Ski tips with Dylan Henderson.

Ski tips with Dylan Henderson.

COLUMN: Enjoy the virtues of hard snow

Whitewater ski team coach Dylan Henderson focuses on increasing ski performance.

  • Feb. 20, 2015 12:00 p.m.

By Dylan Henderson

This is a ski tips column for all skiers. Do not let the “Ski Racing” scare you away!

Ski racing is just free-skiing at a high performance level, and we all want to ski at our own personal best, right?

I am Dylan Henderson and I am the head coach for the Whitewater ski team. I am a certified development level coach with the Canadian Ski Coaches Federation and a Level 1 ski instructor with the Canadian Ski Instructors Association. My goal is to give you something to keep your skiing fresh every week even if the snow is not.

The last column we focused on your relationship with your skis and this week we will focus on increasing your ski performance.

The snow this season has been the best that I have ever skied at Whitewater in all the years that I have been here … from a race training perspective. It has an “injected” quality that is usually created with snow making and laborious watering of the slope at resorts Lake Louise for World Cup races.

This highly technical process creates a snow surface that is incredibly hard but still has some grip so that the racers can ski the track with excellent ski performance and the track is still smooth for the last racers of the day. We have this expensive snow right now without any investment on our part!

During most years here at Whitewater we receive consistent epic dumps of dry powder leading us to believe that maybe Ulr himself is of the local bearded telemarkers. The ski racers love deep powder too, but it makes for groomers that are packed powder which means that there is a lot of air and a low moisture content that keeps the snow from getting hard. This is great for cruising but not so good for getting your ski to carve that perfect turn that can be achieved at the hill right now.

Now, I know that most of you do not share in my quirky passion for hard snow and maybe I am alone on my lifelong quest for the perfect turn, but hear me out because if you want to ski off that pass this year you could at least benefit from some survival tips as you scrape your way down the mountain.

Step 1: Make sure that your edges are sharp like claws, so take your skis into the shop. Try the Village Ski Hut’s incredible Wintersteiger machine.

Step 2: Get into an athletic position with pressure on the front of the boots and knees bent, skis hip width apart, ready to pounce like a cat. It is slippery and you might have to!

Step 3: As you turn imagine that there is a metal bar passing through your hips and move it towards the hill as you are turning. Your upper body follows while keeping your shoulders level.

It is that simple.

Drill: Find a wide groomer and traverse across it putting your skis on and off edge using the above steps. Stop when you get to other side of the groomer, turn around and repeat going across to the other side. Add some extra edge angle by pushing your knees into the hill. You are practicing the skill of edge control.

An important thing to think about is that you are imposing a force upon the snow rather than the snow imposing a force upon you. You have to be in charge by increasing your edge angle to claw into the mountain and go for a smooth ride. If you let the tails of your skis drift around it is the same as when you slam on the brakes of your car on a patch of ice on the highway. You lose all control, and that nice one piece powder suit doesn’t have any high impact air bags.

Now, increase your speed and angulation and you are ready to harness the power of the mountain and join me in my quest to find the perfect turn.

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