Friday , August 18 2017
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I’m Glad You Asked

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Dan Balkin,
HoliMont Snowsports School

Well, you didn’t really. So I asked for you. I was imagining what would happen if skiers sent me questions about skiing.

In terms of skiing, “What is the fall line?” The fall line is a term instructors frequently use. The fall line is completely dependent on where YOU are standing on the ski hill. If you were standing on the left side of a ski trail, and took a tennis ball out of your pocket and dropped it, the tennis ball would follow gravity’s pull and head straight down the mountain relative to where YOU are standing. That would be YOUR fall line. A skier on the other side of the slope, or in the middle of the slope, would have a completely different fall line. Obviously, the fall line is fluid and keeps shifting as you ski down and across slopes.

“Based on your years of teaching skiing, what is one suggestion you would offer to the skiing public?” Don’t purchase ski boots that are too large or too stiff. Some skiers do both. Ski boot liners are generally plush and most will compress at least a half size when worn in. I have also taught a number of students who have a hard time flexing their ski boots. Unless you are really a racer or a very fast expert skier, avoid skiing in boots at the stiffer end of the register.

“What is a great ski tip that worked as effectively in the straight ski era as it does today?” Brilliant. I’ve been waiting for years for some genius to pose that question. Lift all 10 of your toes toward the top of your ski boots while you ski. This will make you flex your ankles and keep solid contact between your shins and the front of your ski boots. Some skiers do not adequately flex their ankles when they ski (again, usually because their boots are too stiff). This tip is a very easy way to get the feeling of keeping your ankles flexed.

Think about it. When you walk, your ankles are either more flexed or less flexed, but they are always flexed. The same principle applies in skiing. U.S. Ski Team great Phil Mahre always said, “Good skiing is good walking.” In other words, we need to flex our ankles when we ski just like we do when we walk.

“Now that we are warming to the subject, what is another tip that worked in any era?” If you want to fully enjoy the next day on the slopes, it is an excellent idea to cease all glass clinking camaraderie well before the night grooming crew goes home. But because you already knew that, I’ll offer up another real ski tip. Imagine that your ski boots are filled with water. As you make ski turns, tip both boots equally and imagine the water pouring out of each boot at the same rate. This promotes tipping both legs equally — one mark of an accomplished skier.

Well, as you can see, winter in general, and skiing in particular, can raise a host of interesting questions. I hope that these answers will offer you some guidance as you enjoy Ellicottville — by day and night.

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