By Ron Kubicki, Director, Holiday Valley Snowsports School
I have talked a lot about keeping a natural, athletic, upright stance in these articles. Probably nothing is more important than understanding that skiing is an aggressive athletic activity. It requires you to be active and in control of your skis. With that being said, most athletic activities that require forward motion begin with the body. The body prepared for action.
Stand up and pretend you are going to receive a serve in tennis. How are you standing? Are you standing with your hands at your sides with your weight on your heels? Probably not. How about playing baseball or football or bowling? In these activities, you must keep a balanced, prepared-for-action stance. You should be like that in skiing.
Get in your balanced stance and lean back as far as you can – not too far is it? Why? Because you can’t! So why do people lean back with their weight on the tails of their skis? Because they can! They have the high backs of very stiff ski boots and a foot and half or more of their skis behind them – so it is easy to park and ride. They are not skiing or under control, but with a lot of extraneous, unnecessary and inefficient actions they survive, most times, on groomed terrain.
You can get the picture when you watch the “slide for lifers” on the headwall of Eagle. Thirty foot sideslip, a quick ungainly pivot and another thirty foot slide. This is not skiing. You cannot “slip and pivot” and be in any sort of control. If you are leaning back, you are just along for the ride since you cannot engage the effective part of the ski, the front edges. The edges behind your boot are mostly straight and can only skid sideways.
In skiing you need to use the front of your skis. By using the front edges, you control your skis, edges, pressure, speed, terrain, line of descent, and all the other things you need to be a considered and accomplished skier. How does your stance affect this? It does because we need to commit to the turn and manage the front of the skis – the steering wheel. We need to engage an early edge and gradually develop edge and pressure as speed, terrain and turn shape dictate.
So how do we “commit” to the turn? The key is to extend our center of mass in the direction we are going – or, if you will by “skiing into the future.”
Go back to your tennis stance. The serve is coming over the net and you have to move quickly to return it. What do you move first? Do you stand straight up and extend your foot and place it on the ground, then move your body over that foot? No, you launch off of your solid balanced stance and project your body – “center of mass” – into the future. Then you move your feet as you need to keep your body in balance. What happens if your feet don’t move? Why, you fall down!
“Same, same” in skiing. You extend off your solid base and engage your ski edge and pressure to keep your feet supporting you. Admittedly, this is the tricky part, since through pressure control your feet are not always underneath you. They are typically off to one side or another, giving you support through a combination of some sophisticated laws of physics, like centripetal force, centrifugal force, body in motion, etc. But in all cases you are determining the path and speed of your skis.
Want another example of moving “into the future?” Watch someone walk. Where is the foot that has most of the support when they are moving? Is it under or in front of them? No, it is behind them and the other is moving ahead to be where the body needs it to be to keep moving.
As you develop this awareness, you will soon realize the ease with which you can manage the actions of your skis on the snow and become a much more proficient and efficient skier.
So to wrap it up, you must commit to your turns and “ski into the future” by extending off a solid and balanced stance. All the while, you’re engaging your edges and pressure, with steering and rotary action to keep your skis on a solid base.
For this and other tips for adaptability and progress in your skiing, consider a session or lesson with one of our PSIA/AASI trained instructors.
Thanks for reading this article and I hope to see you on the slopes!