How to Progress Your Skiing: Intermediate to Advanced (Tips from a Ski Instructor)
If you’ve clicked on this article, you probably feel pretty confident in your ability as an intermediate skier, but you’re looking to kick it up a notch. First of all, good for you. Wanting to be a better skier is the most important part of becoming one.
Once you’ve made the decision to improve your skiing, it can be quite daunting to figure out what to tackle first. The most important skills for an intermediate skier to improve upon are carving, moguls, and comfortability in the air.
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First, let's define an intermediate skier: an intermediate skier is comfortable on blue terrain and starting out on easier black terrain. Their skis remain parallel all the time, and they know how to hockey stop.
If that sounds like you, amazing. Let’s start by discussing the most common mistakes that keep intermediate skiers from reaching their full potential.
Common Mistakes Among Intermediate Skiers
We know you’ve heard been told this a million times, but there’s a good chance you still aren’t far enough forward on your skis. Part of the reason for this is that unless someone is videotaping you, it can be difficult to tell if you’re in the backseat.
Some signs that your weight isn’t far enough forward are shin bang, which presents as pain or bruising on the front of the shin, falling backward consistently, and picking up the inside ski when initiating a turn. If any or all of these are happening to you, you need to get further forward.
There are three main joints in the body that are involved in bringing your weight forward: your hips, knees, and ankles. Ideally, imagine all three of these being bent at a 45-degree angle. To help with this, you can have a friend take a picture of you as you ski in a straight line on a relatively flat slope.
This will help you see where your body position actually is, and which joints you need to adjust. Don’t worry, when you change your position, it’s supposed to feel weird. It might even feel like you’re falling forward. Keep practicing maintaining that position, and you should immediately feel your skis react differently to your motions.
Outside Ski Pressure
Rather than thinking about it as pushing on your outside ski, try to balance over the top of it. As you lean into the hill while practicing your carved turns, you will notice that you can stay balanced over the outside ski, but not the inside ski.
Too much weight on the inside ski will mean that you will fall as you lean towards the hill because your center of mass will be fighting against the g-forces rather than working with them.
A great way to check if you are properly pressuring your outside ski is to pick up your inside ski in the middle of your turn (not while initiating it). If you can pick it up and put it down without stomping, odds are you are pressuring the ski properly.
For an added bonus, try only picking up the tail of your ski and dragging the tip in the snow. If you can do this, you are likely not only pressuring the outside ski correctly but leaning forward enough.
The last note here—pressuring the outside ski is absolutely essential when it comes to carving on in-bounds runs. If you are skiing in powder, you will want to be able to balance evenly on both skis. To learn more about skiing powder perfectly, check out this article.
Key Skills Every Advanced Skier Must Know
We’ve all seen the skier who did one black diamond and decided to try the next, only to find it was much steeper than the previous one. All of a sudden, they cannot trust their parallel turn and revert to straight-lining in a snowplow.
It’s okay. We’ve all been there. But you’re becoming an advanced skier, and so you have gotta get up on those edges.
Moguls are really difficult terrain elements to master. As an intermediate skier, you’ve probably tried them out a few times. As you practice moguls, try to take it slow and pick a line.
Picking your line is key to skiing between the moguls like water flowing through a stream. Learn more about picking your line and mogul techniques in the video below.
While many skiers prefer to keep both skis on the ground at all times, there are some huge advantages to getting comfortable in the air. But don’t worry, you don’t need to send it off 100-foot cliffs to become an advanced skier.
As you increase terrain difficulty, you might come across hidden obstacles that can launch you into the air. These can happen in moguls, the backcountry, or on hidden cliffs on black and double-black terrain.
Start out jumping in place, using side hits, or popping up at the top of knolls. Becoming more comfortable in the air will make you a more dynamic skier (and once you conquer the fear factor, it’s really fun.)
Make the Most out of Training
Beware of Overterraining
One of the common mistakes that intermediate skiers make is increasing terrain difficulty too quickly. And it’s easy to understand why. Once you go down your first black diamond, your next thought is to conquer all of them.
However, the problem with overterraining is that it can lead to plateaus. By going down trails that are too hard for you without taking the time to master your skills on easier terrain, you will often sacrifice form and create habits that will make it harder to advance your skiing in the long run.
Slow it Down
As you start practicing advanced skills, like skiing steeps, carving turns, and doing moguls, you might find that many of these skills are easier to do at high speeds. The reason for this is that increasing speed brings in more factors impacting the ski—it helps the ski bounce and bends more, which in turn makes the skier feel that they are doing more with the ski.
This is one of the most common mistakes that even advanced and expert skiers struggle with. Once you get a taste of speed, it’s hard to let it go, even for a second. But trust me here. Try your skills out slowly on easy terrain, and you might find that what you thought you were figuring out how to do is all of a sudden impossible.
If you can do a skill slowly on easy terrain, you will be able to do it correctly at high speeds on difficult terrain. Slowing it down is a surefire way to test your own abilities and make sure that you are on the right track.
Don't Be Afraid of Ski School
So maybe you’ve graduated from high school or college, and you could have your Ph.D. But don’t forget about ski school.
Often, we think of ski school as just for kids, and that it is no use to someone who has mastered their Pizza and their French Fry. But that’s not the case at all.
Most ski schools have programs all the way up to expert skiers, and it’s a surefire way to get accurate feedback about your personal skiing that you can take with you. Even if you only take a one-day lesson (or even half of a day), you will surely get advice that you can take with you and practice on your own.
Everyone is different, but no matter what, everyone can benefit from improving these skills. Our only word of warning is, don’t get so focused on training that you let it take the fun out of skiing. Practice makes perfect, so every day you get out on the hill, you’re one step closer to being a better skier.