I often write about encouraging people to feel comfortable and relaxed while skiing. This is a good way to feel and is a large part of what most skiers are after; confidence, grip and control.
Our comfort can hold us back if it prevents us from challenging ourselves and learning new skills, however. New movements often feel unnatural at first, but once learned, can improve performance dramatically.
Something that I see in many good skiers is a lack of movement late in the turn. This lack of movement often stems from a skier staying where they feel most balanced.
Usually good skiers are most balanced around halfway through a turn. There is a natural position in which to stand during this turn phase. Many skiers rush to get into this position and, once there, stop moving. This lack of movement limits performance.
In order to start a turn effectively, it is important to release edge grip on the snow. This flattens the skis and forces the body to “stack up” the joints into a balanced position.
If grip is released and the skier is not balanced, they will fall over. Fortunately people do not often fall over when they release grip; they reflexively balance themselves. This is an ideal position to start a turn.
Releasing grip is the easy part and most good skiers can grasp this concept in the space of a run. With a bit of practice this will become habit.
Now for the hard part: continuing to move past our usual comfort zone.
Once through the re-balancing phase at the start of the turn, tip the ski onto edge and move into the comfortable position discussed earlier. This is an ideal position for the middle of a turn.
Late in the turn, after the point when facing straight down the run, try continuing to tip the ski over further. If done patiently this movement will translate into acceleration across the hill, increased edge grip and energy to propel you into the next turn.
While performing this movement at the end of the turn, a great deal of pressure will build up underfoot. In order to remain balanced to adjust to this added pressure, another movement is necessary: angulation.
Angulation is the bending of the hip, knee and ankle joints as the skier inclines or leans. This bending keeps the skier in balance over the edges and increases the edge angle. Angulation allows the skier to remain in balance over the outside ski.
A movement to help increase angulation at the end of a turn is to reach the downhill hand as far out toward the downhill foot as possible. This will force the body to bend at the waist into a powerful, balanced position.
Practise this technique on a groomed run with lots of room. Higher speeds will help you to get the feeling.
Performing these movements will increase grip and control on firm or icy runs and increase the feeling of acceleration and G-forces at the end of the turn.