Ski Tips to Improve Balance and Edging
Yankee’s editor, Mel Allen, knows that I taught skiing for years so he keeps asking me about ways he can improve his turning and edging. I haven’t seen him ski yet, but based on his simulated ski moves, I am guessing that the tips below will help him. (As a little side note, I love watching people pretend they are skiing. Swoosh, swoosh. It cracks me up.) So here are the tips, and in a future blog posting, I will let you know if it helped Mel. Warning: for those who learn visually, lots of text follows. My recommendation, read this, then take a lesson!
With your ski equipment on, at the top of the slope, rock back and forth in your boots, fore and aft with your shin against the front of boot, then calf on the back. Ideally you should be balanced over the whole foot with the shin lightly resting on the front of the boot. You should feel slightly more pressure on the ball of your foot and a little less pressure on your heels.
To get this balanced alignment, you have to flex your ankle forward and equally flex your knees. When standing still, the butt should be over your feet, not back over the tails of your skis. Your body should feel relaxed with the skeletal structure supporting your weight. Hands out in front, gripping ski poles correctly? Before you take off skiing, it’s a good idea to get in this balanced stationary position so your body can feel relaxed and balanced. Take a few jumps up and down to feel your body’s extension (getting long and tall as you go up) and flexion (absorbing and bending as you go down). If you land on the tails of your skis or your skis make a loud thwap noise, try a few more jumps until you find the sweet spot, where your body is balanced and the movement is fluid and you can gently absorb your weight as you land.
When you are skiing, you will be moving in and out of a balanced position. The more accomplished you become, the easier it will be to regain balance and adjust to things–ice, then mounds of snow–that may be forces that push you out of balance.
Being in good balance allows you to edge more effectively, to steer your turns better, and to control pressure on your skis. Being well aligned over your skis, allows everything else in skiing to happen.
To work on improving edge engagement, focus on the pressure that can develop under the inside edge of your downhill ski by rolling onto the big toe side of your foot, or ball of your foot. Both the ankle and the knee can push against the diagonal inside of your boot in the early part of your turn. This movement needs to be gradual so your edge can engage. Be patient as your ski engages. Rushing through this part of the turn will make your turn shape zig zagged, rather than round, and we all know from experience that round turns are smoother and help to control speed better. If you find that your turns are zig-zag shaped, you should go to an easier slope and practice slowing your turns down so you feel your ski edge engage to make the turn, rather than steering with your foot to start the turn.
As you end an old turn and begin the new turn, the edges of your skis need to release. This can be accomplished many different ways. With the new ski shapes, it is easiest to relax the legs, flatten the skis and start building up pressure on the new outside ski early in the turn. (Practice this by sideslipping and experimenting with staying flexed while your skis are flat.) So, from turn to turn, we our realigning our balance from new outside ski to new outside ski, or from foot to foot.
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