Skiing Tips & Advice

These are our Experts' top tips for taking your skiing (and fun) to the next level, and keeping it there.

Karl 'Jake' Jacobsen | Deer Valley, UT | Photo: Eric Schramm


If they want to rip, kids need to carry the cocoa! If you want your kids to progress from timid beginner to future ripper, get them to pretend they are carrying a tray of hot cocoa when they are skiing. It doesn’t matter whether they are small and don’t have poles yet or they are teens trying to look too cool for ski school, the biggest thing holding most smaller kids from getting better is having their hands by their backsides (or one hand tucked against their chest like a T-Rex while the other hangs by their side) or for teens looking like they want to put their hands in their pants pockets. Get the hands up like they are carrying the cocoa and their weight goes forward, the skis respond to direction, and the confidence builds along with the ability. It’s the fastest way to get better, and to get to the real cocoa in the lodge!


For more advanced skiers, the concept of fitting poles the old fashioned way is a bit static. You stand up and flip the pole over and form a right angle with your arm - and that is the length the pole is supposed to be. Really? Don't ski boots make you bend your knees? Isn’t “bend your knees!” one of the first things you’re told when you learn to ski? I don't know anyone in the world whose height stays the same when their knees are bent as when they are straight. If you find yourself leaving your pole plant arm behind you after you make a turn - get shorter poles. Better yet, get telescoping poles like the Black Diamond Pure Carbon poles so you can adjust and try different lengths. To advance your skiing, get shorter poles!!!


Commit to the turn on the steeps. Suppose you're standing on top of the cornice – rock wall to the left, giant Dougie firs to the right, and a narrow corridor of fresh right in front of you in a 55 degree pitch. Not a time to question your ability. So if you know this is within your abilities and you’re ready, don't just ease into the beast, attack it by aggressively committing all you have to each turn. Commit to perfect centered balance, upper body square to the fall line, hands extended in front, skis parallel with a stable base, knees bent like powerful shock absorbers, and a solid braking finish to each turn to control speed. Commit to each aspect, and it will be like a walk in the park.


Breathe some life into your skiing! When we are skiing and we get nervous about oncoming terrain, we stop breathing. It's a natural reaction, but it’s not going to help you perform. Start telling yourself to breathe; ask yourself, are you breathing? Breathing, particularly a couple of deep breaths, not only relaxes you, but it sends more oxygen to your muscles so they have an easier time doing what they are capable of doing. Plus, getting more oxygen to your muscles will help you keep skiing for longer distances with fewer stops which helps keep you in rhythm so you’ll ski better and have more fun. It's so simple, but so easy to forget. Just keep breathing.


Back in the day when most of the ski instructors in the States were from Austria, there was an old joke that a ski lesson consisted of a Schwazenagger look-alike repeating “Bend zee knees; that’ll be five dollars pleeze.” The price of a ski lesson has gone up a lot since then, but still when I'm skiing, one of the most common problems I see is people skiing with their knees straight as an arrow. Relax. Flex those knees. They’re your shock absorbers out there on the slopes. If you're stiff as a board, it’s harder to deal with the constant terrain changes on your way down the slope.


Drop your butt for maximum carving. Let’s say it’s 9am at the top of the hill with bright sun, nobody in your line, and flush corduroy as far as you can see… Time to lay some trenches! To maximize every turn and to fully load your ski, drop your uphill cheek like you're trying to sit on the heel binding of that ski just before you release it out of the turn. This does a couple of things for you; mainly it adds more pressure and therefore more energy to the ski which makes the transition to the next turn easier, but it also puts you lower to the snow allowing you to better push off that tail for greater lateral projection across the hill in a way that makes you want to go "YEEE-HAWWWWW".


Don't fight powder; surrender to it. Skiing the deep can be exhausting if you try to steer your skis through it. Instead, try weighting and un-weighting your skis with a rhythmic up and down motion. This flexes and counter-flexes your boards, creating an arc in the ski required for maximum carve and floatation. This technique is much easier than the "steering" method which involves fighting against the resistance of lots of snow to get your sticks left and right. So try to relax; surrender to where the snow is sending you as long as it's in the fall line, and just weight the skis to start the turn and un-weight them to finish it.


If the biggest novice and lower intermediate problem is stiff knees (see Tip #6,) the biggest impediment to intermediate skiers moving to a more advanced level is having hands by their sides. If you can't see your hands in front of you, you'll automatically be leaning too far back to be able to properly direct the movement of your skis. You'll notice much more control if you flex forward and get those hands up.


Would you cut the lawn with scissors? NO!! Then why would you have a carving ski for powder days? A super hard pack day can be a blast with a carving ski while a powder ski would make it miserable. Don’t be afraid to have more than one pair of skis. Enjoy every day by having a quiver of skis ready to match the conditions.