It’s all in the Game!

skitracksHit the slopes with all the shots!

With perhaps a ski holiday fast approaching many of us will suddenly change their daily computer viewing to snow reports, webcams and any new kit that we may feel that we could do with for the slopes this season!

Inevitably we daydream of snow falls arriving just before our own departure to the mountains and for the crispness and blue skies of this environment to adorn us on our arrival! I remember this well and it is not so far, at times, from what can actually happen… if you are lucky! However, weather is forever unpredictable, like so many aspects of life and sport can be the same, especially when effected by weather!

I often say to guys and girls I ski with – “skiing is a game” – like tennis for example.  We firstly have to learn to hit the ball with the racket to get started. We then either place a net in front of us a partner or both and then aim to hit the ball back and forth.  Next, we give ourselves guidelines and rules as to where we can place the ball. Eventually, as we learn new skills and practise we increase the adaptability of our game. This can all be done on our own or with the help of an instructor, either way, to play the game of tennis you need to gradually add and practise the skills to do this. One thing thankfully that never alters is the court size, however, weather does, wind increases, decreases, temperatures but perhaps nothing more than this.

Relating this to skiing, I so often see clients arrive for their holidays and they strive to reach the skilled, full version of their game from day one. They hit the slopes, forgetting that they perhaps have not been on their skis for a while, momentum and gravity take over and amazingly it all comes back fairly easily, especially if it is sunny and the snow is perfect! However, what so often happens is you find yourself practising the ‘one main turn’ you use and endeavour to fit this in to every environment you encounter. For me as a tennis player, I often would run around a shot to take it has a forehand, rather than to mess up the return with my ‘not so practised’ backhand ! Not only this, with skiing,  we then have environmental issues and suddenly the one turn that works so well on the blue sky, sunny day’s, beautifully pisted slope, does not seem to fit in to the white out, cut up snow that we find ourselves in one morning.

To help you with your first game on the slopes this season and to encourage you to alter, adapt in all the environments that are prevalent on the slopes, here are a few tips that may just give you the opportunity to practise the ‘whole game of skiing’ and not just the one most practised!

1.      Be prepared – weather can change so quickly on the mountain, tuck your goggles in your jacket. Goggles make it practical and enjoyable to ski in snowy conditions, without them it’s no fun at all ! Be prepared.

2.      Give yourself a warm up. On that first run each morning, increase your body temperature but also test your agility and movements. Nothing aggressive, easy does it, ski some easier runs first, nothing too harsh and hard. On the easier slopes put a few quicker,  turns together,  actively turning your legs and skis, using your poles, counting to yourself, for example. Then lengthen your turns out, feel for your edges, keep the legs working independently.

3.      Check your equipment – having taken the first run or two on your skis, note if your equipment feels right. If you have any concerns then it’s definitely worth checking it out. All so often, if skiers intermediate or advanced,  have hired skis they may feel like their skis are ‘grabbing’ or ‘hooking’ we tend to term it. The skis may have been placed over a grinder and the edges more pronounced than the base, or the edges too sharp. If it feels odd, then it probably is!

4.      Keep the boots loose! – unclip your ski boots when standing in a queue, on a chair lift, in a bubble or definitely at lunchtime ! Boot tightness alters throughout the day. Your foot contact to the bottom on your boot is vital, but if you keep your boots tightened all day, you can often lose that crucial balance point and feet sensations!

5.      The one parallel turn – if you feel that you are the skier that tries to fit the same parallel turn in to all the conditions you end up in, then it would definitely be worth taking a lesson.

6.      Taking a lesson – whether in a group lesson or a private lesson you are an individual with your own way of learning.  Ask the instructor to give you the tools you need for the environment you struggle in. If they try making your technique look pretty and talk about ‘bendin z knees’ or ‘leaning forwards in to your boots’, change the instructor fast!

7.      Safety, enjoyment, fun! – we learn most when we feel safe, happy and confident.  Ski with like minded people, at your level, where you can practise, be challenged and improve your game!

Happy, safe, fun skiing ! Remember ‘it’s all in the game’!!!

Sally Chapman is one of Britian’s leading female ski teachers.

Her courses, books and DVD’s are definitely worth a look at. If your not into lessons then pick up a POCKIT Ski Instructor book, it provides loads of great tips and tools and tactics for the slopes. Perfect for Christmas!!

Photos: Danni Lynden, Sally Chapman