Ski Awesome Book

Ski Awesome Book
Here’s the good news: Skiing Awesome is EASY.
In fact, skiing awesome is natural. If you can get up from a chair and walk you have all the
necessary coordination to ski awesome.
In “Ski Awesome”, you will be lead step by step to become an awesome skier. Additionally, you
can use “Ski Awesome” as a reference guide as we go through the logical steps.
Let’s get started!
What is the narrowest part of the ski?
Let’s stand the ski up vertically and look at the bottom of the ski. The reason we want to look at
the bottom of the ski is because the graphics on the front of the ski can distort the looks of the
ski, while the bottom of the ski is typically plainer. You might find the narrowest part of the ski
is between the bindings, directly under your foot! The ski is designed to ROTATE directly under
your foot. Yet surprisingly, most people’s CG (Center of Gravity) is behind the rear binding. We
will address how to move your CG forward when we get to Pressure Control. But for now,
recognize that the narrowest part of the ski is directly under your foot. Wouldn’t it make sense to
rotate your skis if your CG (Center of Gravity) was directly over your feet instead of behind your
Now please notice that the tip and tail of the ski are designed wider. Ski designers spend a great
deal of time trying to make a ski turn easily. If you were to place the ski on an edge (on the ski’s
side), and place it on a flat surface, you will notice that there is a shallow “n” where the tip and
tail are touching the flat surface and the area by the binding is slightly elevated. Now when you
push the ski toward the flat surface, you will notice that you have created a shallow “C”. This arc
is what causes the ski to turn and that turn is referred to as the “turning radius”.
Lab Work 1: (You can do this on a carpet in your living room or on the snow.)
Take the ski and lay it flat on the carpet or snow. While kneeling down next to the ski, put one
hand on the toe piece of the binding and your other hand on the heal piece of the binding. While
pressing down on the ski, try to ROTATE the ski. You will find that the ski easily rotates. (You
might have the ski breaks interfere slightly but ignore it as when your foot is in the binding, the
ski breaks will be lifted off the snow (or carpet). Now put a LOT of weight on the ski and you
will see that the ski will still easily ROTATE.
OK, you’ve just seen one of the ways a ski will change direction and that is by ROTATING the
ski. BUT you can only rotate a flat ski!
Lab Work 2: (Since you are still kneeling, let’s examine the EDGE of the ski.)
Now, let’s take the ski and turn the ski on its edge and press the ski into the snow or carpet.
Again, with one hand on the toe piece of the binding and one hand on the heal of the binding, try
to rotate the ski. What? It won’t rotate? That’s right. The ski will NOT rotate. Indeed, if the ski is
on its edge we can change direction one of 3 ways: (1) Pick up the ski and then change the
direction and lay the ski down in the new direction. (You will see ski racers do this while racing
in the gates. Watch as they pick up one ski and change the direction and then pick up the other
ski to match the new direction.) (2) You can hold the skis’ edge into the snow (or carpet) and it
will track (like railroad tracks) a slight “C” shaped turn! This is the turning radius of the ski. We
will use this Edge to ski groomers, steeps and crud. And (3) due to speed, we can skid the edge
and the ski will rotate with preferably lower leg rotation (to be explained under the topic of
Now you know the two ways to turn a ski: (1) Rotation, and (2) putting the ski on the Edge.
OBSERVING THE ANATOMY OF THE BODY (Specifically 4 joints):
Segway from ski design to body anatomy: Now that we know how the ski is designed to turn,
wouldn’t it be awesome to know how the BODY is designed, since that is what the ski designers
built the ski for?
We will talk about 4 joints that are important (even critical) to skiing. Let’s talk about the joints
from bottom to top. So that we are on the same page, we can define the joints as being OPEN or
CLOSED or we can say, “OPEN or CLOSE a particular joint”. An OPEN joint is a straight joint
and a CLOSED joint is where the joint is contracted.
(1) The ANKLE joint: The ankle joint is the most important joint for 2 reasons:
(a) The ankle joint is the closest joint to the snow and therefore the most important joint. (If our
skis were on our shoulders and we skied upside down, then the shoulders would be the most
important joint.)
(b) The ankle joint is extremely maneuverable as it can rotate left and right as well as open and
close to move your CG forward and aft on the ski.
OPEN ANKLE: An open ankle, where you are standing straight up or worse leaning back, is
probably the most common ski error. If a skier does this, they will have extreme leg and thigh
burn because their CG (center of gravity) is aft on the ski.
CLOSED ANKLE: is AWESOME for 2 reasons:
(1) A closed ankle can rotate with using lower leg ROTATION (see Rotation section),
(2) A closed ankle can EDGE a ski with angulation versus inclination (see Edge section).
The point being that a CLOSED ankle moves your CG in the correct position, and is able to both
Rotate and Edge a ski, while an OPEN ankle pushes your CG aft and forces you to use upper
body rotation (which is less desirable, see Rotation section), and forces you to incline (lean to the
side) versus angulate when you Edge your ski.
Lab Work 1:
You can do this on the floor with your socks or even on the snow with your ski boots on. Now,
close your ankle and then put both your feet on an edge (that would mean that the big toe on your
left foot is pressing on the ground while the pinky toe of your right foot is pressing on the
ground, and vice versa if you switch edges. You will see that you can easily do this without
falling over or having to lean on a wall. (We will talk more about this under the Edge section.)
Now try this with an open ankle. Stand up straight and try to put an “edge” on your foot. What?
