Expert Downhill Skiing
They make it look so easy
Tackling the moguls
photo courtesy of waterville valley
Whether floating effortlessly through the powder, pounding through the moguls with steady precision or easily handling plunging down a white-knuckling black diamond run loaded with ice, expert skiers have perfected their wintry craft largely due to perseverance.
Sure, some of it is natural skill, but like any sport, getting to the upper echelon takes dedication, practice and confidence.
Expert skiers are proficient in making their way down a range of terrain in varied snow conditions. And they do it in such a way that they are in control all the time.
Time and patience help groom an intermediate skier into a double black diamond master. For that perpetual blue square skier looking to knock off a “bucket list” item and achieve expert status on the slopes, employing a certified ski instructor is a huge lift in getting there, whether it be in a group or private lesson. Sure, an expert skiing buddy can provide insight but certified instructors have been trained in extolling solid techniques like pole planting and a little on-snow psychology. Not only can they point out and help correct some of those improper quirks picked up over the years, but also get inside your head to alleviate those fearful mind games.
Peter Weber knows all about it. As Waterville Valley’s experienced snowsports director, he’s seen all sorts of skiers and knows the value of repetition and restraint.
“Don’t assume that expert terrain is the best place to learn expert moves,” he says. “Make changes on easier slopes and then take them to the tough stuff. Plus, always remember that there are some conditions that are not worth skiing and you should follow your instincts when something freaks you out.”
Though the focus is on snow, doing crossover training like going to the gym, running or bicycling can boost results on the trails.
“Anything like that can help big time, especially if you do exercises that work on ski-specific muscles such as your core, leg, hip and back muscles,” he says.
With due diligence, it all helps in advancing to the top level.
The first organized ski school in America opened in New Hampshire in 1929. Dispensing expert advice, Austrian Sig Buchmayr taught on the slopes outside Peckett’s on Sugar Hill Inn.
New Hampshire experts contend with cold, ice and an array of snow conditions. Versatility and stability are the hallmarks of the Kästle MX88 ($1,200) all-mountain ski.
Masters command the stiffest boots as they respond quickly and confidently to the steepest and toughest terrain. The Lange XT 130 ($850) is both ultra-firm and comfortable for the charge.
Helmets count, and the POC Receptor BackCountry MIPS ($250) is a good protective choice whether on the steep groomers or off-piste.
Expert Advice with Peter Weber
Peter Weber is Waterville Valley’s snowsports director overseeing the resort’s ski and snowboard programs teaching everyone from beginners to experts. A Professional Ski Instructors of America examiner, “Webbie” is a guy who teaches ski instructors how to teach.
What exactly is an expert skier?
There are many ideals of an expert skier these days — from racers, bump skiers and backcountry skiers — that have different looks. No matter what kind of terrain or snow an expert is on they make it seem easy. Their equipment is an extension of their movements and those movements take them down the hill at a pace they choose.
What’s the best way to become a double black diamond master?
Learn how to make really good short turns where you turn your feet and legs across the hill more than the rest of your body. This will keep you in a strong balanced position and allow you to change directions much quicker. This will also allow you to control your speed better and give you the confidence to explore bigger turns and higher speeds when you are ready.
Is it about breaking the bad habits of proverbial intermediate level old-dog skiers and teaching them new tricks? Bad habits can stand in the way of getting better. It’s about instilling more efficient moves that take over and eventually replace the bad. It sounds easy but it takes time, repetition and practice. It’s worth the investment though; good technique will get you through or down anything.
What part of this is athletic prowess and what part is mental?
Both of those are important, plus there is an emotional factor. Fear can take over your physical actions and cloud your mental state. It’s not that experts don’t feel fear, they do, but they accept it in a way that allows them to perform.
You have to practice and work at it, don’t you?
Absolutely! That’s how all experts got to be experts. They had the opportunity to be on snow a lot and they usually had some type of coaching or instruction.
Why can’t I just ski with buddies who are better than I am and pick up tips from them?
Well, you certainly can, but pick your buddies carefully. There’s a big difference between a random tip and the words of experience from a trained instructor or coach.
What are some of the toughest hurdles — steeps, moguls, powder, trees, ice, etc.?
It’s the combination of those that can be super tough and that’s what makes skiing so interesting and such a challenge. The conditions always change. So, moguls and powder are certainly challenging, but put a layer of ice on top of them and things become extremely challenging.