Chapter 7 - Saving Energy
One of the main things that hinders an intermediate skier is fitness. At altitude the air is thinner, sometimes just waking in your ski boots can make you out of breath. It’s always a good idea to get fit for a skiing holiday but it isn’t always possible to be as fit as you would like. I would personally recommend cycling as the best way to get ski fit, try to do one hour as fast as possible rather than an all day ride slowly. Legs and lungs are what you need for skiing. Have you ever wondered how some people can ski all day and still not seem tired? Well there is a secret, and that is saving energy. How can you save so much energy I hear you ask. Well it all comes from getting something for nothing (we like the sound of that). This something for nothing is called Dynamic-Anticipation, Dynamic-Anticipation is the use of the energy stored up in the end of a turn used to start the next. Hence you don’t need to put that energy in again, it sounds simple and it is but in practice this takes a while to master, and is the real separation between intermediate and advanced skiing, so it’s worth pursuing.
If you have followed this book then your job will be a whole lot easier, we have never introduced the traverse in to the turn. The traverse is the death of dynamic-anticipation, and this is the reason that most skiers never make it to being a truly advanced skier. The problem arises at the end of the turn, the pressure has built up under your edges and at this point tremendous energy is stored in the coil of your upper body. Your shoulders are facing down the hill and your skis are across the hill (like a coil spring). If we simply relax and stand up that energy is lost, it is really only available for a fraction of a second and if we miss it is lost forever. You can simulate this energy at home by rotating you upper body (in a skiing fashion) and feeling the energy built up in your inside leg and lower back. This is nothing like the energy at the end of a ski turn as the action is ‘dynamic’, moving, evolving, building. So we can’t simulate the true force from a static position, and hence we can’t produce it on skis unless we are completing a turn. The word anticipation is used as at the end of the turn we are anticipating the next turn, our bodies are facing down hill (anticipating) the next turn.
In order to capture this energy we need to seamlessly start the next turn before finishing the last. This is why when you see an advanced skier skiing down a steep run with tight radius turns it is hard to see where one turn finishes and the next starts.
The simplest way to think of this is to imagine an upper and lower body separation. The upper body remains quiet while the skis smoothly snake beneath. In order for this to work the body must be totally relaxed, so don’t try this at first on a steep slope where you my feel tense. The great thing about this type of turn is that you don’t need to put in much energy at all and also this is a very powerful turn that can be used when the going get tough. If you think about what is going on the body is travelling in a straight line down the hill and therefore as you do not have to manoeuvre your body weight you are not wasting energy. In order to complete this turn it is helpful to use a pole plant for timing. We haven’t introduced the pole plant up to this point as it is not required for most situations but this is one that it can be helpful. I would recommend that you try to master dynamic-anticipation before you try to add the pole plant, as I may be confusing if you try two new things together. If you are able to ski with dynamic-anticipation then the pole plant should almost come naturally. It is important to remember that the most important things are the skis not the poles. Most intermediates that have learned to pole plant too early focus on it as a goal and sacrifice good skiing technique. The pole plant in its natural form is a slight cocking of the wrists without any shoulder rotation of movement in the arms. What happens is that as you start your new turn you cock the wrist of the hand on the same side as your turning ski. This moves the tip of the pole forwards and as you sink during your turn due to the angulation of your legs, the tip then sticks into the snow. Then due to your forwards movement (on your skis) you catch up with your pole and pass it, this creates a punctuating upward movement as your hand passes the pole at its longest point. This is a relaxed action and is all in the wrists, not as our intermediate friends seem to think in the arms and shoulders. This incorrect movement causes unwanted upper body rotation and arms waving around, and we know that the arms are used for balance so any unwanted movement will cause a loss of balance.
Dynamic-anticipation is the second hardest thing you will learn in this book so well done if you have cracked it.
Another energy saving technique that is good for very steep slopes, or even huge moguls (bumps), is jumping around your pole. This is a fantastic technique building on linked stopping and pole planting. One of the problems when you finding your self at the top of a very steep black run is starting your turn without gaining to much speed. The type of slope I’m talking about is one that is just to steep for you to use your pre-turn – steep! This technique is like magic and it works every time. If you stand at the top of a steep slope (maybe not such a steep slope to start with) and stand still with your skis across the slope. Then get into your stopping position by facing down the hill, edges dug-in. From this powerful safe position place your downward pole straight down the hill level with the centre of your boot. Now slowly lean on this pole, and what we are going to do is jump around it. This is easier than it sounds, because your weight is already slightly down hill your skis will have automatically started to edge down the hill a little and it is just a matter of pushing off with your uphill ski and skidding your skis around your pole into a stop. We push off with the uphill ski because on a very steep slope the down hill leg will be quite straight due to the slope of the hill, think of standing sideways on some stairs with one leg on a lower step. Get the idea, you have to push off with your uphill leg in order to get any sort of spring. Once your skis have come around remember to face your upper body down the hill again in order to keep you sliding in a straight line. After you have come to a stop you can do the same thing again until you feel confident to not come to a dead stop each time. This will save a lot of energy, as you will be able to use some of the energy from the sliding to start your new turn. If you can master this relatively easy technique you will be able to ski down almost any gradient, even extreme. In fact if you look at an extreme skier on a video this turn is the root of their technique for the steeps, when it gets really steep they will even pause between each turn to regain their balance (more on extreme technique later).
The final energy saving technique is used for traversing (Yes some time we do have to traverse). This could be around a bowl or between two lifts. If you want to traverse around the hillside but don’t want to loose any altitude you can gain forward momentum and even gain some altitude by stepping up the hill with your uphill ski but keeping it pointing slightly down the hill at an angle. What happens is that as you step up on to this ski due to its slight downward angle it starts to slide forward. Then step up again and repeat until you get to where you want. Try to step up in a smooth controlled fashion and use your poles to help your forward movement. Once you get going you can glide with ease instead of shuffling your skis along and pushing just with your poles.