You made your first turns of the season and maybe those turns felt a little shaky. The #1 issue I see in the early season is balance. If you aren’t centered, then all the other skills are impacted. I use several balance drills to help my students find their center at the beginning of the season.
The first drill is a called the shuffle. Start this drill on an gentle groomed slope and as you get more comfortable, gradually move to progressively steeper slopes. Move one foot then the other forward and back alternatively while traversing across the hill and making big wide turns. You may find this simple task surprisingly difficult at first.
If you feel like you are getting “stuck” and can’t initiate a turn while shuffling your feet, it means your hips and backside are too far back. Use your hamstrings and glutes to pull your feet back under your torso while keeping your core strong. Once you “get” this drill (which may take a while), gradually diminish the shuffling until it’s gone. Ideally, you’ll still feel balanced.
Do this exercise on-and-off during your first few days on snow and you’ll really increase your awareness of your balance and center. During the season, if I feel things aren’t quite right, I revisit this drill to recalibrate my balance.
The next drill I use works well with kids but also helps adults. Try this out with your family as a group as a fun way to kick off the season. With your skis across the hill hop both skis off the snow simultaneously. To do this you must be centered over your feet. Practice this standing still several times. Then assign a code word for the hopping action. With smaller kids, I “ribit” like a frog and with older kids I use the word “popcorn.”
Then, put things in motion on a low-angle pitch. When you call out the code word, everyone has to hop regardless of what part of the turn they are in at that moment. Let your kids take turns calling out the code word as well. Your balance will improve with the use of this drill. Both of these drills also can be used for telemark and alpine skiers.
Balance is the foundation upon which your skiing is built. Time spent getting centered at the beginning of the winter will pay dividends all season. Try these drills yourself or take a lesson to have a pro help you find your center.
Dave Zientko is a PSIA Level 3 Certified Ski Instructor at Whiteface. His focus is helping intermediates and advanced skiers enjoy more of the mountain while skiing efficiently and tactically in all conditions.