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What is the best way to improve, when you can only ski 1 or 2 days a year.

newskier378

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I am a skier stuck in Alabama. I'm a VERY solid intermediate. I can confidently ski black terrain in Colorado that doesn't have moguls. I've skied when I can over 30 years. I also lived in Denver for a while and skied a lot more regularly. (Again, I don't post here very often; I completely messed up when I made my username FOREVER ago). I say this all to say I'm not just someone who thinks they can ski well but is out of control, etc. As my Norwegian expert skier family has attested, I'm actually a good skier.

As far back as I can remember, the biggest thing standing in my way on ski days is that I get really sore legs. After reading and talking with my family, who have observed me skiing, I realized it's probably because I've been skiing in the backseat my whole life. It honestly probably started when I started being an intermediate skier in the 90s and my Dad used a harness on me.
I really want to get over this, and I'm willing even to take a trip to help me with this because it's cutting into my ability to enjoy ski vacation. My legs can feel completely done for the day after two runs. NOT FUN. I know I could be in better shape, but it's not the only issue here.
I'm also SUPER short on money. Especially since I will have to travel to make this happen. I've been looking at lessons for my ski ability. I know for most resorts, my only choice is a private one. I phased out of their adult group lessons 25 years ago.

Also, to further this issue. I most likely have something called dyspraxia. Short story: body awareness isn't something I have a lot of. If you're somewhat aware of what dyspraxia is, know I have an exceptionally mild case, and it looks VERY different in each person.

Any tips are so appreciated.
 

edelweissmaedl

Angel Diva
First off, welcome!

Second, don't discount the idea that group lessons aren't an option. While it can hold true at some small hills that the only adult group lessons offered are for beginners, group adult lessons for intermediate/advanced are otherwise available at any other resort that quickly comes to mind. If you can swing a weekday, that increases your chances of a group lesson becoming a private or semi-private by default as less intermediate/advanced skiers are looking to take a lesson that day (and weekdays are always less crowded).

It sounds like you recognize your form needs work to help you start skiing 'smarter, not harder' as I like to say. When I got back into skiing in my mid-thirties after a pause as a broke young adult I quickly realized I needed to learn to be more efficient in my skiing to hopefully keep skiing into my 80's. I have taken a lot of lessons to improve in the last 6-7 years and only one of those was a private lesson. The rest were advanced group lessons and a semi-private or two.

You might also look into a weekend Women's camp or Women's Day which might give you more bang for your lesson buck. Even my home hill of Whitetail in Pennsylvania offers a couple Women's Days throughout the season. (breakfast, morning group lesson by level, lunch, afternoon lesson with same group). There have been some great, recent recap post of Diva's that have done some of these weekend camps this season.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
As my Norwegian expert skier family has attested, I'm actually a good skier.

As far back as I can remember, the biggest thing standing in my way on ski days is that I get really sore legs. After reading and talking with my family, who have observed me skiing, I realized it's probably because I've been skiing in the backseat my whole life. It honestly probably started when I started being an intermediate skier in the 90s and my Dad used a harness on me.
I really want to get over this, and I'm willing even to take a trip to help me with this because it's cutting into my ability to enjoy ski vacation. My legs can feel completely done for the day after two runs. NOT FUN. I know I could be in better shape, but it's not the only issue here.
I'm also SUPER short on money. Especially since I will have to travel to make this happen. I've been looking at lessons for my ski ability. I know for most resorts, my only choice is a private one. I phased out of their adult group lessons 25 years ago.
Good for you for deciding to think about how to deal with old habits. Not easy. I was only an intermediate doing stem turns on straight skis for a couple seasons before not skiing for years. When I started taking lessons at Massanutten (northern VA), the L3 instructor told me it would take 2-3 seasons to ingrain new habits. I was only getting on skis 10-15 days a season back then. I continued to work with him and did eventually make it over the "intermediate plateau."

I was surprised to learn in 2022 that Winter Park has group lessons at all levels, including black and double-black. I know one of the L3 instructors who teaches that level, if there is anyone interested when he's on duty. Often will only be one student, rarely more than 2-3.

