The old saying about being unable to teach an old dog new tricks does not apply to skiers. Advanced and expert skiers can take advantage of specialized camps such as the Alta Performance Ski Camp at Alta Lodge. At first glance, virtually all the students at the camp look like rather proficient skiers. However, coaches Stephen Helfenbein, Collin Bywaters and Eric McLoughlin see the nuances that can transform a good skier into an excellent one.
Surprisingly, much of their instruction goes back to fundamental movements. Good fundamentals never change, but advanced skiers can work to improve with more exacting precision. Here are a few tips and mental cues taught at the camp for advanced skiers to remember on the slopes.
1. Fore-aft balance
How you distribute your weight across the heels and balls of your feet, also referred to as fore-aft balance, is crucial to solid technique. The torso should be forward, so the ski tips are engaged in the snow. Even experienced skiers can often use this reminder.
2. Ankle Flexion
The ankle joint should be engaged forward (think shin toward toes) throughout the turn. This forward ankle flexion is obvious in photos of World Cup racers. The most common mistake for recreational skiers is to open the ankle during the transition from one turn to the next.
3. Upper/Lower Body Separation
For all skill levels, keeping the upper body facing down the fall-line is a mantra in ski instruction. However, not all skiers realize that the pelvis is included in “upper body,” so they end up mistakenly just twisting above the waist. Only the legs are doing the turning by rotating the femurs inside the hip sockets. To visualize this point, make sure a person standing directly downhill would see both of your pant pockets. In the same way, a person standing directly uphill would generally see your back down to your tailbone, not your profile.
The four-night, three-day Alta Performance Ski Camp is hosted by the Alta Lodge at the base of Alta Ski Area in Utah. The camp will be held four times during the 2017-18 ski season: December 7-11, December 14-18, February 11-15, and April 6-10.