You can’t do it? Well neither can anyone else. However, every day you will see people ski this
Lab Work 2:
Rotation: The closed ankle will make it easy to rotate both of your feet. Try it! While standing
up, CLOSE your ankles and rotate both feet. Easy. Now stand up straight with your ankles
OPEN and try to rotate your feet. Yes, you can rotate your feet, but you have to move some other
part of your body… typically your upper body rotates first and THEN your feet rotate (there are
variations of how you can rotate your feet with open ankles, but they are all less efficient and we
will cover these under the Rotation section).
Conclusion: An OPEN ankle is like driving a car and tossing the steering wheel out of the car,
while a CLOSED ankle is like driving a car with power steering!
(2) The KNEE joint: There was an old ski saying that started with the Austrian ski instructors,
“Bend zee knees, $5 please.” Regrettably, this was misleading. What they meant to say was to
bend (close) the ankles, but ankles don’t rhyme with please.
Typically, the knee joint should be comfortably and slightly bent (slightly closed). A totally
OPEN knee would create an uncomfortably forward CG, as the ankle joint is already slightly
closed. There is an exception to the knee joint being slightly closed and that would be in the
bumps, but we will address this in the Bump Section.
Lab Work:
While slightly closing your ankle, notice that your knee joint will also slightly close. Now open
your ankle joint and notice that your knee joint will naturally straighten. When skiing, it is
desirable to have both your ankle joint slightly closed and your knee joint slightly closed. This
way you can both ROTATE your skis and EDGE your skis! Conversely, if your ankle and knee
joints are OPEN, you have to contort your UPPER body unnaturally by rotating your upper body
to rotate or leaning your upper body if you want to put your skis on an edge.
(3) The HIP joint: The hip joint can be described as a bow to CLOSE the hip, while standing up
straight will OPEN the hip. Naturally, CLOSING the hip joint will move your CG forward, while
OPENING the hip joint will move your CG aft. Depending largely on your knee joint, it is
desirable to be comfortably balanced.
Typically the hip joint is slightly closed and is balanced in relationship to your ankle and knee
joint. (When we get to the bump section, we will close BOTH the knee joint AND then
compensate by closing the hip joint. See Bump Section.)
Lab Work:
Comfortably close the ankle and knee joint and the hip joint will naturally close slightly.
Conversely, open all joints and stand straight and you will find it difficult to either rotate or edge
your feet (ski). As we get to the more advanced skiing where the terrain is steeper, the slightly
closed hip allows you to angulate properly. Additionally, under Pressure Control, we will talk
about how we use the hip joint when anticipating acceleration. (See Pressure Control Section.)
(4) The SPINE joints: The vertebras in your back allow you to curve your back forward
(CLOSED) or OPEN your back so that you are standing up straight. The spine is an excellent
way to make fast and subtle balance corrections! It is desirable to have a slightly closed spine as
that way you can both open and close the spine to the desired balance.
(5) The NECK (or head) joint: The head weighs something like 12 to 15 pounds and is
extremely important to keeping and maintaining one’s balance. One of the common mistakes is
that when we are confronted with fear, we typically move our head (and neck) BACK. (If a
bomb exploded in front of us, few people would move their head forward. Most of us would
jump back.) Regrettably, as we move our head and neck back, we tend to open the spine, hip,
knee and ankle joints!
It is desirable for the neck (and head) joint to be comfortably slightly closed. Skiing does not
reward the timid, but rather rewards the assertive. Having your neck joint slightly closed is a
huge help… especially with the steeps. You will notice that if you OPEN your neck in the steeps,
it is very uncomfortable. Conversely, when you encounter the steeps, if you CLOSE your neck
by moving your head forward, the steeps are a big easy!
Lastly, the neck rotates. All too often we see novice skiers with their head ONLY pointed
forward. They look like they have a stiff neck. It is desirable for the neck to be relaxed and
looking in the direction one is anticipating going. We talked about this under the Balance
Section. (See Balance Section if necessary.) The important reminder is that a relaxed neck
facilitates a relaxed body!
Lab Work:
Go to a pair of stairs. Notice that when you are going down the stairs, you will slightly CLOSE
your neck joint. It feels weird to OPEN your neck when you are going down the stairs. Also,
note that when you go UP the stairs, you also slightly CLOSE your neck joint.
Believe it or not, you will see skiers skiing with their neck (and head) joint OPEN! And guess
what?!?!?! Their ankle joint is ALSO OPEN! Do not under estimate the importance of the neck
joint because that is connected to the head, which holds the brain!
I can tell a lot about how comfortable a person is by their neck position. A neck that is open or
back is typically expressing fear. And I would be afraid if my neck was open because my ankle
would be open and I wouldn’t be able to turn. So with the open neck and open ankle we MUST
fight the mountain resulting in “fear” turns.
So what causes “fear” turns? This is my segue to the fear of stopping and/or slowing down!
Stopping or slowing down:
Question: What are the two SAFE ways to slow down or stop.
Before you answer, it is fun to find out the bad ways to slow down or stop. Let’s list a few of the
bad ways: Fall down, run into someone, hit a tree, hit a pole, get hit by a spaceship.
So what are the 2 good ways to slow down or stop?
Answer: (1) Friction is one of the ways. Under the topic of friction is 2 ways. One of them is the
wedge or snowplow, which has extremely limited applications. I will bash the wedge in a
moment, but the other friction is the Hockey Stop (where you rotate your skis perpendicular to
the fall line (also known as the gravity line… the line that goes down the hill) and then apply
your edges.
(Bashing the wedge): All too often, the wedge (or snowplow) is taught because a ski instructor is
lazy and wants to move the group. (Warning off color, be prepared.) Teaching the wedge is like
getting herpes… it takes a couple of seconds of exposure and it takes a lifetime to get rid of it.
