February 2005
Square to one's skis? or facing downhill? when and why....
shoulders down the hill?

In this new section of my web site, I answer the most interesting email questions that I receive every month. Here is a recent one:

"I am struggling with conflicting directions from ski instructors and other, more experienced skiers that I know.  Perhaps the conflict is only in my head, but I have trouble following the direction to “keep my shoulders pointed down the slope”.

"My most recent focus has been on connecting a series of carved turns. Once I get going, my turns usually bring me perpendicular to the fall line before the next turn changes my direction.  I guess the path would look like a series of semi-circle connected together.  My problem is that I can’t keep my shoulders facing down the fall line when my skis are perpendicular to it – I can’t keep a 90 degree twist in my torso.

I find I am able to obey the “shoulder direction” if I make a series of shorter arcs by starting a carved turn and ending with a skid, but I’m pretty sure this is not the goal I am trying to achieve.  At what point does a turn become so large as to force the shoulders to follow the skis? Can you comment on shoulder position relative to your discussions of big vs. short turns?

Jon Dhuse

Thanks for your letter, Jon. You aren't alone in sensing that there is a little confusion in the advice to "keep your shoulders pointed down the hill. I'll try to clear this up as simply as I can.

It isn't an either or thing, where a skier's shoulders (or actually your whole upper body) is either aimed straight down the hill, or straight across it. But as so often happens, a kind of continuum, of constant variations, depending on the size of the turn, the skier's speed and steepness of the hill, etc....

Additionally, I think that any attempt to "aim" your upper body in a given direction puts the emphasis in the wrong place. Your feet and skis, and by extension, your lets are the real actors in modern skiing. Your torso or trunk or upper body should just float, lose and relaxed above your hips, above your active legs, feet and skis.

Lots of anticipation (in the sequence above). Here the skier seems to be facing straight downhill, but actually his skis and legs are turning back and forth beneath a quiet almost motionless body. In the sequence below, we see some anticipation but much less: the turn is longer, the body stays more in line with the skis, but not completely so.

Thus, when making short turns, the feet and legs are actively turning out from underneath the torso, leaving it behind, and creating the impression that the body is "aimed" straight down the hill. Whereas in a long-radius turn, the foot'leg action is so minimal that the lower body never actually turns out from its normal alignment beneath the torso, and this gives the impression that the upper body is following the skis around the long arc. (facing the direction of the turn, rather than straight down the hill)

Finally, we see two medium-long turns linked with very little anticipation: yes the legs are turning a bit faster than the skier's body, but not much. So the torso seems to face slightly across the skis some of the time, but not straight down the hill.

And of course there are many shades of grey in between. In a medium turn, the feet and legs may wind up turning a little bit fater than the heavier torso, so your will in essence wind up facing somewhat across your skis, aimed a bit toward the valley as it were, but not necessarily 90 degrees down the hill.My best advice is to let it happen, don't force it to happen. The real secret of skiing with "anticipation" (the technical term for this apparent facing down the hill, is to keep your lower back and hips relaxed so that your feet can actively guide the skis without twisitng your body into each turn. Nonetheless, when linking very short turns, it will seem as though you are constantly facing downhill. Let it happen, don't force it.

Hope this helps, John. Good turns, short, long and everything in between... Lito

 February 2005


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