside leg — long leg. Feel the strong engagement of that outside ski, actually the “inside” edge of the “outside” ski, but that is “ski instructor tech talk.” Keep your outside leg flexed. Never straighten that leg or you will be sitting in the “back seat” and out of control. Now flex — “shorten” — your inside leg. Feel that outside ski engage even more?
Do this in different parts of the turn. Begin your turn by allowing your inside leg to flex, or start it with a lengthening of the outside leg. Flex and extend one or the other in various parts of your turns to get a sense of the dramatic changes a small adjustment can make. Remember to maintain a comfortable athletic stance with your feet comfortably separated. You ski with both skis independently and this exercise will help enhance that awareness in your skiing
Skiing is athletic and dynamic, but often it is the subtle and minor adjustments that set the skilled advanced skier apart. A certified ski instructor has many more of these tidbits to share to enhance to performance of high-end skiers.
Improve your “game.” Take a coaching session with a PSIA/AASI certified pro!