I am a skier stuck in Alabama. I'm a VERY solid intermediate. I can confidently ski black terrain in Colorado that doesn't have moguls. I've skied when I can over 30 years.
Would you be able to budget for a Taos Ski Week next season? How much do you know about that lesson package? It is a great value for any ski ability level or background. The travel logistics can be a bit complicated from the southeast though.

The 2-3 day camps in the northeast might be easier to set up with a tight budget.
 

snoWYmonkey

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
As an instructor, I of course second the idea of lessons. However, two questions come to mind.

You did not mention how much you train or what specific leg, quad and hamstring, workouts you do during the year and/or prior (2 months) to going skiing. I don't care how technically proficient someone is, and centered over their skis. There is no denying that this is a sport, and a demanding one at that. Even the best athletes who return, and have not done any PT or rehab or training, usually only last an hour or two on day one or two or three.

If you are trying to maximize your rare ski days by skiing bell to bell, without training like a semi pro athlete before hand, your legs will scream at you very loudly!

The second question I have is in regards to your boots and your anatomy. If you are in very soft rentals then they are not providing you with much support and if you can't feel when you are or are not centered from within you own body, it is likely that you are working super hard to stay balanced. If they have too much or too little forward lean you may be compensating. Can you tell when the skis are not doing the rights thing, such as accelerating too fast or hard to turn? I ask because those cues may be different from your own internal cues, but maybe not.

I am just trying to determine if there are reasons beyond your technique that might be affecting the leg fatigue you are wanting to overcome.

Even if you can't afford lessons, you can watch some great videos of instructors across the world on social media by typing in national demo teams ski. If you are a visual learner, just modeling that image goes a long way as most of us are great at mimicking. Watching bad skiers on the slopes actually can make us worse skiers, so look for the good ones as you ride the lift. Most kids learn not through technical understanding as much as just following a good skier around an copying their movements.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
....As far back as I can remember, the biggest thing standing in my way on ski days is that I get really sore legs. After reading and talking with my family, who have observed me skiing, I realized it's probably because I've been skiing in the backseat my whole life. It honestly probably started when I started being an intermediate skier in the 90s and my Dad used a harness on me.
....My legs can feel completely done for the day after two runs. NOT FUN. I know I could be in better shape, but it's not the only issue here.
.... I'm also SUPER short on money.
I'm agreeing with you. Skiing in the back seat is very common, and if you have not been taking lessons all these years then it's more likely than not that your weight hovers over the back side of your feet, rather than in front of your toes.

And as @snoWYmonkey has said, rental boots are almost always a poor fit for the anatomy of the renter's foot. If there are gaps between the surface of your feet and the boot shell, this can cause the skis to wobble. The normal reaction is to make the foot bigger in order to reach the shell and control that wobbling ski. Clenching the foot can help, but that clenching can make the ankle joint rigid which can put you in the back seat. When renting, try boots that are two sizes smaller than recommended by the person handing you the boots. Wear thin socks because you need your feet to be as close to the plastic shell as possible. People here can talk about getting your foot into the boot properly, and how a properly snug boot should feel.

Skiers in the back seat can ski all kinds of terrain (except bumps), and if they have strong legs because of participation in other sports or from working out to build strength they can last all day. So strengthening your quads with some kind of physical activity all through the year will be helpful. Calisthenics can do wonders and does not require equipment nor gym membership. Online videos of strength-building exercises specific to skiing are popular. Running regularly can also help a lot. If your running path is on hills, you'll need some guidance to avoid running from the back seat on the downhills. Or run up the hill, walk down, repeat. Doing mileage on a bicycle weekly will be helpful and virtually free if you can get a used bike inexpensively.

But finding an activity that will help you train yourself to keep your weight hovering a little forward of your toes may be the best thing to work on when you aren't actually skiing. Can you spend time ice skating? Does your budget allow this?

