The Push and Pull of Skiing

To start the day of skiing we all must first, put on our stiff plastic boots. In the fall and spring we can attempt this out in the parking lot. But in the cold of winter, the hands and feet complain, you might get your socks all snowy and the boot plastic might stiffen-up, making entry near impossible. To facilitate getting your feet into or out of a chilled boot do you:

  • A.   Push the tongue straight, forward or
  • B.   Push the tongue diagonally, forward.

The correct answer for most overlap boots is B; push the tongue diagonally while your free hand pushes the plastic shell the other way. With method A, you will have the plastic overlap biting your instep.

Once outside a double pole push gets us to the lift and from the top of the hill we push right into our first turns.

Do you start your turn by pushing on the ball of the foot behind the big toe? Well, that might not be a great idea. To explain why, try standing up and with your eyes closed, push down on the ball of your foot. Hopefully you did not fall backwards, but I bet you felt your weight go to your heels.

Do we want to make turns with our weight on our heels? I hope not. Now with your eyes closed try pulling the little toe side of one foot and the big toe side of your other foot of the floor for this imaginary parallel turn. Notice the pull of the muscles on the outside of one leg and the inside of the other leg puts you on edge and into a flexed ankle position (dorsiflexion).

With this move the ability to balance has not diminished and a good amount of your weight is on the ball of your foot behind the big toe. Well, the moral of this exercise is if you want pressure on the big toe side of your foot without loosing balance, lift up on the little toe side of that foot. Since you are a parallel skier with two skis, the inside foot should have the big toe side pulled up so the little toe side of the inside ski gets some pressure and activity to compliment the outside foots activity.

While we are on the fore-aft balance subject, try another pulling action. This action is the pulling back of the new outside ski as you start the turn. Pull that foot back as much as possible as you apply pressure to the outside ski. The shins of your legs should have good contact with the tongues of the boots and your body will be stacked-up properly, so there will be no need to push your upper body down the hill to gain balance. Now that you are starting the turn in balance the muscles necessary for edging and steering the ski will be at your disposal and not tied up trying to balance.

Finally, I want to give you a pole swing tip, to help with the releasing of the edges at the end of a turn. What I see good skiers do to release both edges simultaneously, is move their center of mass (core) towards the pull of gravity. What promotes this action is a good pole swing. A hidden factor of a great pole swing is grip pressure. Try gripping the pole tight enough to almost feel like your knuckles are white so the use of the pole pulls your core towards the bottom of the hill. What I see a lot, that hinders a good pole swing is the skier opening their fingers to aid in the swinging the pole. This openhanded pole swing does not pull the core towards the bottom of the hill; as a result the edges release one at a time, instead of simultaneously.

In conclusion, get a firm grip on your pole, pull the new outside foot back at the start of the turn, pull up on the opposite side of your foot that needs the pressure and push the tongue of your boot out diagonally to avoid the dreaded “cold boot bite.”

By, Chip Dwyer’, ‘The Push and Pull of Skiing’ originally published on Dec 22, 2014