Roger Marolt: A tale of ski tips
Once upon a time there was me, born in a tiny ski town and into a large family of skiers. I grew up and met about ten thousand other skiers and they all gave me pointers. Riding up the old, slow Bell Mountain lift the other day, all that advice seemed to come back. My mind ached from the overload. I decided to ski the bumps on the Ridge to clear my mind. I jostled my brain until nothing was left except the heavy nuggets, like I had panned for the gold of skiing wisdom. Here’s what was left in my skull’s basin, in no more order than are bingo balls pulled from the tumbler:
First, don’t be too proud to take a tip or, better yet, consider a lesson. Even Bode Miller has learned lots about his skiing from people far less talented than he is. All the best athletes in the world have coaches. The very best have several.
Secondly, your eyes are the main component of your body’s suspension system. Get your vision checked. Invest in quality eyewear. Spend time to choose appropriate colored lenses for different lighting. When the light gets flat, ski nearer to the trees for added depth perception and contrast across the snow’s surface.
Third, your body will move towards what your eyes are focused on, so don’t focus on what you are trying to avoid. Look at where you want to go and you will stay in the smooth line.
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Fourth, don’t look right in front of your tips. If you zero-in there, everything comes as a surprise and you are left only reacting. That’s exhausting. It’s rough. And, you will frequently lose control. Look one turn ahead and you will see more of your line and be able to spot an alternate route in case you get jolted. If you look two turns ahead, you will view multiple lines to switch back and forth between to remain steady, fluid and in control.
Fifth, ski the crud or be a cruddy skier. Challenge yourself. We are drawn to practice the things we do best. It feels good. It boosts our confidence. It’s easy. The problem is that perfecting things we already are good at stunts overall development. Trying new and difficult terrain and conditions is frustrating and ego-bruising, but to get to the next level, we have to suck it up, risk looking foolish and feel like intermediates from time to time.
Six, if your new ski boots feel great the first day out, there’s a good chance they are too big or too soft. A proper fit is snuggly uncomfortable for a while, until the boot liners break in and mold to your feet. Don’t put up with real pain or hot spots, just discomfort. Sorry, there is no way around this.
Seven, ski in the stiffest boots you can tolerate. This goes for beginners as well as experts. Either your boots or your skis are going to flex. If most of flex comes from the boot, the ski is not going to bend properly. If the ski doesn’t flex properly, you are going to make gaper turns. It’s that simple.
Eight, you will get less tired skiing in stiff boots. After you bend your knees to make a turn, a stiff boot rebounds your leg back into a neutral upright position, preparing you for the next turn. In a soft boot, there isn’t much rebound, so you have to muscle your legs back up into the neutral position. It is like doing a thousand miniature squats in a day of skiing.
Nine, drive your hands down the hill. Don’t swing them side to side, like you think racers do. They don’t. This will keep your shoulders in perfect alignment and force your shins into the tongues of your boots to engage your skis’ tips with the snow.
Ten, keep your head still. There are many reasons that bobblehead dolls don’t ski, but this is the main one. If your head is bouncing all over the place, that’s where you will end up.
Eleven, quit while you’re ahead. When you get tired, your body unconsciously starts finding ways to ski efficiently. Efficient skiing is blah. It forms bad habits. Skiing is an explosive, physical activity, linking short bursts of powerful moves into controlled, graceful forward movement. You can’t do that with nothing left in the tank.
Twelve, tune and wax your skis. You will be amazed how this boosts performance and your confidence!
Thirteen, follow an imaginary ball. it will lead you down the natural fall-line where turns become naturally more symmetrical. When the ball bounces, your knees will bend over the moguls. When the ball rolls smoothly, your legs will swing wide for more carving action.
Fourteen, sing or hum. It will help you find rhythm. It will help you relax. It will keep you breathing.
Fifteen, wear ski clothes that make you feel athletic. If you look like an athlete, you will ski like an athlete. If you dress only for style, you will probably ski like a fashion model twirling down the runway.
Sixteen, use video only if you are serious about analyzing your skills. Do not watch a clip of your turns to boost your ego, unless you are in deep powder, which will hide flaws and make you appear smoother. Watching yourself ski is similar to listening to your recorded voice. Quick, shut it off!
Lastly, put on a freakin’ helmet. It reminds your body that you are about to engage in a vigorous, athletic, inherently risky activity. This isn’t golf.
Roger Marolt knows that ski tips are either pointed or blunt. If you don’t like them, ski backward. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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