Taking A Stance!

Like so many other sporting activities, being in the proper stance is essential and facilitates advanced technique. For example, golf, tennis, baseball and countless other sports require a certain body stance which positions the individual to succeed at the desired task. So it is true with skiing, however it is often overlooked and underestimated. The very basics of skiing begin with the proper stance and that same stance carries through to advanced and expert skiing. Also, a good stance helps to prevent loss of control and injury at all speeds and over any terrain. Generally, your weight should be centered over your skis. The most common mistake seen on the slopes is people leaning too far back on their skis. This is often called "backseat" or "heal heavy". This can throw off your balance and place too much emphasis on the tails of your skis. Although certain turns and maneuvers require pressuring the tails, most require pressuring the front of the ski to make smooth graceful turns. Also, knee injuries are more prevalent when your weight is too far back, as the knee often takes the shock of an attempted recovery when control is lost or threatened. Instinctually, you want to stand upright when losing control to regain your balance and your knees are vulnerable if they are expected to bring your weight back to center from the "backseat." All skis have a "sweet spot," much like a tennis racket, golf club or baseball bat. Think of hitting a ball with a tennis racket for example. There is a certain spot on the racket which propels the ball in the most effective manner and other spots on the racket which do not. While the "sweet spot" of a ski varies with models and other factors, it is generally found near the center or slightly forward of center. Therefore, skiers who have too much pressure on their heels are not only slightly off balance, but are often missing the potential for maximum effectiveness from their skis. Basically, a good stance on skis will line up your toes, knees and shoulders in an imaginary vertical line. Your hands should be slightly in front where they can be seen in your peripheral vision and can be used to plant your pole at the initiation of each turn. This stance will put more pressure on your toes than on your heals and will position you well to conquer the whole mountain. A good technique to aid in maintaining the proper stance is to press your shins against the tongue of your boot without exaggerating it like the old time racers used to do. You can practice this stance in the comfort of your living room, in or out of your ski boots. You will soon realize that your weight is slightly forward, but your center of balance is well suited to maintain good control and to link one turn with another. The essence of advanced skiing is in linking turns smoothly and gracefully together and the proper stance is key to unlocking the magic. There is no need to modify your stance based on snow conditions and terrain changes. In fact, a good stance is fundamental and acts as your foundation at all times throughout the entire mountain. It should be that place that your body recognizes for balance, form and grace. This applies to groomed terrain, hard pack, powder, ice, moguls and steeps. Even crud, which is the term loosely applied to uneven or clumpy snow, is best conquered from a solid stance. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are sometimes hard to learn. If your form is not where you want it to be, it could very well be a problem with your stance. Consider a lesson from a good instructor or go back to the beginner slope until you get it right and then apply it to more challenging terrain. The sap is running and the ski season is winding down. Don't hang them up yet! I'll be writing about the joy of spring skiing and the delicious meal of corn and mashed potatoes that Mother Nature is preparing for us. Until next time, get your weight forward, tip them on edge and carve up your own slice of heaven.

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