Seriously, the wedge is learned in a couple of minutes and it sometimes takes 4 or 5 years to get
rid of it.
Think about it, would you ever go for a 20-mile hike with your toes pointed inwards? How
uncomfortable is that?!?!?! I mean one ski (foot) is pointed to the left and the other is pointed to
the right. That’s like having a buggy with two horses and telling both horses to go in different
directions. That’s crazy!
Worse, the wedge does not work effectively on the ice, steeps or powder! There are some limited
applications for the wedge and that is where the space is narrow, such as cat-walks or the lift
line. I do not teach the wedge until we get in the lift line and then I somewhat jokingly say,
“Please don’t let me see you wedging unless you’re in the lift line or a very narrow cat-track.”
Please note, the wedge CAN be an effective tool, but way too often it is over used and it abuses
your body.
OK, so other than friction, what is the other SAFE way to slow down or stop?
Let me give you a hint. If pointing your skis down a mountain makes you go fast, what would
happen if you pointed your skis UP the mountain?
(2) Point your skis UP the mountain to go slower or to stop. Now this will work very
effectively so long as we have GRAVITY. If, for some reason, gravity ceases to exist, I will have
to find another way safe way to slow down. But if there is no gravity, we would be floating off
the mountain.
Lab Work:
Place your arm straight out in front of you with the palm of your hand pointing up towards the
sky or ceiling. Now slightly bend your elbow and this will simulate a “green” or beginner run.
Now picture yourself skiing down your arm and then UP as you pass your elbow. There is no
fear because GRAVITY will slow you down. Therefore, you can have your skis in parallel with
each other because GRAVITY will slow you down!
OK, now bend your elbow slightly more to simulate a “blue” or intermediate run. Same thing,
gravity will slow you down and you WILL come to a stop!
OK, now bend your elbow more extremely to simulate a “black” or expert run. You will find two
amazing things; (1) gravity will still work and slow you down, and (2) that gravity will stop you
faster than it started you, meaning that you will come to a much faster stop than you may have
NOW, take your arm, with your elbow bent, and cross your chest while placing your hand on
your other shoulder. Your elbow should be pointing down to the ground. Now, lean back slightly
and your chest now resembles the slope you are skiing and your biceps are showing you ski
DOWNHILL and as you pass your elbow, you WILL be skiing UPHILL! So for EVERY slope
there is an UPHILL! Making this distinction means that you can ALWAYS ski parallel and
when you point BOTH skis UPHILL, you will slow down and stop much quicker than you
In fact, intellectually, you just learned how to parallel.
Side note: I have taught people who have skied for 20 years and have been fighting gravity for
20 years!!!! Typically their husband or wife keeps encouraging them to keep skiing and yet they
dislike skiing because skiing burns their thighs and knees as they fight gravity by using friction
to turn one way and then the next way… or they wedge down the mountain. They have been
FIGHTING gravity for 20 years instead of USING gravity in their favor! Hey, if gravity is a
constant, then why not constantly use gravity rather than fight it?
Normally, we would go to the mountain for the next step, but since this is a reading portion, is it
ok to forge forward?
If you look at my business card, you will notice 4 circles with the letters B E R P on each of the
4 circles. Essentially, each of these 4 circles represents the 4 elements of skiing. I find it helpful
if people can store the facts in these 4 elements or what I call files. BERP: B is for Balance, E is
for Edges, R is for Rotation, and P is for Pressure control.
BALANCE is the largest circle and encompasses ALL of the other circles, which symbolizes
that BALANCE is extremely important! Balance is quite easy to improve by noting a few
distinctions. I am all about not falling and making these distinctions is a great way to prevent
(1) Feet: Place your feet comfortably apart (perhaps half your shoulder width apart) and you will
see that you have great balance.
(2) Eyes: Use your eyes to look out and see the terrain and note where is uphill and where is
downhill. All too frequently we see people look at the tips of their skis. People learning how to
ride a bicycle often look at their front tire. Regrettably looking forward and down does NOT give
you balance, it robs your balance! I call looking in front of your skis the “White TV” because
like watching a Black TV in your home, there is NO information where you are looking. How
long would you look at a Black TV if the TV was OFF? Not long because there is no information
on a Black TV. And there is NO information on the “snow” of a White TV!
(3) Neck: Keep your neck relaxed and moving. I have observed that a neck that is stiff, creates a
body that is stiff. I call this the “one piece” ski position, like a robot that needs to be greased.
Lab Work 1:
Place your feet close together. Now ask a friend (who you trust) to gently nudge your shoulders.
You will see that you will lose your balance. Now, separate your feet half should width apart and
ask your friend to give you that same trusting nudge. You will find that your balance is
AWESOME. You can try this with your eyes both closed and then open. Notice how much more
balance you have with your eyes OPEN!
Lab Work 2:
Use your memory to recall this or hop on a bicycle. Have you ever ridden a bicycle? Think of
your neck being stiffly frozen ahead and try to turn the bicycle. Worse, turn your neck left and
try to do turn the bicycle right. Be careful this is NOT safe. And yet people ski this way! You
will observe that when your neck is stiff, your entire BODY is STIFF! So relax the neck and
your body will relax. Look toward your turn. Specifically, look for the uphill and that there is no
one skiing or boarding down your path!
AWESOME. Let’s attack the next circle:
As we discussed in the observation of the anatomy of the ski, a flat ski will rotate easily, while a
ski on the edge will resist rotation.
