Tunnel vision does the trick
One sure way to give yourself trouble staying in the fall line – whether on steep bumps, powder, or crud – is to look for the big picture. There’s a strong tendency, though, to pan your eyes toward the side of the trail every time you turn because that’s where your skis seem to be pointing when you change direction.
But actually it’s the other way around. Your skis follow your eyes. If you look toward the side of the trail when you turn, then your skis will start on a nice traverse across the fall line on their way to those trees.
Once that starts to happen, you have to wrench them back the other way in order to regain the fall line. But, if you take another panoramic look toward the opposite side of the trail to do this, your skis will again obediently follow on another nice traverse that crosses and again misses the fall line.
By that time, you’re not exactly “skiing a line.”
If you can develop some tunnel vision, though, and keep your eyes constantly focused down the fall line, that’s where your skis will stay. This doesn’t mean blocking out your peripheral vision which you still need in order to keep a safe distance from other skiers as well as the trees. And it doesn’t mean watching the tips of your skis because then you’ll never be able to anticipate what’s ahead.
It does mean looking down the hill at all times if that’s where you want your skis to go. A good rule of thumb is to try to look down the fall line at least three turns ahead. This gives you plenty of time to change course if the going gets rough.
You can take an example from ski racing. You probably haven’t heard many World Cup hopefuls strategize about how they will negotiate the trees on the side of the course. That’s because running a course, constantly trying to stay in the fall line, requires strategies focused on finding the downhill terrain that will let them hug that fall line. One slight, sideways glance toward the trees could send them crashing off course in a split-second or less.
While luckily it’s not quite the same do-or-die situation for the recreational skier trying to stay in the fall line, it doesn’t hurt to pretend you’re a racer if thatis what it takes to develop some tunnel vision.
In skiing, at least, that’s the more enlightened way to be.
Elizabeth Eber is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Vail.