How many things can you do on your skis? How many ways can you deal with terrain, speed or direction change?
Becoming an adaptable and skilled all-mountain skier requires a variety of tactics and ways to use your skis to deal with changes and the unknown. One invaluable skill or tactic is the ability to side-slip.
If you read my article last week, you know I related that skiing is basically about turning left, turning right, controlling speed and stopping. Every skier that uses gravity to descend a hill standing on skis does some adaptation of any or all of these things, with a myriad of results.
For the purpose of this article, I’m defining slipping as when your skis are moving perpendicular to their axis/ length. This can run the gamut from an easy side-slip to descend a slope to an all-out “hockey stop.” Side slipping is the ultimate example of upper and lower body separation, when we turn our legs opposite from our stable and “quiet” upper body.
The ability to isolate that movement is key in developing a powerful and solid platform from which to ski. To get a feel for this, stand behind a chair and put both your hands about a shoulder’s width apart on its back. Now jump in the air and turn your fee 90 degrees, while keeping your hands on the chair. This is the position you need to be in; your hands and shoulders facing downhill, with your skis pointing across the slope.
Once on the snow, go to the headwall on Sunrise and stand with your skis across the hill. Then turn your hands and shoulders downhill and release your edges until you begin to slide. Now reset your edges until you stop, release again and let them slide more as you go straight downhill.
If your tails are dropping, your weight is back on your skis. If the tips are dropping, you are too far forward. You want to assume a centered stance that allows you to slide straight downhill.
Next, practice increasing and decreasing your edges and see how it affects your speed and grip on the snow. Do this with your skis pointing both ways, remembering to keep hands and shoulders facing downhill but upright, not leaning uphill.
When you want to release the edges, flatten your skis using your knees and moving your body slightly downhill. Keep your feet separated so you have a broad base of support. Practice increasing and decreasing your edge, which will increase and decrease the speed of your slipping.
While doing this controlled slip experiment, move your weight back and forth and see what effect this has on your skis. If you do this rhythmically – back and forth – you will soon descend the hill using the classic “falling leaf” exercise.
Now practice your hockey stop. Start with your skis facing downhill, in a balanced athletic position. Let your skis run and pick up some speed. Then, with the same movement you did when you were standing behind the chair – but without allowing your skis to leave the snow – rise up and quickly pivot your skis 90 degrees and let them slide. You will find you can do this easier on steeper terrain. Practice this with different speeds and lengths of slide. Make a game of it with friends and family to see who can slide the longest or stop the fastest. Pay attention to what you are doing as you play with this edge-control, side-slip exercise. You will soon find you are gaining confidence and adaptability.
There are many more things to add to your “bag of tricks” and you can learn and practice this and more with a session with a PSIA/AASI-trained member of our staff.
Learn – Turn – Smile – Repeat