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Ski & Snowboard
Ski better by finding ski 'sweet spot
injuries and safe skiing on shaped skis
Skierís Guide to
Tips For Working Different Terrains
better by finding ski 'sweet spot'
I was young I loved the old comedies.
The Honeymooners with Jackie Gleason and Art Carney was one of my
favorites next to the 3 Stooges. I
remember whenever things went right for Jackie Gleason he would shout,
"How Sweet It Is!"
Now whenever I ski or board, and those magic moments come when I blast
through bumps or lace my way down steeps or float through powder I think
"How Sweet It Is!"
I realize now how true that statement is. No matter if your skiing or
snowboarding every great run begins with a great turn and continues with a
series of turns.
To have those great turns you need to master the "sweet spot."
The sweet spot in any sport is the point where beautiful things just
happen. It is the optimal position where forces meet to accomplish the
maximum act in the most efficient manner.
No matter if the sweet spot is on the tennis racket for a rocket return, a
golf club swing that makes Wood jealous or a baseball bat hit that
launches a missile or a hockey stick slap that blows the goalie down.
It is all a function of the athlete's ability to properly position
him or herself so that forces strike the sweet spot at the right time.
For skiing and boarding, it is about adjusting your balance over and
around the sweet spot.
In this issue, we will explore the relationship of balance to the ski's sweet spot. Practice these drills at home on a carpet with your equipment to become more aware of your "balance points."
Have your arms in front of your body with hands positioned several inches further apart than the width of your body. Look ahead, keep your head up and face forward. About one-sixth of your body weight rests in your head so a nod or a cock of it can throw you off balance. Now the ski's sweet spot is at the narrowest portion of the ski's "waist".
When your boot is in the ski's binding; the ski's sweet
spot is located between your heel and arch. Having a relaxed athletic
stance will center you over the ski's sweet spot.
Relax your ankles so that you feel even pressure all around the
boot cuff of your lower leg. Maintain your weight on the middle of the soles of your feet
when on traditional skis and under the balls of your feet for "shaped
skis". These points of pressure are known as the balance points. Skis
are designed to bend into a circular arc when pressure is applied at this
many new students, I find that they make solid turns on groomed runs but
cross their tips on steeper terrain.
The typical cause is due to one or both of the following; an
incomplete weight transfer with insufficient pressure placed on
the new outside ski and/or their balance point is too far back on
the heel placing them behind the ski causing them to "drive from the
By the way, it is common to be on the ski's after body for the last
quarter of the turn. As you lower your stance, you move your body's mass
back or a skier may choose on the wider shaped skis to pressure behind the
ball of the foot and reduce edge angle to make a wider arc turn.
you want to do in either of these situation is to move up and forward onto
your skis to start the new turn and not just sit back or just move
straight up. If you're going
to be back, be sure you can get forward again quickly.
It is important to begin each turn with weight on the ball of the
foot (your balance point).
A good weight transfer and balance point awareness drill is lifting one
ski about a foot off the ground and holding it for 5 seconds.
Then placing that ski back on the ground and lifting the other ski
and holding it for 5 seconds. Repeat. The key is to balance on one ski
with the ankle flexed. When
lifting the ski; if the ski tip is raised higher than the tail, your
weight is too far back. Flex
the ankle of the leg you're standing on to place more weight on the middle
of the sole of your foot or under the ball of your feet.
If the tail is higher, your weight is too far forward. Practice
keeping the lifted ski parallel to the ground.
Practice this until you can nail your balance point.
Knowing your balance point and sweet spot now allows you to play
around and adjust your skiing.
thrusting your hips out in front of your feet shifts your center forward
and applies pressure to the front of the skis.
In this stance, you feel pressure on the boot tongue and you're
ready to make short, quick turns because you can pivot the tips and skid
Placing your hips directly above your feet centers your balance over the
skis in the neutral or normal stance (athletic).
You will feel pressure along the entire sole of your foot, but
mostly over your arch. Medium-radius turns is performed with optimal
control of the entire ski; tip, waist and tail.
