December 2002   
the ultimate exercise
for expert skiing?
part one

  From the beginning, it seems, exercises and drills have been a part of ski instruction, sometimes a big part. Trouble is, exercises just aren’t fun. But what if there were an exercise, an incredibly powerful exercise, guaranteed to improve your skiing at least 100%? And what if it wasn’t boring, wasn’t a drag, actually felt great?? Something that you could do every ski day, on many different parts of your favorite ski mountain, something you’d enjoy doing, something that felt more like real skiing than practice, something that would polish your turns more than anything else you could do on skis.?? There is. It’s called skating.

You probably know what skating on skis looks like. You’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve done it. Chances are — if you’re like most of my students — you can sort of make skating movements on your skis but you don’t do it well, efficiently, gracefully. And chances are, too, you are wondering just what skating on skis has to do with a modern carved turn, especially on modern shaped skis.…

First things first. I’d like to begin by showing you how to skate better. Then it will be easier to explain how skating will make your turns better, much better.

Secrets of Skating

Skating seems easy enough at first glance. You stride diagonally out, first on one ski, then on the other, pushing off in an alternating V-shaped pattern from ski to ski. Fair enough. But to do it right, try focusing on two points. First, as you step out diagonally on one ski, project your body out over that ski too, and balance there, while that ski glides forward. A real commitment to your gliding ski. And then to the other one. But that’s only the beginning. As you step strongly out on one ski, transferring your weight over it, what happens to your other ski, foot and leg? That’s point two. Don’t just leave the other foot behind. Instead, while you are gliding forward on one ski, pull your light foot and ski in close to your weighted, gliding ski. That’s right, pull your light boot right in next to the foot you’re are standing on, gliding on, but don’t put that light foot back down on the snow. Now you are ready to push off once more, diagonally, onto that light foot, for your next skating step. Your light foot now begins its new skating step from this relatively foot-together position, and as a result, it can really move out in a long, powerful skating stride.

To summarize, the two key parts of efficient skating on skis are: first, a complete weight transfer to the new ski, and second, taking care of the light foot, the one you’ve shoved off from, pulling it in next to the skating foot.

Skating on skis feels awkward at first — every new move on skis feels awkward at first. But every ski mountain has its share of boring flats, or low-angle catwalks, where skating will help you maintain your speed and avoid poling. With surprisingly little practice, you’ll soon be skating gracefully and powerfully across these flats. And it will change the way your ski.

Now for the fun part. Why is skating so important? What movement patterns are you really practicing when you skate? Skating is the perfect way to reinforce the habit of early weight shift, and to develop the critical inside-leg action so vital to today’s carved turns. To make this crystal clear, let’s look at today’s carved turn.

The Modern Turn

Today’s carved turn is an exercise in simplicity and restraint — a case of maximum result from minimum skier movement—and it works like this. With no unweighting, with no twisting or steering action of your feet, you simply shift your weight to your top ski — the soon-to-be outside ski of the coming turn. And then, having shifted onto this new ski, your body moves laterally across the skis, toward the center of the coming turn. As it does so, that weighted ski rolls off its old (outside) edge, onto its new (inside) edge, and begins to bend to create the arc of this new turn. What I’m describing is a slow, patient, progressive start to the turn. Your crucial outside ski slices forward into the turn, instead of pivoting rapidly down the hill. In fact, the slower and more progressive the start of this arc, the more carved it’s likely to be.

Several important factors make this a great turn. Instead of unweighting our skis to turn them, we are pre-weighting the new outside ski, by standing on it 100%. This makes it that much harder to twist, or jerk, or pivot that ski into a skid. And note the timing: an early weight shift comes first, then the crossover or commitment of the body, which in turn results in the weighted outside ski rolling over progressively to its new edge.

And finally, let’s ask what the other, light foot is doing all this time? It’s simple. With the light (inside) foot, the skier is “taking care of the light ski,” that is to say, keeping the light foot comfortably close to the weighted foot, pulling the light heel inward while tipping that foot over toward its little-toe side. In essence, performing a ‘shadow’ or ‘light’ edging movement with that light inside ski—tilting it into the turn, without ever putting any weight on it. This gentle tipping of the light ski in a modern turn is what my friend, coach Harald Harb, calls the phantom move. It’s so subtle it’s almost invisible. But Harold’s insight into this inside foot and leg action is fascinating. He has pointed out that the more you “edge” your light foot and ski (never really weighting it) the stronger the edging of outside, carving ski will be. This is a fabulously easy way to control the amount of edge you use in a carved turn. Harold’s ‘phantom move,’ the complementary action of the the light inside foot and leg is what I call “taking care of the light ski.”

And that brings us back to skating....or at least it will, in the next issue of and part 2 of this article, where I will describe in more detail, just how skating develops and reinforces the turning patterns I have just described above. Stay tuned....for part 2.

 December 2002  
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© Lito Tejada-Flores unless otherwise credited.