Hello fellow skiers!
I have decided to kick things off with a bit of an overview of ski technique. The topic of ski technique can become very complicated very quickly, however I like to try to keep things simple – I hope you’ll agree! The plan is for this overview to serve as a starting point for more detailed discussion of technique.
What is ski technique?
Ski technique is governed by physics, with biomechanics and equipment also playing a major role. Furthermore, the mountains provide us with endless variations in terrain and conditions. Finally, we are free to choose our turn shape (long/short), speed and the level of performance we want to get out of our skis (degree of carving versus skidding).
Technique is how you achieve these objectives within the constraints of physics, biomechanics and equipment.
GOOD technique involves doing so efficiently and effectively.
What constitutes good ski technique?
Before we answer this question, it helps to have a look at the mechanics of skiing.
Skiing is a dynamic activity and as such, comprises two key elements:
The two are closely related. You must be balanced to be able to move and you must be mobile to be able to balance.
Assuming that we are balanced and mobile, skiing requires movement to meet our objectives of turn shape, speed and level of performance. These movements can be broken down into 3 categories:
- Pressure control
Steering involves manipulating the ski to generate a turning force and consists of two components:
Pivoting refers to the ski rotating about a vertical axis, changing direction much like the front wheels of a car.
Edging refers to tipping the ski onto it’s edge to engage the edge and ski design.
Pressure control involves the flexion (bending) and extension of joints in order to manage variations in pressure between the ski and the snow. Such pressure variation can be due to terrain. An example of managing pressure variation caused by terrain is bending and extending to absorb a bump, much like a car’s suspension. Pressure variation can also be due to steering. When we steer our skis, pressure is created – the amount of which depends on our speed and the shape of the turn. This pressure is required for us to change direction and must be managed in a way that enables us to remain balanced and mobile.
Balancing movements are made to remain in balance and can be categorised as follows:
In order to ski efficiently and effectively, we aim to maintain a “centred” stance. This ensures that the forces we encounter are supported by our skeletal structure, leaving our muscles free to make steering movements and to manage pressure. Our fore/aft balance is constantly challenged, requiring adjustments to maintain a centred stance.
Lateral movements refer to having to move our centre of mass laterally in order to stay balanced when we’re turning, in the same way a cyclist must lean into a corner.
Upon considering the mechanics of skiing, it becomes apparent that skiing comprises a number of distinct but related skills. There are many ways one can label/categorise these skills but I favour the following:
- Stance and balance
- Steering (pivoting and edging)
- Pressure control
- Timing and coordination
Stance and balance, steering and pressure control refer to movements we make when we ski. Timing and coordination refers to how these movements are executed and is a skill in and of itself.
These skills must be developed in conjunction with one another in order to become a better skier.
So what constitutes good ski technique?
The CSIA uses a technical reference to describe good ski technique and is as follows:
- Turning is led by the lower body and the ski design
- Managing upper and lower body separation allows for angulation to provide grip
- Use of all joints helps maintain a centred stance and provides the ability to manage forces acting on the ski and skier
- Coordinated movement patterns direct the forces acting on the skis and the momentum of the skier from turn to turn
Ok, but what does this actually mean?
Turning is led by the lower body and the ski design
We use our legs to steer the ski, using a combination of pivoting and edging to engage the ski design and create a direction change.
Managing upper and lower body separation allows for angulation to provide grip
Turning the legs results in the legs facing a different direction to the upper body. This is called separation. In this position, angulation (bending – primarily at the hip) will aid edging and provide grip. To experience this, stand on a slope with your skis across the slope. Allow your hips to face slightly down the slope and allow yourself to bend slightly at the hip. As you bend at the hip, you should notice that your skis roll onto their edges and grip the snow. When you stand up straight, you should notice that your skis flatten and you begin to slide as your skis lose grip.
Use of all joints helps maintain a centred stance and provides the ability to manage forces acting on the ski and skier
This refers to the importance of mobility to staying balanced and to manage pressure. Being mobile in all joints will enable you to stay centred. Imagine trying to do a squat without bending at the knee. It would be impossible to stay balanced as you move down. Similarly, imagine skiing over a bump without being able to bend at the knee. It would greatly impair your ability to absorb the bump and stay balanced.
Coordinated movement patterns direct the forces acting on the skis and the momentum of the skier from turn to turn
This last point relates to timing and coordination and concerns the smoothness of your skiing. Good timing and coordination in the execution of movements is vital to direct your mass/momentum smoothly from one turn into the next.
That’s enough for today. As I said, this post was intended to provide an overview of ski technique. I hope I managed to keep things relatively simple. Once again, all questions and comments are welcome. Stay tuned for more detailed discussion of ski technique!
Interested in skiing with me?
If you are interested in joining me for some on-snow coaching and you are able to make it to Idre Fjäll in Sweden, you can book a session with me through the Idre Fjäll Ski School. Just be sure to ask for James Nunn!
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