Feel Your Way to Better Skiing and Riding

Improve your skiing and riding by feeling your proper body position from the feet up. This can help with basic body position or harder to master skills such as weight distribution in moguls or when carving. It can help better feel the balance on while working on your skate skiing, which can lead to nice improvements in efficiency.

Feeling versus Seeing

Much to the chagrin of friends who insist on sending me Grateful Dead bootlegs, I just don't happen to be one of those people who find great wisdom in Dead's lyrics. There is at least one lyric from Box of Rain that applies to skiing though:

Feel your way, feel your way
Like the day before.
Maybe you'll find direction
Around some corner…

Sight is a great source of information to skiers and snowboarders trying to figure out where to go, of course, but all that input can make you forget that you can also feel your way down the slope as well. There are a couple of skiing and riding situations where this really helps, but let's get the theory first. If you practice feeling certain body parts or positions while standing still and make a mental note that while skiing and riding you will continue to feel the same thing, you will find that 99% of your concentration is still on what you see (and on staying on your feet), but that one percent that is focussed on feel just won't go away and it will improve your performance on the snow.

Situation: weight too far back on your skis

Come to a complete stop on a moderate slope (whatever that is for your ability), skis across the hill, and stand in a relaxed position. Close your eyes and flex slightly forward in your boots. Feel the pressure of your shin touching on the front of your ski boot. You don't need jam your shin against the tongue of the boot, but just feel a firm, comfy pressure. Stand up until the pressure comes off the shin. Flex forward again until you feel it. Open your eyes and flex again, still focussing on feeling your shin on your boot.

Now start skiing down the trail and begin making some turns. Somewhere in your mind reserve a little space for feeling the shin pressing on the boot. If you lose that pressure, you're getting too far back. For most people, this subtle mental message will keep you in good position throughout your run (provided you didn't choose terrain too challenging for you). If you do lose concentration, flex forward until you feel that pressure again.

Beginners may have all they can do to stay on their feet and will only be able to apply this intermittently. That's fine. It will still give you a nice check on your body position.

For strong skiers who tend to get back in, say, the moguls, noticing this slight pressure will often be much more effective than actually concentrating on body position in the abstract. As a general rule, when skiing, it is always better to feel it than to think it!

Situation: your inside foot goes silly in a carved turn

This version is only for more advanced skiers who are working on carving, but find that your inside foot won't cooperate and let you lay down those nice double-arcs. Your outside ski carves nicely, but the inside ski still skids. Just as in the last exercise, come to a complete stop. Decide which side you are going to work on (left turns or right turns). If you decided on left turns, close your eyes and push down with the little toe of the left foot until feel some pressure on the bottom of the toe. Release and push again. Feel the pressure. Now, don't think about your turn or your technique, just ski as you normally would, but reserve that little 1% in your mind for feeling the pressure on the left little toe during left turns. Now come to a complete stop and do the same thing on the right side.

Make up your own drills

Those are just two examples of how you can use feel to improve your skiing. You can use this for all sorts of problems. If you can identify a problem habit and then figure out what you should feel, put that feeling in your mind while standing still. Keep feeling it while you ski and you're there! Also, if you're daring, you can find a gentle slope and get a friend to keep watch for you, and you can even try a few turns with your eyes closed. That can make a beginner slope exhilirating once again! But do make sure someone trusted is watching to keep you from plowing into trees and small children.