Lastly, here's a quick article about back seat skiing from a writer I like. This website is excellent, and it's written by our own @Analisa .
 

newskier378

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
As an instructor, I of course second the idea of lessons. However, two questions come to mind.

You did not mention how much you train or what specific leg, quad and hamstring, workouts you do during the year and/or prior (2 months) to going skiing. I don't care how technically proficient someone is, and centered over their skis. There is no denying that this is a sport, and a demanding one at that. Even the best athletes who return, and have not done any PT or rehab or training, usually only last an hour or two on day one or two or three.

If you are trying to maximize your rare ski days by skiing bell to bell, without training like a semi pro athlete before hand, your legs will scream at you very loudly!

The second question I have is in regards to your boots and your anatomy. If you are in very soft rentals then they are not providing you with much support and if you can't feel when you are or are not centered from within you own body, it is likely that you are working super hard to stay balanced. If they have too much or too little forward lean you may be compensating. Can you tell when the skis are not doing the rights thing, such as accelerating too fast or hard to turn? I ask because those cues may be different from your own internal cues, but maybe not.
I own ski boots (From my days of skiing in Colorado). They don't fit perfectly, but they are far better than rentals!

As far as fitness in general, currently, this is pretty low. But I had similar issues when I was in a much more fit state. I really appreciate the suggestions for cross-training here, though! Ice skating, I think, could be in my budget and sounds fun.

How much would I need to budget to save for one of these women's weekends next year?
 

edelweissmaedl

Angel Diva
A one day event with lift ticket could start around $250.
I'd say a 2-day camp could run $450-$800 potentially.

As @marzNC shared the 6-day Taos ski week is a great deal, at $360, but then you are factoring in higher costs for flights, lodging for a whole week etc.

Another thing to research could be a Ski Club trip that focuses on lessons. My club does one to Canaan Valley, WV twice a season. The price ranges from $360-$520 for lodging, lift tickets and group adult lessons. You just have to get yourself there. You don't have to live near a ski club to be a member of one. Another option to google.
 

Lmk92

Angel Diva
I'm agreeing with you. Skiing in the back seat is very common, and if you have not been taking lessons all these years then it's more likely than not that your weight hovers over the back side of your feet, rather than in front of your toes.

And as @snoWYmonkey has said, rental boots are almost always a poor fit for the anatomy of the renter's foot. If there are gaps between the surface of your feet and the boot shell, this can cause the skis to wobble. The normal reaction is to make the foot bigger in order to reach the shell and control that wobbling ski. Clenching the foot can help, but that clenching can make the ankle joint rigid which can put you in the back seat. When renting, try boots that are two sizes smaller than recommended by the person handing you the boots. Wear thin socks because you need your feet to be as close to the plastic shell as possible. People here can talk about getting your foot into the boot properly, and how a properly snug boot should feel.

Skiers in the back seat can ski all kinds of terrain (except bumps), and if they have strong legs because of participation in other sports or from working out to build strength they can last all day. So strengthening your quads with some kind of physical activity all through the year will be helpful. Calisthenics can do wonders and does not require equipment nor gym membership. Online videos of strength-building exercises specific to skiing are popular. Running regularly can also help a lot. If your running path is on hills, you'll need some guidance to avoid running from the back seat on the downhills. Or run up the hill, walk down, repeat. Doing mileage on a bicycle weekly will be helpful and virtually free if you can get a used bike inexpensively.

But finding an activity that will help you train yourself to keep your weight hovering a little forward of your toes may be the best thing to work on when you aren't actually skiing. Can you spend time ice skating? Does your budget allow this?

Lastly, here's a quick article about back seat skiing from a writer I like. This website is excellent, and it's written by our own @Analisa .

"
How can I tell if I’m in the backseat?

You could post videos on Tiktok. Elitist trolls will be sure to let you know." HA!

I just took another lesson, thinking I was going to learn how to ski better in bumps and glades, only to find out I'm STILL in the backseat, despite several lessons and help from @marzNC . This is just habit now, as I struggled to recreate the drills I was assigned. Now I'm just hoping I didn't waste my money on that unnecessarily private lesson. :rolleyes:
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
I wouldn't consider it a waste, you got affirmation that you still have an issue.

