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A Quick Guide to High Performance Skiing

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In the realm of music, once you know the scales, you can play, compose, improvise, innovate and embellish, but, first, you must master the scales.

This Sport Loft editorial describes the basics — the scales, if you will — of high performance skiing. That is to say, Skills and how to build them.

1: An Eye foR GREATNESS

A suggestion from World Cup coaches and athletes and other elite level skiers that may sound strange at first blush can have a powerful effect and can play a role in getting ready for your first days on snow.

"Watch video."

Observe some of the world’s best skiers, studying how they make turns. You can find a wealth of such video on YouTube and Vimeo. Here Ted Ligety discusses and demonstrates the GS turn, which forms the basis for high performance skiing. Any top level skier will tell you that the GS turn is the “standard turn," the reference turn, the foundation for high level recreational skiing.

Note how the inside knee rises progressively up toward the torso as the weight-bearing outside leg remains extended. Watch for the migration of pressure from the outside carving ski to the new inside (now uphill) ski before the transition into the next turn. See how the arms control the timing. Observe how he rolls, rather than steps, from one turn to another. Watch the video until you are completely familiar with Ligety’s moves (including not only feet, legs and skis, but torso, arms, hands and head as well) and then relax, close your eyes and visualize yourself making the same moves. Seek out other top-level skiers on video channels like YouTube and Vimeo and study them in the same way. We suspect you will be pleased when you first step on snow .
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2: Ski Like a Human, Not a Pigeon

This skier’s weight is 100% on the downhill ski (A) as he prepares to transfer to what will become the new downhill ski (B). Notice the skier’s vulnerability (C) to going “over the handlebars” as loose snow accumulates in front of the downhill ski sidewall.

Many skiers struggle, through no fault of their own, with what we call “two-edge” skiing. These skiers make turns with weight concentrated on the big-toe edge of the downhill ski and then, at transition from one turn to the next, step directly onto the big-toe edge of the new downhill ski, often abruptly. This, we suspect, is because well-meaning “experts” (including not a few instructors) have told them that the holy grail of technique is to keep total pressure on the big-toe edge of the downhill ski at all times. This is not how the best skiers ski.

Such awkward technique is at odds with how the human body functions bio-mechanically and is at odds with how humans are designed to walk; in fact, it is more like the way that pigeons waddle on the ground. And on the hill, it results in wedge turn entry, whether gross or subtle, 100 times out of 100.

Have you ever experienced difficulty maintaining control on hard or icy surfaces? This could be why.

Ever cross a tip in deep snow “for no reason?” This could be why.

Ever get snagged by “snow snakes” in moderately deep snow? This could be why.

Ever wondered why true carving prowess is so elusive? This could be why.

Moreover, this “technique” places more stress on knees and hips than is necessary, stress that can lead to injury. There is a more efficient way, the way that top skiers execute what we call “four-edge” skiing.

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Compare this image of US Ski Team member Tommy Ford at the moment of transition to that of our wedging skier at the start of section 2. Tommy has crossed the fall line and begun transition to the next turn. Weight and pressure migrate progressively to the inside ski that will become the new outside ski. Notice how more snow spray emanates from the inside ski (B). The old outside ski (A), still bent under maximum extension, will flatten as transition progresses and Tommy retracts the extended leg. It will become relatively weightless just prior to the final moment of transition. Ford will roll the unweighted ski down into the new turn. The new outside ski will follow, rolling onto its carving edge to begin the new carve. Pressure will build and bend the ski into a carving arc as he retracts the old outside leg and extends the new one. All this happens seamlessly in progressive fashion. (We again recommend study of Ted Ligety in motion)

Most of us are never going to ski as well as Ted or Tommy, but by practicing Four-edge skiing, we can come closer, maintain bullet- proof control and reduce stress on our legs and hips. For more on this, I recommend:

Harald Harb’s Anyone Can Be an Expert Skier

&

John Clendenin's The Clendenin Method

This technical paradigm-shift can revolutionize your skiing and take you rapidly to previously unattainable levels.