I tend to sit back on steep, more challenging terrain. How do I overcome this?
John Lupiano, New York, N.Y.
Sitting back in steeps is natural. We try to move our center of mass (hips and butt) closer to the mountain. Though this seems more secure-we'd rather fall uphill than downhill-it hurts your skiing.
Return to fundamentals. Feel contact between your shins and your boots. When you lose contact, it's a sign that you're sitting back and you literally lose control. It's especially important to feel your shins on transitions from flats to steeps. The idea is to keep your hips more or less at a right angle to your feet, even when the skis are on a steep incline.
Speed control is critical wherever a slope tilts to a scary angle. Practice making completed turns on a flat run where you are not intimidated. Instead of trying to carve (which will keep you in the fall line and make you go too fast), let your skis pivot and skid quickly through the fall line. Keep turning until your tips almost seem to be pointing uphill. Stay in balance, maintain shin pressure, face the fall line with your upper body, and creep down the slope.
Focus on one turn at a time. Knowing you can decelerate will give you confidence and reduce the fear factor when you graduate to steeper terrain.
Make aggressive pole plants on steeps. Instead of touching the pole near your ski tip, reach waaaay down the hill, directly below your feet. By the time your pole touches the snow, your center will have crossed over the skis, automatically creating a nice early edge change.
Have a question for The Professor? Write Stu Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My bargain gear is holding me back. Which should I buy first, new skis or boots?
Louis Beltwlll, Denver, Colo.
B-O-O-T-S. While most skiers get more excited about buying skis, the right boot (and fit) is more crucial to improved skiing than the right ski. You'll have far more leverage and control over your skis in supportive boots that position you in an appropriate stance. Seek out good bootfitters for advice, visit several shops, and try on as many models as you can. Good fit is the No. 1 concern. Appropriate flex is No. 2. Meanwhile, get your skis stone-ground and tuned-they'll be fine for the new season. And with a decent boot to help drive them, you'll be a star.
-The Gear Geek
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I recently ran a marathon. Should I continue to run this fall or do something else?
Alan Driscoll, Littleton, Colo.
No sport prepares you for skiing better than mountain biking. Both work the quads, hamstrings and glutes, and require strength in the shoulders, arms and back. Don't worry about fitness; hill climbs will challenge a marathoner's lungs. Biking will also improve your technique. It forces you to balance on uneven surfaces, keep your upper body still while your lower body cranks and look ahead to pick a line-not to mention overcome fears of hurtling yourself downhill at high speeds. Sound familiar?
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