Skiing technique – three big mistakes.

Skiing technique 0

We all do it, even the experts. Better Skiing technique helps!

Skiing technique : mistake #1: Standing too upright.

Skiing is dynamical in nature. Constantly moving. It is not a series of individual, and separated events but a continual stream of them. More akin to a moving stream than a line of individually separated stones.

The oft-promoted, and oft-accepted idea of being “in balance” is completely wrong.  There is never time to be “in” balance; we would have to come to a stop in order to be able to do that.  As John Shedden pointed out to me once, if you stand a brick on its end, on a flat level surface, it will be in balance.  We cannot ski like that.

Skiing technique requires instead, for our balanc-ing to be of a ‘fuzzy’ nature. So long as we are moving, we will not ever be “in” balance, we will instead be constantly moving towards that: constantly making (often unconscious) movements adjusting to changing circumstances. This is one of the reasons that skiing is difficult.  There is much you can do to change this, even while you are at home. 

Actually, just standing upright in the kitchen is difficult, ask a baby. It requires constantly making minute, and in the case of adults unconscious movements in order to stay “in balance”. It is just that once adult we have become adept at it, and don’t notice, whereas when we are babies and practicing it, we fall over quite a bit.

Skiing technique has an optimal body posture.

Optimal body posture is also of a fuzzy nature.  We can’t ski effectively if we expect to be able to adopt one posture at the top of the slope and hold it like that all the way down. Phil Smith once pointed out to me that I looked like I was trying to ski like a cardboard cut-out.

What we must do however, is to adjust our postures in line with circumstances, but within what we might call a “postural envelope”: a small suite of effective rules for controlling our posture. As I pointed out elsewhere here one rule is to not stand too stiffly tall.

To do this, and this is of crucial importance, you must be able to flex your ankle joint, you knee joint, and your hip joint. They must work in concert, each one flexing and extending at the same time. I really want you to give this enough thought to get it deeply embedded in your understanding of skiing.

Good Skiing technique requires you to be active.

It is impossible to ski skilfully if your legs do not both flex and extend. Irrespective of whether your legs are flexed, or stretch straight, good skiing is doomed if they stay like that.  You have to develop the ability to be active on your legs, and this is not easy.

Like everything else in skiing it is simple but not easy and the reason is that we spend fifty weeks a year not doing it. Those weeks are spent on horizontal surfaces with usually loads of grip. So when we commit ourselves oh so willingly to a sloping surface with virtually no friction at all, we will have picked the worst conditions possible for practicing this new ability ( flexing and extending ). Our brains will be screaming “what on earth are you doing, this is hairy enough as it is without bending and stretching!” It will insist we stay rigid, believing that it will make it safer. It is wrong, but you won’t convince it easily.

The place to learn this is in your bedroom in front of your full length mirror. Nice and level. Comfortable and warm. And safe.  Available every day for fifty weeks a year. You can experiment. You can fail and try again, and you won’t come to any harm at all. And all the time you will be building-in the internal sensations of what this key element of technique feels like when done appropriately. And it’s FREE!

Skiing technique – Standing too upright.

Skiing technique 1

Our normal stance for most of the year puts your centre of gravity too far back

On my model of a skiing instructor pictured here in Pic 1, there is a white spot above its sylph-like waist, and a white line mid foot. You will also note that like your author, and many an another skiing teacher she is big-headed, has a tanned face and a rather vacant expression. Nevertheless we can learn from her.

The white spot is roughly where our skier’s overall centre of mass is ( centre of gravity, or cg.). The white line marks that point on the ski boot which lines up with the design centre of the ski (which might not be exactly in the middle: it depends what type of ski it is ).

Effective skiing technique needs your centre of gravity not to be rearward.

In almost all circumstances we need the centre of gravity dot to be either above, or ahead of the white line. We do not (except in special racing circumstances) want it to be behind the line.

You can see from the model that if we adopt the kind of posture which is appropriate for most of the year – i.e. upright – it will place the centre of mass behind the line. This is a position which can be maintained, but which a) requires muscle effort to do it which otherwise would be needless, and b) for reasons I will come to, make it impossible to get the ski to work properly for you. It will also make the whole process more wobbly. This will stop you becoming an expert skier. It is unskilful.

The centre of mass can be arranged above the boot centre line a) by leaning forward at the ankle ( pic 2 ), here I have exaggerated the forward lean to make it obvious.

Skiing technique 2

This is what happens when only your ankle flexes. It feels horrible, and doesn’t work.

or b) leaning forward at the hips ( pic 3 )

Skiing technique 3

Here our skier only flexes at the hips. He’ll get lots of back pain and won’t be able to control his skis

 or you could make matters even worse with a combination of both but without bending at the knee.

Now go to your bedroom mirror and try each of these options, observing yourself sideways on. Decide if either of them feels like it’s going to feel good going down a ski slope. I will wager it won’t.

Now try flexing your ankle joints, and your knee joints, and your hip joints simultaneously as in Pic 4. This will feel stable, safe, and a posture which would help you make rapid adjustments as circumstances required – for example if your skis went over a bump, or onto something a bit icier.

Skiing technique 4

Success! Our skier is now flexing at her ankle, her knee and her hip. Centre of mass above the boot centre line, and the whole system hugely more stable and responsive.

I will put another post up shortly, developing these ideas, so if you’re interested check the blog now and again. In the meantime, I very strongly suggest that you play with these ideas in the warmth and comfort of your room at home. I promise you it will pay you huge dividends next ski season. Dividends you might never have thought possible.

You will need to practice on the slopes to get skilful at this but you can see you don’t have to wait until you are there – it would be a pity not to have practiced at home, where it’s both warmer and cheaper, and let’s be honest, safer.  What is there not to like?

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