Don't Be a Technique Dork

Instruction
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Dork 0103

Even the best skiers make mistakes, although some are more blatant than others. Blatant mistakes make a ski instructor think, "I can't wait to fix this person!" But with a few tips, we can cure a lot of our technique maladies. Here we explore classic mistakes made by skiers at all levels, then offer some solutions.

This lesson intends to poke fun at no one-except us. The "dork" pictured here is actually SKI Instruction Director Stu Campbell, thinly disguised. The idea is to demonstrate how all of us can and do get ourselves into trouble. Krista Crabtree, SKI's instruction editor, and PSIA Demo Team member Mike Rogan show us ways to avoid or correct these major errors.

Dorky

Disorganized skier (A). Skiers reveal a lot about themselves by how they walk, dress and even carry their skis. Here we can snag our boot buckles on something, jab someone with our poles or clonk someone with our skis. We're ruining our edges by letting the skis scissor past each other. Our load is unbalanced and uncomfortable.

Cool

Straighten up (B). To walk a short distance, carry skis vertically, in one hand. Keep them aligned (ski straps are helpful), with the bases facing each other and the ski brakes locked together. If we need to walk farther, we should carry our skis on our shoulder as Krista is doing. The load will balance better if the tips are forward.

Dorky

Sitting in the backseat (A). This may be the single most common problem for skiers. When our hips fall back behind our feet, our ankles straighten, and we lose critical contact between our shinbones and the front of the boot cuff. That's like letting go of a steering wheel. We are literally out of control.

Equally Dorky

Too far forward (B). In the old days, getting way forward on the skis was pretty cool. But modern skis don't respond well to leverage and pressure applied to their tips. If we get way ahead of the sweet spot (where the skis are best controlled), our tails skid out.



Cool
Stay centered and balanced (C). The location of the binding, which puts the boot toe near the middle of the running surface, stands us right over the ski's narrowest point-its sweet spot. That's where we should try to stay, flexing our ankles, knees and waist equally. Our hands should be forward and ready.



Dorky
Turning the shoulders faster than the skis. This is a common problem called over-rotation. We have tremendous turning power in our hips and shoulders, because this is where most of our mass is located. By swinging all this mass, we can get our skis to turn (A). Unfortunately, it's very difficult to control (B). Very little edge can be applied, and it's easy to throw our weight onto the inside ski. By over-rotating, we can fall victim to steep terrain and less-than-ideal snow and are likely to crash. Worse, we're twisted back up the hill (C) and totally out of position to begin the next turn.

Cool
Turn with the lower body. Our legs support our body, but in skiing, the upper body must support and enhance what the lower body does. Keep it still, facing the direction of travel (D). The feet, ankles, knees and thighs do the turning. These are the parts that can apply subtle, controllable turning and edging forces. Flexing both ankles into our boot tongues keeps us forward over our skis and allows us to pressure our skis from the sweet spot to the tip to make a clean, carved turn (E). A slight retraction or pulling back of the inside ski keeps us from scissoring our skis (F).



Dorky
Leaning into the hill (G). Tipping our head and shoulders in the direction we want to go results in a "banked" turn. If we are fearful, we want to hug the mountain with the upper body. After all, we don't want to fall down there! The result is that we stand too much on the uphill ski, lose the edge of the downhill ski and fall onto ourphill hip. By tilting ourselves away from what we fear-the fall line-we actually make matters worse.

Cool
Lean out, away from the hill (H). A line across the tops of our shoulders should match the steepness of the slope. Our eyes and shoulders should be level (not tilted) while our hips point into the hill and our downhill hand drives forward. This creates an angle between our legs and our spine that appears as a "pinch" at Krista's right hip. Such angulation helps us place-and keep-our skis on a higher edge.



Dorky
Standing on the inside ski (A). There is no skier on earth who does not get caught inside from time to time. We occasionally get away with it, but it's here that we are most vulnerable to a crash. Few skiers have the strength and balance to really hold on the inside edge of the uphill ski.

Cool
Stay balanced over the outside ski (B). It's not necessary to have 100 percent of our weight there, but there's no more secure feeling than standing on the sweet spot of a bending, slicing ski. It is better than hitting a perfect shot in tennis or golf.



Dorky
Leaving the outside hand behind. Even world-class racers do this from time to time. The hand itself is not the "disease," but a symptom of under-rotation. When our outside half lags too far back, we don't face where we're going. This delays the start of the new turn and elongates the last one (C). It's then tough to tighten the turn's arc to slow down. We might lunge to the inside with the upper body and be thrown off balance (D).



Cool
Bring the outside hand through. In solid turns, our shoulders rotate at the same rate the skis turn. To make this happen, we need to look where we are going and keep our outside hand where we can see it and drive our outside arm forward (E). Our hand will be in perfect position to make our next pole touch. What's more, our angulation will be improved and we will be balanced over edged skis that are arcing cleanly (F).



Dorky
Pivoting the skis. Today's skis don't like to be bullied. Yet we still try to torque them to change direction. To do this, the skis must be flat on the snow (A), something else shaped skis don't like. We then pivot the skis in an oldfashioned way, and push them out to the side until the edges engage. The result is a skid, which leaves a wide L-shaped set of tracks in the snow (B). To complete such a turn, we thrust the tails to displace them further still, so the tips point across the hill. This stops the skid and slows us down (C). People who continue to turn this way usually express the same reaction: "I hate these shaped skis!" That's because they are fighting the skis' design.

