Ski instructors are forever preaching, "Look ahead. Pick your line." And that's wonderful advice. You can also learn a great deal by stopping to study the tracks you've left behind. You don't need powder or even soft snow to do this-freshly groomed corduroy is the best easel.
The best part about the track "report card" is its short life span. The next skier to come along obliterates both good marks and bad-and your next quiz is right around the corner.
What follows are five track report cards and tips for fixing the problem spots identified:
1 : If your skis draw very sharp corners on the snow, you are turning too abruptly. Strive to make rounder, smoother turns, so the tracks look more like Ss and less like Zs.
2 : If your tracks reveal that you are traversing before and after each turn, you may be skiing too timidly. There's nothing wrong with being cautious, but avoiding the fall line to go slowly might prevent you from getting enough momentum to make a decent turn. Find a slope with moderate pitch and link turns without traversing in between. Gradually work your way up to steeper terrain, maintaining the same goal.
3 : If your tracks are straight and elongated, you have the opposite problem: You spend too much time in the fall line and have trouble controlling speed. Round out your arcs to create fat Ss, instead of long skinny ones.
4 : Pay particular attention to your tracks as you link short turns. If your arcs are all the same size and look symmetrical, you are skiing at a consistent speed. If the turns are round and tight at the beginning, but gradually open wider and wider, you are accelerating toward the point of no control. Maintain a consistent speed by edging enough to finish each turn before starting the next one.
5 : Also study the width of you track. The wider it is the more you have skidded. That's OK on steep terrain, where you need to control your speed with a calculated amount of slip. On mellow terrain, where you feel confident, try to leave narrow tracks. This suggests more carve, less skid.
Have an instruction question for Stu Campbell? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.