Have you tried skiing without your poles and hands out front? Also there is the "squish the grapes". Squish some imaginary grapes that are sitting on the tongue of your boot. Also search on Diva's for "push the bush".
Have you had your stance evaluated while in your boots at the fitters?
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
I just took another lesson, thinking I was going to learn how to ski better in bumps and glades, only to find out I'm STILL in the backseat, despite several lessons and help from @marzNC . This is just habit now, as I struggled to recreate the drills I was assigned. Now I'm just hoping I didn't waste my money on that unnecessarily private lesson. :rolleyes:
Getting rid of bad habits takes quite a while and a great deal of persistance. Read on for rambling based on taking lessons regularly for a decade.

Remember, I'm not an instructor. I've been taking lessons regularly with Level 3 instructors since rehabbing a knee in 2012. For me, the first step is to actively recognize the different feeling of doing something correctly with an instructor. The next step is to be able feel doing it right or wrong without an instructor. Eventually need to be able to fix an incorrect stance or movement without having to stop and re-set. That's only possible on trails that are comfortable, usually blue groomers. I'm happy if I do something right 80% of the time on easy terrain. Meaning a fundamental skill that I'm working to improve.

Had a semi-private lesson at Massanutten last weekend together with a couple friends who are intermediates. The instructor, a Level 3 I know but haven't worked with before, said exactly the same thing to me and my friend. She learned as an adult 10 years ago when her kids were starting on skis in ski school. We both needed to be looser in the upper body and arms, and not be quite so far forward. Her form on slick snow is actually better than mine because she started with lessons and kept taking at least one every season. So she has fewer bad habits. She likes skiing solo so that she can work on technique.

I tense up on slick snow because I ski more out west than in the east these days. When I get to an icy patch, I usually just go faster to get to better snow while making as few turns as possible. When I look back, I see her making nice round medium turns with pole touches. I did a lesson with her at Alta last April and pole touches was a focus for her during that lesson.

One of my Taos instructors told my group of older advanced skiers to "ski groomers deliberately" if the long term goal is to improve fundamentals. Of course, always concentrating on technique doesn't usually make for fun skiing. It has to be an investment in time for a pay off in the future, which could mean 1-5 years later. Once I learned enough drills and could do them correctly on my own, I actually am less bored at small hills because I can always practice something if I feel like it. When free skiing with L3 instructors, I can tell they are practicing most of the time when on groomers.
 

Lmk92

Angel Diva
I wouldn't consider it a waste, you got affirmation that you still have an issue.

Have you tried skiing without your poles and hands out front? Also there is the "squish the grapes". Squish some imaginary grapes that are sitting on the tongue of your boot. Also search on Diva's for "push the bush".
Have you had your stance evaluated while in your boots at the fitters?
All terms I've read, but have not really swallowed. Until now. Luckily, i have another ski day planned for tomorrow, and will be focusing on these. Interestingly enough, my instructor did mention something along the lines of "push the bush". I think he said "tush to the bush" lol. I have not had my stance evaluated, but I do think my boots are way too loose. I'll have to stop in and have that evaluation done. Thanks, Jilly!
 

Lmk92

Angel Diva
Getting rid of bad habits takes quite a while and a great deal of persistance. Read on for rambling based on taking lessons regularly for a decade.

Remember, I'm not an instructor. I've been taking lessons regularly with Level 3 instructors since rehabbing a knee in 2012. For me, the first step is to actively recognize the different feeling of doing something correctly with an instructor. The next step is to be able feel doing it right or wrong without an instructor. Eventually need to be able to fix an incorrect stance or movement without having to stop and re-set. That's only possible on trails that are comfortable, usually blue groomers. I'm happy if I do something right 80% of the time on easy terrain. Meaning a fundamental skill that I'm working to improve.