Bring your hips to the inside in a carved turn, your center will naturally
move slightly back. The skis will track on a wider arc and accelerate through the
turn. You will feel pressure
between your arch and heel (the sweet spot).
You are now feeling the forces of acceleration throwing you back.
It is critical to stay in balance by driving your upper body
forward to counter the forces pulling you to sit back.
Remember, you need to react and begin each new turn on the ball of
the foot so move up and forward.
It is hard to experience, as well as develop the balance point adjustments
unless you're actually skiing and practicing on a constant skiing terrain
environment. The most
convenient and least expensive way I found to develop your skills in
balance point adjustments is on a revolving ski deck.
Make your next snow trip an awesome adventure by first training on
a revolving deck. You'll then discover "How Sweet It Can Be" on snow!
is key element to avoiding injuries and safe skiing on shaped skis
SnoZone and Endless Slope / Adventurous Sports ski and snowboard school
study by University of Vermont orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Johnston, et
al., shows that skiers are, overall, 1.4 times more likely to be injured
on shaped skis than on old-traditional skis but it is the advanced or
expert skiers who are at greater risk of injury and specifically regarding
isolated ACL sprains.
They hypothesize that advanced skiers are at increased risk because they
are less likely to have taken a lesson on shaped skis and may be untrained
in modifying their technique to the new technology than beginners, who are
likely to be fresh out of a lesson.
maybe that old technique skiers on new shaped skis are fighting the skis
and not letting them do what they were intended to do.
The new shaped skis are in general considered more stable than their older
counter part skis and using the old technique on them may make movements
An analogy would be the first time people drove with power steering and
realized quickly not to over steer with them.
For skiers the last place you want to realize over-steering with
shape skis is in the moguls.
When riding moguls on traditional or on shaped skis you will still need to
keep your vision down the hill and your hands forward.
Make sure your pole plants are light.
With shaped skis however, you need to be a bit more on pressing your hips
forward and your ski tips down as you roll into the troughs.
Because the shape skis comes across the fall line so quickly you
won't control your acceleration and your skis may come right out from
under you if you are sitting back a bit. The trick is to keep your balance
over the ball of your feet and keep your shin against the boot's tongue.
The balance point on shaped skis is under the ball of the foot.
This is farther forward compared to the balance point on
traditional skis which is directly under the middle of the foot's sole.
To position yourself for a balanced stand by flexing slightly forward at
the ankle to move your weight forward onto the ball of your foot
to the added width and deeper side cut of the shaped ski, they are
designed to be skied with more edge angle and more flex than traditional
skis. This necessitates you
stand in a slightly wider stance with legs about hip-width apart and
ankles slightly flexed. Train
yourself to stand in a fairly tall position with your feet comfortably
apart in an open stance for balance and stability. Now you have both
maneuvering room and balance stability to tip your skis on edge.
With traditional skis upward motion was required to unweight the skis in
order to flatten them for a split second allowing the skier to pull the
skis beneath the body, shifting weight onto the new outside ski, pivot the
skis and change edges into the next turn. Then you flexed your ankles
pushing the knees in a downward motion. This resulted in an up and down
motion and leg twisting to accomplish a turn.
With shaped skis a widened stance let's you change edges with less effort.
In making a turn shift your body to redistribute weight more onto what is
going to be the new outside ski. (Weight transfer occurs earlier.)
Then with less rising movement and more of a move sideways, across the ski
with your knees you roll onto new edges almost automatically. This lets
the ski shape accomplish directional change rather than leg twisting.
Allowing the shaped ski to dictate the turn radius will make mogul skiing
more buoyant, easier to steer, and more responsive giving the skier a
smoother ride through the bumps.
In regards to turn radius of the new shaped skis the right shaped ski is
dependent upon the type of skiing you do.
A ski will carve or track a natural curve depending on its turn
radius (hour glass shape).
