By Ron Kubicki, Director of Holiday Valley Snowsports School

ronHow often have you ridden up the Cindy’s lift and watched a skier make precise, short turns down the headwall? Everything seems to be in balance and timed perfectly. The turns are crisp and dynamic. Their upper body is directed downhill with very little movement and the skis are cutting rhythmic arcs in the snow.

The secret to mastering these short turns is to learn to turn your lower body under a stable and quiet upper body. To do this, you need to turn your legs in the hip socket. Think about it — how do your legs turn?

Stand on the flat with your arms extended with your poles planted for balance. Now swing one leg away from your body while keeping your ski tips together. What socket is allowing this movement? Your hip socket. You are not turning your whole body — you are simply turning your legs. This is the how you can make such quick and tightly spaced turns.

A good drill to get the feeling of turning in the hip is to find a nice moderate slope and do some javelin turns. A good spot would be between the NASTAR race shacks on Cindy’s. At a moderate speed, make a medium-sized turn and pick up the inside ski, complete that turn by stepping on the outside ski and then begin the next turn. As you do these, notice how your outside/downhill ski is turning under your raised ski. You should notice the tip of your raised ski is actually over the tip of the turning ski, yet your shoulders and head are facing downhill. This is upper and lower body separation, and this is the key element to developing a precise and sequential short turn.

As you are doing this, develop a counting rhythm in your head 1-2-3 turn, 1-2-3 turn, 1-2-3 turn, etc. Now, put both skis on the snow and keep the same rhythm and sense of turning your legs under a stable and quiet upper body. Do four turns picking up your inside ski, then four with both skis on the snow. Alternate like this until you are feeling the same turning of the legs, whether one or both skis are on the snow. Then, pick up your rhythm to 1-2 turn, 1-2 turn and so on and then 1 turn, 1 turn. You should have the same sense of turning your legs and guiding your skis, no matter the tempo.

Skiing is enhanced by being in balance from an upright athletic stance with upper/lower body separation. Practice this drill and you will soon be skiing the headwalls with precision and skill, and being the one admired by others on the chairlift!

For this and other drills to enhance your skills and tactics, consider a group or private on-snow session with a member of a PSIA/AASI certified Snowsports School at Holiday Valley.