There are actually 4 ways to rotate your feet. All of them will work, except some of the ways are
efficient and some are less efficient. The less efficient usually comes at a cost of stress to the
knees, leg burn and / or falling. Let’s start with the best rotation, lower leg rotation.
(1) Lower Leg Rotation: Lower leg rotation works best because the skis are attached to our feet
and it makes sense to rotate the lowest part of our body.
(a) To accomplish lower leg rotation, we must have ankles, knees and hips slightly CLOSED,
(b) To have lower leg rotation, you MUST have 2 points of contact!
Lab Work:
This is easiest to demonstrate on a wood floor with a pair of socks on your feet. If you don’t have
a wood floor, try putting two magazines on the floor and that will work. Or if you’re on the
slopes, it will also work.
Now, slightly close your ankles, knees and hip. While keeping BOTH feet on the ground, notice
that you can EASILY rotate your lower leg and rotate your feet, while your upper body is calm
(not rotating). This is natural!
Now, pick up one foot off the ground so that you are balancing on only one foot. Try to rotate
your foot. You will notice that you MUST move your upper body (either through COUNTER
rotation or UPPER BODY rotation, which we will talk about soon). Note that the goal is to rotate
your lower leg while keeping your upper body still.
Now, put one foot on the floor (or snow) and lightly touch your hand to something stable (a
table, chair, or even a ski pole). Note that having 2 grounded points you can perform lower leg
rotation while keeping your upper body still! Here’s the crazy thing, you can accomplish this
with ONLY 2 or 3 pounds of pressure on the other point (in this example, your hand only needs
to put 2 or 3 pounds of pressure)!
However, how many times do we see a skier pick up one of his skis? If one of the skis are off the
ground, we are FORCED to use either UPPER BODY rotation or COUNTER rotation.
(2) Upper Body Rotation: Upper Body rotation works in that it eventually rotates the feet, but it
is less efficient and tends to put stress on the knees while also causing leg and thigh burn. To use
Upper Body rotation, we turn our upper body and shoulders first and then our feet will turn.
Then we do the same in the opposite direction. Again, although this works for a few turns, it is a
slow way of turning. But heck, if we’re about to hit a tree and we’re off balance, use anything
that will work. Unfortunately, many beginning skiers use this ski technique. You can spot them if
you watch the zipper on their ski jacket move first and then the lower body will “catch up” and
match the upper body.
The draw back is that it is very difficult to ski the bumps with this technique as it is too time
consuming to throw ones upper body and wait for the lower body to respond and then reverse it
all in a fraction of a second.
So what causes the skier to be forced to use Upper Body rotation? (1) Typically the skier has
open ankles, forces the skier to use Upper Body rotation. (2) The other cause is the skier is
picking up one ski! As we noted above, you MUST have at least 2 points of contact with the
ground to use Lower Leg rotation!
(3) Counter rotation: Counter rotation is rotating (or twisting) your upper body to the right
while you’re twisting your lower body to the left. Chubby Checker made a fortune with his
dance, “The Twist”. You can spot Counter rotation (or Twisters) on the mountain if you look at
their ski poles as they will swing their ski poles behind them, even pointing the ski pole at the ski
as they drop their hand to generate their twisting motion!
So what’s the problem with doing the Twist while we’re skiing? Its fun and the music is good.
BUT it is an inefficient turn in the bumps and is too slow. Don’t get me wrong, I will use counter
rotation if I am off balance and want to get back in balance, but this is not the preferred way to
rotate your skis as you are using the upper body when all you need to do is use the lower body to
rotate your skis.
Lab Work:
Stand up and Twist with Chubby Checker to the Twist
Go crazy and let your arms swing. It’s fun! And now notice how many people are skiing the
Chubby Checker ski technique!
(4) Blocking rotation: Blocking rotation is where we grab something and then rotate around it.
Think of grabbing a tree and turning around the tree. Or in skiing we call it “Blocking Pole
Plant”. We plant the pole in front of us and then turn around the pole. This can be highly
effective when skiing in the bumps, but there are other methods of skiing the bumps. Other than
the bumps, blocking pole plant is a more laborious way of rotating your skis.
Lab Work: To demonstrate blocking pole plant, in your stocking feet on a wood floor, you can
push back with your hands on a window sill (at about your belly-button height), and you will
notice that you can push with one hand and your feet will rotate. Then push with the other hand
and your feet will rotate the other way.
When we’re skiing, we can put the ski pole into the snow in front of us and with the ski pole
pointed slightly down hill so as to resist our blocking pole plant and we then allow our skis to
rotate around the ski pole. When we’ve initiated the turn, we can pick up our ski pole and finish
the turn and prepare to execute the next blocking pole plant in the other direction.
Shamelessly, I use the blocking pole plant in 10% of my bump turns. It’s fun. Why not use it
Conclusion of rotation: All of the above rotation techniques work! But the most efficient
technique is the lower leg rotation as it is faster, requires only the lower leg movement, the upper
body can stay relatively calm which HUGELY helps your balance (especially in the bumps and
powder). The key to using lower leg rotation is proper ankle, knee, spine, and head closure. But
heck, if you’re off balance and about to hit a tree or another person, use whatever rotation
movement comes to you. While skiing, it is possible to get “caught back” (aft on the ski). If you
rotate your skis across the hill (using whatever rotation method), you can frequently recover
from your open ankle position and then are able to close the ankle. Sometimes you can save a
fall this way. That being said, sometimes it is better to just give into the fall rather than fight it.
And above all, let us NOTE that the easiest way to rotate a ski is to have a FLAT ski on the
snow’s surface! This is particularly true in the bumps!
