A closer look at common skiing lore.
We have a catchphrase around the ski-school locker room: “Friends don’t let friends teach friends.” In other words, mythical tidbits of skiing wisdom passed along from one friend or family member to another often do more harm than good. Let’s examine a few popular ones.
Lean back in powder.
You’ll often hear that leaning back allows the ski tips to surf on top of the snow. Actually, leaning back puts you in an unbalanced, inefficient, and vulnerable position. Instead, aim to stand tall and be ready to absorb whatever hidden features may lurk beneath the snow. Stay over your feet and move ahead with your skis, not behind them. At first it might feel like you’ll go over the bars, but you won’t.
Master the death-wedge to master the slopes.
You know that face-down-the-fall-line death-wedge? Stop doing that. Skiing is about managing direction, speed, and flow with turns. Beginner skiers can get stuck using a wide snowplow stance, and pointing it straight down the hill while relying on the braking action of the snowplow. Not only is that no fun, but it makes everyone else’s knees hurt to watch. The solution is astonishingly easy. Point that snowplow left, all the way left until you’re facing across the hill and you slow down. Now point your snowplow to the right. Not just a little to the right, but all the way to the right, until once again you find yourself sideways to the hill and at a comfortable speed. Holy cow, that works! Keep at it—use the turn to control speed, not the braking action of the wedge.
Aggressive skiing is good skiing.
“My girlfriend is a good skier, but she needs to be more aggressive.” I’m always tempted to strangle people who say this—a personality transplant won’t help anyone become a better skier. For skiers not fueled by Red Bull, aggressive skiing style is grounded in owning solid technique, being physically strong, and feeling confident about where you are and what you’re doing. So if you want your girlfriend, or any other ski partner, to ski like a badass, help them build their skills, practice in places where they’ll succeed, and don’t drag them to terrain where they’re uncomfortable. Those situations aren’t good for anyone.
Big terrain makes you a bigshot.
Skilled skiers are happiest in terrain that offers them challenge and reward, and there are few better feelings in life than crushing a big run. The key, though, is to spend most of your time in places where you can still ski well. We all know the feeling of sketchy moves used to get through a certain situation. That’s fine in a pinch, but don’t make a habit of it. Resist the urge to focus on checking lines off your list while ignoring your ability to ski them capably. The more time you spend skiing poorly, the better you’ll get at… skiing poorly.
Karin Kirk (karinkirk.com) is a freelance writer and a Bridger Bowl ski instructor, staff trainer, and Ridge guide. She’s actually a lot friendlier than she comes off here.