The Thousand Steps Ski Drill is my favorite early season drill to get everything warmed up and working together. It’s a popular exercise in instructional and coaching circles because it works all four major skiing skills – Balance, Edging, Rotation, and Pressure Control.
Select a wide green or easy blue groomed slope. You can get going quite fast so pick a safe spot to do it.
Start by sliding across the hill and making a series of sidesteps up the hill. Once you get the feel for this, as you start a new turn step your downhill ski onto your little-toe edge and balance on it and step the uphill ski down the hill too. Continue stepping until you are going across the hill in the other direction and then repeat.
Depending on the radius of your turns, the width of the slope and your speed, you should get 5 to 10 steps per turn. The most important step is the one in the transition where you move from stepping up the hill to the first step down the hill. Work on nailing the downhill step.
This is a nuanced drill and it’s important to get it right to get the most from it. Focus on each of the following points one at time. Once you have one down, move on to the next:
- Step so that you are balanced and the ski stays level with the slope. If the tail touches the snow first, you’re balancing on your heel. Move more to the ball of your foot when you step.
- Step onto the ski’s edge not the bottom. Think of stepping on the ski that is slicing the snow.
- When looking down at your skis: keep stepping your skis into a” V” so that you are moving down the hill with your body not in an “A” that would indicate you are pushing your tail out and moving against the hill. It’s ok to peek down occasionally.
- Feel the flex and extension activity coming from your ankles.
- Try to “balance into the future” of the turn with your upper body. Your upper body isn’t hanging back but actively moving ahead of your skis.
Do this drill on the flatter parts of a run. Go back to regular skiing on steeper sections and try to keep up that athletic feeling. Alternate back and forth as the slopes pitch allows. Be the driver not a passenger on your skis. This is a good drill for a cold day: it’s a workout and will get your pulse rate up. Later in the season, revisit this drill anytime you’re skiing passively or you don’t feel centered on your skis.
Thousand steps is a great early season drill because it helps work all the skiing skills while forcing you to balance dynamically. Do this drill and you will definitely start your season on the right step. To get the most out of your early season consider taking a lesson with your local PSIA ski pro.