November 2001   
Kinesthetic awareness
an achievable off-season & pre-season conditioning goal
  For me, kinesthetic awareness is the ultimate factor that determines how far you can go in skiing, how subtle and skillful and playful an expert skier you can become. Kinesthetic awareness is a fancy term for how sensitive you are to the movement of your body through space. Skilled gymnasts, dancers, skaters, and, of course, really skilled skiers are blessed with great kinesthetic awareness. All these activities involve precise, efficient, graceful, rhythmic, and relaxed movement through space. So the big question is whether we are born with a certain amount of kinesthetic awareness or whether we can develop more than we seem to possess naturally? I’ve never found a definitive answer to this question. Perhaps because different authorities and researchers have defined this gift differently. But I am convinced that we can all improve our sense of balanced, fluid, rhythmic movement – whether to some predestined limit, I don’t know. And perhaps it doesn’t matter. As long as we can cultivate more kinesthetic awareness than we’ve got now, we’ll come out ahead. We’ll ski much better.

How can you do this? My suggestion is simple. Find an off-season activity that embodies a lot of balance and continuous rhythmic movement - something you think you’ll enjoy - and dive right in. Number one on my list is ice skating, but any kind of skating - in-line skating or conventional roller-skating - is fantastic. There is no better way to improve your skier’s coordination in the off-season than skating. And it’s really fun. And wonderfully graceful.

Next, I’d suggest dancing, any kind of dancing: ballroom dancing, Latin dancing, folk dancing, square dancing, tango, modern dance, jazz, or even ballet. Well and good if you are already a dancer. Some folks are. Some haven’t gone dancing since high school, if then. You can always take a class. Community colleges everywhere offer dance classes. Take one of these classes, and next season you won’t believe what it’s done for your skiing.

My final suggestion for developing or increasing your kinesthetic sense has an Oriental flavor. Consider Aikido or Tai Chi. Aikido is a relatively gentle sort of martial arts practice, primarily defensive and not aggressive, in which participants use their opponents’ force to their own advantage - much as we use the mountain and its shapes and the pull of gravity to our advantage when skiing. Tai Chi is a wonderful slow-motion exercise routine, widely practiced in Chinese communities around the world and also widely taught in the United States. It develops balance, slow, continuous, patient movement, and a great sense of one’s center, and how it moves through space - the real foundation of kinesthetic awareness.

Both these practices, Aikido and Tai Chi, really require a good teacher. You can’t get there on your own or with a book or video lesson. Either one will do wonders for your skiing balance and awareness. Either one will give you a significant push in the direction of that subtle higher level of performance we’ve been talking about.

[an excerpt from chapter 9 of Breakthrough on the New Skis]

 November 2001  
Photos at top of page:
Telluride powder times 3,
© Linde Waidhofer
All contents of this web site
© Lito Tejada-Flores unless otherwise credited.