Had a semi-private lesson at Massanutten last weekend together with a couple friends who are intermediates. The instructor, a Level 3 I know but haven't worked with before, said exactly the same thing to me and my friend. She learned as an adult 10 years ago when her kids were starting on skis in ski school. We both needed to be looser in the upper body and arms, and not be quite so far forward. Her form on slick snow is actually better than mine because she started with lessons and kept taking at least one every season. So she has fewer bad habits. She likes skiing solo so that she can work on technique.

I tense up on slick snow because I ski more out west than in the east these days. When I get to an icy patch, I usually just go faster to get to better snow while making as few turns as possible. When I look back, I see her making nice round medium turns with pole touches. I did a lesson with her at Alta last April and pole touches was a focus for her during that lesson.

One of my Taos instructors told my group of older advanced skiers to "ski groomers deliberately" if the long term goal is to improve fundamentals. Of course, always concentrating on technique doesn't usually make for fun skiing. It has to be an investment in time for a pay off in the future, which could mean 1-5 years later. Once I learned enough drills and could do them correctly on my own, I actually am less bored at small hills because I can always practice something if I feel like it. When free skiing with L3 instructors, I can tell they are practicing most of the time when on groomers.
I can definitely see where a clinic would be helpful. I had planned to attend one earlier this year, but my daughter had other plans for me at the time. The key is "do them correctly on my own". I'm unsure now if I'm doing them correctly. My plan is to practice locally and then return to Elk (weather permitting) to take another lesson with the same instructor. We'll see if I'm still falling into bad habits.
 

MissySki

Angel Diva
"
How can I tell if I’m in the backseat?

You could post videos on Tiktok. Elitist trolls will be sure to let you know." HA!

I just took another lesson, thinking I was going to learn how to ski better in bumps and glades, only to find out I'm STILL in the backseat, despite several lessons and help from @marzNC . This is just habit now, as I struggled to recreate the drills I was assigned. Now I'm just hoping I didn't waste my money on that unnecessarily private lesson. :rolleyes:
Have you ascertained that your issue is definitely technique based? I only ask because this is a place where I have found that gear can have an impact on my anatomy personally. For example, if my binding ramp delta is too large, I compensate by sitting back.. same with boots with too much heel lift or too much forward lean. My lower leg bone is longer than my femur, so if my angles are off down below I apparently do really weird things to compensate which mostly put me into the backseat to offset the issues. I have a much easier time balancing where I should be with that stuff dialed in now, though I have to be aware still of my tendency to get a little back as that's where I go when out of balance in general. We are talking about very small differences in neutral to backseat here versus blatant potty squatting backseat driving which I assume is what you are talking about too, otherwise your quads will certainly let you know when you are hanging out too far back. My quads used to die all day in certain boots I had years ago, where I literally couldn't get off of my quads in them, now my quads pretty much never get sore anymore.. so that used to be a big tell for me.
 

Lmk92

Angel Diva
Have you ascertained that your issue is definitely technique based? I only ask because this is a place where I have found that gear can have an impact on my anatomy personally. For example, if my binding ramp delta is too large, I compensate by sitting back.. same with boots with too much heel lift or too much forward lean. My lower leg bone is longer than my femur, so if my angles are off down below I apparently do really weird things to compensate which mostly put me into the backseat to offset the issues. I have a much easier time balancing where I should be with that stuff dialed in now, though I have to be aware still of my tendency to get a little back as that's where I go when out of balance in general. We are talking about very small differences in neutral to backseat here versus blatant potty squatting backseat driving which I assume is what you are talking about too, otherwise your quads will certainly let you know when you are hanging out too far back. My quads used to die all day in certain boots I had years ago, where I literally couldn't get off of my quads in them, now my quads pretty much never get sore anymore.. so that used to be a big tell for me.
I can't say for sure it's technique, but because the drills he had me doing felt so strange, I suspect that is the case.

It's interesting that you bring up sore quads, as I was thinking about this very issue while skiing. I remember years ago when I couldn't finish a long run at Gore, due to quads on fire. I have not felt that bad since changing my gear. When I do feel the burn, I immediately tell myself to watch the backseat (learning from the Divas), which happens more often in ungroomed terrain and powder.

