The problem a lot of skiers have, and the reason for those early season oops, is that during the off-season the fast twitch muscles that react to counter our loss of balance on skis aren't getting the workout they need to keep them sharp. Of course, there are plenty of off-season strength exercises readily available to keep our quads tuned.
Hiking, running or stair climbing can keep us aerobically fit and bike riding also combines aerobic and balance. However, bike riding balance is so ingrained it doesn't require a lot of fast twitch reaction. Even mountain biking, which heightens the reaction, needs more brain/arms combination and not as much of the brain/feet coordination we need for skiing.
There's a product developed in England that goes a long way to keeping and improving that specific balance coordination needed for good and safe skiing, and you can use it all year long. The Sweetspot Ski Trainer is a simple device that attaches to the bottom of ski boots and has interchangeable blocks that center on the bottom of the boots, and elevate the boots off the ground.
Sweetspot Ski Trainer Block Colors
The Sweetspot Ski Trainer blocks are of varying sizes for balance progression. So, as you get tuned, 'dialed in' or become an expert in moving through different body positions related to the widest blocks (appropriately colored green) you can then easily change out to the next thinner blue blocks, adding a little more balance challenge. The blocks thin down further through red and black. Note that in Europe red marked trails equate to a double blue or high intermediate trail. In North America that equates to harder than a blue trail, but less challenging than a black.
Don't think that, because over the summer, you become an expert on the Sweetspot Ski Trainer black blocks, that come ski season, you can ski a black diamond ski trail. The colors on the blocks are used only to designate that balance will be harder to maintain as you stand mid-foot on thinner blocks.
Fitting The Sweetspot Ski Trainers
The Sweetspot Ski Trainer comes with a very useful and well rehearsed set of instructions for fitting the Sweetspot Ski Trainer on any ski boot. Adaptors are available for kid's boots. The most important step is to be sure the notch in the Sweetspot Ski Trainer base is aligned with the |A, A| or | on the ski boot. This ensures that when you are strapped into the ski boot with the Sweetspot Ski Trainer on the boot all the blocks will be over mid-foot.
The instruction book recommends having a second person present to be sure the Sweetspot Ski Trainer is aligned with the marks, and that is ideal. However, if you intend to use the Sweetspot Ski Trainer often you should become proficient in fitting it yourself. To do this, the most important step is to hold the boot on your lap and align the Sweetspot Ski Trainer base on the mark of your boot then firmly set the heel strap.
Now you can put the boot on, making sure the heel strap is securely in place, tighten the boot (forefoot clips first, top can be done second) and put the front Sweetspot Ski Trainer strap through the ratchet clip until snug and then roll the lever clip over to secure the strap. Don't over ratchet the strap. Just get it snug and the lever clip will lock the strap. To help ensure you don't over tighten the strap - the straps and clips are hard plastic, but are still plastic - mark where the strap will be secure before you flip over the lever clip.
Finding The Sweetspot Ski Trainer 'Sweetspot'
'Sweetspot' refers to the balance point of a ski, where the ski is engineered to balance as to the width and weight of the ski tip to tail. This is where, traditionally for recreational skiing, you want to have the center of your boots and this is the spot where you can most effectively transmit brain signals to your feet for balance and coordination. Translate this 'sweetspot' to that imposed by the Sweetspot Ski Trainer blocks and you can see how the Sweetspot Ski Trainer can keep you in tune during the off-season.
The Sweetspot Ski Trainer has been endorsed by and "been developed in association" with some elite coaches and instructors in the ski world. For Chris Fellows of NASTC and PSIA Demonstration Team, Hugh Monney, founder and director of the British Alpine Ski School (BASS) Network, and Gavin Kerr Hunter of Snowperformance, an elite coaching academy at Crystal Mountain, WA, to be involved with Sweetspot Ski Trainer is an endorsement that the product does what it is intended to do.
I believe the Sweetspot Ski Trainer is an effective tool for maintaining and improving the ski specific brain/ski boot coordination and balance that makes us good and better skiers.
I've made and used a balance board, but it doesn't offer the progression challenge that the Sweetspot Ski Trainer does nor does it effectively incorporate using actual ski boots and the ski boot sweetspot. The Sweetspot Ski Trainer is not a very expensive tool, and I recommend incorporating it into your off-season fitness routine on a regular basis.