Sloppy Start to a Better Ski Day

Once you've warmed up your muscles a bit and done some stretching, you're ready to ski. The last step in your warmup routine should involve skiing, but start out sloppy and messy rather than trying to get it right from the get go.

Early in the day, I like my students warm up a bit at the top of hill and then ski as sloppy as they can for the first dozen or so turns. Personally, I start out every ski day at a ski area this way (it's not always so easy to do in the backcountry). What's that mean to ski sloppy? I start by doing everything
"wrong" — I turn by throwing my shoulders. I skid my turns. I get too far back, and too far forward. I sideslip left and sideslip right. I try to imagine that I look more ungainly than the most ungainly skier on the slope.

Skiing for the Joy

Why would I do this? Several reasons:

  • It gets my body moving and warming up and loose, because it's not just moving in the narrow range of motion it does when I'm skiing "right".
  • It wakes up my mind. Skiing poorly sends a lot of information to the brain as the skis slide around and you try to control them.
  • It lets me play with balance and edge control and get a feel for the day's snow.
  • It puts me in a good frame of mind. It gives me a chance to breathe in the beauty of the mountains without letting skiing get in the way.

The last point is actually the important one. The first run of the day is too early to get down on yourself about skiing poorly. This is especially true early in the ski season.

I see a lot of people who desperately want to ski well, especially if it's an advanced lesson or someone who doesn't know me very well. They get off the lift for their first run of the day all excited about strutting their stuff. But their stuff isn't what they remember. They get upset ("I suck!") and get down on themselves. It has happened to me more times than I can count that I go skiing with someone I haven't skied with before and, after the first dozen turns on the first run, they ski up to me and say "I usually ski better than this."

All I care about is having them get over feeling self-conscious and have some fun. So often I ask students to "ski your worst" at the top of the first run. This is like a free pass to warm up and enjoy the day. It's a hall pass to let the ego leave the classroom and have some fun.

As a result, skiers don't have to feel self-conscious and say "I usually ski better than this" to anyone, especially themselves. They can just have fun and with fun comes... well, fun which is the point of it all isn't it? As a far less important by-product, with fun comes relaxation, rapid improvement, major progress and above all, more fun.

So give it a try — start your first run by doing everything "wrong" and see if it doesn't improve your day and your skiing.