But I'll take this as a second to Jilly's suggestion, and have that evaluated first chance I get. Thanks!
 

Skier31

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Great ideas in the above posts.

I am an instructor. I teach in the Bumps for Boomers program at Aspen. Many of the people I work with have skied for a long time and are uncomfortable in bumps and steeps.

One of the most common issues that we encounter is people who are skiing in the backseat. I have had my own journey with fore/aft balance. Mine was a combination of equipment and understanding what "centered" is and how to get "centered".

My thoughts are:

1. Have your boots evaluated. There is a chart by Bob Barnes which shows the different stances with different boots. I will try and locate it. It is helpful.
2. Find out how much delta your bindings have. That is also critical. If you are pushed forward, you may have to flex your knees and hips to be in balance but putting you in the backseat.
3. A lesson with the right instructor will be incredibly helpful. I have worked with people who change their stance and within a short amount of time are skiing with much less energy.
4. Stance matters!
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
I can definitely see where a clinic would be helpful. I had planned to attend one earlier this year, but my daughter had other plans for me at the time. The key is "do them correctly on my own". I'm unsure now if I'm doing them correctly. My plan is to practice locally and then return to Elk (weather permitting) to take another lesson with the same instructor. We'll see if I'm still falling into bad habits.
Working with the same instructor over a period of years can be very helpful. I've done that at Massanutten as well as at my favorite resorts out west. Note that out west it can be several years before I get back for a lesson with an instructor I've worked with before.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, there is nothing better than a Taos Ski Week. Consecutive morning lessons makes it more likely that an adjustment gets ingrained enough by midweek that it will stick past that week. Having the afternoon to practice, or ski for pure fun with friends, give time for the brain to catch up from the new ideas presented in the morning. For a solo traveler, chances are good that someone in the lesson group will be interested in skiing together at least for a few runs in the afternoon.
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
See how shoulders, hips (or knees in the squat positions) and feet are in a straight line. This is called "stacked". The bones are supporting the muscles. Not the muscles supporting the bones as in B or C. Also notice the lower leg in B1. If I could put a chair under you, you could sit down. aka Backseat.

So one thing I did with my ladies night group was to have them stand still and pretend they were bouncing a ball - ie basketball, or the ready position from tennis, or addressing the golf ball. Same position. In any of those the shoulders, hips and feet are in alignment and the weight should be center to the balls of your feet.

It's called the athletic stance.
 

Christy

Angel Diva
My thoughts are:

1. Have your boots evaluated. There is a chart by Bob Barnes which shows the different stances with different boots. I will try and locate it. It is helpful.
2. Find out how much delta your bindings have. That is also critical. If you are pushed forward, you may have to flex your knees and hips to be in balance but putting you in the backseat.
3. A lesson with the right instructor will be incredibly helpful. I have worked with people who change their stance and within a short amount of time are skiing with much less energy.
4. Stance matters!

I love this. Great summary.

I've had similar issues as @MissySki. I had massive quad fatigue when I didn't know my boots had too much forward lean. (And as someone else said, if your boots don't fit quite right, your legs might be working overtime trying to keep you balanced). We were in the same lesson together at Big Sky when a fabulous instructor who is also a Ski Diva (@Ursula) pointed out to both of us that our leg anatomy makes things more difficult for us, too.

I actually didn't know there were places where you couldn't get a group lesson if you were an intermediate or above. Given that you have to travel to ski, you can just make it a point to go to a place where you can. Sun Valley is probably not the most convenient location for you but just as an example, I usually take a lesson when we go there; they do group lessons for all levels and just have a bunch of instructors present. There's a little ski-off and everyone is sorted into appropriate groups. At Sun Valley on a weekday it's common to have 4 or 5 students and 6 or 8 teachers present. I've nearly always either gotten my own instructor, or I share with one other person. All the unneeded instructors go do something else. At Whistler I've experienced a similar set up but with a lot more students, so the groups have around 6.
 

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