As we pointed out previously, a ski that is on it’s edge does NOT like to rotate. Edges are the
“super power” that glues your skis to a steep mountain slope. If you place your edged ski
perpendicular to the fall line of any steep slope, the ski will grip onto the mountain with great
ease! With children I ask, “Have you ever seen a fly walk on a wall?” And then tell them the
reason a fly can walk on a wall is because the fly has skis. This conveys a point that so long as
the wall is less than 90 degrees, the ski’s edges WILL hold the skier on the slope!
What are the 3 ways of changing the direction of a ski that is on it’s edge?
(1) Keep the ski on it’s edge and the ski’s natural radius (as described as the tip and tail being
wider than the waist of the ski, which forms a “C” shape) will shape a gradual turn. Note that it is
vitally important to match the two skis direction by pointing BOTH skis in the same direction.
(Conversely, the wedge is where the skis are on opposing edges and fight each other.)
(2) You can change the direction of an edged ski if the skier picks up his/her uphill ski and then
replaces it higher on the slope and then quickly matching the downhill ski to the newly directed
uphill ski. You will see ski racers use this technique while racing. Some skiers refer to this as
“stepping up” because you literally step up and then match the ski.
(3) You can “skid” the ski by flattening the ski enough so that it begins to slip. Here, we are
definitely using friction and gravity while flattening and edging the ski. We will address this in
more detail soon.
Lab Work 1: Edge On - Step up hill, then Edge Off and slide down the hill:
With this exercise, we need a slight but noticeable slope. We place our skis perpendicular to the
fall line and press the edges into the snow. Notice that a flat ski will have your knee-cap directly
over the center of the ski, while an edged ski will have your knee-cap on the upslope of the
slope. I call this “Edge ON” position.
Now, with the Edge ON position, pick up the uphill ski and move it uphill about 4 inches and
then match the downhill ski by moving it also uphill by 4 inches. Repeat this a couple of times
and notice that you are very stable on the slope of the hill.
Now, slowly release both edges at the same rate and same time. You will notice that you will
start sliding down the slope. If you like, put the Edges On and you will stop instantly.
Repeat this maneuver: Edge On, then Edge Off, Edge On, then Edge Off.
Lab Work 2: Edge On/Edge OFF: Go across the slope with Edge On and Edge Off:
This is a great exercise. We start our exercise with Edge ON and skis perpendicular to the fall
line. Then we gradually reduce our edge to slightly Edge Off while very slightly lowering our ski
tips. You should start moving both forward while still sliding down the hill. If you Edge OFF
more, the ski will slide more rapidly down the fall line. As you EDGE ON, the ski will grip the
slope and you will go ACROSS the mountain.
Note that there is a slight but noticeable acceleration of going across the mountain which is
HELPFUL to recognize! To illustrate this point, please allow me to ask the following question.
Question: What goes faster? A ski on it’s edge pointing downhill or a ski that is flat pointing
Answer: Most people think it is the flat ski that will go faster. However, that is NOT correct. The
right answer is that a ski on it’s edge WILL go faster because there is less FRICTION. Please
allow me to make an example to prove this point: Take your bare hand (take your glove off) and
press it firmly on your thigh as you move your hand rapidly from your upper thigh to your knee
cap. Notice the immediate warmth in your hand… that is friction. Now, place your hand with
your pinky finger pointing towards your thigh and your thumb pointing up to the sky and with
the same firm pressure notice how fast the hand slides on your thigh. There is far less friction
and there is far more speed. This is extremely important… an EDGED ski will actually go
FASTER than a flat ski. Once you know this, you can ANTICIPATE that a ski on the edge
WILL go faster and then can prepare your body accordingly! However, if you do not make this
connection, you will find yourself off balance without understanding why you’re off balance.
To underscore this point (because it is so important), when you put a ski on it’s edge you WILL
go faster if the ski is pointed downhill. We will be addressing this fully in Pressure Control very
soon. (Actually, in a ski lesson, I will skip directly to this aspect in Pressure Control so that the
guest understands the significance, consequences, and necessary appropriate correction of a ski’s
Lab Work 3: Show the trees your bottom of your skis:
With children I ask the children to pretend that the trees on the sides of the slope are all people
and that the trees all have eyes and are looking to see what color are the bottom of your skis. I
tell the kids to show the trees the bottoms of your skis. This is a great exercise in rolling the
edges of your skis on the snow.
Note to do this on either a very gentle slope, or if the slope is steeper, then present the rolled skis
as a garland by going across the slope.
Lab Work 4: Inclination vs. Angulation:
Wow! Now there are two big words! Don’t be intimidated, as they are EASY concepts to
understand. I typically illustrate this by standing about 12” to 15” from the wall and then with a
straight body, I lean into the wall. I then ask someone to pull me off the wall. They will notice
they can easily pull me away from the wall. That is called “inclination” as I am inclining with a
straight body against the wall. There is virtually no weight on the wall.
Now, I change my stance so as to push against the wall as though I wanted to push the wall down
with my body. Now I ask the same person to try to pull me off the wall. What?!?!?! They can’t
pull me off the wall? This is because I have now angulated my body. This is the PERFECT
position of power skiing. Notice that my ankles are CLOSED appropriately, my knees are bent
appropriately, as are my hip and spine! This is NATURAL! And that is why skiing is so easy!
