Five Tips to Become a Better Skier

Tufts Ski Team members share their go-to moves for improving your time on the slopes
Watch members of the Tufts Ski Team as they give advice for how to become a stronger skier. Video: Anna Miller
February 11, 2019

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Alpine ski racing takes grit. Nowhere was this more apparent than on a recent weekend when the Tufts Ski Team arrived at the chairlift on a bitterly cold, -12-degree morning. Seemingly unfazed by the Arctic chill, the upbeat skiers clipped into their ski bindings and made their way to the summit to start their giant slalom race.

The morning marked day one of the two-day Thompson Division Carnival, an annual ski race held at the Dartmouth Skiway in Lyme Center, New Hampshire. The Tufts Ski Team, a co-ed club made up of nearly sixty racers, competed against colleges and universities from around New England, all vying for the fastest time on the mountain.

Giant slalom is a test of speed, endurance and technique—and it’s not for the faint of heart. Athletes compete by skiing down a timed course twice, making sharp turns around dozens of sets of poles (or gates) before crossing the finish line at the bottom of the mountain. It’s a fast, wintry, windy rollercoaster ride, and it’s easy to catch on an edge, spin out, and fall.

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” says Sami Rubin, E20, a seasoned racer and the co-captain of the Tufts Ski Team. Rubin was the fastest woman on the mountain, crossing the finish line at 1 minute 7.06 seconds—and a combined race time four seconds faster than her closest competitor.

Not everyone is cut out to be a downhill racer, but there are a few simple exercises and techniques that any skier can do to become stronger and faster on the slopes. The Tufts Ski Team offers their five top tips to make you a better skier. (Watch the video for examples.)

1. Find Your Balance: Bosu Ball Squats. Looking for an exercise that combines stabilization, balance, and strength? Look no further than the Bosu ball squat. It will get your quads and glutes in tip-top shape for tackling uneven terrain and make strong, quick turns on the mountain. Referred to as a balance trainer, a Bosu ball is a dome-shaped piece of workout equipment found in most gyms. One side of the balance trainer is flat, and the other side is half of a stability ball.

How: Place the Bosu ball flat on the ground and step onto the ball. Stand with your legs shoulder width apart in an athletic stance and place your hands out in front of you at shoulder-height. Once you have your balance, begin your first squat. Bend your knees and lower down as if you are sitting on an imaginary chair. Keep your chest up and shoulders back, and make sure that your knees stay behind your toes. Return to a standing position. Repeat 10 reps, 4 sets.

2. Strengthen Your Core: Medicine Ball Sit-ups. Just like skiing, getting in shape is a lot more fun when you can work out with a friend. This exercise will help you make your traditional sit-ups more challenging and will strengthen your core.

How: Head to the gym this winter with a training partner, and find a weighted medicine ball. Have your friend stand (in an athletic stance) across from you about four-to five feet away. Sit down on the ground, with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Have your friend toss you the ball. Once you catch it, do a slow sit-up with the ball close to your chest. After completing the sit-up, remain seated and toss the ball to your friend. Repeat 15 reps for 4 sets, alternating who stands and sits after each set.

Watch a slideshow of members of the Tufts Ski Team as they compete at the two-day Thompson Division Carnival. Photos: Anna Miller

3. Get Quick: Skater Jumps. Skater jumps build leg strength and single-leg stability, while also giving you a cardio workout to boot. Make tighter, quicker turns this winter with help from this simple exercise.

How: Start in an athletic stance. Bend your elbows as if you are holding ski polls. Begin by standing on one leg, and raising your other foot off the ground. Now, leapfrom one leg to the other. Push off from your standing leg and leap to the opposite foot. Be sure to bend your knees, engage your core, swing your arms, and land on the balls of your feet as you continue going from side to side, making lateral jumps from one leg to the other. Repeat 10 reps, 4 sets.

4. Mind Your Body Position: Steady Shoulders. When it comes to skiing on a mountain, think of your upper and lower body as separate. Keep your shoulders square and facing down the hill, and engage your core. Your torso should remain relatively still and level, while your legs do all the work underneath you. This will give the illusion of your shoulders floating above your lower body, while the legs readjust from side to side to make turns. In addition to keeping your weight forward—putting pressure on the front of your ski boots—squared shoulders will increase your stability and boost your performance on your runs.

5. Make the Shift: Transfer Your Weight to the Outside Ski. Have the need for speed and want to make stronger, cleaner turns? The secret is in how you distribute your weight. As you begin to make a turn, put weight and pressure on your “outside ski”—the ski that is on the outside of the curve. For example, as you begin to turn to the left, shift all of your weight and pressure to the right ski. While turning right, shift all of your weight and pressure to the left ski. Shifting your weight to the outside ski drives energy into the turn, and your ski edges will cut into the slope at a sharper angle.

Ski drill: To practice transferring weight from one ski to the other, head to a small, gentle slope. As you make a slow, easy turn down the hill, lift your inside ski an inch off the ground. This will force you to place all of your weight on the outside ski, and exaggerate how you transfer weight during turns. Practice making turns to the left and right, lifting your inside leg higher for more of a challenge. Once you feel comfortable transferring weight and pressure to the outside ski, jump onto a chairlift and enjoy making strong, clean turns down one of your favorite trails.

Anna Miller can be reached at a.miller@tufts.edu.