Ask the Experts: January 2003

Ask the Experts

The Professor

A friend taught me how to ski. When I turn, my whole body twists. Can old habits be broken after 10 years?

Nick Langdon,

It happens all the time: Well-intending friends and relatives instill bad habits that can last a lifetime. That's why I'm such a strong advocate of professional ski instruction. It takes work and practice to undo bad muscle-memory. On your next ski trip, spring for a private lesson to address this problem. In the meantime, take a look at "Turning the shoulders faster than the skis" ("Don't Be A Technique Dork").

You need to redirect turning energy from your upper body to your legs and feet. First, you must stop trying to turn the skis by twisting your torso. Keep your shoulders quiet. Seeing your hands-all the time-can help. Before you even move, drop your hands to your sides, lift your head and look where you want to go. Without looking down, lift your hands up and out, until they appear in the lower corners of your vision. Your body is now in a natural, forward-facing stance.

As you ski, keep facing where you're going (out the windshield). Keep your hands in sight. If you lose sight of one hand-your left during a left turn, for example-you've rotated your shoulders too far (as if looking out the side window of your car). Lose sight of your right hand in a left turn, and you have let your upper body lag behind (as if you've turned to face your passenger).

Your hands are the best barometers of what your upper body is doing.

-The Professor

Have a question for The Professor? Write Stu Campbell at

The Gear Geek
I keep seeing the term "damp" in ski reviews. What's so great about damp skis?
Jack Umbach,
Akron, Ohio

Skis encounter all sorts of bumps and ripples that set them chattering. A ski that rattles is difficult to control: As you attempt to set an edge and carve a clean arc, the ski jumps out of its groove and skids. Manufacturers dampen these vibrations, usually with rubber (also with electronics and even gels). But while a quieter ski yields better edge-grip, it's possible for a ski to be too damp, or unresponsive. It's nice to have some vibrations, especially in soft snow. They give a ski a quick, spunky feel.
-The Geek

Have a question for The Gear Geek? Write Joe Cutts at

The Trainer
Help! My neck and shoulders always get tight when I ski.
Jana Markovich,
Albuquerque, N.M.

First, warm up. When we're cold, we tense our shoulders and neck and draw our arms in to reduce surface area. Walking or jogging will raise your core temperature and boost circulation. Also, dress correctly, with a base, middle and outer layer, each made of performance fabrics. Next, get loose. Stretch your neck and shoulders before you ski, and even before each run if necessary. Then stretch again afterward. Also, stretch on non-ski days. Stretching twice a day for a few minutes is more effective than a 20-minute stretch once a week. Finally, think technique. Instead of using your poles, skate across flat sections.
-The Trainer

Have a question for The Trainer? Write Kellee Katagi at