There are four planes of movement in skiing (listed below). The only limit to a skier’s ability is how these movements can be blended together. Therefore, if a skier can pick apart these movements and break them down, then he/she will be able to put them back together in any blend they like. Essentially the five strands listed below require different refinements of the blend of the movements of skiing.
- Fore/Aft – This plane incorporates any movements made directly in front or behind yourself.
- Rotational – This involves any rotational movements about your centre of mass.
- Lateral – This is any sideways movement from your centre of mass.
- Vertical – This is any up and down movements relative to you.
There are different ways to deal with steep terrain to control your speed and line. Shorts turns can be used to make the time in the fall line short, skidding can take a lot of speed off but I like to use a technique called checking, which is a version of short turns. This is basically where all the downhill motion virtually stops after each turn. The sudden momentum change gives you a bounce which leads you into the next turn.
Let me elaborate. I mentioned above that if you can break the movements of skiing down into their individual components, then you will be in a position to blend them together in any way you choose. Well this is a good example. In checking, the major rotational and lateral movements that are required are very rapid. Without knowing about the individual elements, and what is required, a skier would struggle. In checking, you are required to finish the turn with a sudden rotation and lateral movement of the legs, against your direction of travel. This causes the skis to dig their edges into the snow and come to a stop. The upper body however wants to keep going, which allows you to release the skis and bring them round again.
In bumps, the vertical movement is the key. There are many different ways to control your speed and line over bumps but if you are able to keep snow contact with your skis, by using vertical manoeuvrability, it doesn’t matter which method you want to use. They should all work.
For me, the fore/aft plane is the essential feature in this strand. Variable snow conditions can be tough to ski in but if you are a sound skier you will only get thrown forwards or backwards with unpredictable snow. However, the unpredictability can be limited somewhat. If you can see that you are about to ski onto ice, you can make sure that you get over you skis so that you are not thrown back. Equally, if you know that you are going to ski into sticky snow, you can hold a strong core (tense your stomach muscles) and push your skis through it so you don’t get thrown forward. The fore/aft plane also comes into play with the aiming factor. What I mean by this is that when you are skiing in variable snow conditions, you tend to aim for you skis to hit the patches of snow for grip when initiating a turn. If you are too far back on your skis, the patch of snow you were aiming for will pass you by before the turn is initiated. If you are too far forward, you will initiate the turn before the patch of snow arrives.
Piste performance is essentially carving. This all comes down to your lateral movements. A good carver will be continuously rolling the ankles and knees in a rhythm. The shoulders also need to be kept level with the slope for balance.