Learning to Ski Better

Lisa Marie Mercer
skiing better

Many people who get hooked on skiing eventually become interested in learning to ski better. Some long to ski more challenging terrain, while others simply long to make smooth and fluid, carved parallel turns. There are a number of ways to improve your ski technique. The best method will depend upon:

  • How much time you can devote to skiing
  • How much money you can afford to spend on skiing
  • Your learning style

Putting in the Miles

Spending more time on the slopes is one of the first steps in learning to ski better. More slope time means more confidence, and confidence is directly related to technique. This is clearly evident when you observe a skier's postural alignment. A confident skier will face the fall line while keeping his or her weight forward on the skis. A somewhat anxious skier might lean back on the tails of the skis. This has an adverse effect on carving technique. It may also lead to injury. Therefore, putting in more time on the slopes might be a viable way to improve ski technique. We've all heard the phrase, "practice makes perfect." Motor learning scientists agree. It has been speculated that it takes approximately 1000 repetitions to change a movement pattern. However, instructors of any type of sport or movement technique would be apt to add the word "correct" before the word "repetitions." In other words, increased slope time might improve confidence, but if your technique is not up to par, you might also ingrain bad habits. A lesson with a certified ski instructor can help you kick bad habits and improve your skills. Better yet, consider a multi-day ski clinic.

Multi-Day Ski Clinics

Multi-day ski clinics can involve anywhere from two to five days of consecutive ski instruction. "Consecutive" is the key word. It's a lot easier to improve on the skill you learned yesterday than it is to improve the one you learned two months ago. Furthermore, multi-day clinics are often taught by the resort's top instructors. Some of them have a specific theme, such as women-only, baby boomers, powder, bumps and more. Others have a unique body/mind approach to skill enhancement.Here are some examples of multi-day ski clinics:

  • Kristen Ulmer's Ski to Live: Taught by extreme skier Kristin Ulmer, this clinic combines skiing and yoga.
  • Epicski Academy: A multi-day clinic that boasts ski instruction with the super stars of the industry.
  • The Yikes Zone Fear Workshops: Written by ski instructor Mermer Blakeslee, The Yikes Zone offers helpful ways to conquer fear on the slopes. Mermer also gives fear workshops throughout the United States and Europe.
  • Harb Ski System: The Harb Ski System is the brainchild of Harald Harb, who believes that the wedge turn is not a functional ski movement and should thus not be taught. Harb provides alternative methods for ski skill enhancement.

If taking ski lessons or multi-day ski clinics is not an affordable option, there are a number of alternatives for ski skill improvement.

Alternate Methods of Learning to Ski Better

In order to benefit from these alternate ski skill enhancement methods, you should have some idea of your learning style. For example, if you usually have to try a movement a number of times in order to understand its nuances, you might benefit from a ski-specific fitness program. These types of program usually involve balance and agility exercises that simulate the movement patterns of alpine skiing.

Visual learners may benefit from watching videos of expert skiers. They can also try the following visualization exercise:

  • Choose a skier whose body type is similar to yours, and whose style you would like to emulate.
  • Observe the skier as he or she goes down the slope.
  • Close your eyes and imagine your body performing the same movements.
  • Begin your run and see if you can keep a similar movement pattern.

Auditory learners may enjoy listening to lectures on skiing, or they can read the incredible amount of information on the Internet. Some skiers like to carry flash cards with important technique information. While riding the lifts they repeat this information to themselves, as if it was a mantra.

Important: If riding with other people, it's best to do this silently.

Learning to Ski Better