Sharpen Your Skills To Get The Most Out Of Your Skiing.

[Editor Note: UK-based Bob Trueman is a long-time ski coach and instructor who will contribute occasional articles on technique for the older skier. He is the author of Ski In Control where he describes the skills needed to master “any piste”. He will soon be publishing a series of YouTube videos to demonstrate control skills. welcomes him to our pages.]

What’s the best way to keep getting the most fun out of skiing as we get older? As a coach, I suggest that it’s the exercise of skill. This doesn’t preclude the great company, good food, and all the rest. Nor does it demand big, physical challenges. It’s a mind-set change.

Look around any piste, and everyone finds some way of negotiating it, but very often not nicely. Some folk don’t care how they ski, only what or where they ski. My clients do care, and it’s exercising precision skill that my pupils get the most out of.

Let’s define skill:

Skill is the learned ability to bring about pre-determined goals with maximal certainty, often with minimal effort. This has implications – “learned” = not instinctive: “pre-determined” = goal oriented; “maximal certainty” = demonstrated skill. It never fails to satisfy and is little related to physical strength or capacity.

Here are some ideas.

Unloaded tips, weight back = bad.

Look at the slope with a keener eye. Does the slope go exactly where the piste goes? Often it

Weight forward, tips loaded = good.

doesn’t; often it is canted. If you were to pour a bucket of red ink onto the slope, it may well go somewhat across the piste. You may see this and recognize that left and right arcs will not be symmetrical; they’ll be quick one way and slow and drawn-out the other. The skillful skier will be ready for this, and change rhythm. There’s satisfaction in that.

View the slope and decide if you will control your speed by applying some skid by pivoting your ski. If you do, be aware that the line you take down the slope will be nearer to a straight line—it won’t be straight, but it’ll be straighter. Take satisfaction out of knowing that and ski the line you predicted. How close did you get? That’s an exercise of skill.

Or choose to descend by having the ski carve. You still want to control your speed of descent but with a higher linear speed. So you can choose before you set off what radius of arcs you’ll do and how many arcs you’ll do. You will control your path down the mountain by the line you draw down it.   That’s another exercise of skill, and very satisfying.

Anyone can ski a gentle slope fast, only skillful skiers can descend a steep one slowly. What do you need to do to achieve that? You can do it by drawing a straight line diagonally across it until you have no room left and then do an “Oh-s**t” turn.   Or you can execute more arcs, tighter arcs, taking a more direct line of descent.   This requires greater skill as well as pre-planning and determination.

So what would you need to DO to achieve these skills? Here’s a tip – THE TIPS! Concentrate your mind on the inside edge of your outer ski’s tip. Think of it as a wood carver would think of his chisel/gouge – you’re going to carve it into the snow, have it cut in. Mother Earth will then see to it that it gets pushed round ‘sharpish’.

You’ll need to load that edge more. So you’ll need to flex your ankle more, and probably faster. If you tuck your tummy in and lean forward, you’ll load it. You’ll unload if you do the opposite. It helps to keep your hands low and wide. That helps. And keep looking down the slope to where you intend to go, not where you’re going.

Just doing one of these elements, and especially if you know you pre-planned it, is an exercise of skill that you can take pride in and enjoy the memory of on that next visit to the restaurant. Do a bit of boasting!



  1. I think the wooden models you used in this write-up should be manufactured and utilized by every ski school rep outdoors and illustrating a student during the lesson. A skier’s image portrayed by the model is worth a thousand words. Only change I suggest, allow the head angle to be independent of the thorax. The definition of an expert skier is abused. Most skiers who reach the advanced level think of themselves as expert. But the expert is skilled in reading the immediate terrain and selecting the exacting turn place, applying the right arc turn, the right amount of ankle and forward boot pressure. And most important, keeping your head and hands up and forward. Bob, I want to read your books. Thanks!

