January 2003
the ultimate exercise
for expert skiing?

part two

  Last month, I published part one of a story about this amazingly effective exercise — skating on skis. A practical move in its own right, for maintaining your momentum across the boring flats and catwalks that every sk mountain seems to have. And also, a kind of master exercise for honing the key elements of a modern carved turn.

Naturally, skating on skis feels awkward at first — every new move on skis feels awkward at first. But with surprisingly little practice, you’ll soon be skating gracefully and powerfully. And it will change the way your ski.

To summarize my advice for would-be skaters (from last month's part one of this article) — 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. Now let's try to relate those skating elements to our turns...

Skating and Turns

Let me talk you through our skating pattern once more, but this time focusing on how it relates to a modern carved turn. The initial diagonal step, skating our onto the new ski, is nothing other than early weight shift — a total transfer of your body’s weight to a new ski, before any turning can take place.

As you balance and glide on that ski, what happens? Without really trying, maybe without noticing, you find yourself rolling that gliding ski over onto its inside edge, the edge from which you’ll push off for your next skating step. Exactly the same subtle natural edge change that rolls you into a carved turn! And all the while, as you balance and glide on one ski, one foot, you are “taking care of the light ski” just as you will in a carved turn — pulling that light foot inward, matching that light ski to its mate, in the air!

What I am claiming is that the movement patterns you use to skate on your skis are identical with the muscular actions that you use to start a carved turn — except of course that in most turns, there’s no need to make a strong and visible step forward. Just reduce the amplitude of your skating movement, until it’s virtually invisible and — voilà! — you’ve got the start of a beautiful carved turn. But don’t take my word for it. Try some skating. See if you can feel the connection, the parallel between skating and turning.

Even if the connection remains obscure — and I don’t think it will — I can promise you this: skating will do wonders for your turns. It’s no exaggeration to call skating the master exercise for modern skiing. Plus, it’s great fun. I love the rhythmic free movement of skating, pushing off from foot to foot in vigorous but slow-motion strides. It’s a helluva way to warm up cold muscles early on a January morning. And it turns the most boring stretches of any ski mountain into graceful, fast aerobic workouts. Do it, you’ll love it.

Skating into Turning

But let’s go one step further before we leave this subject. You can easily cross the subtle boundary between skating and carved turns by simply pausing, or hesitating a few seconds longer on each skating step.

That’s right: skate and wait; skate and wait. The same skating moves but slower now, spending more time balanced over your gliding ski. And what happens? You guessed it. The ski that you have stepped onto, skated onto begins to curve back under you — the start of a classical carved turn.

Of course, these will not be not full or complete turns, just the beginnings of a smooth narrow arc. You are still skating, only now you are leaving rounded tracks rather than the usual straight herringbone pattern of skating steps. This is a very nice feeling indeed: skating into the beginning of an arc.

Now, it should be an easy matter to reduce the amplitude of your skating movements until they are virtually invisible and play with these same elements in dynamic turns down real slopes. Early (and complete weight shift). Progressively rolling the new ski to a new edge. And last, but certainly not least, taking care of that light inside ski, matching and ‘phantom edging.’

Everything you need to launch clean, carved, modern turns. With all the subtlety and balance that comes from skating — the ultimate ski exercise, the ultimate ski lesson.

 January 2003
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© Lito Tejada-Flores unless otherwise credited.