PC: Agence Zoom
I’ve gotten a lot of requests lately from skiers who want advice — what to work on in their skiing, some tips for racers who have big dreams, advice for parents to gift to their race-hungry kids. So I’ve been thinking about some general tips that could benefit everybody, regardless of their style of skiing or approach to racing.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over my many years of ski racing, it’s that continually returning to a few key (personal) reminders is imperative to good skiing. Sure, it sounds simple…but it’s not. It’s so easy to get caught up in results, the “next big thing” (think: Ted’s notion of going upside-down, qualifying for US Nationals, getting to the new ski early, etc), and to forget your essential cues. The things that work for you, personally. Yes, these focuses/concepts are different for everybody. They also take some time to figure out, and can change as you grow as a skier (mine certainly have). I’m going to take you through my 3 reminders, how I found them, and why I keep returning to them….in hopes that you can find yours!
1) Stay connected. These words mean 2 different things to me, both of which are incredibly important to good skiing and a sense of balance. Throughout my entire life as a ski racer, I have consistently tended to hop in the transitions between turns — especially when the conditions are difficult. When I think about staying connected to the ground while skiing (keeping my “skis connected to the snow”), I have much smoother transitions and link turns calmly with speed. I first started working on this when I was about 14 years old, but I didn’t latch on to it as a reliable cue until I started racing for the US Ski Team (when I was 17). Since then, I come back to it whenever I’m struggling in my skiing. “Stay connected” also reminds me of my love and connection to the mountains and my surroundings. It encourages me to take a step back, gain a more balanced perspective, and find some gratitude and joy in my connection to the snow and the mountains around me.
2) Flex your ankles! This is a very basic focus that I often forget about. And I normally return to it only when I’m struggling so much that I feel I’ve forgotten how to ski at all. If only I would have remembered to flex my ankles 3 months ago! When I am finally so deep in a rut that I have nothing else to lose, I start flexing my ankles. And normally I flex right out of that rut, and back into good skiing. It’s a silly thing to forget, considering how basic and well-known it is. But maybe that’s why I forget — because it’s just so freaking obvious. Flexing your ankles can be a difficult concept to translate into your skiing. Sometimes it’s a concept that doesn’t make sense to your body; it can be too internal of a focus. This is often the case for me, so there are a couple of cues that can work: “lift your toes,” “push on your tongues (liners),” or “knees to tips.” Just try them, and see what you think. I’d love to hear how it goes!
3) Find some joy. It’s so incredibly easy to forget why we ski. Wait…why do we ski again? Oh yeah: cause it’s fun. When we’re kids, we don’t have to think about it. The joy is inherent; which is something we don’t really recognize until we start growing and begin to get caught up in results, achievements, success. So, I recently reflected on what my idea of success was, and I decided to redefine it. I don’t want to be defined by my medals, podiums, wins. I want my joy and love for skiing to shine brighter than any results, and to propel me into a perfect turn (and maybe even a perfect run). It’s not about the results, it’s about the joy. This is supposed to be fun…so when I start getting caught up thinking that it’s about something else, I always return to this notion of joy. It truly is the most important thing for me.
As I’ve grown and experienced the many ups and downs of ski racing, I have learned that reflecting on my 3 principal intentions is one of the most beneficial things I can do for my skiing — and for myself. If we have something, even if it’s just one focus, that we know works in our skiing, why would we not return to that? Whether it’s flexing your ankles, breathing in at the top of a turn, smiling in the start gate, or touching your hands together in your transitions…it really doesn’t matter. What works for you? Write it down. I highly recommend journaling to keep yourself in check and make sure you won’t forget to return to your key focuses. Your ski racing career might depend on it. Or maybe it’s just the happiness your find on your skis…. either way, it’s worth it.
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