There’s nothing wrong with your ski technique…

...unless of course you want something else to happen!

Technique isn't about looking pretty or trying to match some technical model set out by [INSERT YOUR FAVORITE SKI INSTRUCTOR ASSOCIATION HERE]. Technique will allow you to achieve specific outcomes. So before you can even think about improving it... you need to set yourself some targets... (or objectives). 

The Long of It

My long term goals are simply to be the most versatile skier I can be in every situation. I want to be fast in a race course, ski fluidly down a mogul field, have control in the crud and be pimp in the park (I've got a fair way to go with that last one). 

While versatility and adaptability are great long term goals, they aren't exactly measurable in the short term. In order to asses whether you achieved something, there needs to be a specific goal for each piece of terrain you encounter.

The Short of It

When you break skiing down to its simplest elements, at least outside the realm of the freestyle, determining an objective for a particular pitch really just comes down to a couple things, speed management and direction change. Or put another way, can you travel along the precise path you desire at the precise speed you desire?

Sometimes the objectives for a given run are partially decided for you. For example, in a race course, the goal is to get to the bottom as fast as possible whilst going around all the gates. How those gates are set predetermines many of the perimeters of your turn shape.

On the other end of the spectrum, let's say it really steep and you want to keep the speed down... but you're in a tight couloir which limits the width of the corridor you are able to ski.

Although both of the above examples could be considered expert objectives they both require a very different turn shape and skill blend. Fortunately most of the time us recreational skiers have a few more options.

Here's few possibilities to consider at the top of your next run:

Width of the Corridor

How far across the run do you want each turn to take you?

Vertical Distance

How long do you want to spend in the fall line?

Steering Performance Level

Do you want your skis to smear in a skidded fashion, slice through the snow in a pure carved turn (leaving clean tracks), or some sort of steering objective in between?

Shaping & Power Steering

How do you want to shape the turn? Steering more at the bottom of the turn (upside down comma shape), steer more at the top of the turn (right side up comma shape), or make it perfectly round (like a 'c' shape)? Maybe you want to get really crazy and throw in a traverse, Z turn, speed check, kick turn, side slip, nose butter or whatever! Different situations might justify different maneuvers.  

Speed Management

Speed, the other big objective, is of course also managed through turn shape and ski performance.

In relation to some of the above turning options, more time spent in the fall line and less time going across it will typically yield a faster speed, while less time in the fall line and a turn completed more perpendicular to it will slow things down. 

A pure carved turn will generally maintain momentum well... and loading the skis with expert timing can even generate speed out of the arc, deflecting your mass quickly across the run (kind of like 'pumping' on a swing). Skidding tends to have a braking effect and you can even control speed in different parts of the turn by shaping it differently. 

Conditions and equipment also play a huge factor in speed management so adjusting your turn shape to each situation is critical.

Achievable Objectives

While speed and turn shape may be the ultimate overriding objectives for skiing down a particular pitch, that notion could be considered an over simplification as it requires specifying multiple parameters... and there are of course many additional factors that contribute to these ultimate outcomes.

For us instructor types it's often helpful to break things down into parts in order to make things achievable. High performance doesn't always have to be the goal. I may set smaller simpler objectives to affect the larger ones... (objectives within objectives so to speak).

For example, an objective could be something as simple as keeping the skis parallel through out each turn, or fluidly linking turns from one arc to the next... catching air on that bump... or not catching air. In turn these micro objectives lead to the bigger picture of speed and direction. While an advanced intermediate skier might find a well 'deflected carved turn' overwhelming, simplifying the objective to just a 'carved turn' or making 'clean tracks' might be a little easier to conceptualize and measure. 

Once a specific objective is set. It becomes simple for both coach and student to look back and determine the outcome. It either happened or it didn't. If it did. Awesome! Refine it if needed or step up the challenge level. If it didn't happen the way you hoped, then it's time to break out your inner technique geek and figure out why.

For some specific skiing objectives check out the SkierLab Demonstration Library.

To Figure out what went wrong, check out diagnostics...

Join the Science Friction Club.

You'll get to outsmart your ski instructor & troubleshoot your own ski technique.

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