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Alpine Advice from the Pro: No Poles


By Ron Kubicki, PSIA/AASI Certified Level III Alpine/Children’s Specialist II

No matter how long we have skied, we all have certain little glitches and kinks in our techniques. The problem is, we ski that way so often that we adapt and compensate in ways that our body gets used to and it becomes ingrained in our skiing.

Well no matter your level of proficiency – from wedge turners to parallel skiers – we can always hone and fine-tune our skills.

One quick skill-check we can all make is to leave the poles at the bottom of the lift. If you ask nicely the lift attendant will probably keep an eye on them for you (maybe bring them a cocoa or candy bar later).

Now head up the hill.

One of the first things you will notice is how much you rely on your poles to move on the flats. I’ll bet you paid a whole lot more attention getting on and off the lift.

All of a sudden you are more aware of using your feet to get around. Without the use of the poles to push you away from the lift, you had to skate. If you skated correctly, you moved your center of mass forward and engaged the inside edge of whatever ski you were pushing off from. Then you extended that leg and glided on your flattened opposite ski until you transferred pressure to the gliding ski, engaged that edge and pushed in the opposite direction.

Did you notice where your center of mass was? Did you feel how you were using your hands and arms naturally to keep you in balance and maintain momentum?

Now head downhill and make some turns by skating across the fall-line. Make a turn when comfortable, complete that turn, skate across the slope a bit and make another turn when you are comfortable. Don’t assume any particular position, don’t get into a pose, just turn. Do this a number of times until you are feeling a natural entry into your turn.

Now try it without skating and do not traverse the slope at all. Just make a series of medium-sized turns and keep them consistent in shape and speed.

Notice how naturally your hands and arms are complementing your movement? We’ve been learning to “move in space” since we were born. We always used our hands and arms to aid us in all forms of movement.

Sometimes, no matter how long we have skied, as soon as we put something in our hands we assume a contrived position – maybe stiff robotic arms, or hands dropped at our sides. Maybe we clench our poles so tight that we have no natural movement of our upper body.

I don’t think when you were turning without your poles that you had your hands and arms straight down at your sides, did you? They were not held straight out in front of you like you were carrying the cat’s dirty litter box either, were they? No, they were probably very naturally relaxed and aiding you in maintaining balance and position on your skis.

Now go grab your poles and do the same tasks you did without them and look for that same sense of balance and athletic movement. Do this with a partner so you can observe each other and make comments. Be truthful with each other. You will be surprised how much you can learn about your own performance by discussing and analyzing someone else’s movements.

All exceptional athletes train and have coaches; that is how they got to where they are and maintain their elite status. Break the plateau you are in. Have a practiced professional ski with you and see how much they can elevate your “game.”

There are a number of these easy tasks and exercises you can gain by taking a group or private lesson from any of our area’s PSIA-E trained Snowsports school professionals.

As always, I look forward to seeing you all on the slopes.

Smile. Turn left. Turn right. Repeat!

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