Skiing is a technical sport that requires strength, endurance and skill. All skiers, even those competing in the Olympics, can use a ski lesson or two to improve their skills and break bad habits. Improving your technique will only make your time on the slopes more enjoyable.
Based in Verbier in Switzerland, the Warren Smith Ski Academy brings together the top sports professionals to create a unique coaching team that adds ski biomechanics and physiology to traditional ski coaching methods.
Since you might not have the time to head to Verbier for one of Warren Smith’s many coaching clinics throughout the winter, the expert coaches have provided eight tips to make you a better and stronger skier today.
1. Make sure you do a pre-ski warm-up
Skiing is a sport and just like any sport, it’s essential to prepare your body for work. A dynamic warm-up helps warm-up your muscles and ready them for an intense workout. It will also help you reduce injury and improve your skiing quicker and easier.
Examples of dynamic warm-up moves include leg swings, hip rotations, arm rotations, and lower back rotations. Each dynamic warm-up movement is designed to warm-up each muscle and movement you use in skiing.
2. Ski Biomechanics & Range Tests
A ski biomechanics and range test can help identify your weak spots, so you can improve your technique on harder terrain, and help prevent injury.
For example, correct ski leg pattern (also known as unlocking the ankles) is a typical issue that can improve with biomechanical and physiological awareness.
Most skiers flex their knees more than their ankles, which causes their body weight to rest over the middle and back of their skis. This position causes legs to fatigue and adds unnecessary strain to the knee joints. Through a biomechanics test, you’ll often discover that the solution is a simple ski boot flex test and ankle flex drop test. In other words, your ski boots might be too stiff.
3. Power Steering the Skis
When skiers first learn how to ski, they are taught to steer with their feet. However, as they progress through their ski training, they should learn how to steer with their thighs, but unfortunately, most do not learn this important technique.
Using your thighs to steer and not just your foot, will make your steering stronger. Additionally, it takes the torque out of the knee joint during the steering process by engaging the thigh muscle groups, core, and gluteals.
Since many people can’t steer with their thighs because they weren’t taught or lack power and endurance in the upper leg steering muscles, it can take some time to learn.
Start by doing thigh steering dryland exercises to strengthen your legs muscles off the pistes. When you’re ready to practice on the snow, practice low speed turns first before adding speed.
4. Lateral Angulation
Leaning or falling from the hips into each turn direction can be a technically demanding exercise. If you were to watch a slow-motion video of a skier, you’ll see a difference between the angles skiers fall into with each turn direction.
Just like in life, people favour either their left or right-side. Skiers also do the same. Most skiers will lack either the range of motion or lack of confidence falling towards the left or the right side.
There can be several reasons why skiers favour one side over another, but the primary reason is often tight muscles around the pelvis that create imbalance on one side of the body. A Lateral range test can determine which side is tighter or lacks range of motion.
To increase range of motion, you can stretch out your muscles on the tighter side of the body, which can make falling easier and practice dryland falling and leg leaning training off the snow. Ditch your poles on the easy trails and try the hand on hip exercise.
5. Middle Body Core Strength
Many skiers falsely believe that skiing is all about leg strength, but that’s furthest from the truth. Skiing involves a strong core, which includes your hip and middle body muscles.
If you don’t have a strong middle body and core, you run the risk of allowing your hips, which is your centre of mass, to drop back during turning. This is especially important if you ski moguls.
You’ll find yourself constantly skiing into lumps of snow because of your body weight is on the tails of your skis. To correct this issue, you’ll need to activate and develop core strength. You can do this in the gym with dryland training to develop strength and endurance.
6. Pole Plant
The pole plant is important for balance, especially in free skiing. There should always be three points of contact when skiing – two feet and one pole.
Poles initiate the turn and frequency. Your arms should be in an “O” frame with your elbows outside of your shoulders and side. To move your pole, just raise your arm. Practice makes perfect so practice on the easier pistes before moving to more challenging terrain.
7. Step Turns
Step turns are essential for skiing steep slopes. When you don’t have enough room to complete your typical ski turns, step turns can do the job in half the space.
If you’re out freeskiing and you need to drop into a narrow and steep chute, you’ll want to step turn. Step turns control your speed through an acceleration zone. Your top leg steps up and you turn quickly. Watch the Warren Smith Ski Academy technique video for more information.
8. Dry Land Training Programme
There may not be snow year-round, but you can continue improving your skiing everyday throughout the year with dryland training. Dryland training helps you stay in shape for skiing year-round and improves your endurance, strength and technical ability. A dryland training programme can improve all of the following:
- Controlling leg symmetry
- Improving flex pattern
- Middle body strength development
- Increasing leg power
- Developing dynamics & angulation
Not sure where to start? Work with a fitness trainer who specialises in working with skiers. The Warren Smith Ski Academy is also a wonderful resource for dryland training programmes and exercises.
Improve Your Ski Technique Today
Warren Smith Ski Academy visits London and the UK frequently throughout the year. Sign up for a ski technique lab lecture in London, which can help you improve your ski technique immediately.
If you’d rather practice on the snow, come visit Warren Smith Ski Academy in Verbier, and Momentum Ski can help you plan your holiday.
If you’d like to find out more about how to plan your perfect ski holiday, sign up to our free email course.