Tips for improving your technique on groomers

chair lift over groomed run

Everyone knows that to be a good skier, one must master the groomers.

But how?

Let’s get down to basics.

base of mountain ski and ride school

At the most basic level, skiing is just about getting snow to slide on our skis. Remember that whole “for every action there’s and equal and opposite reaction” thing that your high school physics teacher was trying to teach you while you were day dreaming about an experience of a lifetime in Breck? Well in order for that to happen, good skiers bring their focus to the only three things that a ski can do. It can bend, it can tip and it can twist. And a ski does these things at the beginning of a turn, in the middle of a turn and throughout the finish of a turn in different proportions based on the terrain.

Think of bending, tipping and twisting like dials on a mixer in a music studio. Maybe a little more bend here, a touch more twist there or perhaps a healthy dose of tipping at just the right moment will create a seamless blend of instruments that play a hit song.

But in order for that to happen, it’s also important to know what body parts control these elements. To simplify this, let’s say our ankles, knees, and hips control tipping movements, and these joints also open and close along a balance axis that connects to where our skis bend. Additionally, legs twist under a stable pelvis in order for skis to twist efficiently. Remember, the goal is to coordinate these movements in a way that makes snow push back on our skis so we can playfully change direction.

Here are some more basics to remember. Skis twist most easily when they bend through their center. This means ankle, knee and hip joints need to move proportionally with one another throughout the three phases of a turn. Furthermore, skis should tip at the same time and those movements should happen from the ground up, meaning movement starts in the ankles.

early season groomers

So the next time you are on the groomers, ask yourself a few questions. First, is the ski reacting to the snow solidly throughout all phases of your turn? If not, which phase seems to be where it lags? Now with this focus in mind, dig deeper. Think about those three dials.

In that particular phase of your turn, would bending, tipping or twisting enhance the snows force on the ski? Pick one and bring your awareness to those body parts that are responsible for moving the ski in that way. Keep your focus there for the rest of the day. Experiment, play and manipulate the ski in different ways until you get the snow pushing you in the direction you want.

One phase. One dial. One body focus.

See you on the slopes!

– Chris Vozella

Chris Vozella has been teaching skiing since 2004. He has taught in both Vail and Jackson Hole, and currently helps train the 7-to-Teen staff at Golden Peak Children’s Center on Vail mountain.