Quick! Stop Stressing Out!
My on-hill reactions-to sudden changes in conditions or to a skier darting in front of me-are slow. Are there exercises I can do to improve my response time?
Terre Haute, Indiana
Try cross-training. Sports such as mountain biking and trail running demand quick reactions to avoid obstacles; tennis and basketball require constant, speedy adjustments of body and foot positions. Get your mind and body used to reacting quickly, and they're more likely to come through for you when the action gets fast and tight on the hill.
You also may need to boost your foot speed. Jumping rope is one of the best ways to do so. Spare your knees by finding a soft surface to jump on. Keep your feet together and land lightly on the balls of your feet. Do one-minute intervals, increasing speed and interval length as you can. As you improve, be creative: Try alternating the foot you land on or moving side to side and front to back as you jump.
There's a chance that the culprit is not your agility, but rather your lifestyle. Stress, poor diet and lack of sleep can all negatively affect your adrenal glands, a pair of organs just above your kidneys that send a shock of adrenaline through your body in dicey situations. When you're stressed or anxious-or accustomed to stimulants such as caffeine, sugar or nicotine-your adrenal glands are constantly turned "on." This means the adrenal alarm won't go off as quickly or as fully as it should in times of danger. To keep your adrenal glands in prime form, minimize stress, eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of protein and keep your caffeine consumption under control.Lastly, keep your head (and eyes) in the game when you're on the hill. Always look two turns ahead. Fast feet and great glands can't help you if your mind is wandering.
Write Kellee Katagi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't Be A Stiff; Buy The Right Ski
As a 190-pound low intermediate, I'm told rapid weight shifts are difficult on my soft skis. Should I buy stiffer skis?
Dr. Brian Mihara
When you find skis you love, stick with 'em. Everyone feels pressure to buy stiff (race) skis. It used to be that "stiff skis hold better on hard snow," but new materials and designs make that proverb passe. A skier must perform a weight transfer to turn; the skis have little to do with it. A stiffer ski is more pressure-sensitive, whereas a softer ski bends a bit before the edge engages. But the difference is probably imperceptible at your level. You need to practice shifting weight from one foot to the other more quickly. Begin in your living room, making rapid dance-like steps. Or skip rope, switching feet on each spin. You'll soon be making quicker turns and might begin to overpower your soft skis. Then it's time to look at new skis. There's no shame in non-race gear. Winners in our All Mountain Cruiser, Player and Aspiring Carver categories are plenty stiff. For most of us, they perform better than the hot race models.
Write The Professor at email@example.com.
Short And Sweet
Last winter I noticed that my instructor's skis were about eight inches shorter than mine, though we're both 5-foot-9. What's up with that?
Bless you for asking this question. Not only did Gear Geek get to whip out his calculator, it's also an issue of fundamental importance. In skiing insert gratuitous joke here, size matters. If your instructor's skis were eight inches shorter, they were 155s. Outrageously short? Well, he probably has a longer pair in his locker for when he freeskis. But consider this: When the World Cup opens at Aspen in November, many of the world's best slalom skiers will be on 163s. Today's sidecuts put so much edge on the snow, you don't need a lot of length for stability. And shortness means quickness. Here's what you do: First, convert your height to centimeters. You're 175 cm tall (69 inches at 2.54 cm per inch). Intermediates should buy a ski that's about 5 cm shorter than they are-about at the bridge of the nose; experts should go about head high. For you, that's 175 cm.
-The Gear Geek
Write Joe Cutts at firstname.lastname@example.org.