Cool
Let the skis turn you. Shaped skis prefer to be on edge (instead of flat on the snow) and slightly out from under us (instead of directly beneath us). When gently pressed along the middle of the edge, the tips engage and they begin to turn (D). It helps to have an open stance, with our feet slightly apart. The ski's hourglass shape (wide at the tip, narrow under foot, then wide at the tail) holds on the snow and bends. It's so secure, we feel we can stand against the edge rather than on it (E). We ride along a smooth, C-shaped arc. We slow down by staying with the arc, letting it complete itself. If we need to tighten the arc, we apply more pressure to the edge of the outside ski by pushing a little harder with the outside leg (F).



Dorky
Standing too loose. Worse than skiing like the Tin Man is the opposite extreme: being too relaxed with the upper body (A). We need some discipline up top. The drill is to keep facing where we are going, or about to go. If our torso and head are too undisciplined, we start working against ourselves. Excess motion up above inhibits what we are trying to accomplish down low.

Equally Dorky
Gripping the poles too hard. It's one thing to keep our hands up and ready, but some of us grasp a ski pole as if trying to strangle it. Such a death grip stiffens the arms. This rigidity spreads to the entire upper body (B). If our arms and torso are stiff, it's difficult to make a relaxed pole plant. It's also hard to use the upper body as an effective balancing mechanism to reinforce what the legs and feet are doing-and we ski like a robot (C).



Cool
Touch the pole to the snow. We often call it a pole "plant." But that's too strong a term for such a delicate movement. Grip the pole the way golf pros tell students to grip a club, "like holding a live bird." This will free our arm and allow our wrist to swing the pole tip forward (D). The pole touch triggers a two-ski edge change. Its main purpose is to stabilize the upper body while the edge roll takes place. Ironically, stiff torso muscles do not inspire a quiet upper body. It begins with a soft grip on the pole (E).



Dorky
Relying on big movements. In the old days of long, stiff, shapeless skis, we needed to flex and extend (move up and down) a lot just to get the skis to turn. So, it's only natural that we still sometimes overkill with big movements. Excessive, harsh movements "surprise" a shaped ski, causing it to react poorly. Standing up too tall is rarely a good idea (A). If we straighten up too much, nearly locking our leg joints, we limit our range of motion and expose ourselves to imbalance. Come down hard, hammering on the edge (B), and the ski wants to rebound off the snow. Or, it may break loose, losing its grip altogether. Suddenly we are in the back seat and out of control (C).

Cool
Apply and release pressure smoothly. Today's skis have turns built into them. They are like trained thoroughbreds. Give them abrupt, excessive commands and they get confused. All they want is gentle guidance. Keep your legs at least partially flexed and your skis edged almost all the time (D). If you rise up too high, your skis tend to flatten. Add pressure and more edge with a fluid flexion of the legs (E). Nothing sudden, nothing too fancy. Most, but not all, of the weight is on the outside ski. Back off the pressure by softly rising up. Swing the pole forward (with a relaxed wrist, remember) and get ready to roll the skis over to their new edges (F).he poles too hard. It's one thing to keep our hands up and ready, but some of us grasp a ski pole as if trying to strangle it. Such a death grip stiffens the arms. This rigidity spreads to the entire upper body (B). If our arms and torso are stiff, it's difficult to make a relaxed pole plant. It's also hard to use the upper body as an effective balancing mechanism to reinforce what the legs and feet are doing-and we ski like a robot (C).



Cool
Touch the pole to the snow. We often call it a pole "plant." But that's too strong a term for such a delicate movement. Grip the pole the way golf pros tell students to grip a club, "like holding a live bird." This will free our arm and allow our wrist to swing the pole tip forward (D). The pole touch triggers a two-ski edge change. Its main purpose is to stabilize the upper body while the edge roll takes place. Ironically, stiff torso muscles do not inspire a quiet upper body. It begins with a soft grip on the pole (E).



Dorky
Relying on big movements. In the old days of long, stiff, shapeless skis, we needed to flex and extend (move up and down) a lot just to get the skis to turn. So, it's only natural that we still sometimes overkill with big movements. Excessive, harsh movements "surprise" a shaped ski, causing it to react poorly. Standing up too tall is rarely a good idea (A). If we straighten up too much, nearly locking our leg joints, we limit our range of motion and expose ourselves to imbalance. Come down hard, hammering on the edge (B), and the ski wants to rebound off the snow. Or, it may break loose, losing its grip altogether. Suddenly we are in the back seat and out of control (C).

Cool
Apply and release pressure smoothly. Today's skis have turns built into them. They are like trained thoroughbreds. Give them abrupt, excessive commands and they get confused. All they want is gentle guidance. Keep your legs at least partially flexed and your skis edged almost all the time (D). If you rise up too high, your skis tend to flatten. Add pressure and more edge with a fluid flexion of the legs (E). Nothing sudden, nothing too fancy. Most, but not all, of the weight is on the outside ski. Back off the pressure by softly rising up. Swing the pole forward (with a relaxed wrist, remember) and get ready to roll the skis over to their new edges (F).

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