December is a time of gathering with friends and family and the place where I feel the greatest sense of community is at Whitewater Ski Resort. The first days on the hill are filled with hugs and smiles as we celebrate our shared passion for winter and ski culture.
This shared passion creates a sense of stoke that brings out the best in all of us and makes us all better skiers. It is no coincidence that we have a hugely successful alpine ski team and that our junior freeride team is one of the best in North America. The success that these kids experience when they travel is a reflection of the support that they feel when they charge down the Blast with hoots of encouragement.
As we do our first turns of the season feeling super stoked, we’re trying to get our skiing back to what it was at the end of last season. For ski team athletes this means months of conditioning and some intense fall ski camps that focus on rebuilding a strong foundation. A key element to building this foundation is getting our weight forward and is the perfect way to get us skiing our best early in the season.
Why do we need to get our weight forward?
As we charge down the mountain there are many forces trying to push us into the back seat, and we only have complete control when we are centred and balanced pressing on the front of our boots.
When do we need to get our weight forward?
The transition between turns is the time to get forward. The pole plant is a chance to reset our balance as we start that new turn.
How do we do it?
Do a firm pole plant using your shoulder, not just your wrist, and put some body weight on it. Then, with your skis unweighted, lift your hips up and press your shins into the front of your boots. Simple!
I find that the Spiess drill is the best way to get centred at the beginning of the season. This is a difficult drill, but it immediately brings out any balance problems and can be a work in progress through the season. Essentially it is skiing in slow motion, so take your time and make sure that you stop between hops.
1. Find a steep but smooth run and point your skis across the hill without sliding. Face your shoulders downhill but not your hips. Plant your pole a foot or so below your boot and put some weight on it. Stand on balls of feet with pressure on shins. Bounce a few times in this position to get mobile and then spring into the air.
2. Turn skis 180 degrees in the air with all weight on your pole.
3. Land with skis pointing across the hill in the opposite direction. Stop! Body should still be facing down the hill.
4. And repeat.
You can take this drill to more difficult terrain as you get more confident. It is actually easier the steeper the slope! Remember it is virtually impossible if you are not leaning forward using your ankles, knees and hips.
You will be skiing your best in no time!
Dylan Henderson is the head coach of the Whitewater ski team. He is a certified development level coach with the Canadian Ski Coaches Federation and a Level 1 ski instructor with the Canadian Ski Instructors Association. His column appears here every other week during ski season.