Are you developing your skiing to your full potential?

Phil Smith, director of Snoworks Ski Courses explains why there is so much more you can do to fulfil your true skiing potential.

Technique, pretty important, yes. For many technique is the holy grail and what skiing is all about but is there more that you could be doing on top of developing technique to fulfil your true skiing potential?

In all sports there is a lot more to achieving your full potential than developing only technical excellence. Fitness, mobility, strength, mental focus, emotional control, decision making, risk assessment, energy, creativeness, freedom and fun are only just a few of the infinite skills to becoming better. To simplify the myriad of skills that can help develop performance we as coaches have grouped these skills into four subsets which we call ‘The Four Threads’, Technical, Psychological, Physical and Tactical.

Sports differ in the balance of importance given to each thread. Weightlifting, shot put and hammer throwing could be said to have a high emphasis on the physical thread. Other sports such as football, rugby, many of the team sports and sailing could be said to have a high emphasis on tactics. Then there are those sports where psychological skills play the most important role and of course other sports that could be said to be very technical.

When we ask skiers what their perception of the balance of the four threads are in all-mountain skiing the answer is more or less always the same “about even between all four threads, 25% each”. When we follow up with the question, “how much of your time do you invest into developing each thread?” The answer is more or less always the same, “mostly technical”. That’s one thread, or to put it into context only 25% of your full potential achieved if none of the other skills are developed. That leaves a whopping 75% of untapped potential. Imagine if you are only tapping into 50% of your potential that’s a huge amount of untapped potential still available.

Much ski instruction focuses on technique for obvious reasons. It’s pretty essential, keeps skiers safe and can help reduce injuries. It’s also easy to see and correct but we still have the other three threads. You could have a skier who is technically superb but lacks fitness or a fit skier who is nervous, or a mentally strong skier who lacks technical discipline. Very few skiers are adept in all four threads.

To fulfil your true potential you need to value and develop all four threads equally. Most skiers have biases and in ski teaching most skiers are led to believe technique is the holy grail. They perceive it to be the be all and end all and the reason why we take lessons. Of course that is true but there is so much more that can be done to develop performance.

Valuing technical development much higher than the other categories could be what is holding many aspiring skiers back. The adult brain longs for concrete information that is tangible, hold your hands here, press this much, stand like this, flex here, extend there, edge this amount. It’s concrete and tangible. We may even gradually turn into technical robots if we are not careful. Do what we’re told, when we’re told, programmed by our coach or instructor. That’s possibly a bit extreme but it can be the case if we take technique to it’s absolute extreme with no variation and no flexibility and no development of any of the other threads.

You can see ‘technical bias’ in action when discussing skiers and their qualities. It’s rare for observers to recognise great assertiveness, a beautiful line, an artistic descent, amazing recovery skills, great concentration, little fear, physical prowess, individual creativity. Observers are biased to how skiers ‘look’.

At Snoworks our aim is to aim to achieve 100% potential, developing all four threads and our teaching and coaching is a reflection of this. Our challenge is to get our clients to value all four threads the same as we do.

We can certainly work on developing the tactical, technical and psychological threads whilst you are on the slopes with us. That still leaves Physical. We can help you apply your physical skills but we really help you develop your physical skills whilst on holiday, it’s too late. This is something that needs to be developed off the slopes, before you get to the mountains. Ideally getting fit is an all year round goal but you can always prepare before you arrive on the slopes.

As the physical thread is not something we can help you with once on the slopes we have put together an 8 week pre-season ‘Fit For Skiing’ fitness programme throughout October and November, 3 sessions per week, 24 sessions total, each session lasting 45 minutes.  All on zoom and each session recorded so if you miss a session you can catch up in your own time. Emma Carrick-Anderson, our own Snoworks coach and fitness guru, will be running the sessions. It’s an investment well made and when you arrive on the slopes you will be rewarded by being in better physical shape. One thread already taken care of and you haven’t even started skiing. You’ll instantly notice a huge difference in your skiing, being stronger, fitter, more mobile and with more stamina. That’s a well worth investment. You’ll also be so much better protected from injury. Well on your way to the ultimate goal of achieving 100% of your true potential.

For more information on the Fit For Skiing 8 week course click here.