The last column we focused on pivoting versus carving and this week we will look at waist steering.
Waist steering is a somewhat controversial technique that has been used and discussed in ski racing over the past few years. The technique uses the hips to intentionally rotate, pushing the outside foot ahead through the turn while shoulders separate and remain committed to the fall line.
Sound complicated? It is, but I will do my best to keep it simple and give you something that will re-energize your skiing.
There are some important basic guidelines for skiing with today’s shaped skis that will ensure that you get full performance from them. New skis are full of complicated materials and brilliant engineering that actually makes skiing simpler. Great skiing is the humble art of allowing the ski to perform in the way that it was engineered. This often means removing movements from our technique rather than adding to it. This skill, once mastered, actually simplifies our skiing.
The use of our hips is essential to ski performance. Hips need to be square to our feet in order to have our legs work well for edging and absorbing terrain. It is also important to have upper-lower body separation, which poses a problem. As soon as we turn our shoulders, our hips want to follow and twist away from our feet. Separation needs to happen just above the hips and takes superhuman discipline to get success.
Waist steering takes this to a new level because it requires that you actively drive the feet around the turn with the hip rather than passively following the feet.
To illustrate this skill we will use the falling leaf drill. Visualize a leaf falling through the air in slow arcs, natural and fluid motion back and forth. Go to a steeper groomer and do a full short radius turn pushing your outside ski ahead progressively with the hip through the turn until you come to a stop with tips pointing back up the hill. As you turn, let your inside knee bend. You should be leaving a nice round smiley face track in the snow and the outside leg should feel like it is a pendulum swinging around the turn.
Once you come to a stop, slide backwards in a similar arc pushing the outside ski ahead in the same pendulum motion, this time tail first. Repeat a couple of times, then switch sides and use your other leg as the outside. Add separation just above the hips counter rotating shoulders to face down the run.
Keep in mind that maintaining hip engagement and outside ski pressure is the goal.
Now take this skill into your skiing by rotating your outside hip through the turn, and counter rotating with your shoulder into the pole plant. When you get success, you will feel ski performance that you have never thought possible!
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.