All-terrain skiing all about balance

By Dan Egan Explore Big Sky Contributor

dan_egan_portraitThe more I teach skiers backcountry and big mountain skills, the more I realize that most advanced skiers aren’t held back by a lack of talent – it’s a balance issue. Few skiers realize that when it comes to turning a ski, the dynamics don’t change much from groomed slopes to steep, powdery pitches.

Fear and apprehension can equal a lack of balance. For nearly two decades, traditional ski schools have taught minimized motion when it comes to technique, and focused too much on tipping and edging skis by simply rolling your ankles to initiate a turn – this only works well on groomed and intermediate slopes. In big mountain terrain, you want to arch your turns, creating dynamic motion that makes your skiing more efficient.

Minimized motion results in fear and an inability to decelerate when intermediate skiers enter into difficult terrain such as trees, moguls and steeps. Skiers can conquer apprehension and fear by practicing speed acceptance and slowly building on their skills in new terrain.

Speed acceptance. Skis are made to accelerate, and deceleration happens over a series of turns. So, rather than skiing to slow down, practice skiing to accelerate and then slow down in the last three turns of your descent. You can practice this on a groomed slope and then gradually move to steeper terrain with cut up snow or moguls.

Maximize motion. When it comes to skiing powder, trees and steeps, it’s important to maximize motion. You can do this by reaching farther down the hill with your pole plants and/or standing taller between turns – this will make for a more dynamic transition between your stance and your turn. When you maximize your motion you unlock your balance and can control the speed you’re generating.

You go where you look, so look where you want to go. The key to all-mountain skiing is looking down the hill and past obstacles. Too often skiers will tell me what they want to avoid, but rarely do they tell me where they want to turn. Focus your eyes beyond the mogul, tree or rocks and see the path around obstacles, then decelerate over a series of two or three turns.

A balanced skier is a thing of beauty and as skiers our job is to complement the terrain we ski. Breathe deep, relax and remember it’s a balance issue, not a talent issue.

Extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan has appeared in 12 Warren Miller Ski films and countless others. Today he teaches clinics and guides trips at locations around the world including Big Sky. Find more ski tips from Dan Egan at skiclinics.com/education/skitips.