Wed, Mar 7, 2012 09:15 AM
Sometimes even the best skiers can feel, well, apprehensive on
the mountain. Some folks may even feel queasy from time to time
looking down a steep, or icy, pitch. We're not trying to make fear
our friend. That's not the goal. In truth, though, East to West,
from runs the like of Ovation at Killington to Spiral Stairs at
Telluride in Colorado you may actually feel your knees go
If you're lucky, the snow's good.
Here's the take-home: There's a big mental game to becoming an
expert skier. Whether you prefer skis or a snowboard, and whether
you are on a shiny Black Diamond or staring down the bumps of Outer
Limits don't discount psychological skills.
"There's a mind-body dimension to sports," explains Mala L.
Matacin, Ph.D., chair of the department of psychology at The
University of Hartford in Connecticut and a specialist in health
psychology. "You can't separate from the physical from the
How you think impacts how you ski.
Skiing is, in fact, impacted by how we think and can function like
a feedback loop. For example, if you think you will fall, you then
fall and you will likely confirm to yourself that you were right
and this was too much! In fact, if you get caught in that negative
loop you're not going to perform at your potential.
In contrast, in a positive loop, you can enhance performance.
So, what can we do to enhance our performance? Ski easier terrain
and you likely will know you can ski it well. And will! Then,
gradually increasing the challenge offers an opportunity to
continually reinforce your belief in your skills. In this positive
loop your muscles will remain more relaxed, and your attitude will
keep you in a better position on your skis.
"These loops are critical," emphasizes Matacin.
When tense or fearful we may lean back, which is less than an ideal
"attack" position. In contrast, when we are relaxed we are bettered
centered and positioned on our skis. It's positive. It promotes a
positive feedback loop.
Truly, one element which differentiates good athletes from great
athletes is this feedback loop. Done well, this positive loop can
be energizing. But, you need to have the mental attitude that you
can do it, that you are good, and that you can get better!
Columnist Tony Crespi is a former ski school supervisor and coach
whose column is published throughout the season. He is a frequent
contributor to publications throughout snow country.