Mogul Mick's Skiing Secrets

Advanced Ski Techniques

 

Essentials of the Advanced Skill Set

You will want to practice early turn initiation, which involves releasing the skis' edges by flexing the legs, tilting what has been the outside ski onto its little-toe edge and what has been the inside ski onto its big-toe edge, all the while keeping the skis moving in the same direction, and rapidly accomplishing this edge change so that the skis are flat against the snow for only a fraction of a second. The phenomenon that has been described as "phantom edging" occurs when the little-toe edge of what becomes the inside ski does not actively engage the snow. The technique of keeping the inside ski light is a technique that belongs to the intermediate skill set. With recent developments in high-tech ski designs and new school advanced ski techniques, the edges of both skis are to be engaged and gripping the snow, although there will usually be more pressure on the big-toe edge of the outside ski in most situations.

Once the edge change has been accomplished, be patient and allow the edged skis to begin turning at their own pace. Whatever you do, maintain the parallel relationship of the skis, and do not twist or turn them in order to steer them into the next turn. Rotational movements will only result in loss of edge grip. With adequate edge pressure and grippy snow, both skis will carve a nicely rounded arc as a result of their built-in side-cuts, leaving parallel, equidistant "railroad tracks" in the snow. Look back at your tracks to verify that both skis are parallel, equidistant and carving narrow tracks. Keep in mind that the edge angle of inside ski controls the edge angle of the outside ski.

At the same time as you tilt your skis from one set of edges to the other, your center of mass should be projected toward the outside of the new turn and down the fall line. This decisive move requires commitment to the new turn. If you want to turn sharper or faster, simply tip your inside ski more onto its little-toe edge by raising its big-toe edge higher off the snow. Increase the edge pressure on both skis by extending your legs. To keep carving all the way through the turn, it is necessary to continually adjust your edge angle and edge pressure. Practice by skiing garlands across the fall line.

On steeper slopes, the pole touch is replaced with a pole plant. Also, as the slope's pitch increases, it becomes even more important to separate the movements of the lower body from that of the upper body, which remains facing down the fall line, regardless of which way the skis are turning. While tilting the skis from one set of edges to the other, the body's center of mass is projected across the skis and down the fall line ahead of the feet. This decisive movement requires a commitment to the new turn, and a trust that your skis will catch up to your torso in time.

Skiing steeper terrain while using the same basic movement patterns that have been practiced and mastered on intermediate slopes will help develop your advanced skill set. The skills required for making purely carved, parallel turns include releasing the skis' edges by flexing the legs, early edge change initiated by tilting what will become the inside ski onto its little-toe edge, maintaining balance with an angulated (laterally tilted and counter-rotated) body position, and dynamic anticipation of the next turn, as the turning skis cross back and forth under the torso's continuous path down the ski slope.

To summarize the advanced skill set:
  • Learn and master all the essential movement patterns required for expert skiing.
  • Flex and extend your legs to release and engage the skis' edges.
  • Pull your feet back just before edge change to restore your fore/aft balance.
  • Tilt your skis from one set of engaged edges to the other set of edges quickly.
  • Initiate your turn by tilting and engaging the little-toe edge of your inside ski.
  • Keep your skis moving in the same direction while changing their edges.
  • Develop a high edge angle at the very beginning of your turn.
  • Vary your turn's radius by changing your skis' edge angles.
  • Compensate for high edge angles by bending laterally at the waist.
  • Counteract turning forces by twisting the torso to face the outside of the turn.
  • Hold the arms wide, with elbows out and hands reaching forward.
  • The pole tip touches the snow at the initiation of each turn, with no hesitation.
  • Swing the inside pole forward and down the fall line, using wrist action.
  • The inside hand, shoulder and hip are positioned forward through the turn.
  • The outside hip drops toward the snow to increase the skis' edge angle.
  • Modulate edge angles and the amount of leg extension/flexion throughout the turn.
  • Continuously project the upper body across the skis and down the fall line.
  • With appropriate edge angles and body alignment, turns are carved, not skidded.
  • Regardless of the turn's radius, round-out your turns to control your speed.
  • Pay attention to feedback from your tactile and proprioceptive sense organs.
  • Have a very clear mental picture of expert skiing, and then ski that way!

As with the novice and intermediate skill sets, to avoid the development of bad habits that can impede further progress, advanced skills should be taught, evaluated and corrected early on by a competent ski instructor. Beyond the advanced skill set are the specialized techniques of expert skiing, which enable skiers to become proficient on very steep slopes, in deep powder snow, on bumps and jumps, skiing among the trees and participating in ski races. The entire mountain becomes the playground of the expert skier. Enjoy it!

The following links will provide way more information about this modern approach to skiing, presented by acclaimed instructors who are far more knowledgeable than I am:

Harald Harb's Primary Movements Teaching System

Harald Harb is a former member of the PSIA National Demonstration Team, which means that he was one of the best skier/instructors in the world. Because the PSIA approach to ski instruction did not keep pace with the development of modern ski technologies, Harb left PSIA and developed his own method of instruction, the Primary Movements Teaching System (PMTS). This is a far more sophisticated teaching system than ATS. PMTS includes both remedial exercises for experienced skiers with crippling habits caused by ATS training, as well as a program for new skiers that enables them to go directly to parallel skiing. Harb's latest book, Essentials of Skiing, is the best book of its kind that I have come across.

Lito Tejada-Flores' Breakthroughs on Skis

Professional ski instructor Lito Tejada-Flores was among a small group of mavericks who saw how a reliance upon steering movements causes parallel turns to be skidded rather than carved. Once a skier develops the counterproductive habit of skidding the tails of their skis through a turn, they can become stuck in what he calls the "terminal intermediate rut." In order for intermediates to break through to the more advanced levels of skiing, these limiting habits have to be replaced with the movements that are necessary for making carved turns. You will find many helpful articles on this web site, as well as his books and videos.

Tips for Skiing Safely

Even with modern ski equipment and carving techniques, safety remains a big concern. Having top quality bindings that are maintained in good condition and properly set can help reduce the risk of injury, but they will not eliminate it. As someone skis better, they will naturally ski faster, and the risk of serious knee and head injuries increases. Lightweight helmets designed for skiing are becoming increasingly popular. Make sure you wear one! Knowing the limitations of your equipment and your body is also important, and learning the proper way to fall can prevent a serious injury.

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