Practicing synchronized skiing helps develop an external awareness that will dramatically improve your skiing, especially in the bumps, the trees, in rugged terrain and on crowded slopes. The members of Vail Contessa, champions of the 1999 World Alpine Synchro Ski Championships, often talk about how time seems to slow down when they compete together¿and how they feel in the "zone." During my 10 years of coaching synchro skiing, I've identified five major benefits:
Skiing Out Of Your Mind Many skiers "overthink" the sport. Studies show that the higher the brain activity, the lower the performance. The more we think about a task, the harder it becomes. Ever think about how to walk? When you're synchro skiing, there's no time to worry about how you look or to fuss over form. Instead of "internal" thinking, you must have a 100 percent "external" focus on what's happening on the slope.
Creating Rhythm All good skiers know that rhythm is essential. Whether you are the leader or the follower, synchro skiing requires rhythm. The leader is forced to focus on rhythm and her teammates are forced to maintain the rhythm to stay in synch.
Blending Skills You use "habitual skills" to make consistent turns on groomed runs over and over. "Perceptual skills" are needed to ski off-piste, to pick a line through the trees or bumps. Synchronized skiing refines both these skills.
Learning By Following One of the best ways to improve is to follow a better skier. Synch skiing is all about following a rhythm and matching speed and turn shape.
Having Fun Synchro skiing¿the only form of competitive skiing that's done as a team¿is just plain fun. Most skiers would rather ski with a group than alone. When you're having fun, you relax¿and your skiing improves.
Battle 2000 Set
Ramsau, Austria, and the Vail women's team will defend their titles when the $15,000 World Alpine Synchro Ski Championships, presented by SKI Magazine and Paul Mitchell Systems, return to Vail, Colo., April 20-22. The event, expected to draw 40 teams from 10 countries, is free to spectators.
The competition is open to teams of eight skiers in five divisions: Alpine, Women's Alpine, Nordic (Telemark), Combined (any combination) and Snowboard. The deadline for registration is March 1, 2000. For more information, go to www.battleoftheskischools.com; or contact (970) 479-6333; firstname.lastname@example.org .
Author's Note: Brian Blackstock has coached three winning teams in the World Alpine Synchro Ski Championships. He is a PSIA examiner in both Alpine and Telemark and trains instructors in Vail. Demonstrations by the Vail women's team.