Mazzuca: 10 quick tips for more effective skiing (column) | VailDaily.com

Mazzuca: 10 quick tips for more effective skiing (column)

I realize it’s the thought the counts, but let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to fake a smile when you know that package under the tree contains a reindeer tie or a snow globe of some Swiss village. So I thought I’d offer a Christmas gift the entire family can enjoy — 10 quick tips for more effective skiing.

1. Stay in balance.

Balance is the most critical aspect of effective skiing.

And one of the prime culprits for throwing us out of balance are flailing hands and arms. To remedy this, focus on keeping your hands approximately waist high, 3 feet apart and 18 inches in front of your bellybutton — all the time — even on catwalks.

On an easy run, turn your ski poles upside down and try skiing with your hands under the baskets of your poles. It will feel awkward, but I promise you’ll get immediate feedback about your hand position.

While cruising down a run, focus your eyes on an object downhill. Why? Because it’s difficult to remain in balance when you’re busy looking at the tips of your skis.

Practice balance on catwalks (assuming you have proper hand position, of course) by lifting one ski about 2-3 inches off the snow, paying attention to how long you can hold it level — try with the right ski, then the left — one side will likely be easier than the other, but by increasing the time you can hold a ski level, even by increments of a second or two, you will improve your balance tremendously.

2. Keep your upper body quiet.

Here’s an exercise to develop the habit — on an easy run, try skiing with your palms down and your pole(s) across the backs of your fingers (of course all while keeping your hands waist high, 3 feet apart and 18 inches in front of your bellybutton). You’ll be amazed at the results.

3. Focus on the inside ski.

Try drawing your “inside ski” back about 2 to 3 inches with every turn. (When turning left, pull your left ski back; when turning right, pull back your right ski.) I promise, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

4. Control your speed.

No lectures here on speed control; nonetheless, screaming into a lift line at high speed doesn’t impress anyone — so just don’t do it. But how does one control speed on two waxed boards sliding on a slippery surface? The answer is simple — turn shape. No matter if you carve, skid or slip your turns, concentrate on making rounded “C” shaped turns through the snow. (That’s “C” as in control, not “Z” as in zig-zag.)

5. Mix your turns.

As you’re skiing down a run, try making two short turns followed by a long turn; do this for a few hundred yards then switch and make two long turns followed by a short. Accomplished skiers make a number of different shaped turns — experiment!

6. Watch the light.

On “flat light” days, ski closer to the trees on the side of the run — not only is the visibility better, but also you’ll usually find softer snow.

7. Be safe on catwalks.

Try drawing an imaginary line down the center of the catwalk, and then stay on one side or the other — you’re far less likely to get hit from behind when your “line” is predicable. As a sidebar, maintaining a predictable line is even more important while skiing down actual runs.

8. Stop behind obstacles.

Ski patrol baffles and trail signs are great for this. Putting an obstacle (like a tree) between you and uphill skiers is always a wise tactic on the mountain.

9. Stay hydrated.

You’re in the mountains and dehydration causes fatigue and fatigue can result in accidents.

10. A suggestion for the ladies.

Unless your husband or significant other is a certified ski instructor, it’s not always wise to let him teach you how to ski. As a former ski instructor, I wouldn’t even venture a guess as to how many hours I spent “un-teaching” what a well meaning husband or boyfriend “taught” his wife or significant other the day before.

So there you are, a Christmas gift you can really use.

Quote of the day: “Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind,” — Kris Kringle (from “Miracle on 34th Street”)

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes biweekly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@comcast.net.