How To Be A Snow Goddess
(Or No More Herky Jerky Down the Hill)
By SkiMum Paula
Legs together, standing tall, cruising down some crazy-steep black diamond at lightning fast speed. Dream on, girlfriend!
Now, wa-wa-wait just a minute. Why can’t I ski like a Swiss snow goddess? Because you started with pizza and French fries, that’s why.
On another outing with Snowbird Mountain School Instructor Emilia, several Skimums stated longingly that they wanted to “ski like that”. Emilia had just cruised ahead of us to the bottom of a gully off of Lupine Loop. Although she is petite, she skied tall with her legs together and her body square and pointed downhill. She also made it down fast with few turns making it look like a graceful ballet instead of the Elaine Dance. [For the young and culturally uniformed, this is a classic Seinfeld reference used to describe Elaine’s dancing style (set to Shining Star performed by Earth, Wind and Fire), which George called, “a full bodied dry heave set to music” in The Little Kicks episode.]
Because moaning travels downhill quickly at high altitudes, Emilia took pity and shared with us the secrets of skiing like a Swiss snow goddess.
Here it is – Don’t carve. Well, not in the traditional sense. Not in the sense that was first explained to us when we first stepped onto skis 10, 20, ok, 30 and I’m not going any higher years ago. You don’t ski pizza or French fries anymore, and you and your equipment have evolved from that first carving lesson, too. By the way, what is it with skiing and food references? Chocolate chips, mashed potatoes, death cookies, noodles, butter the snow. Carving is what we’re all told to aspire to but, like most things, we often take it too far. To make a clean arc, you want to get on the edge of the ski. However, if you go beyond that (and, if you’re being honest, you sometimes do especially on a steep) then you are slowing yourself down, as evidenced by the rooster tail of snow produced by friction which, BY DEFINITION, means an opposing force is slowing your butt down. The other pickle you can find yourself in is when you carve and then sideslip to skim altitude, the skiers’ walk of shame.
Emilia retaught us how to carve by deconstructing our turns and suggesting we flatten the skis half way through for a brief second, as in, when they are pointing downward! Because physics works, this produced forward momentum and acceleration. This also meant less braking in our turns and less sideslipping. While this may seem ridiculously simple and, actually, downright simplistic, like many of the visual cues she’s given us, it worked.
Many Skimums have realized that even when we know the mechanics, the mind can wreak havoc on our skiing. We get so worried about our ability to turn and control our speed – things we truly know how to do and are all but guaranteed with modern equipment – that we try to fight the forces of nature (including, gravity, of all things) instead of using them to overcome those things we fear most. By reminding ourselves to flatten after initiating our turns, we’re able to allow bodies and skis to take care of themselves. By focusing on that one little thing, we engaged and centered both legs for a split second causing our bodies to stand tall and square and our skis to stay together and point down the hill. We looked better and felt great.
Cue the music. I feel like dancing!