By Dan Egan EBS Contributor
Acceleration is the unspoken fear of most skiers. The thought sits deep in our minds, that if I go too fast I’ll lose control. To change the way you view acceleration, shift the focus away from going too fast, to concentrating on staying in balance.
How many times have you looked down a slope where the conditions were less than perfect, or the entrance to the tree run looked narrow and you thought, “What if I make a turn and end up going too fast?”
This situation plays out time and time again because we fear blowing a turn or not being able to make a turn to miss an obstacle such as a rock, stump or bump.
To fully grasp acceleration, we must resolve a few things. First off, skis accelerate because of the engineering, technology and materials that they’re made of. Secondly, when we tune our skis, by waxing and sharpening the edges, we’re making the skis go faster.
Now, when you factor into the equation that most people fear speed and the tool they’ve purchased is designed to go fast, you have a contradiction. The result is fear and the reaction to fear is tension within the body, and this equals fatigue.
In my camps we attack this issue head-on. I tell everyone who attends the same thing. Skis are designed to accelerate. The purpose of turning is not to slow down, rather it’s to accelerate. Turns allow us to change direction and direct the energy created by turning down the mountain in a controlled fashion.
Ultimately yes, skis are used as brakes and edges can be used as a tool to slow us down and stop. However, that’s not the pure purpose of turning.
The problem most skiers have is not acceleration, but the lack of anticipation of acceleration. A narrow range of balance compounds this so that when acceleration happens the skier becomes out of balance, resulting in a long traverse, a need to slam on the brakes or a potential crash.
So, what’s the trick? How do we embrace acceleration and let go of our fear of going too fast?
The anticipation of acceleration requires a proactive body movement, which will allow the skier to stay centered and balanced over the skis during acceleration.
Here are three examples of a proactive body movement that can counter acceleration:
Looking ahead and down the hill. In situations where skiers are nervous, they tend to look across the hill or at the obstacle, which limits their movement into the next turn.
Planting the downhill pole to initiate the next turn. This will position your upper body up and over your skis and allow the skis to change direction while keeping your body balanced.
Lower the edge angle of your skis as you enter the first turn. This will scrub unwanted speed and allow you to maneuver in tight places. It will also allow you to slide farther down the mountain rather than across the fall line.
If you can combine all three of these tools as you enter a run, the result will be greater control, a tighter line down the mountain and a wider range of balance.
Then try this for a few runs, next time you go out skiing:
Ski a run you know well and ski with the intention of only slowing down every third or fourth turn. Make two or three smooth, round turns, allow the skis to jet out of the turn into the transition and actively engage into the next turn, feeling the speed.
Then make one turn where you hit the edges hard, skid a bit and slow down. Repeat the series of turns again.
Join me this winter on the slope and let’s tackle shifting the fear of uncontrollable acceleration into the efficient use of controllable acceleration.
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, where he’ll be teaching Dec. 16-17, Feb. 22-24, March 1-2 and March 8-10, as well as throughout the season (contact Big Sky Mountain Sports for availability). To find more information on Dan Egan camps and clinics go to skiclinics.com.