I first skied at age 3 at Steamboat’s downtown Howelsen Hill, where the learning curve is steep: If you fall off the Poma lift, the only way down is a black. I didn’t ski many times at Steamboat Resort — what we called the “big mountain” — as a child, but when I did, my primary interest was eating snow.
As my brothers and I grew older and more interested in the sport, my parents would put us in lessons the first day of any ski trip. That way, the adults could ski on their own and the kids could spend the rest of the trip showing off their new skills.
I was probably 15 the last time I took a ski lesson, and now I’m wrapping up my ninth winter in Steamboat. In an effort to become a better skier, I signed up for three private lessons to focus on turning technique, moguls and trees, and the terrain park.
No matter your level of skiing, there’s always room for improvement, so I checked my ego at the gondola and headed to Sunnyside with instructor Marc Sehler. We stuck to the blue groomers and went back to the basics.
Marc’s top tips:
• Stand tall and center your weight over your feet
Having your weight back is the most common mistake at any level, Marc said. If your weight is centered, you’ll be able to use the whole ski rather than having all your weight on the tails. (“You paid for the whole thing, so use it,” he joked.)
The first thing Marc noticed about my skiing style is that I crouch too much, which sends my weight too far back. He told me to stand taller when I ski, and we did balance drills where I practiced adjusting my weight forward and backward while skiing on one ski at a time.
• Turn your skis with your feet, not your upper body
Beginner skiers often struggle with the concept of shifting weight to different edges of the ski to turn, so they initiate by turning their upper bodies. While my upper body was pretty still, I was moving my hips to initiate my turns, rather than just my feet.
When I get lazy or when the conditions are icy, I skid into my turns. Having a well-tuned pair of skis and committing to weighting your edges at the beginning of a turn will help initiate a clean, carving turn rather than sliding into a turn and coming out of it on your edges.
In the three days before my lesson, Steamboat got 21 inches of snow at mid-mountain and 23 inches at the summit, so the groomers were absolutely pristine and so soft that I could commit to setting the edges of my untuned skis without any fear of skidding out of my turns.
My skis are 90 millimeters underfoot, which isn’t ideal for carving. The wider your ski at the waist, the harder it is to get from edge to edge, so consider a slimmer ski for those groomer days.
For an experienced skier, the slightest change in technique can make a big difference, throwing off the balance or rhythm to which you’ve become accustomed. Making the changes Marc and I talked about was frustrating, and I didn’t notice much improvement until days later when I was starting to internalize some of his tips and practice the new movements while out on the hill on my own. Maybe this old dog can learn new tricks, after all.
Nicole Miller, social media specialist
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