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Contemporary Skiing Technique and Teaching

What is your skiing goal, desire or dream? What is the thing you are working on in your own skiing throughout the season? Maybe you are good skiers who ALREADY FOR MANY SEASONS carves white slopes with ease, but nevertheless you are asking yourself a question: “how my skiing can be improved?” and “where I can push it further?” If your answer is “yes”, the following article, in which we will introduce the concept of contemporary skiing defined by Lithuanian Snowsports Instructor Association is intended for you.

Contemporary approach to a turn on skis has many features and characteristics, however, the most important of them all is its shape. Our most desired goal while cruising down the hill should be continuous turns in the shape of a letter “S”, rather than those of a letter “Z”. Most basic rule of contemporary skiing therefore is that “the turn is round”. This imperative of roundness is way more important than the the turn being long, medium or short.

When we move down the hill and draw one “S” after another the variety of external forces are acting upon us. Our effort is to harness and utilize those forces as much as we can in a manner that they are working in our benefit. It gives us an opportunity to safe a lot of internal effort and to ski way more efficiently. If we, on the other hand, aim to actively push against the snow surface or strive to build a stance primarily from the upper body we won’t be able to experience relaxed roundness of the turn.

The pathway towards above described modern skiing in LSIA’s concepts through few fundamental skills which are: rotation, edging, pressure management, balanced position and right timing of movements. We can imagine these skills as an individual pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, which have to be assembled in the way to create the desired image – the right ski technique. How these skills are put, measured combined and mixed together is based mostly on speed and terrain.

Skiing skills improvement is connected not only to the right approach to modern technique, but also to a modern approach to teaching skiing. The key to understand technique is in a fundamental shift in movement mental model. One approach which can be used to change perception and understanding of movements it to use analogies and deliberate effort to relate skiing to other known movements. One of these movements is riding a bike, because it is a movement which is both familiar to almost everybody and also complex enough similarly to skiing. Let’s peek into the ski lesson, during which we ask the student following questions:

“When we ride our bike slowly, what do we have to do in order to ake a turn?” If we receive an answer like: “We need to use handlebars actively and manipulate front when so that we will maintain balance while turning,” we are on the right path and we now know that riding a bike is going to be a right analogical framework for our student to work with. Discovery continues and we are asking what is going to change in riding a bike when we increase our speed. “We do not have to use handlebars so much, but we can use a lean of a body to turn now,” is the response of our imaginary student. Bike riding is for many of us so natural that we subconsciously perceive that when forces which acts upon a system of a rider and a bike are increasing, we can start combining use of handlebars with the body lean. The faster we are moving the ratio between lean and handlebar use is changing in favor of the lean. You may be asking: What this have to do with skiing? On skis our handlebars are where our feet are, and by leg rotation we are steering our skis to a desired direction. The slower we are moving the more important it is to continuously rotate skis in order to maintain balance. When the speed is increasing, we are progressively adding inclination and rate of active rotation is decreasing. In technical terms edging is more dominant then rotation and skis are moving around further form our body. The path which remains behind us in the snow is thinner and thinner and eventually, even though it is not the absolute goal, we can see just two rails drawn into the snow surface. And that’s carving as you might have expected.

Caving turns are a key element in LSIA’s methodology. The right blend of these above-mentioned skills carving movement pattern can be a versatile turn for almost all snow conditions. In teaching of skiing there is not a clear line from where we can call turn “a carving turn”. It is more a situation when skis steered parallel with an active rotation is blended progressively with more skills, especially those related to lateral movements of center of mass and independent opposite movement of lower body. Many skiers are either in the phase of skidded parallel turn or on the other hand in phase of passive turn utilizing only the construction radius of the skis. Carving turn in LSIA’s approach is the way from these two dead-end alleys.

Some of you might ask the question, why we are introducing carving technique through improving the skill of rotation. However, if we realize that carving skiing is not just about putting your skis on their edges and wait where we are going to end up and that it is in fact more about active steering, we can see that rotation skills makes immediate sense. The result is creation of the appropriate lower and upper body separation, which helps us not only with maintaining balance, but also with the ability of early-edging initiation of the next turn. From this approach it is implied that there is nothing like a pure stand-alone carving skiing and that skiing is always efficient if it utilizes a variety of skills which are constantly through an optimal mix adapting to external conditions.

Forget all the drills in which turning of your skis is predominantly focused on the upper body, because in this way you will not ever achieve round and well-steered turns. Start nicely from your feet and know that balance on skis is not a result of upper body movements. Balanced position emerges rather dynamically through well-steered turn with a strong upper body in the core and active movements of the lower body in all plains. The basic rule of teaching is understanding and practice. Approach to teaching based on multitude of senseless drills without understanding leads to skiing in static positions. Skiing is a dynamic movement and the right stance cannot be simulated or enforced. It is paramount to paly with your skis and sense all the feelings which are building up in your ski boots.

We hope this article is going to be a good incentive and motivation towards your own development and improvement, which you can start as soon as upcoming season. If you are a bit lost and you are not sure if you understood everything, don’t worry. We guarantee you that you will better understand and make sense of it with a ski instructor directly on the groomed run or in variable terrain. So do not hesitate and invest time and money, which will have high return on investment in unforgettable experiences and pure joy from your improved skiing. We are looking forward meeting you. You will find us on the hill.