By Mike Holden, PSIA Level III Alpine Ski Instructor, HoliMont
Skiing Technique with the New Skis.
Skiing with the skis incorporating the most recent innovations in ski design will not make you ski with the movement patterns of expert skiers and top racers. They will, however, help you to achieve success if you want to change from less effective and efficient techniques, based on abrupt weighting and twisting the skis as a single unit, to a technique where carved turns are linked by the sequential smooth movement from ski to ski.
A key advantage of the new skis is that they assist the skier in initiating a carved turn with far greater ease. They require far less finesse to employ the carving characteristics of the skis to securely change the direction and speed of the skier. A ski with a deep sidecut and tip rocker aids in creating the curved ski footprint necessary to generate the initial force to balance the skier at the beginning of the new turn.
While some experts advocate that you start the carved turn by simply removing the weight from the lower ski, this is a relatively slow way to start the upper ski carving. Most top skiers take a more proactive approach to turn initiation by harnessing the momentum from the previous turn, moving their body across the skis toward the center of the new turn and extending away from the inside edge of the new outside/uphill ski, to bend the ski and initiate carving .
Because the ski force resulting from the initial extension of the leg from the uphill ski is followed by an unweighting, the skier must counter this by using his momentum against the ski as the path of the upper body and skis converge. Controlling the pressure on, and angle of the ski on the snow throughout the turn, by combining the extension and flexion of the legs with a vectoring of the skiers momentum across the path of the skis, is key to skillfully controlling the path and speed of the skier.
Whether skiing on steep, icy terrain or frozen crud, it is important to keep the skis carving through the snow during the completion of the turn to allow the upper body to continue smoothly across the path of the skis toward the center of the new turn.
Achieving an early “edge set” on the inside edge of the new outside ski at the beginning of the turn to generate a large turning force early in the turn, is of major importance to bringing the legs and upper body into alignment and reaching a dynamic balance at the fall line.
At the apex of the turn, with the outside leg extended, resisting most of the force, the skis and upper body are instantaneously moving on parallel paths. At this point, the weight of the skier and the centrifugal force are exactly balanced by the force which is principally generated by the outside ski. From this point, the legs are flexed and the edge angle of the skis decreased, decreasing the force on the outside ski to allow the path of the upper body and skis to converge.
At turn completion/initiation, the upper body and hips are directly above the skis facing the center of the new turn; the skis are flat on the snow, poised, ready for a gliding extension onto the uphill ski to start the new turn.
Skiing with “Natural Movement Patterns”
Picture this: you are running smoothly downhill on a dry river bed, stepping from rock to rock with the body leading the way, continuously facing in the direction of the river bed. You are smoothly stepping foot to foot, and with the right shoes, each time you land, your foot holds securely, and with each step, you smoothly step on the next rock without bracing against it.
Now, imagine you change to shoes with slippery soles, and before you start descending, you fasten your two feet together. Now you have to hop from rock to rock, and when you land there, a bracing action is required to prevent the loss of footing. More importantly, when you attempt to get downhill this way, your body assumes a bracing position uphill of your feet, rather than leading the legs to roll smoothly into the next step. This analogy between the new and old movement pattern in skiing, I believe, embodies the essential differences between the two methods of skiing.
Employing independent leg action with a ski which will hold securely when placed on edge and a flowing movement pattern with the correct upper body alignment, rather than skiing a series of abrupt twisting and bracing actions, is the more effective and efficient way to ski with the modern skis.