Clinic: Where Things Happen Fast

In the belly of the turn, your skis want to head for the barn. To keep up with them in the fall line, unshakable balance is key.

News flash: When your skis point straight down the 
fall line…they accelerate. It’s a part of any turn that is especially critical to understand.

Instructors and coaches often say, “Keep up with your skis.” They rarely
 tell you what that actually means. It means taking care that your skis are not jetting out from underneath you and leaving your body behind in the backseat. It means maintaining a basic athletic stance throughout the entire turn.

It’s a fundamental law of good skiing—and one of the most frequently broken ones. Everyone does it, more than we all want to think.
 So don’t feel alone. But do study this photo of Harper Phillips, who’s doing a great job of keeping up with his skis on the slopes of Snowbird, Utah.


Photograph by Scott Markewitz

And next time you find yourself pointing your skis down the fall line, keep these fundamentals in mind:

» Ankles flexed: By keeping both ankles flexed past 90 degrees, Harper keeps his lower legs in contact with the fronts of his boots. That transfers his weight toward the front of each ski—the sweet spot.

» Inside ski light: By lifting the tail of his inside ski in the fall line, Harper commits his weight to the outside ski, a move that keeps his body moving forward as his skis accelerate. He focuses his pressure on the front of his outside ski, knowing a pressured ski is a stable ski, even in rough conditions.

» Inside arm forward: Notice how Harper keeps his left arm out in front of his body—his elbow in front of his chest. It has not dropped to and will not drop to—or behind—his waist. By driving it forward he ensures that his upper body stays stable. When your arms drop, your shoulders usually do too, and that destroys an athletic stance.

» Chin, knee, and toes aligned: By keeping his chin in line with his outside knee and his knee in line with—or slightly ahead of—his toes, Harper can keep his center of mass over the sweet spot of the ski. He doesn’t even have to think about where his hips are.

The creativity and gracefulness of your skiing are directly proportional to the quality of your balance. The better balanced you are, the more you can do on skis. 

Harper Phillips is a 1994 Olympian and former member of the U.S. Ski Team. He’s an alumnus of Green Mountain Valley School, Burke Academy, and Mount Mansfield Ski Club.

SKI’s director of instruction, Michael Rogan, is a PSIA Alpine Team captain, USSA Team Academy coach, and Heavenly, Calif., instructor. He spends his summers enjoying more winter at Portillo, Chile, where he’s resident manager.