Feb. 26, 2001--Nowadays I hear "ski the modern way" all the time. Why do we hear this and what does it mean? On the surface, modernization of technique follows the new high tech equipment and innovations in ski design that have stormed the market in the last few years. However, there are subtler notions of technique that will outlast equipment modifications.
My reply to "ski the modern way" will always be the same. While new equipment can condense the learning curve for beginners and expand the horizons of novice and advanced skiers, the basic fundamentals of good skiing will never change. Accumulate a good foundation of the basics and your skiing will improve. Forego this groundwork and you will not improve very much.
Here are some of the skills you must attempt to master by Ben Rifkin and Rod Haller:
Balance Skiing requires an athletic stance- feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, arms forward, body aligned in a singular plane at all parts of the turn. Stand in the center of the ski. Your body should never be stiff, allowing fluid adjustment for changing conditions and terrain.
Movement A good turn does not require bobbing your head, flailing your arms, or throwing your butt from side to side. Every action should be deliberate, purposeful, and minimized.
Steering Use your knees, not your upper body or feet to control direction and severity of the turn. A heel slide is not a carve.
Angulation Knees, hips, and ankles must all work in unison to achieve the perfect carve. The three joint groups should work in a parallel plane. For maximum ankle flexion, choose a boot that's not too stiff. Throughout the turn, you should be able to feel the tongue of your boot. The steeper the terrain and the tighter turn you are trying to carve, the more angulation you'll need to effect the turn and maintain balance.
Slipping vs. Carving Many skiers think they are carving turns when in fact they are merely sliding the tail of their skis around. Carving requires forward movement along the perimeter of the arc. Your body and all flexing joints should always be moving in the direction in which the skis are travelling.
Rebound After carving a turn, your skis will have acquired energy. They will want to jump into the next turn. Instead of falling into the back seat, move forward into the next turn. Simultaneously, use your hips, knees, and ankles to initiate the next turn.
Weight transfer These days, the downhill ski does not have to bear all of your weight to accomplish a good carve. (However, getting comfortable with unilateral balance is important in achieving a well-balanced stance.) The downhill ski/leg should dominate and lead the uphill half of the body throughout the turn. However, more equal weighting (along with equal angulation) will utilize the ski's sidecut and help you maintain a balanced stance.
Only when you master the basic fundamentals of skiing will you be able to master modern high tech equipment.
Rod Haller is an instructor with the Sun Valley Ski School, ID.