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Top Ski Tips

Gliding down a mountain through virgin powder with the sun glistening on surrounding snow covered peaks, all topped with a deep blue, clear sky, has got to be one of the most incredible feelings on earth...
Here are a few tips for skiers of all levels to help you enjoy the sensation as much as I do!

The Basics

Gravity - This takes you from the top of the mountain to the bottom in the most direct route. This isn't always the safest or most desirable route so being able to steer and stop are key!!

Balance - snow is slippery! Trying to balance whilst sliding down a mountain isn't easy! You need a stance that is comfortable but stable on the move.
Dress Code - Stay warm! It is best to check the weather forecast every morning before you get dressed to make sure you keep warm and can see!
  • Sunglasses for the sun, goggles for the shade/cloud!
  • Don't wear a cotton under layer or you'll get cold! Have a thermal layer next to your skin.
  • Use layers of clothes, not big jumpers - it keeps you much warmer!
  • Only wear one pair of socks - more will actually make your feet colder!
  • Make sure your outside layer is waterproof - especially your bottom half!
  • Make sure you have lots of pocket space! You can take off layers when you get hot and carry extra ones in case the temperature drops...
Protect your skin - from the sun, wind and cold! Snow reflects the suns rays which is great for tanning but you don't feel its power so pack plenty of sun cream! Some sun cream also coats your skin in a protective layer which stops wind and cold burn too...
Run/trail colour coding - All pistes are given a colour code which reflects their difficulty! Green slopes are the easiest, then blue, red and blacks are the most difficult. Ski with care and don't dive in the deep end first thing in the morning or late afternoon!
Insurance - accidents can happen. Make you sure you get travel insurance that includes winter sports cover. First Timers Gear - I'd recommend renting your skis and boots and try to borrow the rest (see basics above) from friends and family. A lot of it is quite expensive so it's worth trying the sport and making sure you enjoy it before splashing out on the latest stuff!
Skis - All rental shops should give you skis that suit your ability, but their height is the key. Make sure they are 20-30cm shorter than your height - shorter skis are easier to turn! If you find the front of your skis keep crossing whilst you ski then don't be afraid to take them back to the rental shop and ask for some shorter ones!
Boots - Rental boots are notoriously uncomfortable so your mission is to try to find a pair that feel relatively comfortable but snug! You should be able to move your toes but your heel should NOT come up in the boots once they are done up. Likewise, your foot should not slip around from side to side in the boot. Walking to and from the slopes and around the bars is often easier if you undo you boots, but make sure they are done up when you ski!! Have them as tight as comfortable around your calf muscles but not tight across the top (dorsum) of your feet or they will restrict the blood flow to your toes and you will get cold feet! Don't tuck your trousers/salapettes into your boots, pull them over the outside to keep the snow out...
Getting involved - Strapping planks to your feet and slipping down a mountain may not sound like something worth forking out a few hundred quid for but, once you get the hang of a few basics, it really is. It's a great sport, no matter what standard you are! Skiing is a massive confidence sport though, so take your time learning and don't rush straight up to the top of the mountain, because getting out of control and stacking it at high speed can put people off...

Donning Your Skis: Before slotting your planks on, get used to the feel of your boots! Take a quick walk around in them and crouch down and stand up tall a couple of times to feel them flex. Use your poles to scrape any snow off the bottom of your boots before slotting them into the bindings on your skis. The easiest way of doing this is to slide the front of your boot into the binding first, and then line the back up and press down with your heel until the boot clicks into place. I'd recommend having a quick skate around on one ski before putting the second one on so you get an idea of the sliding sensation! To get your skis off, push down on the back of the bindings until your heel pops up. your ski pole can help with this. I'd recommend using your poles to push yourself around on some flat ground before joining the lift queue! Once your gear is on and you feel comfortable, it's time to learn how to stop and turn... Learning the Ropes Learning to stand up, turn where you want and stop when necessary are all you need to be able to do to enjoy yourself on the slopes! Here is a rough guide to get you on your way... Moving your skis - Your skis are clamped to your boots which should be on your feet. So if you turn your foot to the right then your ski will also turn to the right. Simple! Try picking one foot up at time, with your skis on, and turning them to the right and then the left, to get familiar with the feeling and which muscles to use. This principle doesn't change - you point your skis where you want to go primarily by turning your feet! Stance - The way you stand on skis has a massive impact on the likelihood of you falling over when you start sliding. If your feet are shoulder width apart you have a better base of support than if your feet are next to each other. The most stable position when skiing is to have your feet shoulder width apart, with your toes pointing inwards and heels apart, so your skis make a triangle/V-shape (like the shape of a slice of pizza!). This position (snow plough) gives you a solid base, even on the move! Bend your ankles, knees and waist slightly, keeping your arms out wide (as if about to hug someone!) and feel your weight evenly on the balls of your feet and heels. Try this at a standstill before you start moving...

Speed control/Stopping - If you can't control your speed and stop then there is a good chance you will hurt yourself and other people. The snow plough position (described above) is perfect for both controlling speed and stopping on gentle slopes! To slow down to a stop, simply turn your toes towards each other slightly more and push your heels further apart - making the snow plough wider at the back but keeping a small gap between the tips (front) of your skis. Useful Exercise - On a gentle slope, going straight down the hill, try making your plough/pizza slice wider at the back until you slow down, then narrower at the back to speed up and then bigger again until you stop. Your ski tips should stay the same width apart (5-10cm) throughout. Turning - On steeper slopes the above exercise will slow you down but won't stop you! You have to defy gravity by turning your skis so they face across the hill and not down it! To turn your skis, all you have to do is turn your feet so they point in the direction you wish to travel! This is easiest if you stay in the snow plough position, as it is very stable and keeps your speed under control. So, whilst keeping your skis in the snow plough/V-shape, gently turn your feet until your skis point across the hill and come to a stop.
Top Tip - Look where you want to go! If you look at the snow in front of your skis, that's where you'll end up! Useful Exercise - On a gentle slope, pick a marker such as a pylon or some poles and, when you get to it/them, slowly begin to turn your feet to the left or right, and keep turning them until you are
facing across the hill and you come to a stop. Then try doing the same in the other direction. Remember to look ahead at where you want to go! Once you get the hang of turning left and right, set yourself a slalom course with poles to test your control! To turn more sharply and on steeper slopes you need to move your weight from foot to foot as well as turning them! To turn to the right, put more weight on your left foot and to turn to the left, put more weight on your right foot.
Useful Exercise - Abandon your poles somewhere safe and put both your hands on the knee that is furthest down the hill... So, when you turn to the right, put both hands on your left knee and push it forwards slightly. Once your speed is under control and you are ready to turn left, stand up tall pushing on both feet, put your hands on your head and then slowly bring both hands down to your right knee and push it forwards. Continue doing this for every turn until you can feel the skis turning quickly. If you ever end up on a steep slope that intimidates you, then this is an excellent exercise to help get you down! If you use the above exercises and get some good mileage then you should really start to enjoy yourself and be able to venture on to steep blues! Going Parallel Skiing with your skis parallel at all times looks more flash and gives you more control and a tighter turning circle on steep slopes. It can feel quite unstable at first, so here are some ways of gradually bringing your skis together without losing control! Going Parallel is easier if you get used to skiing with a smaller snow plough/V-shape first. Once you can comfortably do all the exercises in the section above, try making the V-shape of your snow plough a little smaller at the back - you will go a little faster but the following exercises will be easier!