Summer 2004   

hiking with ski poles
a surprising off-season ski conditioner

I'm lucky. I live right under a pretty dramatic mountain range, the Sangre de Cristo mountains in south central Colorado (pictured above). Not everyone wakes up to admire the dawn on a group of 14,000 foot peaks only a couple of miles away. Not everyone has a golden wagtail of a dog to remind them to hike up into the canyons, along steep streams, day in day out. I know city dwellers, far from hills and forests, much less mountains, have a harder time staying in shape for skiing —and enjoying the process. But in recent years, I have added a new twist to my summer hiking regimen. Hiking with ski poles.

There's a trick to it, and a real advantage, and a training component that feeds right back into our on-snow movement patterns. The trick is to take the little round plastic baskets off the ends of your poles. This makes your ski poles even lighter to hold and swing as you hike. The advantage is that a ski pole in each hand give you lots of additional stability on rough and unstable terrain, especially going downhill. And the direct transfer to the ski slopes is found in the way that will use quick wrist action, while hiking and descending rough or broken boulder-strewn terrain, to flick your poles into position to rebalance oneself. Flicking or snapping your poles ahead and down the mountain can and should become an automatic and effortless, nearly reflex action. As in skiing, this action is all in the wrist. When hiking with ski poles on very rough steep terrain you will find yourself reinforcing this habit and it will be there for you next winter, as you ski bumps and steeps.

Pole swing, pole touch, pole plant — call it what you will. We use our poles on the slope for timing and balance, You can fine tune both — this summer — by hiking the steepest terrain you can find with a ski pole in each hand. Try it.

And now a small request: So far, in three years of publishing this web site, I have chosen my own ski-technique and ski-instruction topics to write about. But perhaps I am missing some very important or intriguing aspects of the skiing game, simply because they are not on my own personal radar screen of skiing concerns. I'd like to ask the readers of this site, and those of you who have worked with my book, Breakthrough on the New Skis, and my Breakthrough-On-Skis videos, whether there are any challenging, intriguing or otherwise thorny ski problems you'd like me to tackle in the Ski Technique section of this web site next year. I don't know how many responses I'll get, so perhaps I won't be able to answer each question in depth. But I'l try. Email me the ski technique topics you would like me to cover at

Many thanks Lito

 Summer 2004  
photo at top:
the Sangre de Cristo mountains near Crestone Colorado
photo© Lito Tejada-Flores
All contents of this web site
© Lito Tejada-Flores unless otherwise credited.