February 2017 - ALPINE SKIING & RIDING
Take Your Skiing to the Next Level
By Gail Setlock
Today’s ski gear has made it easier to ski a variety of conditions and terrain. The rockered technology makes a ski more versatile in a variety of snow conditions for all levels of skiers. And to make your skiing more fun, you should be more versatile in your tactical approach, technique and style.
Your gear – skis, boots, poles – are your connection with the snow. So my first tip is to have your gear in good repair and the proper fit for you.
Keep Your Skis Tuned – Edges can dull quickly, even if you are skiing on packed powder. Keep your skis tuned so they will perform consistently each time you ski. Your local ski shop can tune them for you, as well as the shop at your mountain. Or, if you choose to tune them yourself, there are great hand tools available – be sure to have someone show you how to use the tools correctly if you choose to tune your own skis.
Get Your Boots Fitted Properly – Properly fitted boots are the most important part of all your gear as they are your connection to your skis. A good fitting boot allows your movements to transfer directly to the ski. For example when you tip your feet in a properly fitted boot, your result will be better edging skills. Your local shop can adjust your foot bed, cuff, and/or your boot sole to achieve better alignment. And wear only one pair of wool ski socks. Wearing two pairs of socks can cause bunching and pressure points in your boots, making your fit uncomfortable.
Check the Length of Your Ski Poles – The swing and touch of your poles is critical to promote good timing and rhythm of your turns. Poles that are too short may cause you to bend too much; poles that are too long may cause you to stand too tall. A guide to a good pole size: when standing indoors hold your pole by the grip, keeping the pole vertical with the point of the pole on the floor. Your forearm should be parallel to the floor, or slightly lower than parallel.
Now That Your Gear is in Good Shape, Let’s Hit the Slopes! – Skiing is fun and exciting for all levels of skiers. You don’t have to ski the steep black diamond trails to have some challenge and excitement.
Take a New Tactical Approach – Making good tactical decisions can make any trail more challenging and fun. The mountain is your playground, so explore it in a variety of playful ways. Quite often people ski the same type turn regardless of the trail pitch or snow conditions.
For example, some people prefer to ski longer turns, while others like short turns. Some folks ski on the edge of the trail, while others go back and forth across the trail from treeline to treeline. Next time you go skiing try something different. Ski turns of a different size and shape than you usually do. Or shake it up a bit by skiing three long turns, three short turns, three long and three short, while maintaining a rhythm and flow – don’t stall or traverse in between the size changes. This allows you to be more versatile and playful on the trails.
Another tactical challenge is to add more shape to your turn. Often, people don’t finish their turns, thus picking up speed with each turn. Add more shape – ski a more rounded turn – making sure to finish your turn to help control your speed. This can be especially helpful on steeper terrain.
Another fun tactic is skiing in synchronization with another skier. Synchronized skiing is not only fun, but makes you ski to another person’s rhythm and turn shape. There are many different patterns you can do with two or more people. One of the easiest synchro styles is to have one person ski in front of you. You will mirror them by turning the same direction at the same time. Key in on their pole swing – as soon as they swing that left pole, you do the same, and make the same left turn size and shape they are in the same direction. And get ready for the next turn by watching and making your right pole swing and touch when they do, then making your right-hand turn mirroring them. Keep watching their pole swing as that is an easy indicator of when they are going to make the next turn.
Another fun synchro style is skiing side-by-side, with both of you turning the same direction at the same time. You may need to adjust your turn shape, making either shallow or more rounded turns in order to maintain the same speed as your partner, while maintaining the same cadence and rhythm – and turning in the same direction at the same time. One of the great outcomes of synchro skiing is that you turn on demand – turn to the other person’s rhythm and timing – and you may turn in places on the hill that you normally might avoid.
Making different tactical choices in your skiing is not only fun, but will take your skiing skills to the next level. It allows you to challenge yourself without pushing yourself into the “yikes zone” of fear.
Take a Ski Lesson – Lessons are fun, and you can work on a variety of things that will help you enjoy your ski day. An instructor can help you with technique, or maybe show you some of the tactile options mentioned above. Skiing with an instructor will not only give you a good visual image to copy, but will allow you to talk with them about what your personal goals are and how to achieve them. Many instructors are certified with the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA), which means they have studied, practiced, and challenged themselves to achieve a professional level of certification.
And make time to practice what you’ve learned. It’s fun to challenge yourself. You’ll find that you will get out of your skiing what you put into it! Having good equipment that fits you well, along with changing some tactics in your skiing will take you to the next level.
Check with your favorite mountain to learn more about lessons, programs, and clinics that fit your needs. In addition to the typical one- or two-hour lessons that mountains provide, many offer multi-week programs – as well as weekend clinics that focus on your goals.
Gail Setlock (email@example.com) is the Director of the Gore Mountain Snow Sports School. A 35-year member of PSIA, Gail is level 3 certified and is an alpine examiner for PSIA. In the off-season, she is an avid mountain biker and says the two sports complement each other with rhythm, timing and making tactical decisions.