At this time of year it’s easy to get excited about the latest gear. Whatever the terrain or conditions, skiing well means having the correct equipment for the job. Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.
Unfortunately, effective technique isn’t something you can buy.
Certain things are foundational to good skiing, whether you’re in deep Utah powder, on water-injected World Cup ice, or amid the everyday conditions at your local ski area. The best skiers share certain fundamental skills, and they don’t change them, no matter what.
Style is another matter. That can be left to the individual and expressed in many forms. But good technique is something all good skiers should have in common, and it should not be left to too much interpretation.
Soft snow, blue skies, and good technique make for great pictures, and veteran big-mountain skier McKenna Peterson has it all here. We can learn from what she’s doing right, starting from the snow and working up.
» Notice how Peterson tips her skis at very similar edge angles in relation to the snow. That’s a sign that she has good lateral balance. She also keeps her skis parallel, not letting her inside ski tip wander up the hill.
» There’s much more snow spraying off her downhill (right) ski than her uphill one. That shows us that Peterson is properly committed to her outside ski. Also notice that snow is spraying off her outside ski at the tip as well as the tail. That means she’s pressuring the entire length of the ski.
» Peterson has swung her pole forward—notice how the tip is well ahead of her hand—and is about to plant it in a spot directly downhill from her boot. In a short turn on steep terrain like this, that’s a great place to aim your pole plant. It helps keep your upper body facing the direction of your next turn—down the hill—and aids in directing your crossover movement to the new turn.
» Her inside (left) arm is over her left ski tip, not trailing behind her. This helps keep her upper body stable and “countered” over her lower body.
» In Peterson’s upper body you can see three roughly parallel lines—her shoulders, the chest strap of her pack, and the bottom of her jacket. Those parallels mean everything is working together to accomplish her goal.
» Notice how the zipper of Peterson’s jacket is more or less perpendicular to the slope. Keeping her head, shoulders, and upper body leaning out over her outside ski, rather than into the hill, puts her in a great athletic position from which she can easily control speed and prepare to move into the next turn.
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.
K2/Alta athlete (and salmon fisherwoman) McKenna Peterson grew up racing (seriously, didn’t all the best skiers?) in Sun Valley and then at CU. Now she’s a freeskiing competitor and lives in Utah.