Crucial steps to improve your skiing
DID YOU KNOW that in the world of sport there are teams of people out there, whose main role is to find out exactly what the key moves are to execute the nearperfect performance? I know, I met one last week. He’s employed by the British Olympic Federation. If you’ve ever wondered what’s important in the long jump, 100-metre sprint, or the perfect shot, he knows, and he has the equations to back it up. What’s even more amazing is that this is all backed up by years of research, using the latest Bond-like technology; movement sensors attached to the joints, cameras that follow perfectly the movement of the eye, and infra-red cameras to measure heat sources, to name a few. He knows that many sports can be broken down into a few ‘critical factors’ - the difference between winning and losing.
• Be utterly determined to get the right boots for you. This means getting them fitted by an expert in a reputable shop. Make sure the sizing is correct. The natural shape of your foot should be approximately matched by the last of the boot. The fitter will make the necessary changes to the shell to make it match. Get the canting adjusted to match the line of your leg. Buy a customised set of insoles. If the boots are right, this will make more of a difference to your skiing than anything a coach can achieve for you.
• Try to get your boots aligned by a specialist. This means the angle of the base of the boot (both laterally, and fore and aft) will be checked with the natural stance of your body. All professional skiers and racers do this - it makes a huge difference. As a keen skier it will make just as much difference to you.
• Get fit and strong, and make sure you have sufficient strength to be able to deliver the level of skiing
you’re aspiring to. Focus on core stability and overall strength.
• Get a biomechanical assessment from a physiotherapist who specialises in this area. They will check that your body moves effectively, and has the correct muscle groups working when needed. Think of it as a ski MOT test for your body.
• This means trying to keep your weight over the middle of your supporting foot all the time. So, whether it’s one foot or both feet you’re balancing against, the weight should feel as though it’s being directed through the middle. This means you can feel the front of the boot, but you’re not leaning against it. Also, you can feel the back of the boot, but you’re not leaning against that either. The pressure will be directed through the ball and the heel of your foot at the same time. Imagine you were skiing in bare feet. Where would your weight be?
• There are two methods of controlling speed: skidding, and curve length. On steep terrain, narrow paths and icy slopes, learn to twist the skis and scrape sideways. This may sound ridiculously basic, but once you can use this skill accurately it really does make you constantly in charge of your speed and direction - in all terrain. On fast, groomed slopes, follow the arc of the turn back up the hill – then, when you start to slow down, move into a new arc. If it works well, you should feel as though you’re travelling at a constant speed.
Learn to steer
• Practise turning by twisting, edging and guiding the skis
by pressure. If you can pick the right combination of
these three at the right time, you can ski anything.
• When you’re skiing on piste, transfer pressure from the
bottom foot to the top foot before you turn. As you’re
coming through from the middle to the end of the turn, it feels as though you’re adding pressure to the top ski.
Once you’re totally supported on the top ski, begin the new turn.
• In powder, release pressure from the bottom foot to start the turn. This means that as you come through the turn, you’ll feel pressure building up from the bottom ski. If you relax the leg, and allow the pressure to release, the new turn will start.
• Learn to use both these methods in your skiing. Simultaneous steering
• Turn and edge both skis at exactly the same time. As soon as there is a delay between one ski and the other, there’ll be a blockage in the turn.
We haven’t mentioned the mental factor. How your mind works when you’re out on the mountain can often be either the biggest key or barrier to success, as it is in all sports. This is a huge area, and differs with every individual. If it’s an issue, you’ll need to face up to it and focus on that as your main area for improvement. Manyskiers, when faced with a mental block, try to address it by going back to looking at technique, equipment or body. This is the wrong approach. A good coach who is strong in this area can help you work through it. We will go into this in more depth in the next issue.
All this may seem like a long list of dos and don’ts, but it’s these key areas that will make all the difference to your skiing. There’s a danger of making it all more complicated than it need be. So think of it as your ‘to do’ list for this coming season. And remember the critical factors: equipment, body, balance, methods of steering, and mental approach. That’s it,
Courtesy of Ski and Board Magazine www.skiclub.co.uk | Photos by Mark Junak www.snowimages.co.uk