Hello fellow skiers!
Every skier has been told to balance on their outside or downhill ski at some point in their skiing career. However, if you read my overview of ski technique, you may have noticed that I didn’t make any mention of balancing on the outside ski. So why is it so important to balance on the outside ski and if it is so important, why didn’t it rate a mention in my overview of ski technique?
What does it mean to balance on the outside ski?
In any given turn, we want to have more weight on the outside ski than on the inside ski.
In a left turn we should be balanced on the right ski. In a right turn we should be balanced on the left ski.
At this point I’d like to make the distinction between the outside and the downhill ski.
In a given turn, the outside ski is the uphill ski in the first half of the turn and becomes the downhill ski in the second half of the turn. However it remains the outside ski throughout the entire turn. For this reason, I find it simpler to refer to the outside/inside skis as opposed to the downhill/uphill skis.
The reason instructors often talk about the downhill ski is that we often use stationary exercises and demonstrations where we stand on the slope with our uphill edges engaged in the snow to prevent us from sliding, as they are in the end of a turn, where the downhill ski is indeed the outside ski.
Why do we want to balance on the outside ski?
The reason we do anything when we ski is to have an affect on the ski and the way in which it behaves on the snow.
The best way to explain why we want to balance on the outside ski is to use a simple stationary exercise to illustrate what happens when we balance on the outside ski versus what happens when we balance on the inside ski.
Stand on a slope with your skis pointing across the slope. Allow your hips to face slightly down the slope and allow your yourself to bend slightly at the hip. This should happen naturally as a result of standing on a slope if you allow your body to remain relaxed.
Your uphill edges should be engaged and gripping the snow, as they are in the end of a turn. Now lift the inside (uphill) ski and balance on the outside (downhill) ski. You should notice that the outside (downhill) foot pronates (rolls in), increasing edge angle and grip. You should also feel pressure under the arch of the foot.
Now lift your outside (downhill) ski and balance on the inside (uphill) ski. Again, you should notice the foot pronate, however this time, this serves to flatten the ski, causing you to lose grip.
So there it is. By balancing towards the outside ski, we are putting our body in a position that will enable us to get grip.
How do we balance against the outside ski?
We’ve established that balance against the outside ski is equivalent to getting grip. So how do we get grip?
We have to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that if we just stand on the outside ski, we’ll get grip. Instead, grip and balance on the outside ski are a result of other, refined movements.
Refer to my overview of ski technique for a more detailed description but the short version is:
- Turn the legs (which creates separation)
- Angulate (bend) for grip and balance on the outside ski
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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