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
If you have read any of my previous articles, you have heard the terms “inside ski” and “outside ski.” Well, we divide our body into inside and outside halves as well. In order to effectively use the performance in our skis, we need to engage the inside half of our body.
The old style of feet together and the outside ski doing all the work is ineffective skiing. I know this is difficult for some people to grasp, but we are not just “along for the ride” on these highly technical skis we now wear.
Watch every sport in the Olympics. Do any of the athletes stand up straight with their feet together and lean back? Why not? Because standing straight up is not an effective position to move from. In skiing, you need to be ready to make immediate and effective adjustments. Watch Ted Ligety in the Giant Slalom. He is perfect example of using both halves as a whole. The GS — this is the turn most recreational skiers should find effective and useful in most groomed conditions.
To start, we need to affect an athletic stance with our feet separated a comfortable width — shoulder width is good for most people. Think if you were picked up by the tassel on your cap; the distance your feet would be separated as they hung would be a good gauge. With our feet separated we are able to engage the inside ski so that it will track on its own separate arc. Doing so enhances the performance of the outside ski as it determines the size and shape of the arc. Plus, the inside ski now adds another turning force by its active engagement.
Look at any picture of a GS skier in the middle of their turn. Notice the separation of their feet and legs. You will notice both skis bent by the forces generated with both skis being engaged. Notice as well, how with the leg separation, that the hips are open into the turn. This allows both femurs to pivot at the hip, thus giving you more power more control. The two largest bones connected to some of the largest muscle of our legs give us a solid platform to move from and perform with confidence.
Head over to Crystal or a nice wide, easy trail of your choice. Affect a balanced stance and begin a medium to long turn. Once you are in it, repeatedly lift your inside ski and tap it up and down throughout your turn. Be sure to pick the whole ski up. By doing this, you will need to actively keep turning your inside ski, as it will not be lying against the outside ski — it never should! Practice this both ways until your are comfortable.
Now do the same, but this time leave the tip of the inside ski on the ground and repeatedly lift just the tail of the ski of the ground. By leaving just the tip this should also assist in keeping you forward in your stance.
For a more dynamic task on moderate terrain, stand across the fall line, slightly down hill, and affect a wide stance, knees and ankles flexed forward (athletic stance). Let yourself pick up some speed, then tip both your boots and allow your skis to turn you up the hill to a stop. Do this again only steeper down the fall line. Now, do this facing down the fall line. Feel the energy in both skis and note how the forces increase when you do this with more speed. Keep the awareness of engaging that inside ski, in this case, the uphill ski. Practice this both ways until you feel the sense of skiing with both halves of your body.
Now that you have a sense of using both the “inside and outside” half of your body, make the same-size turns on the same terrain. Focus on keeping your feet separated and engaging both skis. With practice you should become a more confident and skilled skier. Have fun and be safe!