Making the leap from decent piste skier to confident all-mountain explorer is often tough – but it doesn’t have to be. Snoworks Ski Courses have specially-developed programmes to help you break out of the ‘intermediate plateau’ – or even avoid it altogether! Instructor Phil Smith explains how…
As inevitable as catching a cold, the dreaded ‘intermediate plateau’ is something most skiers resign themselves to getting at some point.
You’ve picked up skiing pretty quickly, progressing from greens to well-pisted reds. Then along come the blacks. Bumps begin to appear, ice forms. Runs become steeper, narrow or awkward. Suddenly, the very specific movements you’ve been taught – plant your pole, stand up, sink down, face down the hill, weight on the outside ski – are hampered by unexpected obstacles.
Do any of these statements ring true:
- I’m OK providing it doesn’t get icy/steep
- Other skiers/trees put me off
- I struggle in bad visibility/on narrow paths/in slush
- I’m OK with bumps providing they’re nicely spread out and not too big
- I can ski off-piste as long as it’s light powder
If so, it’s time to change your perception of how to move forward in your skiing. The terrain isn’t going to adjust itself to fit in with your manoeuvres – it’s the way you move on the mountain that has to change. Once it has, you’ll be skiing more of the mountain and having more fun than you ever thought possible.
Imagine you’re weaving through a crowded bar carrying a tray of drinks. To accurately describe every spontaneous twist and dip, and copy them, is impossible. The probability of exactly the same set of movements happening again is like winning the lottery twice. The variables are infinite, just like the mountain.
Instead of using a set of specific manoeuvres, you need to develop a varied set of skills that you can adapt to any situation the conditions throw at you.
Below, I’ll introduce three of those vital skills.
THE SKILLS OF STEERING
The ability to ‘twist’ your skis is essential anywhere that space is restricted or where you need to ski slowly. To get the idea just stand on a tiled floor in your socks and ‘do the twist’ (just like the dance move), practicing getting faster and slower. Now imagine doing this with your skis on and you’ll get the idea. It’s exactly the same as using the handlebars on your bicycle.
If you’ve never tried twisting your skis, steep and narrow runs will always present a problem.
Imagine how your bicycle brakes work; two surfaces – the brake pads and wheel rim – creating friction to slow you down. It’s the same with skiing. Pushing the snow sideways by putting pressure on your ski edges (or the base of your skis if you’re in powder) creates a braking action. The more snow you push, the slower you go. It’s that simple – and doing this you’ll gain more control than you ever thought possible.
Use pushing in soft, powdery, stubborn or deep snow that’s difficult to ‘twist’ in. The dream of skiing powder will become reality and Spring slush will present little or no problem.
This is the same as leaning your bicycle inwards as you go around a corner. You need to learn to lean or tilt your skis onto their edges as you turn and vary the amount of edge you use according to the conditions. Just like on a bike, the faster you’re travelling the more edging you need to turn. Using the wrong amount of edge for your speed when you change direction will result in your skis shooting ahead of you, or sliding too far sideways, and you lose control.
That’s the easy part; once you’ve mastered each skill you have to learn to mix and match them for different conditions.
- Twist more for bumps, steep terrain, narrow slopes, gullies, tight spaces and slower speeds.
- Push more for slush, off-piste, powder and medium speeds.
- Edge more for groomed runs and high speeds.
With practice this blending of skills will become completely natural, just like riding a bicycle or running through a crowded bar. All you’ll need to do is concentrate on where you’re going and how fast you want to go – giving you time to enjoy the experience, the mountain and the scenery.
To see Snoworks’ full range of courses visit www.snoworks.com
Read our blog about the course here.