Just in case I ever go skiing again, here is a public note-to-self on what I learned last time – the stuff that clicked on the last day…
Skiing is an odd sport in that for the most part there’s only one manoeuvre you need to learn: the parallel turn. Then it’s just a case of repeating this one move until you reach the bottom of the slope.
But there’s lots to remember when you’re travelling at speed on a 45-degree icy slope at 4pm when you’re knackered from a whole day of falling over. The books try to cover this stuff but each lesson I’ve seen leaves something out. It’s about trying to find the right balance between too much information and not enough. Tricky. Like skiing.
1. Lean forward in your boots ALWAYS. Feel your downhill shin on your boot’s tongue as you turn and traverse the slope. Not enough to bruise your shins but enough to feel it.
Also lean from the hips not the shoulders. That way, you’ll avoid hunching over. Thrust and stay thrusted!
2. Put ALL your weight on your downhill ski. Think about it like you’re giving your uphill ski a rest. Then swap. Really push that inside edge into the snow so it bites into the slope. Carve!
3. The steeper the slope, the more you need to overcome your aversion to leaning forward. Attack the mountain. Commit to the turn. If your uphill ski won’t turn or catches the downhill ski it’s because you’re not leaning forwards. It would be nice for video replays to confirm this but it’s true.
4. Stand tall. Pop up into your turn and as soon as you’ve swung round, stand up, leaving enough flex in your knees to absorb the bumps. Stay down too long and you’ll turn back uphill and lose control. I stayed crouched (wrong anyway) for too long. Any bend should just come from your legs.
5. Keep your shoulders facing downhill. Resist the urge to swing your body round the turn. Overcome this by making a conscious effort to swing your hips instead of your body. Twist it in the opposite direction to your legs.
The slope at L’Olympique – my nemesis…
6. Get that uphill ski off the snow. The steeper the slope the higher up your uphill ski will need to be to avoid catching an edge. If you make an effort to lift it off the snow, your weight will automatically transfer to your downhill ski 100%.
Not doing this caused nearly all my spills.
7. Keep your arms out on front of you at chest height. It looks amateur but keep doing it until you get used to leaning forward ALL the time. Some tutors suggest you try to push open an imaginary door in front of you. I didn’t try this but you get the point. Keep your weight forward – on your balls, not your heels.
8. Leave the snowplough back at the chalet. Learning the snowplough is a mixed blessing. Yes, it will help you in the short term, but you have to unlearn it to perform perfect parallels. Someone in my group was learning for the first time and the instructor deliberately skipped the snowplough entirely.
It’s easy to mix a snowplough into your parallel turns. This is fine for the downhill ski because it’s essentially doing the same thing in both instances.
However, when a snowplough gatecrashes your parallel turn, your uphill ski will end up pointing downhill at best or crossing your other ski, causing you to fall. Focus on keeping your ankles close to one another, nice and parallel.
If you ‘pop’ into your turn with enough gusto, it’s easy to take all the weight off your inside ski and carry it next to your outside ski.
9. Use the moguls to help you pop into your turn. Bend your knees into the bump, extend as you crest the bump and hopefully land the turn against the next bump. Surprisingly effective and good for making strong, committed turns.
10. Lastly, an observation. This might be completely wrong but in my experience, you’re most stable on one ski than two. That’s counter-intuitive (much about skiing is) but think about it. If your weight is on both skis and one catches an edge, there’s a conflict of direction between the two skis. One ski could easily bang into the other and send you sprawling.
With all your weight on one ski, there’s no conflict. If your standing ski catches an edge you can use your second ski to steady yourself. If your weightless ski catches an edge, there won’t be enough weight on it to cause a problem.
Hey everyone, did I mention I’d been skiing!?