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Steep Terrain

Photo: Art Wilder

Skiing steeper terrain requires many considerations. In the context of energy management, the athlete has to manage more energy in a smaller area in less time.

While it may be tempting to work on things like being more dynamic, more aggressive, fitness, etc, it pays to take a look at time management.

How we can we arrange the time frame to better fit the work.

Or… how do we arrange the work to fit the available time.

This comes down to looking at what needs to be done, what are we doing, and how can we streamline the movement flow to free up ‘area’.

As athletes, our tendency is to practice our craft, to repeat cycles of motion until they become facile.

I suspect that more often than not, the movements we learn early on are the ones we tend to practice the most, either directly, or in the shadows of more complex sequences, whether or not they are the best movements to be making.

I suggest running those movements through a filter and selecting only those universal to all terrain; sorting out movements specific to novice terrain.

As beginners, most of us learned to ski using the wedge turn. This emphasizes distinct weight shift from one foot to the other, from one inside edge to the other inside edge.

The only stakes in this game, at the time, are exerting some control over rate of descent, and not crashing into anything solid.

This beginner lesson reinforcing the common refrain ‘weight on the outside ski’ entrenches the idea that we should use our skis as two separable platforms only loosely linked together.

Yet it’s this very ‘inside edge- inside edge, weight on the outside ski’ concept that leads to our downfall when things get tricky.

The distinction is not a matter of style, it’s a matter of time. Inside edge to inside edge is a sequential movement, and sequential movements consume more time than simultaneous movements. More time consumed means more distance traveled between action A and B, and on steeper terrain, particularly terrain involving ‘furniture’ you may not have the luxury of time or area in which to operate.

Furthermore, when moving from inside to inside, there is a need to establish a new solid platform before leaving the old solid platform, with a subtle break in the action in between.

Indeed, when you ‘step’ from one ski to the next, that movement is probably driven more by your muscle activity and less by energy stored within the skis from the previous turn- a wasted effort.

So what to do?

Learn to ski on both feet simultaneously yet independently.


What this means is that both feet are components of the same dynamic platform, without being co-dependent. Each ski under each foot under each leg is fully capable of making a turn in either direction at any time fully independent of the other. Each edge of each ski is an effective tool to be used whenever it can be in contact with the snow. This is how it works for top level world cup skiers, eg, Marcel Hirscher, Mikaela Shiffrin, et al.

For the vast majority of skiers, each ski makes part of each turn, each ski being somewhat dependent on the other ski for other parts of that same turn. The inside edge is the working edge, the outside edge is not in use.

This is one reason why wider skis are so popular for sidecountry/backcountry. If you can use both skis effectively simultaneously, you get more flotation from a smaller platform. Otherwise you need a larger platform for each foot to prevent sinking when you stand to one foot but not the other.

Which means you might be carrying more weight into the woods than necessary…

When you can use both feet effectively, you gain in several areas.




Getting to this point isn’t easy though, as it requires revisiting how one ‘does’ skiing, rewiring a chunk of the neural network, and probably doing a bunch of boot work. (I’ll be describing this in another post.)

Expect that this will be an iterative process, where a change in one area leads to a change in another, leads to a change in the third, and so on.

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