Mazzuca: “Brain engaged” while skiing | VailDaily.com
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Mazzuca: “Brain engaged” while skiing

Skiing is a marvelous sport; but it also has inherent risks. And while we’ve all heard someone say, “Be careful, don’t ski too fast, don’t take chances,” etc., those cautions are usually dismissed within seconds of hearing them.

Meanwhile, my son-in-law uses an expression with his teenage son that I must admit, got my attention. When skiing with his family it’s not unusual to hear Jake call out to Jonah, “Brain engaged!” Now I don’t know why those two words resonate, but they did with me, and as a former ski instructor I believe just saying those two words before starting down a run can be every bit as valuable as reciting the Skier Responsibility Code.

More than anything else, safe skiing means being aware of your periphery and maintaining proper spacing between yourself and others because while there’s nothing wrong with skiing fast, speed without proper spacing is a recipe for disaster.



OK, now that we’ve touched on safety let’s focus on improving our skiing. Too often people get down on themselves when they feel they’re not skiing “properly.“ And while it’s great to strive for excellence, don’t lose sight of why you’re here in the first place — to enjoy yourself! So, here’s a tip, skiing is a matter of personal expression and no two of us are alike.

Meanwhile, for those who want to improve their skiing, the following five elements of the sport are what I always reviewed with my students over the course of a lesson; elements by the way, that just might make your day on the slopes a bit more enjoyable.



  1. The only article of clothing that should be in your boot is one thin ski sock. Long underwear, foot liners, a second sock, powder cuffs or stretch pants, etc., tucked in below the top of your boots are counter-productive to effective skiing because they inhibit proper foot to boot contact.
  2. Adjusting stance to continually remain in balance is the foundation of effective skiing. So, let’s begin with stance. Just like tennis, golf or baseball, skiing is an athletic endeavor. And the common denominator to all athletics is balance and stance. Whether you’re swinging a tennis racket, a golf club or a baseball bat, you must be in an athletic stance, and an athletic stance isn’t being on your heels. You should be on the balls of your feet with your skis about hip width apart; your hands should be waist high about 3 feet apart and 12 inches in front of the plane of your chest with some air in between your torso and your arms with the tips of your poles pointing at the tails of your skis.
  3. Next, keep your eyes downhill — your skis won’t change color, so there’s no need to look at them while making turns. Instead, pick a point 30-50 yards downhill and keep your eyes on it.
  4. Now this next element is really a maxim in two parts: Part No. 1 is the effectiveness of your skiing movements will be positive only if you have a mental image of making a rounded “C” shaped turn path. Rounded “C” shaped turns means control (C for control, get it?) and to assist in making those rounded “C” shaped turns, try waiting one second (one-one thousand) longer than you normally do before initialing a new turn. “You need to finish the old turn before you begin a new one.” Part No. 2 of the maxim — any movement that doesn’t move your body downhill is counter-productive to effective skiing, which means every time you drop your hands, sit back, allow your elbows to drift behind the plane of your torso or drop your head to look at your skis you are skiing inefficiently.
  5. You have two skis — use them both. And here’s a fool proof method to aid in doing that — focus on your inside ski. Inside ski? Yes, the inside ski is the one in the direction of your turn. Turn right and your inside is your right ski, turn left and the inside ski is your left ski. So, the next time you’er out on the hill, pay attention to your inside ski. You’ll note as you are making a turn your inside ski moves slightly ahead of the outside ski (don’t fret, this happens because we’re bipods) – anyway, as the inside ski moves ahead of the outside ski by a few inches, try pulling it back just an inch or two and prepare to be amazed at how much easier it is to make a “C“ shaped turn.

Now go out there and have some fun!

Quote of the day: “If Christmas isn’t in your heart, you won’t find it under the tree,” — Unknown.


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