How to Use Natural Movements When Teaching Skiing

A good friend and instructor once told me that there is nothing natural about skiing. He was so wrong. For about two decades, instead of using static positions such as a wedge or parallel stance when demonstrating skiing technique, I have been teaching skiing using natural movements. I liken skiing to walking through a door. The door in this case is gravity. The biggest difference – well, besides the equipment and snow-covered mountain – is that gravity allows us to slide through the door instead of lifting our feet to walk.

Using natural movements with first-time skiers will help them throughout their skiing lives. And these same moves can be useful to the most proficient skier as well. Here is the process I use to teach natural movements to first-timers. Use your expertise, imagination, and creativity to make this work for all skiers, no matter what age or ability level.

At Vermont’s Sugarbush Resort, where I teach, we have the luxury of meeting first time skiers (both kids and adults) indoors. This is helpful because we can teach the movements with no ski boots on. If this option isn’t available, it’s fine to do these movements in the snow (with boots on). The first activity is to jump and land.

When landing, the joints bend to absorb the shock, from the ankles to the spine. By doing this, students automatically land in a jumping position; an athletic, ready stance. This is the only static position we use. Soccer goalies use this athletic stance, linebackers use it, tennis players use it – all athletes use it.

Once everyone has achieved an athletic stance, start using leg and foot movements on the carpet to simulate what will happen on the snow. Most folks stand a little duckfooted naturally. Demonstrate tipping the feet right and left by tipping and rotating the legs inside the hip Joint, which simulates the same movements when skiing on the snow.

Now turn the legs so the toes point at each other in a wedge-like action and turn the toes out in a herringbone (duckfooted) action. Then rotate one leg/foot toward the other and then try it with the other leg. Then swivel and tip legs and toes together in the same direction, mimicking a parallel turn.

The next order of business is to demonstrate making arcs in the carpet or snow with your legs and feet, to the outside and inside. Point out to students that they’ll feel more pressure (and friction if wearing socks on carpet) with the outside arc, but not with the inside. If you’re doing this outdoors, have students notice the trench their boot makes with the outside edge. 

The outside edge is the power (or brawn), and the inside is the guider (or brains). This demonstrates the fundamental that pressure is directed from outside ski (foot) to outside ski (foot), as the inside ski (foot) determines the size of the arc (turn).

Next, walk around in a circle with the right foot/leg on the outside and vice versa. Shuffle legs in the same way, then go around the room, or on the snow in a serpentine fashion, simulating skiing. Do it on the right sides of the feet (socks) and then on the left side, simulating edging while rotating. If there is room, try doing this at a faster pace to see how the body core moves ahead of the legs, or into the future. One activity to stress to your students is to always look ahead or where they are going. In the beginning, looking down at the snow or ski tips is the norm. For better balance, have them look up and pick out something in the distance to focus on. When turning, look in the direction of travel.

Sugarbush Ski and Ride School Director (and former PSIA Alpine Team member) Terry Barbour uses three sets of eyes to ski: the ones in the head and an imaginary set on the core to look in the future; the third set is on the thighs or knees and takes the skier on an adventure.

This article by Mac Jackson originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of 32 Degrees. Seevers is the program development and grants director for New York’s Adaptive Sports Foundation, and the former education director for PSIA-AASI. Log in now to the online version to access the rest of the article and other great content that will up your instructor game.

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