Now if I want to push the wall harder, I will move my feet away from the wall and then get into
position. This is exciting! Notice that there is a natural relationship between your ankle joint to
your knee (that line) is the same line (angle) as your closed hip is up your spine. The two lines
are parallel to each other. The more you are driving your force the more the two lines are in
alignment. As you place less your pressure on the wall, conversely, you will naturally open your
I used to use another analogy to show inclination vs. angulation where I said, “Pretend there is a
cliff and your child is holding onto your ski pole so as not to fall off the cliff. You need to hold
your child until help will arrive.” Most parents would form their body appropriately from
inclination to angulation. I found this worked with adults who had small children but when the
children got to be teenagers, they let go of the ski pole. (Ok that was a bad joke.) The illustration
works, but it is easier for me to show the power of pushing versus pulling. You can try pulling
the “tug of war” as it is the same sense of power. You will quickly discover that a straight body
has very little power as compared to an angulated body!
You will notice that ski racers ALL use angulation to power their skis. You might also notice
there are some skiers who are standing straight up and I sense they are saying, “Take my picture
real fast because I’m about to fall.” The straight skier will have very little stability if (and that
“if” is a WHEN) the snow conditions change! Just hit a patch of ice and the straight skier is on
the snow. Meanwhile an angulated skier hardly notices that they skied over ice, crud, or a
The trick is to notice when your ski is FLAT and when your ski is on an EDGE! Note that you
can make both FLAT turns as well as EDGED turns.
Pressure Control:
There are two forms of Pressure Control: (1) Forward and Aft, and (2) Foot to Foot.
(1) Forward and Aft:
We touched on forward and aft under “Observing the Anatomy of the Body”. Essentially the
goal is to put your Center of Gravity (CG) in the middle of your ski as that is where your ski is
designed to rotate (the middle of your ski is the narrowest part of the ski, or the ski’s waist).
There are a number of combinations of which joints to open and close so as to position your CG
over the center of your ski.
Note, that which ever joint you open / close, it will have a direct shift of your CG and therefore
another joint MUST compensate if you want to move or keep the CG in a particular place.
As the ski conditions change, I will accommodate my body to adjust. For example, when I ski in
the bumps, I will close my knees. (The reason I close my knees is so that I can later open (or
extend) my leg as I come down the bump.) So if I close my knees, my CG will shift AFT on the
ski UNLESS I simultaneously CLOSE my hip! I must have a centered CG on my ski as an AFT
CG is just too slow in the bumps! As a matter of fact, I prefer a slightly forward CG in the bumps
so I will close my hips more than my knees! More in the bumps later!
(2) Foot to Foot: or Uphill ski vs. Downhill ski:
Most people recognize that there is more pressure on the downhill ski than the uphill ski. This is
true especially when traversing the slope (going across the slope). However, as we complete our
turn, somewhere along the turn the downhill ski’s weight has shifted to the uphill ski, which then
became the new downhill ski!
The question is, “At what point in the turn does the skier shift his weight from his downhill ski to
his uphill ski?”
Typically, I will ask this question and then while standing on the hill, I will point my skis from
one side of the hill and slowly ask the guest to say “stop that is where you are shifting your
weight” to the other side of the hill. 90% of the time the guest says that the weight shift occurs
when the skis are pointing straight down the mountain. And that seams logical! But it isn’t where
the weight shift occurs! That distinction will make you a better skier and you will find it is easier
to ski!
So where does the weight shift occur? I have a saying that sounds very confusing, but let’s give
it a try: “It is never too early to shift your weight to your uphill ski WHEN you want to turn.”
Now that just doesn’t make sense… so why say it. I say it because that is the truth! Allow me a
Lab Work to prove this point:
Lab Work 1: Right, right, right, CHANGE, Left, left, left, Change:
Focus on the weight on your downhill and uphill skis. More weight will be on your downhill ski.
Let’s say your downhill ski is your right ski. If your weight is on your downhill ski say, “Right,
right, right” and then when you change your weight to your uphill ski say, “CHANGE”, left, left
left. You will notice that you shifted your weight when the ski was pointing towards the trees! Or
at least you should have shifted your weight then. It is difficult to nail down exactly where the
weight shifts, but it is noticeably SOONER than you would think! Typically the weight shift
occurs about 20 degrees off the perpendicular!
I recommend doing this exercise for several turns. Say it aloud so you can hear yourself. Pay
particular attention to where your skis are pointing when you say, “Change”. You will notice it is
sooner than you may have thought!
Here’s a HUGE caution! Sometimes I will demonstrate where I change my weight by actually
picking up one of my skis (picking up the old downhill ski as I shift to the uphill ski, which is
now the new downhill ski). I do this ONLY to illustrate the actual weight shift! I do NOT want
to encourage skiing on one ski because you LOSE lower leg rotation when you do not have two
points on the ground. Quite often, you will see novice skiers lifting one ski off the ground. This
is NOT a good thing to do and I want to make sure that the reader understands to keep both skis
on the ground. You are simply shifting pressure (weight) from one ski to the other! In the next
Lab Work, we will show how very easy this weight change is!
Lab Work 2: Extend the Short Leg Ski:
When we are traversing the slope (going across the slope), we will notice that one leg is longer
than the other. Which one is the longer and shorter leg? Answer: The uphill leg is more bent at
the knee and ankle than the downhill ski, making the uphill ski the shorter leg. Now hold that
thought for a minute.
Have you ever ridden a bicycle? You will notice as you peddle that one leg is longer than the
other leg. This becomes natural when you’re riding a bicycle. However, I want you to think
about riding a new kind of bicycle. Think of riding a bicycle when the range of motion is only 2”
from the top of the peddle to the bottom of the peddle. So that you are only extending and
contracting your legs by only 2”. For the time being, forget about moving your feet forward or
backwards as when riding a bicycle, merely concentrate on extending the up peddle leg.
