Keep An Eye On Your Arms.

Note arms elevated and away from the body, a key to stability and balance. That's Ted Ligety, by the way.
Note arms elevated and away from the body, a key to stability and balance. That’s Ted Ligety, by the way.

One of the best tips I ever got was from a guy who was a former Colorado Pro Tour racer.  Frank Anderes had a keen eye for what was happening on the hill and besides telling me that it was important to make a lot of turns on a smaller hill, his tip about balance still resonates with me today.  One day in the lodge, Frank remarked that I skied with my hands too far inside.  He said that I would never guard anyone in basketball with my hands  in tight or hit a tennis ball with hands in too tight.  The  reason to get the hands out wider is primarily for balance.  He then showed me a graphic example of how that works.  He asked me to put my hands in tight to my body and immediately he knocked me off balance with a push to my left side.  He then said, “ Pat – get those hands out to your sides in peripheral vision range and see what happens.  He then tried to knock me over again but I was able to remain stable on my feet.

When I look at the forces that occur in a ski turn, like what is shown here with Ted Ligety, it would be next to impossible to execute a powerful turn like that with your hands in tight to your body.  Unfortunately a lot of skiers get lazy and keep their hands in tight and low and skid through the turns.  In order to make a dynamic turn, one has to put a lot of pressure on the outside ski and bend it. In order to  maintain that balance and fight the centrifugal force, you have to have those hands out just like Ted.  A slightly countered position facing the new turn with the hands out wide, will enable you to create a strong edge angle, be solid on your feet and execute a strong turn.  So, if you have played any sport, you will remember the coaches referring to the “ready” position.  Hands outside, joints flexed, ready for action.  Think Snow!!!


  1. This was very helpful! My friend and skiing buddy was coaching me on this yesterday as we were skiing. Your descriptions made it even clearer. Thanks!

  2. Here’s another tip that goes right along with Pat’s and the picture of Ted Ligety above that changed my skiing style and ability immediately after learning it. It’s called COUNTERBALANCING – and you can see it clearly in Ted’s picture along with the “wide arm stance”. Notice that he’s bent or “hinged” at the waist – legs go one way and the torso comes back the other way so there’s a definite angle between his legs and his torso.

    What this does is two things – it brings the center of gravity of your body back over your knees and skis – so your body is better “balanced”, and at the same time automatically gives you more LEVERAGE AND POWER on your edges without doing anything more. And if you aren’t doing this you are missing one of the fundamental ideas in balanced skiing (and I WASN’T until an instructor pointed it out to me!)

    It’s so easy and simple to do you can even try it at home RIGHT NOW without skis or even being on the slopes. Just stand up, feet centered on the ground, and roll your knees to one side “on their edges” and sense how your upper body AUTOMATICALLY COMPENSATES by rolling back over your feet (with imaginary skis) the OPPOSITE WAY to counterbalance or “angulate” your body so that your center of gravity remains over your feet and helps to apply MORE LEVERAGE to the edge of your feet WITHOUT more effort or power!

    I had heard the term ANGULATION before, but I didn’t really know what it meant until I tried this counterbalance idea, and then it became immediately apparent what it was and how to do it – knees go one way and the upper body goes the other way – and when the instructor had me first do it STANDING IN PLACE and then exaggerating it on an easy slope, I saw exactly what I had been missing in my skiing!

    Now, most of us (maybe nearly ALL of us!) can’t do it to the extent of Ted Ligety, but you can easily apply this simple, effective and HIGHLY EFFICIENT technique to your skiing the next time out on the slopes. I know that as soon as I started to “practice” it on an easy slope, focusing on the angular movement and even exaggerating the angle until I “got it”, my style, my comfort, my control, and my FUN immediately changed, and it became the single best tip I had after YEARS of not doing it or even being aware of it!

    So I invite any of you who are NOT skiing this way to TRY IT OUT, first at home RIGHT NOW, and then on the slopes as soon as you get there. See if you can feel the difference in your balance, your edging and your carving just by counterbalancing your body over your knees and skis, and opening your arms as Pat explains above. And the BEST THING – you’ll ski more relaxed, feel less fatigued and LOOK BETTER on the slopes! Hope this helps… Bill

    P.S. Saw in last month’s posting about the 70+ SKI CLUB (and this is completely unsolicited) – so I sent in $20 for membership (I qualify at 73), sticker for my helmet, plus newsletters, a 70+ pin and patch, and can’t wait to to hit the slopes this winter and show some of the UNDER 70 SKIERS just how much fun a 70+ skier can have! A great deal for 20 bucks.

  3. I like this follow up. Thanks for posting.

  4. Mark Hutchinson says:

    Pat, Something i have observed in very good skiiers is the ability to keep their hands and arms in a position that will help balance them, while still remaining loose and relaxed. How do you suppose they do it? Seems like when i stick my arms way wide and hands in front i feel contrived and tight! Any tips on how to stay more loose and relaxed?

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