Good balanced turns start with your ankles
As a friendly biomechanical wizard once said, “Your hips will always turn my head, my lady, but they will never turn your skis.”So what will turn yours? Just remember the following: In skiing – as in running, basketball and many other sports – the ankle is the main balance joint for your whole body. Since balance is the basis for being able to move on your skis without falling down, it makes sense that the ankle is a logical place to start your turn.However, if you’re like many, as soon as you put on your skis, you miraculously forget where your balance point is. As you search for stability and your skis start moving too fast, you use your hips or shoulders to force your skis to turn.
This fudging, or muscling your way around the turns puts you off balance, and in the process, does strange things to the alignment of your whole body.To illustrate why you should instead use your ankles for turning, take a moment before you put on your ski boots next time to stand on the floor in front of a mirror. Without ever taking a step, position your body in every forward direction and tip from side to side just by flexing your ankles. Let your knees bend naturally in reaction to your ankles, but not before you flex your ankles.After you put on your boots, do the same thing. Although now you will be limited by the structure of the boot, you still can achieve a surprising amount of movement and stay balanced by leading with your ankles.Translate that to your skis once you snap into the bindings and you will realize how much control – often not exercised – your ankles have over where you put your 100-plus pounds of body pressure in order to turn your skis.
Aside from having this extensive range of motion and being the closest major joint to your skis, your ankles also control what the rest of your body does. If you initiate a turn with your ankles, the rest of your body will smoothly follow, and you will have the balance necessary to keep your upper body quiet, hands out in front and both shoulders facing downhill at all times.So now take a cruiser and focus on your ankles. Start every turn by flexing them into the arc of your turn and letting your knees bend freely in reaction to your ankles. As soon as you finish one turn, immediately start flexing your ankles the opposite way into the arc of your next turn.Before you know it, your turns will feel effortless, and that is because you will be balanced and turning smoothly.
Although your ankles may not turn anyone’s head, when you use them to turn your skis, those skiing wizards out there will follow you everywhere.Elizabeth Eber is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Vail.Vail Colorado