    • Thanks cansnowplow, your compliments are much appreciated.
      My feelings about my stick-man’s had and articulating are much like my feelings regarding my own – I’m happy enough that it stays on! Even though there’s not a lot in it!

      What it doesn’t show though – and this is worth mentioning is that none of these are fixed positions – we’re not IN balance, we’re balanCING

  2. I second the wooden model suggestion. It would have made a big difference in my early years.

    I believe my skills have become sloppy over the years and I can see this is a problem as I age (now 65). This season I’m going to take some lessons to sharpen my skiing skills.

    • Hi Bryan ,
      Good luck with your skill training. My approach has worked particularly well for older folk (of whom I am one) – a lot of it is in either “Ski In Control”, or my new one (shortly out in paperback and already on Kindle – Skiing:from Greens to Reds and Beyond…”

      There’s SO much please in precision, not just Yee-Ha!
      Yours aye

  3. very nice…using the ankle reduces the stress and shock on the knee..standing up or sitting back it’s all on the knees, and you are more likely to chatter on hard snow, which hurts them even more…I have even moved bindings back a cent or two so I don’t have to sit back in powder. manufacturers center lines seem to be optimized for racers, not seniors. p.s. love the stick figures! great job.

    • Thanks Roger, I appreciate you comments.

      The key thing is, if a skier doesn’t flex at the ankles, (s)he will NEVER be a good skier.

      Shortly to be fully covered by my new YouTube channel – Ski in Control with Bobski.

      (Shameless self promotion!)

  4. Good article! Especially liked the lack of PSIA jargon! Teaching many adults over the years , can relate. Think the wooden figures would be a valuable tool. Skiing slow on the steeps is a skill that most older skiers should have in their quiver, it really helps to enjoy the whole mountain.

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for your compliments. Jargon usually hides a lack of real understanding – and in any case isn’t what any skier, good bad or indifferent wants to have to decipher when they’re trying to make changes.
      That perception underlies particularly my new book “Skiing:from Greens to Reds and Beyond…” which complements the YouTube videos.
      Good luck with your teaching.
      Yours aye

  5. John Murphy says:

    John Murphy, Bob, Excellent article with a lot of info in such a short forum. I have read that one should have a straight line through ankles, hips, shoulders ( seems more like “bad” ). I try to ski in the “good” position but always think I’m being too aggressive/assertive, or over-angulated ( “attack position “, exaggerated athletic stance) for casual skiing ( mostly Blues & European Reds ), whilst my companions are more like “bad”. I’m a mental/analytical skier and never sure if my ankles are flexed forward enough. Any tips ?? I’ll try to find Your books. Many Thanx, MRF

  6. The first winter Olympics was in 1924. The summer before, without trying out, John was selected as the first American Winter Olympian and first member of the US Olympic Ski Team. He declined.

    I started skiing with John 30 yrs ago when he was 80. Between 9:00 am and 4:00pm– 45 minutes for lunch– we never skied less than 30,000 vertical ft per day. Now that I’m 80, I’m glad I learned how old people should ski from my 3 yrs skiing with John.

    Neither of the stick figures shows right stance for the elderly. Elderly skiers should stand straight up, with slightly bent knees and enough forward tip of their shoulders to put continus prssure of the top of the tongue of the ski boots. Absolutely never bend at your waist. This stance removes the hyper pressure on the Quad muscles the standard stance requires. It also makes it easy to initiate turns by weighting the outside edge of the downhill ski. You have to experience this to appreciate it.

    This isn’t all there is to it, but its easy to figure out the rest once you assume the proper stance.

  7. Preparation for the older skier is key. Can you balance on one leg while putting your trousers/pants on?
    If not you will need to practice standing on one leg while holding the other up with the thigh parallel to the ground. Once all your muscles are firing (from glutes to your toes) move on to standing in a ski stance with both feet on a wobble board. Don’t forget to strengthen your lower back and core, even if it is covered in a little excess!

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