The holidays are here and that means ski season is in full swing. Whether you’re a fixture on the slopes each year or you’re completely new to the sport, everyone has something left to learn and who better to consult than a professional instructor.
Chalky White has been teaching skiers for many years in the Alps, New Zealand and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado—where he is a long-time member of the respected Vail and Beaver Creek Ski School. His passion for the sport led him to author the top selling ski book The 7 Secrets of Skiing and his advice has since helped many skiers around the world.
“You can boil down skiing to a few basic principles, but like any sport, there are many finer details that matter, and with an activity like skiing, the details can mean the difference between a safe ski trip and a hazardous one,” said White.
In order to avoid injury it’s important to have the right expectations, skills and gear. White shared a few of the most common misconceptions he’s encountered over the years and some advice for staying safe on the slopes this season.
“I’m too old to be a great skier, so I’ll just wing it.”
Some people are raised on the slopes, carving up the snow at age 6 and entering competitions at age 8. Most folks, however, have average natural ability and aren’t raised on skis. But, just like me, if accurately trained they become very competent skiers as well.
If you’re completely new to skiing, take the time to learn some basics—preferably with a qualified instructor. The most important fundamental to learn is balance, as applied to skiing; all sports rely on balance to some extent, and for skiing it all starts there.
“I can be great if only I can overcome my fear.”
Indeed, hurling one’s body down what they perceive to be a steep slope of slippery snow takes courage. It makes sense to have butterflies at the top of a slope, but overcoming nerves alone won’t make you great.
Some skiers, even a few new to the sport, have little fear when skiing—but that’s often because they’ve practiced and have undergone sound training. The more adept you become as a skier, the more fear-based emotion is pushed to the “back-burner” and is largely replaced by new-found confidence and more fun as you advance further.
“I’m beyond the basics.”
95 percent of skiers, including some professionals, do not fully appreciate and utilize the power of balance—at least not consciously. Many simply believe they are fully balanced, but this is often delusional and maybe arrogant thinking. The best advice is to be a constant student, which means consistent vigilance toward one’s balance.
A great skier is one who can consistently recover following balance losses. You may be frustrated that you lost balance at all. However, the ability to recover with ease is a sign that you are well-balanced.
“I don’t want to pre-release from my ski bindings; my gear seems okay.”
Just as it is silly to think that gear alone will make you a good skier, so too is the idea that gear doesn’t have specific requirements. Most vitally, you’ll want to make sure ski bindings – a device that connects a ski boot to a ski – adhere to the right D.I.N. (German for “Deutsche Institut Fuer Normung”) standard. If your bindings are accurately set to suit your age, ability and weight, and if you are skiing with proper technique, you will probably not pre-release from them. But if you make a mistake serious enough to merit a release from attachment to your skis before falling, then chances of injury are dramatically decreased. Some skiers tamper with these professional standards to prevent release, which can be extremely dangerous.
Other important facets include boots—the most important gear item for technique—and ski poles, which should be the correct length (your arms should be at a 90-degree angle when holding poles).
I have heard far too many disturbing stories due to the inaccurate setting of the binding alone. Too many of my friends, and the general skiing fraternity, have experienced broken legs. Don’t be one of many skiers, experts included, who neglect the binding setting. Get your skis’ bindings regularly checked by a professional, and don’t tamper with them.