It is not uncommon for ski learners to be fascinated by ONE aspect of skiing – angulation, forward movement, edge angles, etc. We might have tried hard only to find that our skiing is still different from truly advanced skiers, meaning to keep an athletic form on all types of terrains, regardless of whether it is a green run or a double black diamond run. Sometimes we are lucky to make good changes in this ONE aspect, but we still find our form a bit awkward. One example is the pursuit of big edge angle in carving. While tipping is important for this purpose, it needs to be combined with other skills such as leg rotation, early transition, and cross-over movement. If we only focus on tipping the ankles and knees, it is difficult for us to blend the whole body into athletic, elegant carving.
Skiing means to organically blend multiple skills. We need drills to emphasize specific skill development, but ultimately individual skills must come together to create a seamless flow throughout a turn.
A related myth in skiing is that we tend to seek universal principles, and it is not uncommon for instructors/coaches to speak about the “golden standards in skiing.” It is obviously true to say “transition is critical” but it does not tell ski learners anything substantive. What matters more is HOW to make an effective transition. Back to the carving example, when racing coaches yell at young racers “big angles!” all the time, they have neglected that angle degrees depend on terrain conditions. Big edge angles are not always effective; sometimes they may make it harder to turn the skis.
Looking at Mikaela Shiffrin’s racing and free skiing, you may notice that she chose appropriate angles according to specific conditions. For the same spot on the same run, her edge angles could be smaller than her competitors; her body position could be higher than her competitors. She wins most of the times because she is a versatile skier, knowing to adjust everything to the ever-changing snow conditions.
Blending and versatility do not mean that skill development is highly complex. There are many YouTube videos, books, and training manuals talking about sophisticated skiing techniques. Most of them are important and useful but we should never forget that all advanced skills are built on basics. If we cannot finish a rounded turn, it will be counter-productive to train purely carved turns. Sometimes we just forget that making a clean turn is the most important yet most challenging task in skiing at all levels. Simple, powerful skill development is more rewarding.