If you like to carve a large turn say the length of a football field then
a traditional GS ski with a 45 meter radius is one that works well.
However if you like to make tight turns then a 15 meter radius shaped ski
would slice snow around the 30 yard line a very tight radius turn.
Now if you got the wrong skis you can see how you will be working harder
to make a GS ski do short radius turns or try to make a 15 meter radius
shaped ski carve out a turn with a long radius.
Spend some quality time with your new skis on easy to moderate runs until
you feel the carving sensation of the shaped skis before you take them
onto powder, steeps and moguls.
A convenient and great way to understand and work with shaped skis is on a
sensitive nature of the revolving carpet teaches you the correct use of
the shaped skis. You will get
that "AH HA!" should have done this years ago feeling almost
immediately when you are on the revolving carpet.
Whether still loving traditional or now onto shaped skis the advantage of
the revolving deck allows you to work on ski skills in a relaxed, safe and
comfortable setting before you go to the mountain slopes.
Learn and enjoy your ski and snowboard practice on the Endless
By Sam Morishima
Director of SnoZone and Endless Slope /
Adventurous Sports ski and snowboard school
A good strong pole plant can help link turns, develop timing, enhance your
balance and instill confidence to tackle difficult snow conditions and
terrain. Poles are
indispensable in powder, crud, bumps, steeps and ice.
Never leave home without them.
To do an effective pole swing and pole plant make sure you have the proper
strap grip. Moving your
hand up through the loop of the strap, then bring the hand down gripping
the strap and handle.
Now for the hand and arm positioning.
Keep your arms in front of you and hold your hands several inches
wider than the width of your body.
This helps control body position with a more relaxed stance and
enhances your balance. Arms should be relaxed and do not raise your
shoulders. Hold your
poles with a firm, yet non- tense grip.
Keep both hands forward, above the waist or belt and again held
wide away from the body. The pole tips should be angled back as if behind
your boot heel when seen from the side. (suggestion: pretend you are
holding a tray with your thumbs on top.)
Engaging the downhill hand to begin the pole plant use the wrist of the
hand to swing the pole out by turning the hand to bring the knuckles to
face up. The pole should not
go perfectly straight out in front but out at an angle going out to the
side but forward of your boot. Touch
the tip of your pole lightly in the snow and then tip your hand downward
to keep your hand in front of your body while glancing the pole off the
A light pole touch is normal for most skiing and promotes timing and
rhythm of turns. In
situations such as bump skiing a more heavy or hard deliberate pole plant
can help stabilize the skier.
Timing of the pole plant is at edge change of the skis.
The swing of the ski pole aids in directing the upper body into the
next turn which results in a smooth linked, carved turn.
The best test of your pole planting ability is on short radius turns.
Any excessive arm movements will show up in poor balance and
therefore inability to link turns smoothly.
As a review when skiing short radius turns: Keep the hands out front with
several inches wider than the width of your body. Perform proper wrist movement, touching the pole in the snow,
roll your hands downward with wrist action to pivot the pole off the snow
and as one pole touches the snow the other pole should be swinging
To give you an idea of how important proper pole use is, here are problems
resulting from poor pole handling:
Skiing back on your heels might be that your poles are held too high,
lessening your stability and causing your center of gravity to be behind
your balance point or that your arms are holding the poles too far back.
Skiing with too much of a forward bend maybe due to arms held too low.
Not able to carve a turn due to poor lateral angulations maybe due to
having your arms in to close to the body.
Difficulty in pole swing with too much body rotation maybe caused by your
arms spread too wide.
Too much leaning or banking toward the center making the turn unstable maybe due to either or both an outside arm that is too high or an inside arm that is too low.
in turns with excess upper body rotation maybe due to arms that cross in
front of the body.
Not able to smoothly link turns maybe due to improper timing of pole
plants either too early or too late.
Signs of unbalance skiing are: leaving the pole in the snow too long,
relying on dragging the poles for balance and gripping the poles too
Good pole handling can enhance your skiing greatly so make it a point this
year to take the time to practice.
