THE OLD CHESTNUT that “skiing is a series of linked
recoveries” has never been truer when it comes to
balance. Or lack of it! Having the ability to maintain
good balance is absolutely essential when it comes to
skiing well. In fact, if you’re out of balance, it’s practically impossible to do anything but survive from one near catastrophe to another!
However, as a concept, it’s very simple. As humans we
have been striving to stay in balance ever since we made those first faltering steps as toddlers. In fact, we are experts at balance - the hard part is trying to make it a natural, integral part of our skiing.
This is all about setting yourself up with a stable platform from which you can make accurate movements while skiing.It’s an easy one to work on because there are some simple points of balance which are easy to achieve - namely:
1. Feet about hip-width apart
2. Balance over the middle of your feet
3. Ankles knees and hips flexed equally
4. Arms held wide, and away from the body
5. Look up and forward
6. Pelvis tilted at mid range
The placement of the pelvis makes a huge difference. If it’s tilted too far up, the back is very rounded, but there’s too much tension in your abdominals and it’s hard to move freely (Pic.1). Too tilted down, and your back will be hollow, and then it’s harder to move your legs independently (Pic.2). Mid range is perfect (Pic.3).
Essentially it’s about being in a ready-for-action, athletic position while being balanced over the middle of your feet.
Again, this should be a pretty natural posture to get into at any time you’re getting ready to move, whether it’s getting ready
to catch a ball, or being scared and preparing yourself to run away! It’s something you’ll have done before many times.
Working on maintaining balance is a richly rewarding area to focus on when you’re taking a warm-up run. Here are a couple
of activities you can try which will get your balance pin-sharp before you start to open up, and ski with maximum attack.
1. Slowly traverse across the slope while gently lifting the uphill ski. While you’re doing this, focus on your balance-point over the lower foot. It should be over the middle, which means you can feel both the ball and the heel of your foot while tilting it over.
2. Try making some really slow skidded turns with your boots undone. This means all the clips and the power strap. Again you’re aiming to have balance over the middle of the foot.
3. As you make faster turns (having re-clipped your boots!), lift the top ski and cross it over the lower one. When you want to make a change of direction, place it back on the snow and immediately do the same thing again with the other foot. (Pic.4)
4. As you move into the turn, lift up the outside leg so that you have to balance over the inner one while turning. (Pic.5)
5. Take your poles and hold them horizontally in front of you. Think about keeping your feet, knees and hips all square with the line of the poles.
6. Now take the same drill and move it into smooth, round turns. Recovering into balance
All that advice about maintaining balance makes for a good, solid base. But the reality of
maintaining balance means you have to move outside that base to stay on your feet. Imagine a
tightrope walker on a high wire. What would happen to him if he kept all of those good points of
posture while on the wire? Actually, he’d fall off, pretty damn quickly! He would need to move his arms, and the rest of his body, constantly to “recover back” into balance.
This is crucial in skiing, and really marks the difference between inspirational skiers and mediocre ones. While skiing, you need to do whatever it takes to stay balanced, and that means using all of your joints, body mass and arms to recover when you need to. This is why great skiers don’t ski like robots.
This idea of recovering into balance can be practised in many ways. Try some of these:
1. Ski without poles with your arms crossed, and focus on making round, smooth arcs. See how
it affects your balance. (Pic.6)
2. Lift one ski and make short turns on one foot. After a while, swap them around and try the
same drill on the other foot.
3. Now try the same thing, but completely take off the other ski and leave it at the top of the run.
This is pretty tough, but good skiers can do this with ease. (If you find you are losing control or
going too fast, be careful how you slow down. Jabbing your ski-less boot into the snow can have
unhappy results, as editor Arnie Wilson discovered while trying this in Formigal, Spain in January.
His ski boot slowed him down instantly, and he fell hard, fracturing his shoulder.)
Use your turns to help your balance
Using your powers of recovery is essential to great skiing - but if you are constantly in recovery mode, it may be that you’re not giving yourself the best chance to stay in balance.
Try to make sure you have a stable platform to balance against. If you make sharp changes of direction, with an erratic speed, it’s like trying to ride a wild horse! To help your balance while turning, focus on the following points:
1. Always make smooth, round arcs.
2. Keep your speed constant.
3. Make the entry to the turn as smooth as the exit.
Courtesy of Ski and Board Magazine www.skiclub.co.uk | Photos by Mark Junak www.snowimages.co.uk