Developing touch on your skis
January 23, 2007
Every time your skis roll over a bump, slide along a ridge, drop away into a gully or porpoise up out of a high speed turn, you gain valuable sensory awareness that you can use to fine-tune your skiing tactics.
Think of the skis as a tuning fork, and feel the vibrations and different frequencies resonate through the length of the skis.
As a skier, you’re faced with a defining tactical choice: You can fight and brace against the incoming energy or you can become in tune with it. Many skiers don’t realize that they’re blocking valuable hints and cues by overtensing their muscles in an effort to control every outcome. And being out of balance with their stance doesn’t help matters because the body expends energy to stay upright rather than focus on receiving feedback from the terrain.
As energy is transmitted from the snow through the skis and eventually to you, soften your touch so you can receive the messages that the terrain is sending.
By relaxing the foot and leg muscles you open information conduits needed to make split second decisions. Playing with the terrain is much less taxing than fighting every turn.
Listen for terrain feedback with the soles of your feet. A soft, supple and relaxed foot is more open to sensory feedback than a stiff, cramped and tensed foot. The ability of the nerve endings along the sole of the foot to send and receive messages can be blocked by overtensed feet and rigid leg muscles.
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While warming up, relax the foot muscles enough so that you can wiggle your toes comfortably inside your boot. Practice looking for varied terrain that will challenge your balance and tactics. Maintain a relaxed and supple stance starting with soft feet. If you can wiggle your toes while keeping your balance in varied terrain, then your lower body is in a good position to read the cues coming through the skis.
Skiing varied conditions and inconsistent snow will build the skills necessary to read and play with the terrain. The tuning fork drill opens up opportunities in ice, packed powder, moguls and tricky snow conditions.
– Focus on pressure skills through out the entire length of the foot.
– Keep your feet and legs loose and supple.
– Try to keep your head and shoulders level.
– Engage fore and aft pressure skills.
– Keep you boots snug but not overly tight.
Chris and his wife Jenny are the directors of Truckee’s North American Training Center (NASTC), and Chris is a member of the PSIA National Demonstration Team. Chris will be writing a weekly column all winter. He can be reached at ski@skiNASTC.com or 582-4772.
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