With the new ski season fast approaching, we have been talking to one of our favourite ski school partners about the importance of continuing to develop intermediate and advanced ski techniques. Many skiers (including many of us in the office) stop taking lessons once we reach an intermediate or advanced level. But with continuous advances in both ski technique and equipment, you can easily put yourself at a disadvantage by sticking to more traditional ski techniques. Here, we interview Ken Smith, founder of Progression Ski & Snowboard School for his thoughts, experiences and top tips on how to modernise your ski technique.
Why is it important to work on a modern ski technique?
It just makes life so much easier. Less pain and more fun so why wouldn't you?
What are the key differences between traditional and modern ski techniques?
The biggest changes are that the turn shape is rounder and wider, our weight is centred rather than slightly forward, the stance is a little wider rather than having our feet together and we stay square to the ski, rather than facing down the hill. Many of these changes are more natural and comfortable so can be acquired quite easily.
What's the most common problem people have converting to a modern technique?
Funnily enough I think the hardest thing to change is often the psychological aspect of what people think of as a "turn". It is hard to convince people that by doing less you get more out of the ski, that it is possible to ski faster and yet be more stable and controlled. The technical aspects of skiing have become simpler but sometimes it is hard for people to get their head around that.
If you are already a good skier and use the same technique you were taught years ago, is it worth learning the new ways?
There isn't really a correct answer as that is entirely down to the individual. Unfortunately, a lot of people stop taking ski lessons once they are intermediate. Male skiers especially many of whom think that getting down a red or black run from top to bottom makes them a "good skier". The thing about becoming a good technical skier is that it opens up so much more terrain and means that a tough run is enjoyable rather than a chore. Surely there is a greater thrill and enjoyment by doing something well, so mastering modern techniques must be a good thing.
How do you spot good skiers with a modern technique on the mountain?
What I see as a good skier and what recreational skiers see as good technique are two very different things. I had the pleasure of skiing with Henry from Oxford Ski last season. Many people would see him as a very good skier. and whilst he is a strong all-round skier he looked to me more like a ninja on steroids. His hands and poles were thrashing around at a million miles an hour. The difference between a good skier and a very good skier can be seen in the position and calmness of the hands. Good hand position tells you a lot about how good he or she really is. Also, if a skier makes it looks easy then they are probably doing something right.
Do you use any useful tools for teaching people the new ways?
For strong intermediate and higher-level skiers, I often use video analysis. People are always surprised by what they actually look like skiing so it is a great tool. The best tool is of course a ski instructor. I have been called a tool many a time, occasionally in a positive light but nothing beats having an instructor make an appraisal of your skiing and give you tools and technique to use on an everyday basis on the hill.
Of the faults you see when it comes to more traditional techniques, which is the main culprit?
Aggression! The traditional technique was typified by quite aggressive movements. The movements we make now are actually quite similar but the timing and rhythm has changed which makes for a smoother flowing performance.
Ken Smith set up Progression Ski & Snowboard School in 2006. Based in Val d’Isere (but operating in Tignes, Ste Foy and the Porte de Soleil) Progression Ski & Snowboard School is now regarded as one of the best snowsports schools in the Alps. They offer a full range of lesson types from private lessons to groups and clinics for adults and kids to off piste and heli ski adventures. They are a firm favourite of ours at Oxford Ski and when you book a holiday through us, our concierge team will be happy to put you in touch or arrange lessons on your behalf. Alternatively you can contact Progression Ski & Snowboard School through their website www.progressionski.com or by emailing them on firstname.lastname@example.org