Evelyn Dong races for the Saab-Salomon Factory Team and was the 2008 American Birkebeiner winner. More information on the Saab-Salomon Factory Team can be found at www.enjoywinter.com. This article first appeared in Ski Post – www.skipost.com
The day you've been waiting for is finally here: the first ski of the season on freshly groomed corduroy. You're chomping at the bit to get on the trails, so you shove your boots into your bindings, strap on your poles and take off with perfect technique, gliding effortlessly over the snow. OK, except for that last part. We all want to be able to get back on snow and pretend that the intervening months since last season haven't affected our technique at all. Even if you rollerskied throughout the summer, those first few times on snow will feel funky and awkward. If you're anything like me during my first on-snow skate a few days ago, you'll think 'I don't remember my skis being this long last year…' and proceed to faceplant a few times. Don't sweat it if you feel out of your element your first week back on snow.
Doing even 10 minutes of technique drills at the start of each ski will help you out of the awkward phase. Even if you adjust to being on snow again fairly quickly and just want to get out and ski, now is the time of year to break bad technique habits carried over from past seasons. Doing some drills won't hurt, but logging hours of skiing with bad technique will only make those habits harder to break. This is speaking from experience. I was hugely skeptical about drills for a long time because my impatient self just wanted to get out and ski. I won't say that I like drills but I'm a believer in them now.
I'm a fan of warming up without poles. Even if you're not going to do any other technique work during your ski, warming up doing 10 minutes of legs-only skating is a good idea. You are forced to work on balance, weight shift and getting over your foot…all the usual good stuff. After this warm-up, another drill you can do is skating with your poles held horizontally in front of you. The poles will help you gauge how much you're twisting and tipping; you want to keep the poles level. Next, you can work on skiing without poles on a slight downhill, counting to three on each side. This forces you to think about glide.
No-poles classic skiing is also hugely beneficial. It forces you to make each kick count; you can't fake it with late kick. Finding mellow terrain to do this on is essential; flat to slightly uphill terrain makes you work on a solid kick and a slightly downhill grade will push the limits of your balance. Another classic technique drill that's helped me the most is the scooter drill. Ditch your poles and one of your skis. Kick with your ski-free foot and mimic striding with your arms. This works on balance and getting your weight forward on your glide ski.
Lastly, help coach a high school team and play freeze tag or soccer on skis with them. That is probably the best way to work on agility and getting comfortable on skis, and its fun!