Now back to skiing. Think about extending the uphill ski leg just 2”… even less, perhaps 1”.
Notice that while you’re standing still what happens to the bottom of your ski when you extend
the uphill ski… The bottom of the ski FLATTENS out! The bottom of the ski is actually
releasing it’s edge naturally! As you extend (straighten) your joints, the ski will naturally flatten!
A flat ski allows you to rotate the ski. Now a purist would get on me for mixing Pressure Control
with Rotation, but let’s face it, “blended skiing” is the goal. So as I EXTEND the uphill ski by an
inch or two, I am conscious that I am flattening my ski. This allows me to initiate my turn. I can
now either Rotate my ski by releasing the edge and allowing the ski tips to fall, or put Edge on
my ski and drive the ski on it’s new edge!
You will notice that the weight shift is very subtle and the ski is designed to turn at the moment
you are shifting your weight.
Acceleration of the edged ski: (In relation to Pressure Control)
Above in the “Edge” section, we talked about the edged ski accelerates when it is moved from a
flat ski to an edged ski, of which the edged ski does not have the friction as that of the flat ski. So
what do we need to do to keep our balance if we suddenly accelerate our skis?
Let’s phrase this another way: What do we do to stay on a motorcycle when we twist the throttle
of a motorcycle and accelerate? What do we need to do when we use a crop to spank the horse to
go faster? What do we need to do if we decide to start running?
In all of these cases, we MUST close our hips appropriately or we will fall off the motorcycle,
fall off the horse or fall backwards if we run. It is perfectly natural to close our hips in all of
these cases.
However, when it comes to skiing, many people do not make the cognitive association that when
they put their ski on the edge that they will go faster. Not realizing this is a big mistake and their
arms go shooting up in the air, their head falls back and they are surprised EVERY time. When
this is distinction (that an edged ski is going to accelerate) is brought to your attention, you learn
to anticipate that you will go faster and then you close your hips and spine appropriately and all
is balanced!
The bottom line is anytime you put an edge on your ski, you will accelerate and you need to
close your hip and spine accordingly. This is using Pressure Control to move your CG forward in
anticipation of your virtual immediate acceleration.
Turn Shape: The “U” and the “C” and “c”:
There are 3 phases of the turn; the initiating phase, the shaping phase, and the finishing phase of
the turn.
The tendency of many novice skiers is to rush their turn and go directly from the initiating phase
to the finish phase of their turn while rushing through and skipping the shaping phase of the turn.
I suspect the primary reason most people skip the shaping phase of the turn is because they are
typically accelerating down the fall line (also known as the gravity line) and they are afraid they
are going to pick up speed. So they quickly and abruptly skip the shaping part of the turn.
There are two ways to avoid this fear. The first is to select the terrain that is gradual enough for
the novice (beginner) skier so that (s)he is not afraid of the speed accelerating to quickly. The
other option is if you cannot find gentle enough terrain, then you can do some “garlands”. A
garland is like a large “U” shape. Even on a fairly steep slope, you can point your skis down
slightly to pick up speed and then point them up the hill and you will slow down.
The two techniques (the gradual slope vs. the garland) utilize many of the same things with the
exception that with the initiation phase of the turn, you will not switch edges with the garland.
Initiating phase:
During the initiating phase of the turn, you use Pressure Control to shift your weight to your
uphill ski while you are slightly extending your uphill (the short leg) ski, this will flatten your
Edges and you are releasing the edges of both skis, as the edges of the skis are released,
Shaping phase:
During the shaping phase of the turn, you can select to either rotate your skis (with lower leg
rotation) OR you can continue rolling your edge on the ski. In either case, you need to use
Pressure Control by appropriately closing your hip and/or spine as you WILL be accelerating
during the shaping phase of the turn.
Finish phase:
During the finish phase of the turn, you are pressing your ski into the hill and perhaps even
skiing uphill. In terms of Pressure Control, more weight is on your downhill ski.
A totally carved turn: An Edge turn:
A totally carved turn (or an Edge turn) will leave 2 distinct tracks in the snow that were created
by your skis both being on their edge. Note that each person’s skis will have a different turn
radius as each person’s skis have a different turning radius. However, you will see two distinct
lines, then a flat moment as the skis transfer from one edge to the next edge, and so forth. Some
people call this “railroad tracks” because the tracks look like railroad tracks.
When to use the Edge:
As you can imagine, ski racers attempt to be on their edges as much as possible. However most
of us are not ski racers. I use an edged ski when skiing groomers, steeps, and crud for various
reasons. The groomers are fun to use a carved ski. You go fast, and then slow down, then go fast,
then slow down as you shape your turns. On the steeps, I use the edges to check my speed by
skiing uphill (and yes, I will use the edges also as friction if I’m lazy). And I use the edge ski in
the crud as the edged ski cuts through the crud, versus giving me a bumpy ride.
A flat turn:
A flat turn is just that… a flat turn. You can rotate a flat ski extremely easy IF you have proper
Pressure Control. That is by having a centered to slightly forward CG and you keep your skis
flat. (As a matter of fact, you can do 360’s all the way down the mountain.) Again, the preferred
goal would be to use lower leg rotation.
When to use the Flat ski:
I use the flat ski to ski powder and bumps. (Please see the sections Powder and Bumps for more
The blended turn (Using both Rotation and Edges):
Realistically, unless you are doing a perfect carved turn or a perfect flat turn, you are typically
using a combination of both edges and rotation. The trick is to determine which when and how
much of each you wish to use.
