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The Foundations of Good Skiing

A "Foundations" series article

Next time you visit your favorite ski resort closely observe the ability level of the skiers coming down the slope. If your resort is like most, the majority will have a very similar look. Namely, they'll be kind of slow, display a fair amount of sliding, and generally look not all that comfortable and confident on their skis.

But did you notice something else? Every so often a rare skier will appear who is sailing down the slope much faster then the rest of the herd, yet their decent is the epitome of effortless precision, and they appear to be completely comfortable and confident on their skis. They stand out from all others, and everyone in eye range seems drawn to watch them. How did these rare individuals get so good? Are they just naturally gifted athletes? Perhaps, but not necessarily. Are they exhibiting a level of performance that is beyond the capability potentials of the normal recreational skier of average athletic endowment? Absolutely not!

Over my multi-decade career of coaching people of all athletic ability levels, I've proven over and again to myself and my students that almost everyone possesses the potential to ascend to the high level of proficiency I've described above. Barriers to realizing that accent are much more likely to rise out of a lack of knowledge, and/or a lack of motivation to get better, than from a shortchanging in the area of innate athletic endowment. Some skiers, having reached a skill level that allows them to get down the slope in some manner, decide this is good enough. They'd rather spend the small number of days they get on snow each year skiing in the manner they do than practicing new skills and learning to get better. We accept this mentality, and understand they are not the people we are here to help.

Others of average skiing ability will observe a highly skilled skier zip past them, quickly conclude that such skiing is beyond what they could ever achieve, and mentally write it off as an impossible goal. These are people we hope to re-educate so they can make a more informed choice on how they wish to pursue the sport.

A third group will be fascinated when they see a high level skier streak by, will be engulfed in envious awe, will want to ski like that too, but will have no idea how to aspire to such a level so they just continue skiing the way they currently are. These are the people we can immediately help. These are the people who will take the information we provide them and use it to expand their skill level.

There are definitely bundles of skiers out there who fit into the last category. Recently when working with a student I discovered hard evidence of this. My student and I were doing "follow the leader" drills. I would lead, she would follow. While doing this she kept getting cut off by people who upon seeing me ski by would attempt to jump in between us, trying to follow me and imitate what I was doing. Very irritating to my student, but clear evidence there are many who recognize and are respectful of high grade skiing, and would like to be at that level.

So let's cut to the chase. How is it done? How do average skiers become one of those highly skilled skiers who captures eyes on the lift? I'm going to be honest here and say that while the road to great skiing is open for all to travel, there are no shortcuts to that greatness. The process for becoming a high level skier can be broken down into the development of a basket of fundamental skills we here at MODERN SKIING call the "FOUNDATIONS". These FOUNDATION skill areas must be focused on and worked at diligently until performance has been refined to a high level in each individual FOUNDATION area. You will only be as strong as your weakest FOUNDATION skill link. As soon as a weak FOUNDATION link hits it's limit and snaps, progress stops and the skiers development comes to rest on a less than summit level plateau.

This is the situation I witness everyday at resorts around the country. The vast majority of skiers carry with them a truck load of weak FOUNDATIONS links that barely allow them to ascend up even the lowest slopes of the multi-terraced performance development mountain. If they were to simply pursue even the most beginner level of education and practice in the area of FOUNDATIONS training, they could in reasonable time make strides great enough to elevate their performance level well above the majority of their recreational peers.

It's a situation that I sometimes find personally disturbing. It's sad to me that such a high percentage of the recreational skiing public are resigned by their lack of skills to struggling with great effort, inefficiency and apprehension down moderate groomers, when much higher levels of performance and enjoyment of the sport are within their grasp. And to be honest, it's what motivates me to pursue the MODERN SKIING effort. It's what motivates all of us who are part of this organization. Gary, Brent, Warren, Tommy, all of us. We see a need in the recreational end of the sport, and we have a desire to fill that need. We've all worked long careers in the higher ends of the sport. Now we want to bring the knowledge we've gained back down and share it with the masses. Our goal is to help people derive a higher level of satisfaction from the sport of skiing than they currently are. We know there are many recreational skiers out there who want the same thing from their own skiing experience, and our ultimate goal is to connect with them and help them get there.

OK, enough rambling about that, lets get back on topic. So what specifically are the FOUNDATIONS? There are 7 of them. Drum roll please: they are: balance, edging, flexion/extension, rotation, angulation, pressure control, and transitions. Each of these is a skill area in itself, and when developed adequately all blend together to create a complete picture of great skiing. The purpose of this article is not to break down and cover each of these FOUNDATION areas in depth, only to inform of there existence and importance. As time goes on I will be covering each area individually and in depth in separate articles and open forum discussions. Balance has already been covered, and is already stickied her in the instructional forum. The rest will be arriving soon. Stay tuned.

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