(Photo Caption: Yes, Apres is a skill. Photo from Beaver Creek)
Let me get this right out front: I am not an instructor, nor have I ever taught skiing. I have no instructor training, no PSIA certification, no cool instructor jacket. However, as someone who’s been around the block (or lift line) a time or two, it seems to me that there are certain skills that we skiers should know how to do. Sure, I’m probably leaving stuff out, so feel free to reply with your own ideas. In any event, here are a few things that all of us would do well to master:
Hockey Stop. One of the first skills we learn as skiers is the good ol’ snow plow. It’s a perfectly good way to slow down or stop. But you can stop a lot faster, and better, using a hockey stop. All it takes is a quick turn to the side using your feet. Plus you get to kick up that cool spray of snow.
Side Slipping. Sure, you have to know when to use your edges, but you also know when to let them go. Side slipping essentially involves letting go of your edges and slipping down the hill. It’s an important skill that helps you get down the mountain without picking up speed, and is the basis for a number of different ski techniques. If you don’t know how to do it, take a lesson and learn.
Speed Control. Repeat after me: skiing fast does not equal skiing well. You have to know how to regulate your speed — how to effectively slow down or speed up, as needed. To do this effectively, you need to develop skills in both turn shape and edge control. To learn how to ski with control, again, you want lessons, lessons, lessons.
Upper and Lower Body Separation. Watch any expert skier, and you can see that the upper body is relatively quiet while the lower body does all the work. Many people learn to ski by twisting the upper body either at the shoulders or the hips. This can be an effective way to turn, but it can lead to a lot of problems down the road.
Adjusting Turn Shape and Linking Turns. There’s a time for making great, big GS turns across a groomer, and a time for making itty, bitty short turns along a narrow corridor. Learn how to do them both and you can handle a wide range of situations.
Skiing Ice. I know, I’ve heard it a million times. There’s no ice in the west. Well, um, there is. Maybe not as much as in the east, but from time to time, you will encounter ice. Rather than stopping like a deer caught in the headlights, master the basics for ice skiing. It’ll serve you well.
Skiing Powder. See above, but substitute ice for powder, and east for west. Yes, powder happens, wherever you are. You’ll be missing out on a lot if you only go out on groomer days. So learn what to do.
Being courteous. Some of this is kindergarten stuff: taking turns, being considerate, letting other people go ahead. Essentially, the skier responsibility code is one big list of how to play nice. Learn it and use it.
Talking to people on the lift. No one says you have to be a chatterbox, but some of the best conversations happen when you’re sitting on the chair. All it takes is a simple “How’s your day going?” or “Nice day, isn’t it?” You could end up meeting the nicest people.
Apres Ski. Sure, you can have a perfectly good ski day just heading home when you’re done. But adding apres just amps things up a bit. Whether you choose to hang out around the fire pit, share a beer with a friend, or soak in the hot tub, apres ski is like the cherry on the skiing sundae. Enjoy!
I would add a KICK TURN to the list. Being able to change direction without moving forward has definitely helped me out of some sticky situations.