Early Season Notes - Grip

How we arrange our stance has a major effect on how effectively our skis grip the snow so they slide lengthwise more than sideways. Grip causes our skis to perform a turn, carrying us along a curved line of travel. While our skis curve our line of travel we experience an increased pressure pushing up through our skis and feet, more so the higher the speed and the sharper the turn, especially when we seek to amplify the amount of underfoot pressure at the apex of the turn (previous post Early Season Notes - Timing). 

Moving in order to amplify the peak pressure of a turn boosts ski grip and encourages rhythm in our skiing. Purposeful movement also keeps us from freezing in one position during the turn, and helps us flow from turn to turn. The question is what movement will increase the edge angle on our skis without compromising our ability to resist the extra pressure that results when they tighten the turn? The answer boils down to postural alignment and where we bend.

When carrying a heavy weight, we naturally align our body so that our skeleton bears most of the weight. For example, when carrying a heavy weight on our shoulders, we stand and walk with spine neutral and a slight bend in the hip joints and knees, so we are somewhere between ram rod straight like a pillar and painfully hunched like Quasimodo (of Notre Dame). That is, straight enough that our skeleton bears most of the weight yet bent enough that our soft tissues are in tension and adding structure to our stance.

The primary joint that we can use to adjust the tilt of our skis without compromising our ability to resist heavy weight is the hip joint. Below that joint, a ‘long and strong’ outside leg, bent just enough to soften mid turn ripples in the snow, gives us our best leg to stand on (pun intended…). Above that joint, a steady upper body resting atop the hip joints, supported by the big muscles of our upper legs and lower trunk, eases our challenge of balancing throughout the turn.

Our patience (Early Season Notes – Balance) allows the skis to begin the turn. Turning our legs and feet in concert with the changing direction of the skis and making sure that our upper body turns less than our feet and skis allows us to increase grip (and amplify peak pressure and tighten the arc of the turn) by hinging forward the hip joints in time with the pressure increase of the turn. 

This strategy leads to a very reliable grip of the skis late in the turn and a great finish to the turn. And, as the saying goes, one good turn leads to another. And another…

Hinging progressively at the hip joints in time with the weight increase that accompanies the turn drives ski tilt and grip while keeping the body aligned and better able to oppose the weight of the turn.

Upcoming post:  linking turns, Part 1.