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Ever infuriated by those skiers who effortlessly coast down a steep run without a care in the world. They are in control and have a natural flow to their skiing, while you’re looking on hoping they catch an edge! How do they achieve that balanced poise?
Skiing with a smooth flow comes partly from a good stance and balance, how the ankles, knees, and hips coordinate. A good general level of fitness will go a long way to improving your skiing stance and at the same time improve your endurance and ability to control the skis. Turns are a good maneuver to practice fluid movements, as any turn involves changes in posture, balance, and weight distribution on the skis. There are various exercises to improve the smoothness of your technique including ‘One Ski Turns’, synchronized turns, and pole planting.
Keeping flexibility in the ankles, knees, and hips ensures changes in posture can take place smoothly and efficiently. We have all seen the nervous beginner, whose posture is locked, arms straight out and no mobility in the legs. It’s not possible to have any fluidity of movement in this mindset.
While skiing there are a wide variety of postures you use to adapt to the conditions, such as the steepness of the run, the condition of the snow, how fast you want to go, etc. At the same time, you make constant adaptations as you move through turns, negotiate obstacles, and control your speed.
To achieve smoother skiing, it is necessary to understand the transition between each of these maneuvers, so they become almost intuitive, where you don’t have to think about the action. It’s like driving a car.
After a fair bit of experience driving, you become much more confident. Your initial anxieties about hitting another car become much more manageable as you realize it is unlikely to happen. With this newfound confidence, you find you can relax into driving more and more.
You get to the point where can drive the car on a trip without even being consciously aware of how you got to your destination. This autopilot perception occurs in skiing as well. Your brain becomes so accustomed to the different maneuvers, you disengage your active thinking about the range of maneuver and let your intuition take over.
You are however still in control so that if a skier suddenly cuts in front, you can immediately switch back to active thinking and take avoiding action.
You can better your smooth-flowing skiing ability by using exercises that help to ensure your body is in tune with itself. Starting an exercise plan well before you go skiing is always a wise move. You will always enjoy skiing better and at the same time reduce the possibility of injury dramatically – especially if you train before the season starts.
Depending on your commitment to skiing you might want to invest in a more in-depth program, which will develop and test the most used muscle groups. You can then apply this newfound strength and stamina to your skiing, pushing your ability along the way.
Fluidity in Turns
Turns are a great maneuver to practice fluidity. As you move through a turn numerous changes take place in your arms, legs, ankles, and body. For the more inexperienced skier, it’s difficult to flow smoothly through a turn coordinating all the changes. Often a newer skier will decide to make a turn and simply skid the skis round hard before continuing.
With this harsh turning, the skier will make Z-shaped progress down the run. However, with practice, it is possible to link all these small changes in a smooth, curved transition. By doing this repeatedly you will automatically discover your own rhythm and start to display more of an S-shaped pattern.
Use ‘One Ski Turns’ to develop Balance and understand Weight Distribution
A further exercise beyond smooth turns is to practice ‘One Ski Turns’. When making parallel turns it becomes clear how little weight is on the uphill ski. A ‘One Ski Turn’ simply takes this action one step further by lifting the uphill ski off the snow, so the whole bodyweight travels down into the downhill ski.
This exercise is great for balance and gives you a good feel for how your body is centered over just the downhill ski. You can sense how easy it is to change direction with your full body weight pushing down onto the ski edge.
Practice Synchronized Skiing
As an exercise, try synchronized skiing with a friend. Get your friend to ski in front, while making a long series of rhythmic turns. You follow behind keeping to the same tracks and body posture. Then try doing the same but parallel with your friend and out of phase, so you make figure-of-eight tracks in the snow.
This is a great practice to see someone else’s fluidity during turns, as well as practicing your own pole planting and following through turns.
Keep the Habit of Pole Planting
As skiers improve quite often the ski poles become redundant and just dangle from either hand.
However, pole planting is a useful habit to maintain, even if it becomes a lighter version of the original. A pole plant initiates a decisive turn and sets up the body in the correct posture to carry through.
Additionally on steep or tight runs or lumpy snow pole planting helps to keep control by defining each maneuver down the run.
Relax into your Style
Take some time to go down the same run repeatedly. Don’t go down faster each time but instead focus on smooth flowing action until your body feels relaxed but you are prepared for whatever the run might throw at you. By repeating this action several times, you can then transfer this relaxed style elsewhere.
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