Four Drills to Ski Beyond Blues

You're feeling pretty good on the blue runs, but still not putting it together for the harder ones. Here are four drills to give extra challenge on the blues and get you ready for the blacks.

Carving wide, swooping turns down a medium pitched blue run is an exhilarating breakthrough on skis. Not much feels better than wind blasting your face as you confidently transition edge-to-edge, alternating turns and gaining speed. But once you've mastered the fundamentals of on-piste skiing, what's next? What's the best way to make the jump to the next level? Besides skiing everyday, practicing a few fun drills while skiing will increase your core muscle strength and build on the fundamentals you've already learned.

One ski turns

Learning to successfully control your body with only one ski will improve your balance and rotary strength in-and-out of turns. It's as simple as it sounds. Link turns with the majority of your weight on one ski. Try to start with as little as 10 percent on one ski, 90 percent on the other. Turn by simply rolling your weight from the big toe to the little toe, feeling the edge hook and turn. Keep your balance like you would on a balance beam at first, with your arms extended outward. As you improve your skills, try to ski with a normal, compact stance, with your arms held in front. Practice with both legs until it is easy to switch between the two skis.

Spin, or 360-degree turns

On a moderate slope, enter into a turn but continue to rotate the turn 360 degrees so that the turning edge remains uphill in the direction you're turning. Spin turns helps improve ski roll and edge control. Try linking spin turns as you descend down the mountain, varying the amount of pressure rolled onto the edge. Mastering spin turns can be fun and will help your all-around skills, just don't get too dizzy.

Ankle Pivots

Ankle pivots are a great drill to practice expert skills like smear turns and speed management on steeps (if you don't know what they are, you'll soon learn!). Like a windshield wiper, pivot your ankles quickly back and forth while cruising down easy terrain. Allow your tails to slightly slide out before reversing directing. Ankle pivots also build rotary strength in your torso and ankles. As you become more comfortable with ankle pivots, try them on different terrain and conditions.

Pole plants on short and long radius turns

Pole plants help synchronize your upper body to work with your torso in and out of turns. Start with long radius turns. If the tips of your skis are 12 o'clock, touch your pole at the 1 or the 11, or not much downhill from where your skis are heading. The touch should trigger a new turn, so time it right as your skis come across the fall line and are cutting across the slope. With short radius turns, touch the pole where 3 or 9 o'clock would be. The poles should swing gently and alternate in good rhythm with each other.

Practice both turns with pole plants during a run, alternating between varying degrees of short and long radius turns.