Move Up to Intermediate Skiing

This is a collection of tips/helpful hints for novice skiers, to provide insights as to how to move up to a higher level of skiing, both on the hill and around the resort.

On steeps, lead with your chin. Many developing skiers have trouble making the jump from rolling groomers to steep drops. Skiers with otherwise excellent skills stop and stare when they arrive at some pitches. Point your chin down the fall line. Lean forward…and lead with your chin. The goal is to go down, not side to side. If you look to the side for safety (and your chin goes that way) you will clumsily ski to the side. You’re a hack. Point your chin down, let it lead your way down…go, go, GO!

Sharing the lift with NOVICE skiers and snowboarders Alright, you’re in line for the quad, you and your two buddies, and the liftie sends a someone from the singles line to join you. The kid (or newbie, let’s not discriminate) struggles to get to the chair, so it’s reasonable to anticipate problems at the top. Couple things to help you deal with this. First, you have to watch for their clue at the top. If they are looking to move quickly or in a panic, you’ve got to identify that immediately. If that’s the case, hang back for a moment. Chances are the kid is going to rush off, arms flailing, an accident waiting to happen. This generally goes one of two ways. Novice snowboarders tend to “sweep” the ramp — whatever side he gets off on, he’s probably going to angle across the ramp to the opposite side. Very few beginning boarders have the expertise to actually go straight, with their board straight. If it’s a skier, they’ll tend to pizza and fall forward, or be off balance and fall backward. If the skier is hanging back on the chair for dear life, get out of there immediately and as fast as you can. Snowboarders are a little more trouble. If he falls ahead of you, you can ski around. But if he falls next to you, he’s taking you down too. Remember, the kid spends a lot more time falling down than you do, so he’ll handle it a lot better than you will. This of course pertains to novice boarders, not skilled riders. A skilled boarder will probably leave you in the dust on the off ramp.

Don’t look at the hood ornament Before litigation and inflated bureaucracy knocked the legs out from under our school budgets, we had a thing called Driver’s Ed, usually taught by a gum-chomping gym teacher. Behind the wheel at age 16, I made the typical mistake of looking at the road right over the hood, and steered constantly and nervously to adjust to the ever changing road. “Rick, look down the road…your eyes are right over the hood ornament, and you’re adjusting constantly…look way ahead, and you’ll be able to anticipate better.” So I did as I was told, and immediately the jerky, video-game immediacy of the road fell away to a ribbon of highway that stretched out and was much easier to adjust to. My driving immediately became smooth…it was the best advice I ever received. Many people do it instinctively, some never learn (and their driving shows it). Why then, do so many skiers keep their eyes looking right over the tips? With your eyes “right over the hood ornament” you have to adjust to infinite and immediate changes and obstacles. If your inner voice is a constant chatter of “where do I turn where can I turn too many things gotta turn go around that there’s a bump gotta turn…” — then you are probably focused a few yards ahead of your skis. Try “looking down the road.” Your feet will adjust to where you are — because you’ve already seen it — and obstacles will no longer be a sudden surprise that you have to compensate for immediately. You’ll plan your line well in advance, and your motions will be a lot smoother.

Stand on one leg Carve! Carve! Carve! It’s all the rage now, so you might as well get used to it: Using the ski to make the turn for you. (Would you care to guess how many people I know that own parabolic skis but have no idea how to use them?) You can tell people “pressure on your outside foot, unweight your inside foot” till you are blue in the face. Why don’t they do it? Probably because they have no idea what the heck you’re talking about. Instead, take your protege (or you, if that’s the case) to the bunny hill. Relatively flat, easy slope. Ski down…and lift your left leg off the snow. See how you turn left? With weight on your right ski, the parabolic shape is pressed into the snow — on the left side of the ski — and you naturally turn left. Now put your left ski down, and lift your right ski…and see how rapidly you steer to the right. Soon you can begin to just slightly lift the “inside” ski off the snow…and then simply unweight the ski while pressing on the other. Eventually this will become a fluid motion, second nature.

Hands out front! Stab that mogul! If you’re the type that stays away from the moguls because all your efforts end in out-of-balance disaster, watch mogul skiers carefully next time you’re riding up the lift along Outer Limits (Killington) or Beartrap (Mount Snow) etc. Notice that the mogul skiers “running the zipper” have their hands out ahead of them. Now look at the uncoordinated bozos who don’t belong…their hands are back. Now notice how the real mogul skier swings his or her poles way out in front — almost exaggerated — like a pendulum, then stabs the top of the mogul where they’ll begin their turn. Notice how the klutz flails with his or her poles in a fruitless effort to maintain balance.

Jetting to Gain Speed Stein Ericksen was the master of this: as you are coming out of a turn (after you’ve passed the mid-point or parabola of the turn) put your uphill ski slightly ahead of the downhill ski — about the length of the tip. You will accelerate more rapidly. When you reach the transition point of the next turn, put your downhill ski slightly ahead, until you reach the midpoint, then go to uphill, etc. This is called “jetting”. Not sure of the physics, but it works. Probably like that old hot rodder’s expression — “if it don’t go, chrome it.” Meaning, if you add chrome all over the motor, you gain some tiny increase in horsepower, but nobody could really explain why. With the engine, it was probably because it forced the hot rodder to clean the gunk and funk off the part surfaces. On the skis, it’s probably because it forces you to transition your weight like you’re supposed to.

mogul-skierShoulders Forward On most of the front side terrain you’ll be using, your shoulders should be perpendicular to the fall line. Throwing your shoulders around to force gorilla turns is one of the hardest bad habits to break, but you’ve got to do it in order to progress. If you can’t visualize this, check out a mogul skiing competition sometime. Shoulders are both pointed straight down the hill — the legs do the turning. When you find yourself throwing one shoulder back on a steep section, you’re more likely to be off balance and fall. Shoulders perpendicular to the fall line whenever possible.

Don’t Tuck Your Poles Unless a Racer Has Taught You How Don’t do it — ever. Skiers who haven’t been trained the proper technique of tucking their poles do it wrong 100% of the time. The racer tucks his or her poles to eliminate wind drag. The non-racer tucks his or her poles and points them up, and looks like a buffoon. It’s called the “gaper tuck” or “Texas tuck.” And you’d be surprised how many experienced skiers point this out and laugh — and then do the exact same thing, not realizing they look every bit the fool. If you want to try and minimize this on your own, grab a pair of poles, go into a tuck, and look at your hands. If they’re close to your knees, you’re toast. Now figure out where your butt is. If it looks like you’re in mid-twerk, move that fanny down toward the back of your calves. Now bring your hands up and put them together out in front of your face. This isn’t exactly perfect, but at least you’ll reduce the gaper factor.

Lift Tickets at Discount: This is a “clearinghouse” of sorts that many ski areas use to raise cash by selling discount tickets in advance, called Liftopia. If you haven’t used this service, it is important to knowfor certain that you are going on a specific date. The deeply discounted tickets must be purchased in advance; generally up to two days out. The sticking point is that some ski resorts only make a limited number of tickets available to Liftopia for any given day, so they might be sold out if you wait too long…so, as soon as you are absolutely, positively sure that you will be skiing on a certain day, click this link to get deeply discounted tickets. I’ve used this service many times, but again, ONLY when I am absolutely certain I will be skiing on a specific date. You need to have access to a printer to print out your receipt, and you have to take identification with you to the mountain. I’ve knocked a third off the price of some tickets. Not every area participates, but it’s well worth checking if you’ve got a date nailed down.