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As Santa failed miserably to read my instructions to him for a suitable Xmas present, I ended up having to buy these for myself - but the upside of this was that the 3rd DVD was then available - "Advanced Balance" to go along with "Basic Balance" and "Basic Edging". So having had a bit of time to watch them a couple of times and try putting some of the ideas into practice on the snow, it's probably time for a review. I'll just treat the balance discs here, and handle the edging one later.

First off, the philosophy. As indicated above, the discs are essentially lists of drills training you in progressively more challenging balance skills, with between 60 and 90 mins of drills on each disc. The idea is that as you master the increasing levels the foundations on which the rest of your skiing is built become stronger. This makes for a pretty heavy watch - there's not a lot of relaxation, and some will consider it a bit dry. But it's all gold - master what he shows you and you will be a better skier. The progressive organisation of the drills is clearly very carefully thought out - each drill is a natural progression from the previous one and leads naturally into the next one. The idea is to master one before moving onto the next: this is almost certainly the right way to approach it, but for those who doen't get the opportunity to get onto the hill every day that could get a bit frustrating - and maybe even a bit demoralising as progress may be a bit too slow to retain interest. I'd suggest a slightly more flexible approach and iterate around selected drills - get the gist of one and then keep refining and practicing it while starting to get to grips with the next one.

All the drills are also subdivided into a number of variants - a single turn starting facing down the hill (a J-turn), then starting in a traverse (C-turn) and then starting to link as series of turns. Some also have a static exercise to start with to get the basic idea without having to worry about turns at all. This is an excellent approach and really allows you to concentrate on getting the feel of the skill without worry about excessive speed, or committing to awkward slope angles. Where there's a particular tip or trick you need to know that is key to getting the drill it's explained, and on occasion a demo is given of getting it wrong. This last bit is magic, and I would actually have liked to see a bit more of it - and maybe they're just a bit too extreme, examples of getting it mildly wrong would probably have been even more useful.

The first disc starts off with the very basic - equipment alignment, balancing over your feet, and then to the front and to the rear/aft. There're then a number of really excellent exercises on moving around on your skis in balance (front pumps, knee bends, front pumps) and moving your balance point fore and aft during the turn. We then move on fairly quickly to one foot skiing - first a range of exercises to get you to ski on just the outside ski, and then a number to get you skiing on the inside. Finally there's a lot of exercises combining the one foot turns with differnt fore/aft positions (don't woryy as this is the "basic" DVD you only have to ski on the outside ski) - introduced by skiing with the lifted ski touching at just tip or tail during the turn (i.e. a training wheel) and progressing to skiing with it completely lifted. By the end of this, as Rick says, you've got balance control better than the vast majority of recreational skiiers you'll see on the mountain.

The second disc continues from the first, starting with a bit of overlap: a bit of hopping, thousand steps turns and a recap of the outside ski balance stuff. Then we get more aggressive changes from ski to ski (jumps onto different edges), then more on the inside ski. Finally (the last half of the disc) we go through pretty much all the combinations of skiing on inside/outside ski and skiing fore/aft, changing the balance position during the turn at the beginning/end of each turn.

This is a great project and on the while fantastically clearly explained. The demos are all brilliantly done and it's prefectly clear what is and is not expected. There are a few criticisms though - although pretty trivial. I think that there could have been a different split between the basic and advanced - the inside ski stuff is really too advanced for the basic DVD, but the thousand steps and hops stuff probably too basic for the advanced disc. Switching those two around would probably have made for more compatible skills aquisition. I think it's also quite noticeable that Rick has got into the stride of the commentary by the Advanced Balance DVD (actually towards the end of the Basic Edging DVD), but in the Basic Balance I have to say his delivery is a bit on the wooden side - which makes the naturally dry subject matter even tougher. Do stick with it though because this is your introduction to some of the most fundamental stuff you'll learn in skiing.

I've also been trying to think who would benefit most from these DVDs. The early exercises in the Basic Balance DVD are appropriate for anyone who's sking parallel, but whether that's enough to justify getting this DVD I'm not sure. Although leaving it later means you may have a bit of remedial action to take when you do get there. The Basic Balance DVD really should be mandatory though for anyone considering themselves intermediate or above. This really is golddust. Unless you are an accomplished racer everyone will get something out of this. The exercises lifting the inside ski in various ways will improve almost everything about most people's skiing (e.g. the Inside Tail lift will help hugely with carving, and Fore/Aft Singles is the key to engaging the ski at the transition for dynamic skiing). The second half of the Advanced Balance is certainly of relevance primarily to high level recreational skiers. The first half though (particularly those that I feel belong more to the basic DVD) would certainly be within the capabilities of the intermediate. And of course any trainee instructors/coaches will find this a goldmine of exercises to inflict on their poor unsuspecting pupils

I'm also unsure about the best way of using these. Watching from beginning to end is a bit indigestible, but gives you the big picture. You should certainly do that at least once. It's probably worth taking notes as well. I've just relied on memory of what the exercises are to replicate them, but only on rewatching the full discs have I realised I'd forgotten half of them. A list (laminated
?) of the exercises in order to take with you to the hill would probably be very useful in reminding yourself of the progression and what would help you if you're having trouble with one particular one. Obviously having the disc itself on the hill is not practical, but maybe having it with you on holiday for a reminder if necessary would be useful.

