The five best pieces of ski Coaching I’ve been Given
A list compiled by a highly amateur skier who hasn’t been formally coached since ski school in the first two years of the 2000’s.
- Tits toward town.
This piece of coaching has been worded in many different ways, “keep your shoulders facing downhill,” “ski the fall-line,” “Stay square,” “Don’t traverse,” “Don’t roll those damn shoulder across the trail.” But, “Tits toward town” is really the best because, if you’re like me, your mind will take juvenile, subconscious delight in the repetition of this phrase. Before you know it, it will be a mantra keeping you in a childish happy place where you repeat “Tits toward town” over and over again while staying in the fall line and resisting the urge to let your shoulders stray toward the sides of the trail.
- Sideslip, stop sideslip.
Find a steep spot on a groomed, or hard-pack run, and come to a stop. Turn your body perpendicular to the fall line and just stand there. The simple fact that you are motionless, and not sliding down the hill, shows that you know how to use your edges—like a world cup racer. Now, roll your ankles and flatten the bases of your skis against the slope to release your edges. As your edges disengage you will slide downhill. Remain calm and roll your ankle back into the slope. Within seconds you will be motionless again. There’s that World Cup racer control. Repeat a couple times on each side, and feel the power of edge control. You can side slip anything, and that’s half the battle. Repeating this drill every once and a while, while waiting for friends or taking a break reminds me that I can feel confident and comfortable on any snowy slope—I’m a big boy, and I’m ready for that double black diamond.
- Spoon the tracks of a better skier
Graceful skiers have a metronome built into their hips that tells them when to turn. On a powder day it is visible in the symmetry of their tracks. Find a set of well laid tracks, or let the local friend who you’re chasing anyways ski first. Then trace the contours of their turns. It takes the guesswork out of it, and forces good timing.
- Flash the crux
I read this in an old Powder Magazine interview with Doug Combs, and boy will I be happy if I can ever do it. I often find myself sidestepping back up to get speed for a cliff, or trying to fit in one more turn before things get too narrow. Despite my precaution—or more likely, because of it—I generally end up exiting these situations on my stomach, like a penguin, not like a calm and collected skier. The truth is that what defines a great skier is that they don’t default to slowing down when the going gets tough. Instead, they point their tits toward town and ski right through to the wide-open turns on the other side. Next time things get tricky, don’t hit the breaks; tell yourself it’s time to go for it. (Provided that you know there is safety on the other side.)
- “Come in below the group.”
A guide at Silverton Mountain in Colorado once angrily yelled this at me after I excitedly crashed into him and my little brother. It’s great advise, and you don’t want to be the type of asshole who doesn’t learn this immediately. When you are skiing with other people come to a stop below them, not above them.
Tips 3 and 5 are from Mike and Allen’s Really Cool Telemark Tips It’s a must own if you are a tele-skier. If not Mike and Allen’s Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book is a great read for all sorts of backcountry users.
Tip 4 is courtesy of Sugarloaf Mountain’s ski instructors, and Tip 1, Jackson Hole’s Monday night Phish show DJ, Neil Albert.