Okay, so we’ve got most of our gear on and made our way over to the bunny Slope. Once you attach these giant planks to your feet it’s going to feel a little like wearing clown shoes, and moving is going to be awkward! So before we take off down the hill lets learn a few basic skills to move around in this snowy environment.
Remember, an important thing to consider when learning to ski is the individual as well terrain available. Everyone will progress at different rates and no one set of objectives will be suitable for all. Pick steps that are achievable, feel free to skip tasks that seem too easy, or ad in extra steps if the goal seems out of reach.
Start off on some nice flat terrain out of the way of heavy traffic with some gentle slopes around. In a little hollow is ideal.
When picking a safe spot to learn it’s important to consider other people on the hill and be aware adhere to the Alpine Responsibility Code.
One Ski or Two?
Once we’ve found some suitable terrain, the next decision we need to make is whether to start with one ski or two?
New skiers aren’t typically used to their feet sliding away every time they weight them, so often it’s easiest to start by putting on a single ski. If idea of standing on two slippery sticks seems daunting then this the way to go. That way there’s a grippy back up to rely on until the concept of balancing on a gliding platform sinks in.
If on the other hand, you’ve found a nice flat area to work with and have tendency to learn physical skills quickly, then you might as well jump right into it and put on both skis.
If you missed the section on getting your skis on here’s a quick refresher: Getting Used To The Gear
Basic Mobility and Moving on the Mountain
There are infinite exercise variations to get new skiers moving on skis and you can use your imagination to make it fun... but here are a few basic ideas:
Pushing With Poles - Probably the simplest way to move around the flats pushing with poles will also help develop that early sense of gliding and balancing on moving platform. It’s also rear for building core strength!
Circles & Figure 8’s - If starting with a single ski try skating around in a circle with the ski on the outside foot. The skier gets used to having a ski on their foot and the basic concept behind skating moves which require a blend of gliding and grip on the outside ski. Once wearing two skis try figure 8’s so both feet have a chance to be the outside foot.
360’s - On snow 360 degree spins can develop concepts of leg turning and rotational control. With two skis on it can be quite challenging for new skiers and will help them understand how much wiggle room they have before their tips cross or their tails clank.
Herring Bone / Skating: A crucial technique to propel the skier forward on flat terrain or go up shallow slopes. It’s also develops some basic edge control.
Side Stepping - Super useful for getting up hills. It’s slower than herring bone but works on much steeper slopes. It also develops a basic understanding of edge control and the fall line.
Start Gate / Bullfighter Turns: This technique of using the poles for support while repositioning skis on a gentle slope comes in really handy to set up for the very first attempts at gliding with gravity.
Patterning Fundamental Skiing Movements
The best way to get better at skiing is sking! I’m a firm believer of getting new skiers sliding around as soon and as often as possible. Especially for people who have any sort of athletic background, it’s simply more fun.
For students with a great deal of fear or those with less coordination, however, patterning some fundamental skiing movements on flat terrain can help build confidence and ease them into it. Some moves can even be practised without skis on.
- Stand Athletically: Play with concepts of standing athletically. Balancing through the feet with all joints slightly flexed. Like a soccer goalie or tennis player ready to move and react. Useful cues might be: Hands out in front, shoulders over knees, and shins touching the tongue of the boots.
- Play with Mobility: Once we start sliding the skier needs to mobility to maintain balance and alignment. Challenge movement in various joints while aiming to maintain balance through the feet. Where can you feel the pressure under the foot? Can be done without skis on to ensure they aren’t holding you up.
- Rotational Control: Understand the concept of a steering angle (link). Play with femur rotation in the hip socket vs turning the foot.
- Lateral Balance & Edge Control: Shift balance from foot to foot and develop an understanding of how edges can be used to control grip.
- Stationary Wedges - A super useful learning tool once you start gliding, push feet apart and turn legs to create a wedge shape with the skis. Spread peanut butter on toast! Use the edges to make a V-shaped pile of snow. For some extra challenge try hoping into wedges.
- Spread Peanut Butter On A Slope! With a single ski the skier can use one foot to assist balance and control the descent, while learning the concept of edge control and rotational control and how they might be blended for speed management and direction change.
Getting Up After A Fall
Eventually you’re going to wipe out. Don’t worry, it’s al part of the fun and at novice speeds it doesn’t usually hurt. It is however, a good idea to develop a little independence and make sure you can get back up on your own. Here are a few things to you get back on your feet:
- It’s Easier On A Slope: Ironically the most difficult place to get up is on the flats or a shallow slope. Once things get steeper the slope plays in your favour and you’re already half way there.
- Remember The Fall Line: As simple as the concept may be, new skiers almost always try to get up before placing their skis appropriately. The result is their skis take off and thwart their efforts. Make sure your feet are below on the slope and place perpendicular to the fall line.
- The Rainbow Method: Draw an imaginary rainbow from your hips to your toes. Now walk your hands online that rainbow. Better watch the video to see it in action!
- The Pole Method: Grasp both poles together with one hand down by the pole basket and the other on top of both grips. Plant the tips beside your uphill hip and use the poles for support as you pull yourself up.
- The Cross Pole Method: Helpful for deeper snow when your hands keep sinking in. Make a cross with your poles on snow to create a platform to push up on.
- The Ejection Method: If all else fails... pop a ski (or two) off and shed those shackles.
- The Damsel In Distress Method: If you’re really stuck, just act helpless. If you’re on the bunny slope there’s probably a cute ski instructor nearby who can help you out.
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