Blog: Ski Instruction
It seems to me that the art of making properly rounded ski turns has been lost by much of the skiing public. Other PSIA Level 3 certs I talked with have confirmed it: they have never spent so much of their teaching time working with clients to make round turns.
I attribute this, at least in part, to the increase in the amount of tip and tail rocker on the skis being used by everyone. Rocker makes it easier to twist skis quickly and the result is that all the turning force comes right at the apex of the turn.
Our self-preservation instincts push us to get around that corner as quickly as possible so the response is to twist to get the started and finished post haste.
This past week, I attended the Master’s Academy at Killington skiing with PSIA Demo Team Member Robin Barnes. Robin skis 300 days a year working at Heavenly during our winter and is the ski school director at Portillo during our summer.
The key concept for our group was a simple stance adjustment to make sure we had contact with both ankles on the boot cuff all through the turn. A more traditional PSIA turn concept is to start the long-leg / short-leg extension in your ankle, so this was surprisingly tricky to master for our group of experienced level 3 instructors.
We spent the first two days focusing exclusively on this adjustment so we could make it second nature. It takes lots of repetition to break a long-term movement pattern. The key thought for me is to feel the ankle / lower-leg biting and holding onto the lower part of the boot tongue. Robin suggested that we imagine we had teeth tattooed on our lower legs and ankles. The extension / flexion for pressure control comes from the knees and not the ankles.
Last month I made a connection between intermediate skiing and geometry. This applies to advanced skiers and to take it a step further, I’ll add physics to the mix.
There are two ways to put your skis on edge. The first method, inclination, uses the whole body. Angulation, the second method, creates angles by using our hips and knees joints.
When skiing at speed we can tip our whole body relying on centrifugal force to hold us up. These banked type turns can be fun in a cruising type mode but will not allow for very good edge hold as the edge angle created can only be as large as the amount of body tip.
When we tip using our hip joint and keep our upper body upright so that our shoulders are level to the horizon, we can create a much larger edge angle. In this way we utilize our most powerful joint which is surrounded by a web of powerful muscle.
This allows us to resist the forces that want to both tip us up hill while pulling us off our round turn shape and ultimately hold a better edge. Angulation in your knees should only be used to fine tune things as those joints are much weaker and fragile and offer less range of motion than our hips.