Try perfecting your pole plants before you hit the mountain and make your next snow trip an awesome adventure by training on a Endless Slope before you go. www.endlesslope.com
Sam Morishima looks at
how to ski on different types of conditions.
Here are his tips for whatever snow you might confront this winter.
Fore and aft balance is critical. The foot focus should be between the front of the arch and the ball of the foot. That is slightly forward of ideal for traditional side cut skis. Take care not to load up the tip though. If the tail is breaking away at the bottom of the turn youíre too far forward. Minimize pivoting and maximize edge and pressure. Ski with feet apart and roll over the big toe on the outside ski and over the little toe on the inside ski. Keep the inside ski light. Angulate at the waist and keep your upper body square to the hill as you plant the pole down the hill. Be very subtle and make sure to maintain a quiet upper body. A good exercise to help with angulation is to break at the waist and pretend you are lifting a suitcase on your outside ski side. You should feel a pinch on the side of your waist
Skiing on ice is taking your fundamental ski skills and perfecting them. Utilize the skiís design to turn and not use brute force to make them turn. Practice making round and complete turns so you know your skiís capability and will maximize the edging capability which is needed on ice. Early weight shift from one foot to the other is the key to getting over the downhill ski allowing for maximal edging pressure to be engaged in time for a smooth turn and make linking the turns a dynamic easy flow. Lead with your skis turning with your feet, ankles, legs and hips and not with your upper body and shoulders. Keep your feet apart and the outside hand out for balance. A good exercise to prepare for the ice is to practice side slipping down a mountain until it becomes effortless. Feel how the skis can work for you. Another is one-legged drills on the flats to improve our balance making you comfortable with switching skis if your outside ski breaks loose you can calmly settle weight on the inside ski.
Stay balanced, always pressure the tongues of the boots and never let fear get the best of you. Keeping your weight forwards is vitally important. A relaxed and flexed ankle will keep you forward. A good practice to keep in control is to do four turns down the fall line, then a big turn, then back into the fall line. The steeper the terrain, the more aggressive you need to be with your stance. Shortening your ski poles a few cmís to keep you forward on the steep terrain is helpful.
To ski bumps you got to understand how to get over the skiís sweet spot. Practice finding the skiís sweet spot by skiing with your weight far forward and far back on a relatively smooth run. Next develop the feel for the skiís ability to naturally turn with the type of side cuts you have on your ski. Do this by traversing on your right ski and then on your left ski. Maximize your lateral movements with a strong lateral balance by making a ďCĒ shape with your body. Turn the skis with feet, ankle, legs and hips not with the upper body or shoulders. Develop a keen sense of checking your speed by just applying slight edge pressure to one ski then the other. Move with the terrain contour by practicing over-extend and over-retracting your skis to get a feel for how pressure control can keep you balanced. Tuck your skis up under you on the backside of a bump and then stretch your legs long so your skis make contact with the snow as you go over. Because of the demanding balance and leg action required in bump skiing one of the best strengthening exercise is one-legged ski drills on the flats.
rhythmical pole plant is extremely beneficial when skiing bumps. Make sure
yours is well timed and functional. Touch
your pole on the top of the bump you wish to turn on. Plant the pole, then
turn around it.
and aft balance is much like that on groomed run with weight centered over
the skiís narrowest point with the hipís directly above the feet.
Sitting back is not a good thing making it hard to steer.
Practice flexing the ankles and legs at the end of the turn. Then
lighten the downhill ski and roll itís foot to the little toe side.
At the same time extend the ankle and leg of the new down hill ski.
The coordinated flexing and extending provides the pumping action
and effortless weight transfer in powder skiing.
each new turn by planting your pole.
It times when to lighten the downhill foot and helps with keeping
your shoulders and hips face downhill.
Three things will make you a better skier in any terrain, ďPractice,
Practice and Practice.Ē
A great way to practice when mountain time is scarce is on a ďEndless SlopeĒ deck.