Austrian World Cup star Andreas Schifferer trained at Colorado's Loveland Ski Area last November. He was recovering from a knee injury-and dreaming about qualifying for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics on his ultra-competitive national team. Schifferer had his red Atomics slung over his shoulder as we rode the lift. He was explaining his early-season drill of extending his bindings so the toe and heelpiece would not secure his boots.
At the summit, he gingerly placed his boots in the toe piece, found his balance point and started slowly down one of Loveland's blue runs. Skiing at about 15 mph, Schifferer made perfect, medium-size turns all the way to the base.
"When I'm racing at 70 mph, everything happens so fast," Schifferer says.
"This forces me to slow everything down, to think about where my hands are and where my weight is. It puts a premium on balance and helps me get a feel for the snow."
Something clicked for Schifferer: Just three months later, he won the Olympic bronze medal in the super G at Snowbasin, Utah. Tip to readers: Don't try this drill at home. Instead, use a friendlier version: For your first runs of the season, unbuckle your boots, locate your balance point-not too far forward or back-slow the pace and rediscover your feel for the snow. Finding your balance early in the game will help you ski your best all season long.