By Ron Kubicki, PSIA/AASI Certified Level III Alpine/Children’s Specialist II
There are a lot of ways to improve your skiing and expand your skill base. It doesn’t matter if you are still using a wedge to start your turn or if you are a dynamic parallel skier. There are tactics and drills we can all use to make us more adaptable and able to explore more of the mountain.
No matter how you turn or what terrain you are comfortable on, you can challenge yourself with a couple of simple drills that give you a sense of being able to make consistent turns no matter what terrain changes you encounter.
Like I said, any level skier can do this, so go and find terrain you are comfortable with, including other skier and rider traffic.
Drill 1: Changing Lanes
Start facing downhill, make a turn (in either direction) and then count:
1-hut, 2-hut, turn.
Repeat:1-hut, 2-hut, turn.
Repeat: 1-hut, 2-hut, turn.
Repeat: 1-hut, 2-hut, turn.
After the fourth one, count 1-hut, 2-hut, 3-hut, turn.
Then go back to the 1-hut, 2-hut count.
What you just did is change lanes. You made four short turns then a medium sized turn, which changed your position on the slope.
Now immediately repeat the four turns with the 1-2 count then another 1-2-3 count and you will switch back basically into the lane you started in.
Repeat this several times and you should find the rhythm. The cadence of the count has you focused on turning, and not on what terrain or snow you are on. So instead of avoiding that bump or depression, or pile of ungroomed snow, you skied through it. You were in charge of your skis and what they were doing. The change in cadence from the two-count to the three-count keeps you actively engaged and adds versatility to your turn shape and size.
Play with this on various pitches and soon you will develop the ability to change where you are on the slope or deal with more of what the mountain will throw at you while maintaining turn-shape and speed.
Drill 2: Hourglass
Again, find suitable terrain for your skill level and comfort zone.
Start by making a long radius turns, immediately reducing each following turn until you are doing a short radius turn.
Now increase the size of each turn until you have returned to the size of your original long radius turn.
Ideally, you should have the same number and length of turns as you decreased and increased your turns. An image of your run would give your turns the impression of an hourglass shape.
You should maintain the same speed throughout this drill. Try to do this in a predetermined length of slope, say the distance between two lift towers. Do this with a partner and grade each other on how closely you create your hourglass. This will enhance your ability to ski and turn where and when you want without regard to or concern about the terrain or condition of the snow.
Like I said in the beginning, any level and any age skier can use these drills.
Have fun with the beginner kids doing these together.
Wedge skiers are likely to find that the rhythm and cadence may encourage them to match skis more often and sooner in their turns, getting them closer to parallel.
Advanced skiers should find the cadence and rhythm enhances their turns and may improve their balance, stance and tactics on the mountain.
Learning and practicing these fun drills takes you out of your norm – making the same turns on the same slopes – and gives you the ability to ski where you want without regard to conditions and terrain.
Plus if you do them with friends, or even alone, it may add some variety and fun to your day and enrich your overall experience on the mountain.
For these and many more fun and useful drills, take a group or personal lesson/coaching session from any of our PSIA-E trained staffs. They love to “share the fun!”
I’ll be looking for you on the mountain.
Turn left. Turn right. Repeat!