For those of us who've done a bit of drilling before it's interesting to see how the progression matches the ground we've covered elsewhere - there is so much in these discs that there are naturally overlaps but also holes. There are various exercises throughout both these discs that I've been doing regularly for several years, and some I've never done before. Filling in those gaps has certainly made the stuff that I have been doing more natural, and they're good ones to step back to when the ineviatable off-day comes alonge and you need a leg up to get things moving.

But the $64,000 question - does it work? YOU BETCHA!

On my recent two week trip, I had a day free-skiing in St Anton on my changeover day. As a day off from all the guided off-piste I was doing I decided to have an on-piste day to work on some of these exercises (and to allow my legs to recover a bit
). First off it was tough finding a slope clear enough to work on this stuff - there are very few learners' slopes in St Anton and you need space out of crowds when you're spending so much time skiing across or up the hill. I've done a reasonable amount of one-foot skiing over the last few years so it wasn't too much of a shock, but I worked through a selection of the exercises largely in order - from the front pumps and basic one-foot carves onwards. With each run I felt it progressively slotting into place and after a couple of hours I was making moderately decent inside ski turns (mostly carved). And with another hour or so the fore/aft balance adjustments were slotting in fairly nicely too - and the feeling of freedom when I finally got to floating down the slope on one foot with the body going fore and aft in each turn was quite magic.

But that's all good for posing on training slopes - does it do anything for real skiing? Once again, YOU BETCHA! By the afternoon there were no slopes that were not mogul fields, so I just had to do them (so much for my planned easy day!). After the morning practice, I ended up skiing these waaaaay better that I ever have before. I managed a couple of pretty effective runs just on one foot (although I gave up after one run on each as my ancient knees were starting to get a bit tweaked), black moguls with no poles, and even one zipper line run when I got to the bottom and felt like I'd just floated down it. And the ultimate high - part way through the afternoon, I realised that people were stopping at the side of the slope to watch me ski it!
No, no, that must be wrong, it doesn't happen like that (outside of my fantasy life)!

But just to bring me back down to earth, the following day I was reminded how thin the veneer of competence can be and how much difference the appropriate equipment makes. For that day I'd hired some good slalom skis (Head iSL, 170cm - fantastic ski, great grip), but then went back to my own skis the following day (95mm underfoot, 185cm powder skis). Getting those on their outside edge and holding it was a totally different experience, and any delusions of competence were soon dispelled - and it was definitely back to the early exercises again. A few days later though many of the exercises were back, but they didn't half take some effort
. And similarly trying to replicate that performance on plastic, with only about 8m width of slope to play with and bu%%er all grip, is another experience again. But these drills definitely work, and will certainly be part of my personal armory.

Graham N

United Kingdom


What do our customers think?

Hey Rick,

I just wanted to send a big thumbs up your way.  I feel like I've just been given the key to that locked door that I've been looking at for years.  In your spiral learning article you said that the road to expert skiing is a mystery to most.  Man, that is so true.  We don't know what we don't know.  Thanks for shining a light on that mystery.

Thanks Again,

Chris T (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

Rick and his Building Blocks program is great for maximizing each person's individual skiing.  He introduced me to  the basics of Balance and Edging skills, which helped me immensely last season.

It was only my third season of skiing, and because of this training I went from a bronze NASTAR rating all the way up to Platinum by the end of the season.  I even, to my delight,  had the fastest run of the day one of the races at Breckenridge.  I'm now a true believer that to ski or race well you need to do the drills and learn the skills that Rick's program teaches.

There's nothing on the market that helps you learn the fundamentals of the sport like the Building Blocks Instructional Series does.  I looked high and low, in ski magazines and across the internet, before I was finally lucky enough to find Rick and benefit from his training program.

