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Breckenridge Ski Lesson

Breckenridge Ski SchoolBreckenridge Ski School
This site is provided by Ted Amenta, Breckenridge Ski School Ski & Snowboard Instructor,
available for private instruction upon request.

This page is designed to give any level skier a better understanding of skiing and to provided skiing improvement exercises targeted at a wide range of skier abilities. These exercises should be done with the coaching and in the presence of a certified ski instructor. Ski safe and know your ability.

Skiing is like walking, you have to stand up, use both feet, and look where you are going.

You have to stand up to do it.

This sounds obvious but MOST skiers at ALL recreational ability levels could use work on standing over their boots more and sitting back less. The "back seat" stance makes the skier off balance toward their heels. This causes other stance problems (bending at the waist to much, feet to far apart, etc.) and forces the skier to throw their skis around underneath them rather than pressure them in such away as to allow a guided turn. This stance also causes the skier to tire faster and feel more sore at the end of the day because of the increased strain on the knees, thighs, lower back and stomach muscles.

An exercise which helps skiers of all abilities get out of the back seat is the pole pivot. Here you will need your poles and boots buckled but no skis. Find a small flat open area (your carpeted living room should work) and lay one ski pole on the ground. Using the second pole with both hands ahead of you for support, stand on top of the first with your feet about shoulder width apart. Stand with the pole under the MIDDLE of your foot (most boots have a line on the sole showing your where the exact center is). Balancing on of the middle of your foot, look straight ahead and pivot both feet back and forth using just your legs and hip sockets. Try to minimize the amount of upper body motion and "tail wagging" movements used.

Level 1-4 skiers benefit from sliding their skis back and forth while standing still or in a straight slow glide. Also try slight vertical leaps while standing still and gliding slowly.

Level 5 and above skiers may practice "side-slipping". To side slip point both skis directly across the hill. While looking down the hill, release your edges by extending your uphill leg, and let the skis slide SIDEWAYS down the hill, reset the edges and stop. The test of a successful sideslip is the lack of forward or backward "drift" of the skis. Your boots should be following a line straight down the hill. Level 5s should be side-slipping slowly, stopping completely between slips and resting every 1-3 slips.

Level 6-7 skiers are picking up the pace with less and less "drift" from straight down the hill during the slip. They may also try the leaping and foot shuffle exercises described for the level 1-4 skiers but do them while making a turn.

Level 8 skiers can practice "hockey slips" with the skis changing direction 180 degrees with each new slip, still stopping between each. They may also do "leapers". Leapers (similar to "air carves") are accomplished by skiing across the "fall-line" until a small bump in the terrain is found. The skier extends their legs using their own energy and the bump itself to get propelled up into the air where the new turn is initiated. The skier is taking off at the end of one turn and landing in the beginning of the next. Transition occurs while airborne.

Level 9 skiers are ready for "pivot slips" which keep boots moving in a straight line down the hill while the skis are swung 180 degrees back and forth across the hill . The skiers velocity is kept close to constant without excessive slowing down during the slipping portion of the exercise. These should be done in a series of 3-10 swings in both directions.

In addition to focusing on centered stance, side slips, hockey slips, and pivot slips place increasingly more and more importance on good upper-lower body separation and proper flexing and extending of the legs.

It helps to use both feet.

Again, this sounds simple enough but you would be surprised. Beginners often lean way over to the right or left putting all of their weight on one foot while the other one skips tenuously off of the ground as the skier accelerates down the hill and eventually blows up in a cloud of snow and ski gear. Expert skiers often appear to have their boots glued together which inevitably causes some combination tail waging and arm flailing.

The basic idea here is that a skiers center of gravity should always fall halfway between their feet for greatest balance, just like when you are standing still. Daylight should always be visible between the skiers entire legs (feet apart + knees together = backseat). When skiers ski "glue-footed", any movement or terrain change which changes the relationship of the feet to the center of gravity throws the skier off balance. Skiing IS movement over terrain change so the glue-footed skier is usually out balance.

Just knowing that skies should be kept about shoulder width apart helps many skiers. Level 1-3 wedgers may use more depending on wedge size and should concentrate on a 50%-50% weight distribution while going straight and 40%-60% heavy on the outside ski in a turn. The shuffling of feet exercises above are also extremely effective at targeting this aspect of skiing.

Look where you are going.

When you walk you look where you are going, not where you are or where you have been. The same thing applies to skiing. Look down the hill AT LEAST two or three turns. There are three reasons for this, the first two self explanatory. You are going down hill so that is where the stuff you should see is and you tend to go where ever you are looking .

Also, looking down the hill helps align the upper body in the direction of the next turn. You always want to point your chest more down the hill than your skies. How much more depends on the radius of your turn. In tight radius turns or bumps your chest points straight down hill with little deviation. In wider GS turns, the chest is not pointing as much downhill but is still kept ahead of the skis. Another way of looking at this is to say the uphill hand hip and shoulders are kept ahead of the downhill hand hip and shoulders.

Two exercises which target this idea of aligning the upper body down the hill are the picture frame and shadow turns. Both can be used by skiers at any level on whatever terrain they feel comfortable. Picture frames are done with the poles acting as the frames. Hands are kept out front about shoulder width apart with straight elbows, the poles point up toward the sky. Looking between the poles one sees their "picture". The idea is to pick a single object down the hill, set it in the picture sights, and make turns down to it, always keeping that object in the picture. This requires upper-lower body separation to keep the upper body pointing down the hill while the legs turn underneath from inside the hip socket.

Shadow turns can only be done on a sunny day and on a trail where the sun is directly at your back, Stand still in a breaking wedge pointing straight down the hill. Hold your arms up and out such that you can see both hands, elbows and shoulders in your shadow. This shadow shape is like the picture you want to maintain above.Try turning your upper body back and forth before you start skiing so you can see what it is you are trying to avoid. Now try making turns, shallow at first, keeping that shadow constant with hands and elbows visible at all times. Try turning the skis more and more against the hill (off fall-line) while still maintaining shadow shape.

Breckenridge Ski SchoolBreckenridge Ski School
This site is provided by Ted Amenta, Breckenridge Ski School Ski & Snowboard Instructor,
available for private instruction upon request.

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