There Is No Denying The Wisdom Of Keeping Your Eyes On The Road.

I have only a few mantras. A couple are: “Good turns start with the eyes” and “If you are looking at the next turn, you’re too late.” When you are trying a new drill, it is entirely natural to look down at your feet and legs and stuff to see if it looks right. I am not saying don’t EVER look at your feet. What I am saying is that just as soon as you can, STOP. The farther out in front of your feet your eyes are, the further in front your mind is. When conditions and terrain get dicey, you need to free your mind to think tactically, to chose the best initiation and transitions for each turn and for your feet to execute your choices without conscious thought.

Balance is everything. Your head weighs 10-11 pounds. When you look down at your feet, your fat head gets forward of your center of balance. If you have 11 pounds of head hanging forward to stay in balance, you must move 11 pounds of rear to the rear. The next thing you know you are overly folded forward at the hips and backward at the knees and that position will wear you out in a hurry.

The problem with skiing groomers is that the two-dimensional snow and the lack of surprises let you get away with all sorts of bad habits. The problem with looking at your feet is that you aren’t thinking about the next turn because you can’t see it. A lot of people have the physical skills to ski moguls or trees, but they are constantly being surprised and get out of position in a hurry because their minds aren’t far enough out front.

Turns are everything. Without them it wouldn’t be called “skiing”. It would be called “Flying thru the Lodge Windows”. When we practice, we are so very focused on the movements of initiation and transition that we forget that where the apex (or outside point)of a turn is placed is what keeps us from crashing into things and sets us up for success with subsequent turns.

Remedy: Run some gates. Even if you have no ambition to race, gates force you to focus on the apex of the turn. Gates force you to get your eyes and mind out in front of your feet. Gates force you to plan your line. If where you ski doesn’t have a fun course set up, stop your run every five or six turns and plan the next five or six turns by picking specific spots on the snow to place the apex of your turns.

“Head up, Eyes up, mind out front, have a plan, execute”

16 Comments

  1. Good stuff, Reminds me of the advice to look between the trees, not at the trees because you go where you look.

    • Mike Stebbins Mike Stebbins says:

      Trees…I am reminded of riding my motorcycle. I drive a rice-rocket and really love laying it over and ripping the turns. It dawned on me years ago that while my tires might be on my side of the yellow line, my HEAD was as much as 3 feet into the oncoming lane….not good. Glad you are enjoying the series, Dave!

  2. I am only having to wear corrective lenses since becoming a senior. I spent my life reading trails without glasses and cannot adjust to this new development while skiing. I have found that my eyes w/o still allow me to read, see my next 3 turns but I’ve had to lower my speed which I ski at. I only have a hard time reading trail signs, so I am completely contented with skiing without glasses. I carry $3 tube case reading glasses in case of an emergency, like reading the trail map.

    • Mike Stebbins Mike Stebbins says:

      I wore prescription glasses for 52 years until some aggressive cataracts forced me to have artificial lenses installed. I used to use anti-fog on my glasses and bought some goggles that fit over them and that seemed to work on most days.

  3. lessons on line for 70+ senior, who is between an intermediate and expert skier – two hip and one knee replacements have comprimized native ability. Can you advise?

    • Mike Stebbins Mike Stebbins says:

      Hi Craig,

      My clients in your situation have been really happy with their results with http://clendeninmethod.com/. I don’t have any replacements yet but using this method got rid of knee and lower back pain.

      These aren’t available online but the eBook and DVD are available from their website and they also offer “tele-coaching”. You send them a video of your skiing and they help you learn their method remotely.

      If you search the archives here in the magazine, I wrote a couple articles on it two seasons ago.

      Best of Luck!

    • Mike Stebbins Mike Stebbins says:

      I forgot to mention, anything you can do to ski a bit more upright will help alleviate pain and muscle fatigue. Depending on the maker, bindings come from the factory with as much as 6 degrees of forward lean and some boots as much as 20 degrees.

      I would advise taking skis and boots to a shop with a master boot fitter and tell them what your issues are. I have my set up down to 11 degrees total between boots and bindings and it made a huge difference for me.

  4. First make sure that you maintain or regain an athletic stance in every turn. If you are, you should be able to hop just a couple of inches without loosing your balance. Also, when you transition the horizontal pressure from the first outside ski to the new outside ski, don’t rush it. As you enter the apex of the turn keep your speed consistent by gradually turning your skis across the hill at the finish of the turn using femur rotation in the hip socket as well steering from the knee down. If you keep your jacket zipper facing down the mountain while your feet are turning, at the end of one turn you should experience a counter rotation that will help you get into the next turn as you flatten your skis to enter the next turn.

