In Balance Training for Skiing we explored balance and sensory awareness through some indoor exercises. Now it's time to get this pony to the snow.

Developing balance skills (or any skills) on snow is a progressive process. It should start with very easy drills, on easy terrain, then move on to a series of slightly more challenging tasks as execution of the prior becomes easy and comfortable. "Moving on" comes in various forms. It can simply be the introduction of a new and/or more difficult drill. It can be the same drill on harder terrain. It can be the same drill while executing an assortment of different turn shapes. It can be the same drill in combination with a variety of other drills from the other skill development areas (edging, rotation, flexion/extension, transitions, etc. These introductions of variations of a drill are an important part of deriving the most value from each drill.

As you may have begun to deduce from the above paragraph, skill development is a pyramid process. It starts off from a small base, with students having limited skills at their disposal. As that skill base broadens, the student begins to expand their technical options, and that expansion of options increases the ways in which drills can be modified to keep the skill development process moving forward in high gear. It's a process that causes one's skill level to spontaneously mushroom.

So, enough jibber jabber, let's get started. I'm going to introduce a series of basic balance drills to be practiced on snow. They should be tackled in the order presented. Spend time learning and/or refining each drill before moving to the next. Each step forward in drill difficulty requires proficiency of the drill in it's prior form. All drills will first be done in association with steered turns (TURN SHAPE). The turns can be parallel or snowplow, depending on your current skill level.


On a very flat piece of groomed terrain, point the skis across the falline. Assume the stacked stance discussed in MAP part 1. Flex forward at the ankles until weight moves entirely to the balls of the feet. The heels should be in contact with the floor of the boots, but completely unweighted. Only light shin pressure should be felt on the tongue of the boot. Begin your traverse (skiing straight across the hill), and attempt to maintain this same stacked stance and fore balance state for the entire traverse. Stop, turn around, do same thing while traversing in the opposite direction. Self evaluate your performance, reflecting on all the stated drill objectives, and correct/refine during subsequent attempts.

2) 1/4 FORE TURNS:

Same drill, but this time we introduce leg steered turns. Refer to TURN SHAPE and review leg steering principles, as you're going to be using them here. Everything is the same in this drill as in FORE TRAVERSES, except rather than going straight across the hill, you will turn uphill till you come to a stop. Start traversing, then subtly begin a very long radius leg steered turn uphill. Make the leg steering power you use to start your turn very light. Keep your stacked stance and fore balance as you execute a very gradual and shape-consistent uphill turn. After you stop, self evaluate, then turn around and try in the opposite direction. After coming to a stop, self evaluate again, then refine through additional attempts in both directions.

3) 1/2 FORE TURNS:

Same drill, but this time begin with your skis pointing 45 degrees to the right of the falline, half way between pointing straight down the hill and pointing straight across the hill. You will feel speed increase more as you begin your decent. Be patient. Allow some speed to develop before beginning your leg steered turn. Make a right turn. Duplicate the same subtle initiation and long/gradual/consistent turn shape you made in your refined 1/4 turns. Maintain your stance and fore balance all through the turn. Turn uphill to a stop. Self evaluate. Turn around and try in opposite direction. Self evaluate and refine.

4) 3/4 FORE TURNS:

Same as drill 3, except this time start with skis pointing down the falline (straight downhill). The same patience is required, as speed will pick up even more this time, and patience/subtleness will be tested. Again, allow a little speed to pick up before beginning your right turn. The purpose of these progressively faster drills is to allow you to gain the confidence that comes from knowing you have the skill to control your speed (or come to a stop) at anytime you desire by smoothly executing a well stacked and fore balanced turn. Confirm that knowledge, and expand your confidence, by gradually adding more and more delay (and thus more speed) before starting your 3/4 FORE turn.


This is the final step in this drill sequence. You're going to make a complete turn. Start facing 45 degrees to the left of the falline. Push off, allow some speed to build, then make the same quality stacked/fore turn to the right you have been all the way to an eventual uphill stop. Focus on the same subtle turn initiation. Keep the turn long/gradual/consistent and smoooooooooooth. Take your time coming around. The amount of leg steering power should be the same all the way through the turn. No rushing your turning at the beginning of the turn. Remember; light leg steering power at the initiation. Take your time getting turned into the falline, then carry that same turn shape all the way through to the eventual uphill pointing finish. After coming to a stop, self evaluate and refine. Do the same turning to the left.


Link two of these turns, then finish by turning the second turn to an uphill stop. Reverse, starting first turn in the opposite direction. Self evaluate and refine. After refining, connect a long series of these turns.


Make the same FULL FORE TURNS while executing different turn shapes. Make some shorter (sharper)turns. Make some even longer turns. Do some turns that start out long (before reaching falline), and finish short (after passing falline). Do some that start out short and finish long. Do some that end once the falline is reached, then begin a new turn the other way.

Always begin each new turn shape variation with a single turn. Practice single turns in both directions. Follow by linking two turns, both directions. Finish by linking a series of turns. Always self evaluating and refining at each new skill attempt.


Repeat the above drill sequence (1-7), but this time in an AFT balance state. Maintain the same stacked stance, but extend ankles backwards until your weight shifts to your heels, with just slight calf pressure felt on the back of your boots. This balance variation will provide performance comfort zone expansion, while refining your bottom of the foot pressure sensory awareness. These are two foundation skills that are crucial for later high level skill development.


Again, repeat the 1-7 drill sequence, but this time in a centered balance state. Direct your awareness to the base of your foot as you ski. Feel where the pressure is. Try to feel and maintain equal pressure balls and heels of feet.


Make a long series of turns that are a continuous repetition of 3 turns FORE, 3 turns AFT, 3 turns FORE, 3 turns AFT, etc, etc, etc. This drill continues refinement of your sensory awareness and performance even further, by requiring repeated balance state relocation. Remember to maintain your stacked stance.


Same as drill 10, except insert a CENTERING component into each set. Start FORE for 3 turns. Move to CENTER for 3 turns. Finish AFT for 3 turns. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Drill adds yet another degree of sensory/performance refinement.


Just like it sounds, start your turns in a FORE balance state, then half way through your turn (when you reach the falline with skis pointing straight downhill) change to AFT. This drill requires a pre developed comfort with being in each balance state, and an ability to change those states quickly and on demand. It requires a very dynamic forward move to get back FORE for the start of each new turn. Things happen and have to be done quickly. Remember your stacked stance, and to make your FORE-AFT shifts happen at your ankles.


Now take the 1-12 drill sequence up to steeper groomed terrain and repeat it. Make your terrain changes in very gradual steps. You want to promote success, and not overwhelm your current skill level. With each small step forward in terrain difficulty you are adding to your practice time on each drill in an environment you perceive as relatively safe, while gradually upping the terrain on which you can confidently perform your new skills.


There you are, an intro to FORE/AFT balance skill development on snow. Quite a bit to work on, which will require some time and effort on your part. But realize, every ounce of effort you put into it takes you one step closer to skiing the way the expert skiers you now envy do. And along the way, you just may discover a little secret those expert skiers you're now watching already know: the journey, and the continuous learning of new skills that take place along the way, are as much fun as getting to the final destination.

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