Wondering how training might help your form? Check out Coach T’s tips below for a stronger season on the snow.
Growing up in Vermont, I was fortunate to start skiing at just 4 years old. By the age of 5, I was on a racing team at The Green Mountain Valley School, where I trained every weekend in the cold winters until I was 17.
My coaches were experts at connecting with young kids and giving us personalized, bite-sized feedback. Most of the time, they gave us one thing to focus on and it would always come back to the fundamentals of the sport. Depending on the skill we were trying to master, we might spend as little as 15 minutes or as long as an hour on a single run, sticking with it until we began to feel the changes they had prescribed.
Today, when friends, family and clients ask for advice, my suggestions still relate to those same core tenets that my coaches repeatedly enforced over the years. Though every skier is different and needs specific direction, I believe that there are three key concepts that all skiers can continually work on to shred better throughout the course of their lives:
Ski on both feet
To win a ski race, the objective is to get through a series of turns fastest. If you crash in a race, you’re not winning. It’s that simple. So while racing may seem dangerous to the novice skier, it was actually a great foundation for ski safety. It forced me to learn—quickly—how to stay in control under all conditions.
The number one key for control is to stay forward on your skis. Lean forward, press your shins into the tongues of your boots and feel the tip of the ski bite into the snow. The hourglass shape of a ski (wider tip and tail, narrow middle or “waist”) turns best when its entire edge is in contact with the snow. When you lean back on your tails, you lose pressure on the tips, which means it takes longer for the skis to respond when you try to initiate the turn. If you need a visual, picture driving your car from its back seat...!
SKI ON BOTH FEET
When we are beginners, we make “pizza” or a wedge shape with our skis. As we progress, we make “french fries”—skis parallel and apart. These junk food analogies have stood the test of time because both kids and adults get them. (Besides, who doesn’t like french fries?) Good instruction should feel easy and make sense.
Once we reach french-fry-status, our snow “signatures” should resemble winding train tracks—parallel lines carved by the meticulous engineering of those complex boards under our feet. As you gain confidence in your turns, you’ll begin to “carve”—scoring the snow on the trail like the clean cut of a sharp knife—which makes these train tracks look even cleaner. If we weren’t carving at training, my Bostonian ski coach would yell at us for “spreadin’ the buddah” as we skied by him. In addition to leaving messy tracks, “spreading the butter” means you’re not grabbing the traction of the surface under your skis, you’re not winning races, and you’re getting into real trouble on ice.
A lot of intermediate skiers are able to carve with one ski (their downhill ski), but not both simultaneously. A goal nearly every skier—even experts—can work on is getting that pesky uphill ski parallel to its neighbor and in full contact with the snow throughout each turn.
Skiing may only be possible during part of the year, but the strongest skiers prepare year-round. Strong doesn’t mean hulk-like muscles or grunting on the bench press under hundreds of pounds. Strong means healthy, resilient bones, tendons, ligaments, and finally, muscles. When we slide down a mountain full of unknown obstacles—for fun!— even the best skiers are bound to fall from time to time. Strength is the key to injury prevention and real-time recovery on the mountain.
Toddlers can’t quite ski because they lack the strength to stand up and stay up, whereas older folks are more prone to fractures and soft tissue damage as a result of losing bone and muscle strength. The best basic strength exercises to work on off the slopes are the deadlift, squat, lunge, push up and pull up. Work on this routine year round, fuel your body right and get enough sleep...and you’ll be in better shape than 80% of the other suckers on I-70.
Coach Taylor loves talking shop—especially when it comes to skiing! For a pre-season training program, ski trip recovery protocol, on-the-go snack advice or tips for building up your endurance on the hill, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or just yell, “It’s snowing!” to get his attention in the gym.