Dancing on the Slopes

How to … brush up your technique before the ski season

Thursday morning, and I’m skiing under the peak of Tirol. Almost. In fact, I’m at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, a 20 minute train ride from Euston station, and the Austrian mountain is merely a fetching mural, writes Rebecca Newman.

I’ve come to the centre for a one-day course with acclaimed ski coach Warren Smith, and so far I am making the classic mistakes.

“Pretty much all skiers have one weaker turn, and many have traces of the snowplough in their muscle memory,” says Smith, showing me a video of my warm-up runs. Sure enough, as I turn my legs split apart and my knees knock together. He points out how my bottom-in-the-air posture throws my weight back, making me scrape the back of my skis into the ground as I come round.

“It means you’ll find it hard in moguls or steeps, and your skiing will plateau; your confidence will also be blocked since you know you can’t always turn sharply or safely,” he adds.

Having seen me ski, Smith tests the lateral strength in my legs (reasonable), the range of flexion in my ankles (horrible, thanks to stiff hire boots and years of wearing high heels), and the movement in my hips (average).

After lunch, we return to the slopes, where I perform a series of slow turns. Each time he analyses and corrects my technique. He then gives me a series of exercises to do at home. For example, he shows me a routine to strengthen my thighs: if I can steer with my thighs rather than my feet, I’ll be able to turn more powerfully. I will also reduce the torque on my knee and thus reduce the risk of injury.

The video footage of my final runs shows marked improvement. While I usually waste the first two days of a ski trip finding my rhythm, this year I will hit the slopes with a head start.

The one-day course costs £129, including lift passes and equipment hire. warrensmith-skiacademy.com


Original article published in Financial Times, in February, 2013

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