Words and Videos | Dave Morris
Technical Director of New Generation Ski and Snowboard School
There are a host of reasons to put a bit of effort into your skiing, and sometimes a little concentration and effort can unlock a new level of competence and a whole new range of possibilities.
From ambitions of skiing new runs and new challenges, to more sedate objectives of keeping up with friends, exploring more of the mountain or just staying safe, the motivation to improve is always a valid one and more achievable than you think.
Skiing is like golf; wherever you get to, you are never quite satisfied. There is always something you could do better and it's often this search for new levels of proficiency that keeps people coming back to learn more.
What’s more, with the advances in equipment and piste grooming, unattainable goals of yesteryear are now within reach of the holiday skier. For instance, the wider, softer design of powder skis has made learning to ski powder a possibility for intermediate skiers whereas before the millennium it was the domain of experts only.
At any level or age, we can progress our skiing; it takes a little effort and concentration, but it’s so worth it! Here are a few ideas for progressing off your skiing plateau to the next level.
Beginner: How to progress from green to blue runs
When moving from green to blue runs, you are generally a skier that skis a plough turn and then matches the ski parallel when feeling comfortable. At this stage, it’s really important that you become confident in what your skis are doing and that you are more comfortable with a gradual increase in speed and intensity.
Too often, skiers are consigned to a lifetime of defensive and stilted skiing because somewhere around this time circumstances made them feel nervous with the speed and unsure about their movements.
Top tip: Stay on greens a little longer to feel a pattern and a rhythm to what you are doing on your skis. Take the time to pay attention to your posture and balance at this stage, and aim to feel solid and secure around the turns you make.
Getting the foundations right will pay dividends. You should start to feel you are controlling your speed consistently throughout turns, rather than getting one turn over with quickly, slowing down to a crawl and then going through the next ordeal.
Intermediate: How to Progress from blue to red runs
Moving onto red runs commonly holds a fear factor for many, and it is common to hear statements such as ‘I am happy to stay on blues, I have no desire to ski a red’. This is a shame, however, as reds hold the best skiing on the mountain and being competent on reds usually means you can get around most ski areas.
Reds hold two principle obstacles; a steeper gradient and the condition of the slopes as they won’t always be groomed daily like a blue or green slope.
So to move onto reds, what you don’t want is a nasty surprise. Get informed about which are ‘the easy reds in resort’ and check with an instructor or with resort information about which days they are groomed. Then, get up early and have a go while it is in the best condition. The first time you do it, it will be a nervy affair so go with someone you like to be with or better still with a ski instructor. And then, and most importantly go and do it two more times before 10 am. I guarantee it will be a lot easier second time around.
Choppy conditions, ice and bumps make the whole affair more difficult, and there is no quick fix to these challenges. However, one common solution to all tricky situations is becoming more proficient at skidding – side slipping and skidding in your turns.
Often, skiers have one turn that they can perform but as conditions become more challenging they begin to struggle. ‘One turns doesn’t fit all’ so being able modify theri turns to skid more or less enables them to have a better control and manoeuvrability.
Expert: How to progress from red to black runs
Black runs hold a considerable psychological grip over recreational skiers so that even before they start the run, they are at a disadvantage. There are tactical and organisational things you can do (see blue to red above) that still apply but at the same time having a strong technique is paramount.
There are four important areas to consider when preparing yourself for black runs:
- Can you pole plant? Pole planting is imperative to steeper slopes as it helps stabilise your upper body against the strong accelerations of steep slopes.
- Be able to perform rhythmical short turns on a medium red as this signifies you have a purpose of movement that you will need on a black run. Hesitancy and passivity mean that the slope will bully you; be the boss.
- Piste grading is not an exact science, red runs have bits of black run in them and blue runs have bits of red. Search for short, difficult sections of reds and try and conquer them with rhythm and fluidity. It’s easier to look down and conquer 50m of tricky terrain than 350m.
- Don’t try to ‘grip’ with your edges at all costs. This common mistake means that skis cut into the snow and go faster which is not what we want to do when we first ski a black. Learn to ‘brush the edges around the turn’ so that speed is controlled.
There are many reasons that people fail to progress or stop progressing which is a shame when a higher level of proficiency isn’t as unattainable as we think. It doesn’t necessarily take a long time, but it takes effort and concentration.
It’s hard to learn to ski through an article but maybe this will give you some thoughts on ways to approach these common obstacles. It is often a case of process and logical steps that help people to progress smoothly.
An instructor can obviously help take you to the right place and make you concentrate on the right thing. Their experience should help choose a relevant thing at the right time to help you progress.
New Generation Ski and Snowboard School provides coaching, guiding and adventures for all ages and abilities. For more information about what they offer or how they can help you progress and get more from your ski holiday, you can visit the New Generation website, or contact their team today.