The Mountain Times

°F Fri, April 18, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Opening day turns: Early seaosn skills maximize mountain thrills

"I look forward to skiing again. You can't get that sensation anyplace else," notes veteran Black Diamond skier Keith Morris, one of many New England skiers who has spent many years travelling north to ski Killington. "Skiing is exciting! And I love the scenery in the mountains."

For most skiers, the first turns of the season can be exciting. But, at the same time, following a long summer layoff, most skiers find their skills are rusty.

Here's reality: Not everyone can make those first turns of the season with as much style as those end-of-season turns. Fortunately, there are "warm-up" drills to help but most skiers don't know the best maneuvers. Interested? Class In Session. 

Ski pointer #1: Relax on opening day
Manage your expectations on opening day. And manage your speed! 
Ideally, unless only expert terrain is open, try to avoid jumping into the steepest terrain on that first run. And don't start skiing on the 'fast-track.' While great in business, its not ideal for opening day on the mountain.

To maximize muscle memory start by taking the first few runs on relaxed terrain. Concentrate on feeling the snow, feeling your skis, and feeling your balance.

The take-home? Choose appropriate, moderate, terrain for those first runs. Ski at a moderate pace. Relax.

Ski pointer #2: Vary your first turns
At the close of the season, most top skiers naturally vary turn shape and rhythm to accommodate the terrain. But, after a long summer it is helpful to systematically practice making different turn shapes.

On your second or third run practice making several long, round, "C" shaped turns. Practice making each turn round and smooth. Avoid abrupt movements. Gradually refine and polish your turn shapes.

Start by striving for consistency. Gradually make turns longer and then shorter.

The take-home? Try to vary the shape and rhythm of your turns. Ski longer turns. Ski shorter turns. Ski at various speeds.
Remember that varying turn shape, rhythm, and speed is an excellent way to help focus your attention on basic - and advanced - skiing skills and balance.

Ski pointer #3: Look up
Visual input is key to advanced skiing. Just as you must scan while driving in traffic so its important to scan while skiing. This allows us to see things down the trail. As a general rule, if we see our skis we are probably looking down too much. Then we don't have time to react. Look ahead. Look at the snow. Watch the terrain.

Try this game: Have a partner ski approximately 50 yards down the hill. Fix your eyes on your partner, and without moving your head, try to use your peripheral vision to become more aware of the slope. How much of the terrain can you see? Now, while still watching your partner, ski to your partner. Slowly. Good skiers look ahead when skiing, it is not only safer but helps you anticiate the terrain to better react to changing conditions.

On these first days skiing look for good snow. Look at the traffic. Become aware of the entire range of your vision. With practice you can ski better, and actually enjoy seeing much more of the entire mountain experience. 
Be aware and ski with care. See you on the mountain.

Contributing Columnist Tony Crespi has served as both a Ski School Supervisor and Development Team Coach. He is a contributing writer for publications throughout snow country.

Tagged: Skiing, early season