Janet Coakley of Boylston was having a great time cruising Wachusett Mountain with friends when we met, and she agreed to take a run with me. Coakley is a strong, confident, and experienced skier. She can handle a variety of terrain and conditions, but she wanted a tip on how to improve her technique.
Coakley's past experience with lessons and skiing had left her with a common technique flaw. The flaw is not in her ability but in the fine-tuning of her technique.
Many experienced skiers begin their parallel turns with a slight stem. It is an easy habit to acquire since it makes the beginning of the turn much easier. With the older standard side-cut skis, the beginning of a turn was much more difficult than it is with the more extreme side-cut skis that have been available for the past eight years. The newer skis make it possible to make very quick turns.
I suggested to Coakley that to eliminate the stem at the beginning of a turn is simple. It is necessary only to put the side-cut skis on edge with greater weight and pressure on the outside ski of the turn, around a 60/40 weight/pressure distribution. The newer skis, with their extreme side-cut, really do the turning. When one is balanced on the skis, ankles and knees flexed, body angled and aligned with the tips of the skis, one goes along for the ride.
We tried a few practice turns both left and right to a stop, then linked the turns down the mountain. Coakley made many of the turns perfectly, but every so often the stem would reappear. Old habits are easy to slip back into -- especially when they work.
Bob Dunn is a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America.