Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why do you need to flex your knees?

There are many reasons to flex your knees... here is a demonstration of one of them.

To better understand how flexing one’s legs helps in skiing effectiveness, stretch out your arm with your elbow locked. Bend your hand back at your wrist so that the face of your hand is perpendicular to the direction of your arm (as if you were pressing it against a wall in front of you). Your hand is probably pointing upward. Try to twist your hand clockwise to the right so that is pointing directly to the right. Difficult?

Let’s start again pointing your fingers upwards, hand flat against an imaginary wall. Now, bend your elbow. Then, twist your hand so that your fingers point right. Easier?

By flexing, you allow your hand much more freedom to maneuver.Applying this to your feet; modern skiing emphasises quick turn movements by “steering” your feet towards the turn. The demonstration, above, demonstrates how much easier it is to do that quickly by keeping your knees comfortably flexed.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Stop Standing on Your Heels!

I was surprised to find that this worked... A young 12 or 13 year old girl was in class with her mother. She was generally more relaxed and comfortable than her mother, but, as is common, her comfort level led her to hang her butt back behind her. I tried to directing her to get her weight forward, get her hands out in front, or move into the front cuffs of her boots but this just usually just caused her to hunch forward.

Then I noticed that she was so relaxed that she was just standing on her heels. So, I got her standing tall again—having her forget all the other instructions I had given her—and I put some “tacks” under her heels. That was all she needed! She was tall, relaxed and her shoulders were nicely over her toes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lesson Plan: “Never Ever" First-time Skiers

Here is the basic lesson plan to getting the “never-evers” up and going.

I. Equipment

  1. Properly put on ski boots—clear of obstructions and not too tight

  2. The boots are heavy because they translate feet and leg movements to the movements of the long, heavy skis.
  3. The bindings not only bind the boot to the ski but are also a safety device to keep your legs from getting hurt—they release.
  4. The ski edge is important, it controls your turns and stopping. The forward lengths of the edges (along the shovels) are especially important; they are the like the front wheels of a car.
  5. Buy boots before skis.

II. Balance

  1. Put on right ski.

  2. Balance on that ski, lifting left let. (Hands out in front).

  3. Push out on ski, scraping the snow.
    1. Hands in front
    2. Stand tall
    3. keep tip from moving (stand on ball of foot).
  4. Go for a walk.
    1. Push off with free foot to drive ski forward.
    2. Hands in front.
    3. Keep ski on snow (do not lift ski)
    4. Keep ski driving forward (not off to the side).
    5. Keep free foot next to ski foot.
    6. Try to glide for as far as possible.
    7. Try skidding ski sideways to stop (as in step 3)
  5. Take off ski

  6. Put ski on left foot.

  7. Repeat step (4) for the left foot.

III. Skiing! Straight-line Wedge

  1. Put both skis on.

  2. Note parallel (“french fry”) position vs. wedge (“pizza”) position.

  3. Move from parallel to wedge position by scraping the snow with both skis simultaneously. (Balanced, tall, pressure on the balls of the feed, and hands in front).

  4. Slide down the hill, starting with skis parallel—shuffling feet, if necessary.

  5. As soon as skis start to slide, move to a wedge by scraping snow.

  6. Work on a smooth, gradual wedge rather than quick or jerky wedge.

IV. Turning

  1. Note that from the wedge position, the skis are pointed in opposite directions.
  2. Turn right by emphasizing left ski, left by emphasizing right ski.
  3. Accompany the “emphasis” by standing on the ball of the foot (esp. the big toe) of the foot on the opposite side of the direction of turn.
  4. Drive the knee forward for a sharper, more decisive turn.

Getting Dressed: Boots

It might have been a long time since your mother dressed you, so it might do to get some tips on how to put on your ski boots.

  • Pull all other clothes out of the boot (long johns/underwear, pants, etc.)
  • Wear long, thin socks and pull them up high, above the top of the cuff of boot.
  • Most ski pants have an inner elastic “gator” which should be wrapped around the boot cuff to keep snow from falling into the boot.
  • Start the day with buckle boots snuggly but not too tight; snug enough to hold the heel and ball of foot secure with not more than a finger’s width of room in between the cuff and leg.
  • Adjust (tighten) boots as the day progresses and feet change shape and size. Do not tighten the boots as tight as they can be (nor as tight as they were “yesterday.”)—let the feet warm up and let the blood flow. This could take more than an hour. (This is another reason why warm-up runs should be made before skiing “all out.”)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hands out in front!

There is a mental inclination for us to drop our hands down by our sides when they are most needed in front. At every level of skiing, it is extremely important to keep hands out in front where they can been seen by the skier. Since everyone is subject to dropping their hands when it is most needed, it is important to bring awareness to this before bad habits are too instilled. Starting from the very beginning, when practicing balance exercises, special emphasis should be paid to keeping hand out and in front of the body.


Keep both hands in front and a bit to the sides—just within the perifery of view—with elbows away from the body and in front of the mid-line of the body. Having hands and elbows in front will help to bring body weight over the toes where it should be.

Also, holding hands out to the sides will help balance. Note that tightrope walkers carry a big, long pole with them... it is not because they like carrying extra weight with them, it’s for balance.

Think of hugging a big bear or giant tree trunk.


When completing a turn, do not let the inside hand drop by your side or pull the inside elbow into the body! This draws body weight back, onto the inside ski’s tail and body towards the mountain. If anything disrupts balance, the body will be thrown right into the mountain and/or on your butt. This also takes momentum away from the intended direction: to the next turn; which means that you have to throw all your weight around to get to the next turn (a very disruptive, energy consuming exercise). In difficult situations, you might find that you have to literally punch that inside hand out in front to get it out, do not be afraid to do that.


When traversing across a mountain, you will find it especially stable (despite what our mind says) to push the uphill hand and arm well forward of you. You will be suprised how many falls this will save you from on a bumpy traverse.

If you are taking lessons from me, you probably hear me yelling “Hands in front!” more often than any other command.

Notice, how the skis stabilize, as they are running across the hill, when hands are moved from behind the body towards the front.

Learn (to Teach) Snow Skiing

Each ski instructor has his tips and tricks. There is not single way to teach snow skiing but there are not many places to look up such tidbits. Most learn by talking with fellow instructors. Most instructors are too busy teaching (or skiing) to stop and talk about these things. This blog shares some of the insights into skiing and teaching skiing that I have gained through my teaching.

Since I have to re-remember these tips and tricks each season I teach, I have decided to put them somewhere where I can review them, before my next teaching season. And it might be useful to others as well either just to help others ski or to help others teach skiing. Feel free to add your comments.