    • Mike Stebbins Mike Stebbins says:

      We would love for you to participate in the Forum on ski instruction. It’s a better place to engage other folks and exchange ideas on movement patterns for seniors. Thanks for the insights!

    • Good points; every day on the hill I see so many “seniors” with excellent equipment waisting a lot of energy cranking turns by pushing their heels around, skiing in the “back-seat” rather than finding the sweet spot on the ski and letting the equipment do the work…
      Also, why are so many skiing groomers on wide powder skis with feet close together in a “Stein stance”…? (not good for aging knees).
      Mike’s advice for good, appropriate boot fitting, along with a somewhat softer all-mountain ski will make skiing all day so much less tiring… And yes, look at the road ahead and where you want to go…

      • Mike Stebbins Mike Stebbins says:

        Getting the ramp or delta (forward lean), and cant angles set up for the way your body is built and the way you ski is critical to reducing pain and fatigue no matter how you ski. The problems caused by poor fit, fat skis and poor technique are all solvable and they really begin at an age much younger than “senior”.

        The fat-ski on the groomer thing I sort of understand. If you are making smeared turns at low edge angles the width penalty isn’t so severe and the extra base area of a fat ski provides more friction for folks who like to keep the speed down.

        Too, around MT groomers don’t stay packed down for long and afternoons almost always mean dealing with with heavy crud and fats are better at that.

        “mileage may vary depending on where and how you ski”

      • Mike Stebbins Mike Stebbins says:

        I forgot to mention that the Austrian Ski Federation actually went out and asked customers what they want in the way of ski instruction. What they learned is that people want to look “elegant”, smooth, flowing, in an upright narrow stance rather than the hunched backed, hip in the snow carving position.

        They wrote a new 528 page manual and are requiring all instructors to be certified in this new method by 2018.

        People want to look good when they ski and that means fashion is also important and right now fat skis are “cool”.

        Our job as coaches is to give people what they want on the kind of gear they want to ski on.

  5. Wow, I’m writing my weekly ski column here in Maine on using the internet for skiing and got on this site just to see what else was on this week. The response to this piece onlooking where you ski in interesting. I don’t ski or play golf with my glasses but I can now hit the ball out of sight. Fortunately, although I need the bifocals I can still read trail signs and road signs without the glasses. The only problem brought on by my senior years is flat light and the only solution I have found is to slow down, and ski in the morning when the light is best.

    • Mike Stebbins Mike Stebbins says:

      Hey Dave!

      Always nice to bump into another writer! Do you have a link to your work? I love to give it a read.

      I am a 61 year old diabetic. neuropathy in my feet and damage to my ears meant some loss of proprioception and dynamic balance form the inner ear. I didn’t really notice the change but over time, I unconsciously relied more and more on my vision to keep me oriented and balanced.

      Like you, I began to hate flat light and it seemed like I was constantlybeing surprised by bumps and lumps in the snow. Crud-days were a horror show and I quit skiing moguls and trees altogether.

      Turns out I had the aggressive form of cataracts that diabetics get. Once i had the lense replacement surgery WOW!! Suddenly I could ski wherever I wanted again, but I still have the problem with ,y feet and ears. It has made me acutely aware of how important it is for my mind to be way out in front of my feet because I can no longer just react to what is going on under my feet. I have to PLAN fro what is ahead, dynamically.

      It reminds me that even if folks aren’t diabetic all of our senses degrade over time and have to by complemented by cognitive processes. FOr the older skier getting the mind out ahead is even more important than it is for a 20 something.

      And thanks for helping me laugh at myself. Before my cataract surgery I had all but given up on golf. I would lose the ball about 50 yds off the tee and my buddies got really tired of me asking “Anyone see where that went?”…lol

      Best…mike

  6. Bill Tidmore M.D. says:

    For those who think they have flat light try my plight with total blindness in my left eye. I had recent cataract surgery and I did not have a spare tire! Yellow lenses really help but terror is sometimes even on cat trails. Thank you for sunshine is one answer and going in around 3 in the afternoon before all you enjoyed is down the drain with a run where you have no idea where the troughs are in the moguls.74 and still enjoying golf as well,just ground it in the bunkers or all play even with a eye patch.Blind since 4 y/o but a great one eyed Radiologist,

  7. Mike Stebbins Mike Stebbins says:

    I tell al my friends who wear glasses “If you don’t have cataracts, GET SOME! Then go have the surgery.. tongue-in-cheek..it’s a real eye-opener 🙂

    Seriously Bill, I admire anyone who fights thru the challenges to access the joy!

    I hope your winter is deep, white and fluffy! May all your fairways be straight, your greens flat and the wind always at your back 🙂

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