We need balance in many aspects of our lives; a balance between work/ family/recreation, a balanced diet, balancing the old checkbook and of course balance on our skis. Good balance is very important for skiing efficiently and effectively and it can be worked on and improved in all kinds of subtle ways.
Why Balance Training?
Balancing on a single ski that is gliding across uneven and rutted snow is not an easy thing. It is a difficult skill that can take years to master and may seemingly disappear completely on some days. The good news is that you can practice and improve your one legged balance any day of the year. Balance practice in your shoes on solid, non moving ground is a static exercise, but it is helpful for improving your dynamic balance while gliding on skis.
Balance is defined as the process of maintaining the body’s center of gravity vertically over the base of support and it relies on rapid and continuous feedback from visual, vestibular and other body systems. For skiing this means having your center of mass (roughly your belly button) directly over the ball of your foot that you are standing on. This gives a skier faster and longer glide with more rest and relaxation between leg pushes. Everyone wants that right?
A ski usually glides fastest when it is flat and gliding over the snow rather than on edge and cutting into the snow. With good balance you can ride that flat ski longer before it decelerates and rest a split second more between leg pushes making skiing more efficient and less tiring.
Balancing on one ski is best achieved when your weight is concentrated on the front part of your foot, ankle and knee are slightly flexed and your hips are forward of your ankle. For balance hold the other leg out to the side while skating and behind while classic skiing. This is referred to as postural control and is aided by having a strong core.
You Can Practice Anywhere
Practice this position while standing one legged on a flat surface: Feel your body weigh on the ball of your foot. Flex your ankle and feel your knee move forward over your toes. Keep your belly button and head over the ball of your foot while holding your other leg out to the side for balance as if skating. Hold the other leg straight behind you as if classic skiing. Find the most restful and relaxed position for your ankle and knee that is easy to balance on and not to tiring on your thigh muscles. This is the position that you can hold and practice several times each day in all kinds of situations. Practice while standing in line, washing dishes, watching TV, or talking on the phone.
Challenge yourself and practice balancing with your eyes closed or hopping around on one foot or having a pushing contest with a friend. These are simple dryland exercises that will help your balance skills and make you a better skier.
For even better balance training you can use specific balancing equipment like an inflated rubber disk, an upside down BOSU ball or wobble boards that rock in different directions. Practice throwing a ball back and forth with a partner while balancing on one leg. It is common to have better balance on one leg so work on them both and even them out.
Balance Training on Rollerskis
Of course the best balance training is dynamic movements done on rollerskis or snow. Practice skiing without poles and concentrate on proper body position. See how long you can glide on one ski at a time. Try double poling while standing on just one ski. See how many times you can hop on one ski before moving to the other ski. Good balance on skis requires complete weight shift from ski to ski. The undesirable alternative is keeping your weight in the middle between your feet, never completely transferring your weight from foot to foot, skiing on your inside edges and not getting much glide or rest. This is a common error that many new skiers make. They get tired quickly and cannot sustain their speed for very long.
Good balance is essential for efficient skiing and it stems from proper body position. A little balance practice on snow or dry ground each day will help make you a faster skier and the envy of your friends.