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Five Ways to Become a Better Skier 13 January 2011

Posted by magicdufflepud in Skiing.
Tags: , , , , ,

When I first started thinking about this topic, I figured everyone on earth had already done it. But no. Google, sole arbiter of ¬†popularity for all things, indicates that not many folks are writing about how you can become a better skier. For shame, rest of the internet, for shame. I’m not a ski instructor, but I do have a blog, and I ski a lot, so I’ll try to help. Read-on, middling skier, and discover how you can break from mediocrity–and have more fun on the mountain.

1. Ski with Better Skiers

You’ll never improve if you avoid pushing yourself. And without other, better folks around to prod you a little bit, I doubt you’ll find much motivation to get better. After all, when you’re beating all your friends down the hill on the blues, why tackle the blacks when no one will follow you? If you’re already a blue skier, find a few other friends—the guys you know who spend the weekend hitting the moguls or searching for face shots—and catch a ride up with them.

Chances are, they won’t mind your tagging along and taking a little more time to get down the hill, unless it’s a powder day, in which case, you’ll be told to meet them later on at the bar. But on an average weekend, heading out with folks who look just a little better on the slopes will show you what’s possible, and you’ll likely get a few pointers, too. If you’ve always been first down the mountain, now you’ll play catch up, and you’ll find that the new challenges helps re-focus your effort. When you go back to skiing with your other buddies after a few weeks, you’ll notice just how much simpler the old slopes have become.

One note, though: when choosing a new ski group, look for folks skiing a level above you. So if you’re comfortable on greens, find guys (and gals) who like blues, but not blacks. Or if you like the blues already, shoot for a group that does diamonds on occasion but doesn’t venture into double-diamond EX terrain or other foolishness. Know your limits. When the divide grows too large, both sides end up frustrated and neither gets much out of the relationship. So don’t be afraid to ask where your friends like to ski; they don’t want to be slowed down anymore than you want to get in over your head.

2. Take a lesson

Okay. Maybe that seems obvious to you. But I hope it doesn’t. I hope you the $100-plus price tag (plus tip, of course) has always made you think twice about listening to some other dude tell you how poorly you ski. I promise you it’s worth it, however. Ten times over I promise you, because whenever you ask your friends, they’ll lie. Your friends simply cannot objectively assess your skiing in the way an instructor can, so take the time to spend a day with a group of six or eight, and figure out what it is that’s keeping you from tackling more challenging terrain. Maybe it’s fear. The fundamentals are there, but you don’t realize it. Maybe you’re like that guy who points his entire body in the direction he intends to do. Whatever the cause, an instructor can help you identify it, and you’ll become a better skier for it. I know I did, and I was skiing nearly every day last year. And yes, you’ll certainly wait around a little, wasting time you could be skiing, but good instruction will compensate you for that downtime.

Another note: if your significant other can offer ski-school quality instruction, don’t take it. Don’t ever take it. Using a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse as instructor inevitably ends in a ruined day. “He’ll teach me,” you think, imagining ¬†a white knight saving you from each fall and acting as your shield against the careening masses. In reality, he’ll be yelling, “Turn! No! I mean now! Like this! No! ” And you will hate him forever. No amount of beer bought at the end of the day will quench your thirst for retribution.

3. Try a few more difficult runs each time you ski

Falling doesn’t suck. In fact, it demonstrates that you’re challenging yourself, and it gives the folks on the lift a good laugh. But don’t think about that. Remember the first time you skied the bunny slope, the terror you felt at how steep it was? And then you realized that falling didn’t hurt nearly as much as you thought it would. The same holds true now that you’re skiing blues and easy blacks. The same principals apply no matter the terrain; you just need to move up incrementally, so make sure that you’re skiing slightly outside your ability on a few runs each day. Not out of control, mind you, just a little outside your perceived ability. Eventually, you’ll feel your comfort growing on that terrain, and don’t let your falls deter you. Everything seemed steep at one point, and as your comfort level grows, you’ll return to the same blues you used to ski and wonder, “How did I ever consider this scary?” It’s a good feeling.

4. Get fit

This one ought to seem obvious, too, but skiing takes a lot of effort. If you’re carrying around too little muscle and too much fat, you’re going to find skiing a difficult endeavor. Sure, plenty of husky guys shred day in and day out, but are you one of them? If not, you’ll need to assess your overall fitness level. Jumping on a bike now and then or taking on a weightlifting regimen will pay off on the mountain. When you wear out, you get sloppy, and if you love skiing and can only make it up on the weekends, getting sloppy after five runs can’t be a good use of your time. Yes, better technique will give you greater efficiency—less effort on any given run—but when you’re not longer exerting yourself because of poor form, you can use energy to go faster, tackle moguls more ambitiously, or to try more ambitious powder runs. You can use all the energy you have, so figure out the right cardiovascular activity that helps build your stamina for the slopes—whether that’s more skiing, biking, jogging or Zoomba-ing doesn’t matter. When you get up on the hill, you want to be ready, not afraid that you’ll head for the lodge at noon.

5. Invest in good equipment

No matter what you might think, it’s not all about you. Yes, in any given situation on the mountain, it’s probably about you, but if you’re still hanging out in the rear-entry boots (see the photo at the top of this post) you found at a garage sale, then you need to consider investing in something a little better. Boots that fit poorly and skis your grandmother gave you won’t allow to take proper advantage of the mountain. Maybe that’s stretching it a bit, though. Anyone who touts any skis other than the Volkl Mantra as “all-mountain” is probably lying, and you’d do well to explore the other options available. With skis too narrow, you’ll find it more difficult than necessary to float through powder. With skis too short, you’ll chatter at high speeds. And with skis too stiff, you’ll see that moguls will exact a mighty penance.

Think about that, and then consider that boots, too, will play an outsized role in your performance on the mountain. Performance always comes as a trade against comfort, and if your feet and calves are sloshing around in your boots, chance are, your skis don’t feel very responsive either. If you ski more than 10 or 15 days in a year, then you owe it to yourself to visit a proper ski shop to get a set-up that fits your needs and wants.