If you look my business card, you will see the happy face that shows that most turns are a
combination of the circles; Balance, Edges, Rotation, and Pressure control.
Bumps are intimidating to many skiers. I was once asked, “What machine makes bumps?” I had
to laugh because I had never heard the question before. My response was, “There is no machine
that makes bumps. Rather it is skiers who are skiing down the mountain who make the bumps.”
Now if you think of it, if skiers are making the bumps, then it there must be a way to ski through
the bumps!
There are a number of approaches that I teach to learn how to ski the bumps. But first, let’s make
the bumps disappear! I have 2 ways to make the bumps disappear. The first will be discussed
with the following question:
“What piece of equipment (skis, boots, poles, helmet) do you try to get through the bumps?”
The typical response is, “My skis!” No, that isn’t the correct answer. If you look at it logically,
the ski is virtually always going over some part of the bump! So it can’t be the ski. That really
perplexes a lot of people. I then show the guest that the ski is DESIGNED to bend!
Lab Work 1: Slide slip through the bumps with and without looking down the fall line.
I demonstrate this by having the guests watch me as I sideslip through the bumps while looking
UP at my guests. The skis will naturally bend and contort their way through the bumps as I
merely sideslip through the bumps! Now when I watch the sideslip, I will readily admit it does
look creepy! But you CAN sideslip through the bumps! This is a great relief to many skiers as
they know they can get down bumps this way. So take the anxiety out of bumps!
Ok, so I haven’t answered the original question, “What piece of equipment do I move through
the bumps? Answer: I use my ski boots to get through the bumps.
A little while ago, I said there were 2 ways to make the bumps disappear. The first way is for the
ski to absorb the bump. The second way is to use a FLAT ski! A flat ski can (as we just showed
with the above Lab Work) can sideslip down all the bumps!
So if it is that easy, then why do people have problems skiing in the bumps? The primary reason
is that most people attempt to ski the bumps by using their edges! We know what happens when
we put an edge on a ski… it takes off and accelerates! How many times have you entered in the
bumps and then suddenly found yourself accelerating across the bumps with your hands flying
up, elbows back, ankles open, your thighs burning, your mind in a desperate frenzy of survival,
you’re out of breath, and vowing you will NEVER ski the bumps again? Yep, been there myself
all too many times.
So let’s slow it down and try this progression:
Lab Work 2: On a NON-bump run:
On a smooth surface (non-bump run) do a series of flat turns. Keep your skis flat. It’s a given
that your ankles are mostly closed. Now close your knees, while at the same time as closing your
hip and spine. This will move your center of gravity (CG) forward and it will also lower your
body. A centered to slightly forward CG is great for rotating your skis! Your skis should be able
to rotate quickly!
Why do we close our knees? Answer: Because in the bumps we need to extend our knees. If our
knees are already extended, we cannot extend them more when we need to in the bumps while
going over the bump. We do not want to have completely extended knees, nor do we want our
knees fully closed. About 1/3 to ½ closed is approximately appropriate.
Lab Work 3: Pick a spot on the snow where you will commit to turn.
While still on the smooth, non-bump run, pick a spot where you commit to turn. Sometimes I
will toss out a pinecones from a tree on the snow and ask the guest to turn on the pinecones. I
used to use tomato catsup, but that is too messy. The point is to pretend the pinecone is a bump
and you are going to execute your turn on the pinecone (imaginary bump).
Lab Work 4: Slide / Stop / Slide / Stop:
Using your flat turn and while imaging WHERE you are turning, turn your skis and slide slip
until you come to a virtual complete stop, then repeat in the opposite direction. Try this on both
gentle and steep non-bump terrain. The point is to learn to flatten your skis when you are rotating
your skis and to put your edge ON to sideslip to control your speed… even to a stop on each
turn! In the bumps WE control our speed, not the terrain!
Now we’re ready to approach the bumps:
Lab Work 5: Approach a stationary bump:
You should notice that while on the top of the bump, both the tip and tail of the ski are not
touching the snow. IF you have proper CG, it should be EASY to rotate your skis! Go ahead and
rotate your skis and stop perpendicular to the slope.
Lab Work 6: Pick some terrain where there are bumps on one side of the trail:
With the modern grooming of slopes, there are many trails where there are both bumps and a
groomed section. (Ski resorts will often use this technique so that novice skiers can negotiate
their way down a bump run. So it should be relatively easy to find some appropriate terrain.)
Now, with your practiced lowered ski stance (knees more closed than usual, center to forward
CG because hip and spine are closed), ski on the periphery of the small bumps taking in one
bump at a time and then ski to the groomed section. Keep trying this approach. Ski a bump,
retreat to the groomed side.
Lab Work 7: Link a couple of bumps.
Now, while link a couple of bumps together. At first, rotate, stop, rotate, stop. Or another way of
looking at it, sideslip, rotate, sideslip, rotate. It is crucial to control your speed!
Lab Work 8: Pick the longest line in the bumps.
With your eyes, find the longest line through the bumps. You will often find a “line” where you
can make your longest available turn. Realize that skiers made these bumps and if you relax, you
can ski them.
A couple of tips for bump skiing:
(1) You do not have enough time to use counter rotation or upper body rotation in the bumps.
You can use blocking pole plant and lower leg rotation.
(2) Always know when your ski is flat and when it is on it’s edge. Use the edge of the ski to
sideslip. You can use the edge of the ski to carve through a bump, but it is virtually impossible to
have a fully carved ski in the bumps as you will be shooting across the slope.
(3) Keep relaxed. Head and neck relaxed.
(4) Elbows out about 45 degrees from your body, with your hands in front.