Chris S (Denver, Colorado)

I am fairly new to skiing, but quickly developed a passion for the sport and have immersed myself in it.  I have a very strong desire to improve my skiing skills and in that pursuit have used many different resources to improve my abilities.  Many of those resources have come in the form of videos produced by varying organizations and skiing professionals.  When I watched your videos, I was simply blown away!  I was impressed with how you were able to present so much valuable information in an easy to understand and condensed format, but especially with the manner in which the progression you demonstrate can easily be followed by skiers of any ability level.  The videos reinforced what I had learned in private lessons, helped me achieve a higher level of understanding, and added skills I had not yet learned or was not aware were missing.  My Fiancée who just learned to ski several months ago has been using your drills to make very noticeable improvements.  A friend who has skied for 42 years watched the videos with me and said, "that was by far the best instructional video I have ever seen", then wanted me to loan him the videos...sorry, I'm keeping them!  What I like most is your concept of bringing this incredible training and all of your vast experience in this sport to the recreational skier. After watching the videos, I can clearly see how you have consistently produced expert skiers, despite current level, ability, or athleticism.  Your videos are truly building blocks of fundamental skills that are necessary to achieve expert skiing.  I cannot thank you enough for taking your time to create these videos and bring this invaluable information to those that would not normally have access to this type of world class training.  I am very anxious for the next video to arrive!  PLEASE keep up the great work!!!


Andrew R

Yakima, Washington

Regarding the article A Revival of the Steered Turn

Not only interesting but possibly the best "explanation" of "rotary" and "steering" I've ever read.  In my estimation Rick has his head on straight and nailed the true meaning and application of our most misunderstood primary skill in PSIA's ATS.

While I personally use some different words or descriptions I found NO fundamental problems with Rick's explanation.  For me to say that gives you an idea of how impressed I am.

I would like to point out that Rick's explanation of passive rotary "allows us to assume different functional body positions" means that we are "guiding the C/M in the direction (and slightly lateral) of the turn to edge (or take edge away) the skis.  This steering (I prefer to call it guiding) also keeps redirecting the C/M continuously throughout the turn.  Obviously this allows us to have "total motion" eliminating "park and ride" and makes it quite easy to stay balanced against our skis.  Rick goes on to say that these movements have no actual (active) turning influence on the skis.  Wow!!  Right on!!  Remember what I've been saying about "guiding" all these years?  I'm confident that I'm interpreting Rick's explanation correctly.

I would go further to say that we can become more "active" with our steering to create higher edge angles by actively using our quads to guide (allow) the C/M to move to the inside (and forward) of the turn...especially at the edge change.  But this should be a continuous movement throughout the turn and not "turned on and off" at different parts of our turns.

I also agree with Rick that one of our (as instructors) biggest problems is to get rid of that "pivot" of the skis by our students at the start of their turns.  Usually we see this as an upper body rotation or sometimes as a tail push.  Quite often this can be caused by an improper "stack" or balance over/against their skis.  One thing I've found is that as the balance deteriorates, so does the effectiveness of steering efforts to allow the C/M move efficiently.  A person can put 100% effort of steering into their turn but if they're not balanced correctly they get a return of possibly 30%.  Depends on how far off they are with their stance.  With excellent balance it takes VERY LITTLE guiding to get the job done.  Almost effortless.

Bob Abbott

Bobs Credentials: Level III since 1974, ski school director for 10 years at Brandywine Ski Area (Ohio), on the ed staff of PSIA-C for 10 years.  Currently in-house clinician at Boston Mills/Brandywine ski areas and Snow Trails ski area.  

Bob says "All 40+ years of being an instructor I've ALWAYS worked with teaching (coaching) the public and one of my joys is helping beginners 'get the skiing bug'."

Hi Rick,


I wish I'd had your DVD set about 7 years ago....I'd be a WAY better skier!!


I watched bits of all three of the DVDs and am completely impressed.  Your demos are very easy to understand and the explanations and "hints" that also appear as text on the screen are very well done.  The photography is probably the best I've seen on any ski-training stuff (way better than xxxxx's stuff from his last books), and the progression of drills approach just makes a lot of sense.



Hi Rick,

         Wow, Wow, Wow,Wow and Wow and I'm only through the first disc. Was this ever needed !! I am a ski instructor in New York at Hunter Mtn. I really got back into things a few years ago and it's been very tough to get a clear complete and detailed guide especially on disc to comprehend what for me is the "new" skiing. Even just the first disc is so fantastic, so clear so complete and comes from such depth of understanding it's really mind blowing !! ..................

Wow, this is really great stuff !! I hope you don't mind me going on but this is some really exciting territory you are venturing into on all fronts !! By the way I've now watched the Basic Edging DVD and I'm even more amazed. In one DVD you answered clearly and concisely issues that have been rolling around in my mind that I've been trying to articulate but weren't even able to express clearly. What an incredibly clear presentation of the difference between carving, steering and skidding. Especially trying to grasp the "new" skiing it can get confusing as to whether you are carving, carving enough to still be carving even though your not purely carving and is it O.K to skid ever or will the "shaped" ski police come out and throw you off the mountain ??  Your presentation of turn radius and degree of turn is just too clear !! Really, really tremendous stuff !! I guess I'm a fan. 

Thanks so much for doing all this work to make available the fantastic benefit of your knowledge as both a competitor and coach to all of us out here. 


New York State

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