Let’s face it. We are part of an extremely technical sport. Physical preparation and agility are important aspects, yet not one of the top athletes shares a definite combination of all these. To be specific, look at the different physiques of the top skiers in each event. Slalomers tend to be tall for there is a clear advantage in that, one that is beyond our control. However, this advantage is not stoping skiers such as Terry Winter or Breanne Dodd from being extremely competitive on the Pro Tour.
The differences in physical qualities might lead one to conclude that, ultimately, a solid technical similarity underlines all of the top skiers in the world. Unfortunately, this is not the case either. Every year there are about 30 to 40 male elite skiers running 39off in the world, and none of them run it the same way. Or look at the top two Men Pro Jumpers in the world right now, Freddy Krueger and Ryan Dodd: very different styles.
I feel the need to write this article because I see a lot of misguided approaches on how to improve skiing ability. To begin with, some people have the tendency to mindlessly imitate the top skiers in anything they do. Usually, this is how it happens. Mr.X recently switched to a new brand of life jackets, he goes to a tournament, and skis a massive score. Clearly, the life jacket allowed him to move more freely and ski at his best. New life jacket order is submitted. This example–which of course does not want to denigrate the importance of life jackets–can be restated substituting Mr.X with any pro athlete and life jacket with any piece of equipment.
More to the point, life jacket can be substituted with any specific aspect of someone’s technique. The most explicit example I’ve seen in recent months is the mass switching to two-handed gates, most likely inspired by the impressive scores and victories that Nate Smith is obtaining. Obviously, I am not implying that everyone that switches to a two-handed gate is merely copycatting, but we all know those skiers who drastically change aspects of their own skiing out of copycatting. The ultimate test to detect such empty approach is a simple yet disturbing question: “Why?”
The key to improvement is understanding the advantages and disadvantages in someone’s technique, and then try to apply such knowledge to your own skiing.
This being said, there is a certain skiing level that you have to reach before you can just feel free to apply the results of your understanding. To your disappointment, I am not going to say where to draw the line because I have no idea where the line is. Most likely, common sense dictates it.
Side note aside, it is important to watch better skiers than you and see what they do and how they do it. But the fundamental aspect of this endeavor is the following step, which is a constant research for the reasons of their movements. What advantage does she obtain from keeping their sight down course as she turns onside? Why does he release his left hand in the second half of the jump? How come she is opting for this toe pass and not that one?
These questions are usually answered by your coach, especially at the early and intermediate stages of your skiing potential, and luckily so. Having someone more experienced than you watching your movements is a fortune that everyone should treasure. In fact, your coach went through and still goes through the same questions that every athlete does. The good coach delivers the solutions to his questions by shaping them on the athlete in front of him, taking into account as many variables as possible, such as physique, personal technical aspects, and athletic features such as strength and agility. All you have to focus on is ski and execute!
However, not all of us are lucky enough to have a coach consistently following us. In this case, the search for your technique needs to be smart and well-pondered while fun at the same time. So a good start is to go to videos of the top level skiers and ask yourself “What advantage is that movement giving her on this trick?” or “Why is he twisting his head after grabbing the handle on the offside turn?”
At the same time, look at your videos, analyze your movements, and do not just focus on the downsides of your technique. See what you like about the way you ski and make sure you understand why those movements work!
Some people complain about our sport not having a set technique that everyone should aspire to… I personally think this is one of the most exciting parts of what we do!