BASI News Winter 2013
I guess the simple answer is to keep standing up.
Why can you do that? Because over time, your body has learnt to adjust to the very small and subtle movements necessary to stay in balance. Your body is making literally hundreds of tiny micro adjustments every second - but you have no conscious control over that, it has to be built up over time and practice.
There's no instant solution for turning a beginner or recreational skier into all-mountain hero without some time and effort. But, there are certain tools and techniques we can use to help get there faster.
If our bodies work subconsciously to do much of our work for us when we are skiing, that means we can help train our subconscious mind to understand what it needs to do more quickly. If we imagine standing on our skis without the support of our boots and descending a slope at high speed, where would we have to stand? Too far forward and we're on our face and too far back, we're on our back - and the key thing is, we are talking about tiny variations in our stance.
Beginners are often told to lean forward when they start learning to ski. Why? Mainly because they tend to lean back as a natural reaction to the slope and instructors compensate by telling them to go the other way. Fortunately, we are a bit more sophisticated than that, but I'm just making a point, and that is, if we over compensate we won't progress. If we're not centred properly on our skis then things start to fall apart when we get onto steeper slopes, ski at higher speeds or in variable terrain.
So we need to be centred on our skis, in balance but ready to make small compensations that only our subconscious mind can process at the speed required.
We can't teach that. We can help people to understand how to learn it, but unless we have an 'app' designed by the world's best skiers that plugs directly into our heads, instantly flooding the subconscious mind with this information, then we need time, practice and some tools to help along the way.
Many instructors are now using the SkiA Sweetspot Ski Trainer as a tool to help centred balance. The trainer has four different blocks t hat represented difficulty levels from easy to very hard. What the trainer forces you to do is stand perfectly centred on your feet - a tiny bit one way or the other results in instant loss of balance.
Mastering the ability to be in balance on the trainer sends constant signals to our subconscious mind, rather like when we're skiing down a slope, but we don't always have the time or chance to do that. I spoke to James Lamb, Director of BASS Morzine, who's used the trainer himself and for his clients . He says: 'Many skiers don't develop the awareness to balance accurately and this has enabled the instructors at BASS to develop tactics using the SkiA Sweetspot Trainer that helps develop natural, coordinated movements important for skilful skiing'.
Andrew Lockerbie, Director of BASS, also utilises the trainer in the same way. 'It's a great tool to help skiers centre quickly over their skis', he says. 'We incorporate the trainer into our lessons and this helps pupils progress faster with more confidence'.
The key to ensuring success with the trainer is to use it often, but in short bursts. This feeds the subconscious mind constant snippets of information that build into a bigger picture. Put that all together on the slopes and you have a converged series of messages that combine to make your skiing more fluid, more accurate and more in balance.
Robert Stewart, BASI Level 3 Instructor, Freelance Ski Writer and Co-Editor of The Ski Trade.