While riding the lifts, look down and observe how other skiers negotiate the slopes.The tail-pusher's movements initiate from his ski tails. Jerking his turns like an amusement park bumper car, he sticks out his butt and moons the uphill snowboarders. Then there's the skier who initiates her turns with a sharp upper-body rotation. Stay out of the way of her flailing poles, lest you be staked like a vampire. These skiers lack the ankle strength and mobility required for smooth, efficient skiing.
Fundamental Skiing Movements
The fundamental skiing movements include edging, pressure, rotation and balance. Edging is the basis of the carved turn. It occurs when you tip your skis and balance on the big toe of one foot and the little toe of the other. Pressuring your skis shifts your weight to different parts of your foot and influences speed and turn shape. Rotational ankle movements, which resemble the actions of windshield wipers, steer your skis and control turn direction. Rotary movements predominate in terrain such as moguls and powder.
Poor balance renders your edge, pressure and rotary skills useless, but before you stand on one foot chanting "om," understand the dynamic nature of ski balance. Balance in skiing occurs during weight shifts from one ankle to the other. To practice, stand barefoot with your feet hip width apart and your knees relaxed. Lift your right big toe, roll through your feet and shift your weight, so that you balance on the little toe of your right foot and big toe of your left. Lower your right big toe and repeat to the left. This is the basic carving movement of skiing.
Once you can perform the basic carving movements smoothly, and with a quiet upper body, add pressure by bending your knees as you shift your weight to your little toe, and straightening your legs as you pass through center. Establish an even rhythm, then try the sequence with your eyes closed. For your next trick, try these movements on a rubber balance disc or half ball. Falling off balance equipment does not give you bragging rights. Keep a spotter or a stable object close by.
Since you don't purposely walk around rotating your ankle, ski-specific rotational movements demand extra TLC. Sit at the edge of your chair, lift the toes of your right foot, and use your right big toe as a "pen" to draw the letters of the alphabet in cursive writing. Repeat on the left. Do 10 reps on each side. Next, tip your right foot so that your weight is on your little toe. Keep the edge of your foot on the floor and rotate it to the right. When you've gone as far as you can, flatten your foot and start rotating it to the left as you gradually tip your foot onto your right big toe. Do 10 on each side.
Advanced Ankle Strength
Harald Harb, author of "Anyone Can Be an Expert Skier," developed a ski instruction method called the Primary Movements Teaching System. A series of dryland exercises accompany this method. During the off-season, students keep their ankles strong by practicing ski-type turns on specially designed inline skates. If that's not practical, you might prefer the slant-board series. These highly advanced exercises are performed in ski boots, in order to build up ankle strength. An aerobic step with the risers stacked on one side will work, but check the risers to see if they are secure, and use a spotter. The exercises are performed while standing sideways on the step, and the movements mimic the same little toe to big toe patterns. Add challenge by using a steeper slant board.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.