I once spent two weeks with a regimental ski team in Champery, Switzerland. They were there to train for the British Army Downhill Championship. There's nothing very interesting about that, you may say, but two of the five soldiers taking part had only been skiing for a few days! The competition was six weeks later, and these two completed the course at speeds of up to 60 mph, and they weren't last.How did they do it? They managed because they were extremely fit, they were prepared to clock up an enormous mileage, and they had a really positive attitude.
Yet without being taught more than a snowplough at the start of the six weeks training, they were able to ski in a downhill.The point of mentioning this is to show you that technical knowledge is not everything, and with complete dedication to the three main principles of fitness, mileage, and positive attitude, technique can come naturally over a short time. The problem of course is that it may be impossible to adopt the soldiers' dedication because of time, money, or whatever. Besides, their training schedule did only concentrate on downhill technique, and although they eventually became ski instructors, it took them a little longer to get the hang of all the other types of turn in the lexicon of skiing technique.
Modern turning techniques were developed during the late sixties by the gurus of the time, from dissecting and analysing the smallest movements of children and racers as they tore down slalom courses. George Joubert and Jean Vuarnet from France took pictures of racers with motorised still cameras, and their movements were broken down to form the basis of the turns we use today. These quite radical changes in technique went hand in hand with the improved technology in ski and ski boot manufacture, and have now become the standard.Let's just summarise what turns are for:.
We use them to get round corners. We use them to brake and control our speed on the piste, in the bumps, on the steep, and in powder snow. These are usually short, snappy turns.
We may also use short snappy turns as an alternative to ancient courting rituals or when we feel exhilarated with excess energy. On the other hand we make fast long turns on wide empty pistes, and for off piste and glacier skiing on Spring snow, or when we feel knackered and couldn't be bothered to do short snappy turns.Our technique will be governed by the weather, the type of snow, and even our mood on a particular day. All this is obvious, but it is surprising how many people apply the only turn in their repertoire, which we will refer to as the bog standard stem christie, to try and cover all these different situations. Don't worry just now if you are unfamiliar with the term 'stem christie'.
It will be explained elsewhere.Now I don't have anything against the bog standard stem christie; it is a very useful turn, and the basis for everything that follows, but its very success as the universal turn can be a skier's undoing. For example, if he tries to use it on ice, or the steep, or in deep snow, or trying to race round slalom gates on a club day, he is not going to find it very helpful.In the article, 'How a Ski is Turned', I discuss the physics employed to turn a ski, before getting on to the exercises you will be able to practise to produce some quality turns..Simon Dewhurst has taught downhill skiing in North America, Scandinavia and the European Alps for 35 years.
He currently runs a ski chalet agency in the French Alps. His book "Secrets of Better Skiing" can be found at http://www.ski-jungle.com. If you have any comments about the above article, he will be happy to answer them.
By: Simon Dewhurst