Why Do Skiers Bend Their Body?

by Simon Knott | Updated On: January 30th, 2022
skiier in blue

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Keeping a good body posture when you’re skiing is a fundamental skill. It helps you keep a good center of gravity and control. But what is the right posture for different conditions and movements?

The best posture for a typical downhill skier includes bending the knees slightly forward. This ensures the bodyweight is always transferred down through the legs into the centre of the skis. Changing stance to adapt to the changing demands of the run and skiing style involves numerous body movements. If you crouch down on the skis to make the surface area of the body smaller, wind resistance will be reduced, and you will go faster. Even just putting your hands and arms behind your back will speed you up.

What Do Skiers Achieve By Bending Their Bodies?

Maintaining a good posture in skiing is vital and will ensure you can enjoy your time on the runs in a relaxed and efficient manner.

Other Advantages Include:

Bending and flexing your body will allow you to stay in control and absorb any uneven terrain. Having your knees bent will also make them act as automatic shock absorbers, putting you in a much better position to negotiate any uneven surface ahead.

Similarly keeping your ankles, knees, and hips slightly bent will push your center of gravity forward giving you much better control of the skis. The arms are bent and positioned at the sides of the body.

Freedom of movement when maintaining the right position allows you to quickly adapt your skiing technique to the terrain and the conditions, and to change your body position easily.

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The flexing and bending of the body should be matched to the skis. Once again, this helps with flexibility and the absorption of bumps. Matching in this way also ensures you are always looking in the direction of travel going down the run and consequently able to look out for obstacles or features.

Maintaining this posture will also equip you to change to a different posture, whether for direction, speed, or snow conditions. Most postures operate on similar rules, so changing from one to the other becomes automatic with practice. 

Feel exhausted at the end of a day’s skiing? Maybe time to check your posture. 

A good posture should not be tiring. It should feel relaxed, but you are in a prepared state, to quickly react to changing circumstances.  New skiers often struggle with leaning forward and tend to ski leaning back, resulting in little contact between their skis and the snow. This becomes very tiring and results in burning thighs and poor control of the skis. So, the lesson is if you experience burning thighs lean forward more, so your shins are pressing against the upper front part of your ski boot.

skier in orange
Photo by Mark Lehmkuhler licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

How does bending the body change the centre of mass?

The center of mass of anybody is the balancing point viewed in three dimensions. With hard solid objects, this is easier to calculate. For example, if you place a ski on your open palm, you can quickly find the center of mass by sliding the ski up and down until it balances.

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However, finding the center of mass of a human being is a lot more complicated. Arms and legs are not static objects and can move in any direction, constantly altering the center of mass. That said, it can be generally assumed the center of mass for a person is in the core area.

The base of support is the lowest part of the body connecting to the snow surface through ski boots and skis. The centre of mass and base of support work in conjunction and the skier must make constant unconscious adjustments to ensure the balance is maintained.

What is the best way to twist and bend the body through turns?

Maintaining control of speed is a vital part of downhill skiing. If you point your skis directly downhill on a run, you will pick up speed very quickly. To control this, downhill skiing has evolved so that a skier will zigzag down the run making a turn at the edge of the run on either side.

However fast you are going the most effective way of skiing a run is by ensuring the upper body is always kept facing down the slope. This is called skiing with the fall line.

In this context, the fall line is an imaginary line that starts with the skier and goes down the run in the most direct route. It is easier to imagine if you let go of a tennis ball at the top of a run the ball would follow the fall line as it rolled downhill.

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So, as you ski across the run from left to right your upper body will be bent to face down the run, even though your hips and legs will be facing straight ahead. As you go through the turn at the RHS edge of the run your upper body will bend round to the right to make sure your upper body is still facing down the fall line.

When you are starting out skiing this can feel very counterintuitive and awkward but with practice, it feels more natural and just becomes second nature. As you become better at skiing and have good control, the zigzags you make on the run become shorter and shorter, but you will always still be following the fall line down the run.

At the same time as controlling your upper body through the zigzag turns down the run, you need to ensure more of your body weight is transferred onto the downhill ski. To achieve this the upper body is bent slightly in the direction of the downhill ski. Skiing like this also helps to initiate a turn, as you transfer weight away from the downhill ski onto the uphill ski it will naturally turn round and start the turn.

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