When we teach beginner sit skiing we ask the skiers to lean into the turn. Often they have difficulty with that because of all the straps, so we fall back to “start by leaning your head the way we want to go”. It makes sense, the head weighs enough that leaning the head alone moves the centre of gravity, and where the head goes the body and attention tends to follow.
But I’ve reached the conclusion that for those skiers who ultimately want to go off tethers and ski independently we are teaching them a bad habit that is hard to break later. Try this as an experiment:
- Stand up, feet shoulder width apart, and relax
- Lean your head towards your left shoulder.
- exaggerate the motion, try to put your ear to your shoulder
- Feel what happened to your hips. If you react like me your hips slid out to the right to ease the stress of bending the spine.
- Exaggerate that motion, head hard down, hips out wide
- Now think about your feet, if you were wearing skis are they on edge? Which edge? My guess is that they are still flat, or even coming up on the right edge. The opposite of what we need for left turn.
I see something like this frequently with skiers who are trying to turn independently. They look like this:
They are leaning into the turn like mad, but the ski is still nearly flat, and as a result they can’t hold an edge and are skidding.
By contrast some of the best sit skiers I know seem to come down the hill with the head upright and shoulders level the whole time, the ski seems to fishtail from side to side beneath them, they look more like this:
A senior ski instructor would call that angulation, in this case angulation of the body rather than the legs. Because of the bend of the body the ski is way up on edge, and a strong carved turn is the result.
So if we see this, how do we correct it, what’s the drill? The ideal posture is maybe watching the horizon, and keeping the eyes and shoulders level with it. But sometime to fix a problem we have to start by overcompensating, I’d suggest a drill where when turning left you must lean your head right, and vice versa. I call it “Counter Heading”. If you lean left with your head right you have to bend the spine and drop the hip low into the turn, creating angulation and edge.