I am beyond excited about January. Four days in Verbier followed swiftly by a week in Val Thorens means I can finally stop pretending that riding my bike really fast down hills feels a bit like skiing and actually SKI!
This year I am mega keen to get out of what ski mags call the ‘intermediate rut’ – when you feel like you could do a red run blindfold but moguls still make you feel like you might die. Luckily as well as putting in a lot of hard work there are handy hints and pointers that will really help you if you’re feeling like your slicing has come to a standstill – try concentrating on one or two each session and you’ll soon be flying down yellow runs and bitching about snail-paced beginners.
Don’t forget travel insurance before you go – skiing, like any extreme sport, isn’t risk-free, and it’s definitely worth protecting yourself before you hit the pistes. Compare travel insurance that offers snowsports cover before you arrive in resort – it’s far cheaper in the long run than having to fork out to be helicoptered off a mountainside.
Good luck shredders! And remember, if you don’t come back with a goggle tan, you haven’t done it right.
1. VIDEO YOURSELF
It makes for pretty embarrassing watching but it’s a hugely effective way to learn. Get a mate to film you as you ski and be your own critic. You’ll instantly see where your posture and turns are going wrong – if you’re not sure how to correct them, compare yourself with a professional in a ski video and learn from their moves.
2. GET OUT THERE AND PRACTICE
Knowing the theory is all very well, but the only reliable way to get better is to get the miles in. Fair-weather skiers will never become experts, so go first lift to last lift and ski hard for instant results.
3. GO LEGS AKIMBO
The old ‘skis and knees together’ stance of 60s skiers isn’t actually good technique – if you know what you’re doing you can get away with it, but wider legs – about the width of your shoulders apart- makes a good solid base for balance.
4. VARY TERRAIN
It’s easy to think you’re a brilliant skier when you’re reliably slicing beautiful turns down a red run, but if you don’t push yourself, you won’t improve. Venture out of your comfort zone and have a go at the things that scare you – moguls, icy black runs, yellow runs and off piste will challenge you and iron out any kinks in your technique.
5. LOOK UP
It’s a very common mistake, but looking down at your skis will really limit your ability and speed. Like with driving, never look down at what your hands and feet are doing – look up and ahead at where you want to go. Feel your way in and out of turns – in the middle of a curve, look at where you want to end it, and your body will naturally take you there. This takes practice and confidence, so try it on a slope you’re comfortable on until you’re naturally looking ahead.
6. LEAN FORWARD
As soon as you feel the fear when sliding down a steep black run, the overwhelming instinct to lean backwards, away from the downward slope, is natural and can be incredibly difficult to overcome. But in reality, leaning back is the easiest way to lose balance and fall. Push yourself mentally as hard as you can to lean down – your turns will come easier and you’ll quickly gain confidence in yourself and your abilities to get down the hill. And the fear will be gone, promise!
7. HOLD A TRAY
Not sure what to do with your hands? Imagine you are a skiing waiter, carefully delivering a tray of drinks balanced on your gloves down the hill. This is the ideal position to keep your hands in, if you can. If you’re struggling to keep them still, try practicing on the baby slopes with a pole balanced lightly on your hands, and keep it in place as you make your way down the piste.
8. STAY WARM
Always, always wear a helmet, quality goggles and decent kit – a warm jacket, thick pair of salopettes and padded waterproof gloves. Being cold saps your mental and physical energy incredibly fast and stops skiing being any fun at all. Idiots skiing in jeans are not cool.
9. CHOOSE QUALITY
If you’re renting skis for a holiday or investing in your first set of equipment, it’s worth paying a bit more to go above the economy ranges. Choose something reliable and durable, even if you’re a beginner, as feeling comfortable on and having confidence in your equipment makes concentrating on your technique that bit easier. Test your rental skis out on easy slopes before taking to the back country, too, to check you feel happy on them.
10. KNOW WHEN TO STOP
If you’re having a frustrating day on the piste, it can be tempting to push harder and harder to try and get out of a skiing rut. Tiredness and muscle fatigue, however, are your biggest enemies, easily leading to falls and injury. Know when to give your body a rest, get off the mountain and have a glass of mulled wine – you’ll come back fresh and ready to conquer the snow the next day.