Skiing the blues
To develop skiing on ice it is best to start by creating a more stable position.
Shiny surfaces that can appear bluish in colour and make loud scraping sounds as your skis slide over the surface are the senses associated with skiing ice. Ice refers to snow that has a high moisture content that has frozen and become very hard with a glazed surface. The glazed surface reduces the friction between the ski and the snow, which makes it feel very slippery. This surface makes it difficult for the edge of the ski to penetrate and grip and allows the ski to slide sideways very easily. To make it even worse the hard surface makes falling very painful. Less friction and edge grip can make it challenging to control speed. Not only do you feel less control but the people around you have less control too. Skiing on ice is best started on terrain that is below your usual comfort level. In saying all of this, skiing on ice is a superb way to develop accuracy in the coordination of movements. Skiing on ice requires precise control of movements. For most of you this will mean being less intense and reducing the rate and range of movements to create subtle and accurate movement. To develop skiing on ice it is best to start by creating a more stable position. Stability is gained by widening the base of support and lowering the centre of gravity. Moving the feet apart will widen the base of support and limiting the extension movement will compact the body. Make sure that your body weight is distributed along the length of ski so that the whole edge is used to ensure good grip along the length of the ski.
Lateral movements are probably the most effected by ice as it becomes difficult for the edge of the ski to penetrate the snow. Depending on how hard it is and your skill level the adaptation can be quite different. If the snow is icy it seems most appropriate to try to create as much force (by using more edge and more speed) as possible to make the ski penetrate the surface of the snow. For a very high level skier this will work. For the average recreational skier you will probably slide out or fall inside as you may not have the finesse and strength to make the ski grip. In this situation you need to do completely the opposite. Reduce the edge so that the centre of gravity is not so far inside and you can balance over the ski feeling the force or pressure downwards through the ski. This means that if the ski does slide you can move with it and stay over it rather than falling inside and having the feet slide out from underneath you. With the centre of gravity travelling closer to the arc of the feet the edge angle can be controlled with lower leg movements. This will help you develop fine and precise lateral movements.
As your skill level develops and you get to feel how the snow reacts, what grips and what doesn’t grip, you will be able to judge how much you can move inside and will progressively be able to be more confident in bringing the ski up to edge earlier in the turn. Your confidence will develop most rapidly if your skis are sharp and well tuned and your boots fit firmly. As your edging skills develop make sure that your upper body remains stable. As the edge engages it is important that the centre of gravity does not move too far inside the outside foot. Keeping the upper body level to the slope will keep pressure on the outside ski forcing it to penetrate the surface of the ice. Make sure that the shape of turn controls the speed. Complete your turns by bringing the skis across the fall line and make sure your turning movements are gradual and consistent. The skis are unlikely to be gripping the snow so turning your legs needs to be slow, constant and controlled, it is very easy to over turn the legs with such little resistance. Take time to make sure the upper body stays stable by tightening your tummy muscles as turning and edging movements are applied. It is challenging to keep this upper body stable when your feet can slip or change direction without expecting it. These are some pointers to help getting going on the ice. Remember ice is great for your skiing as it develops precision. Don’t be afraid of it, instead use it to improve your skiing skills.
Big Dave Taylor - Carving
Below: Pressure down through the ski without moving too far inside. Bottom: Keeping the upper body level to the slope keeps pressure on the skis and keeps them gripping.