A word to teachers…

Most errors in ski teaching are made with respect to teaching beginners. Perhaps the most difficult and important part of ski teaching is making sure that beginners develop technically correctly and free from fear and danger. If a beginner is exposed from the start to flawed ideas then this can generate insurmountable problems that remain for life. The main issue here is not concerning poor teachers but unfortunately the flawed teaching doctrine in which instructors worldwide are universally trained.

Practically everything in standard ski teaching is based on views lacking in practical common sense and on faulty principles of mechanics which can be clearly identified. There is no intellectual rigour or accuracy in the subject as it is taught by national training bodies which then share their consensus on an international forum. If there is a contributing underlying non-political cause behind this ongoing problems in the sport then it lies in the fact that skiing is very challenging both emotionally and perceptually and so demands a very insightful and counter-intuitive approach. Not everybody is tuned into their own counter-intuitive abilities but it is primarily the responsibility of the teacher to be on top of this personally and to transmit the correct and appropriate information to students – regardless of whatever training system he/she has been indoctrinated with. 


  1. Dynamics
  2. Skating
  3. Centering/Mindfulness


Good teaching permits all levels of skier to work and develop together. Slow exercises repeated over and over cultivate ever increasing physical awareness. Beginners can do exactly the same exercise as advanced skiers and yet each will be working on a different level. Awareness, feeling, perception, understanding, coordination, selective muscle relaxation, skill and focus are just some of the qualities being cultivated. 

Above all skiing should be approached with mindfulness – with a view to being conscious of our smallest acts. Skiing challenges our emotions and perceptions requiring that we override our basic impulses and replace them with learned skills.

Around 97% of all mental activity is unconscious and reflexive. Skill is when a change in those unconscious patterns is put in place through either mindful, conscious reprogramming – or through brutal adaptation to physical constraints over time – aided (or otherwise) through natural selection. (The first option being far more preferable, safer and faster!)

Mindfulness however is not just required for skill development it is also the key to endless progression and enjoyment. Being mindful means focusing within your body and bringing your attention into the present – thus reducing anxiety and distraction and yet allowing a deeper connection with everything. Skiing is literally never boring or frustrating when the mind is centred on the body.

The three core principles listed at the start are Dynamics, Skating and Centering. Not only is the mind required to be centered but all movement should start from the centre (moving outwards from the centre) and the key to using the skis is the Centre of Mass itself. The Centre of Mass functions in a feedback relationship through the active use of Dynamics and Skating. Centering is a dual physical and mental property.


Dynamics is physics. When objects experience either change of speed or direction or both they experience dynamics. It can be defined (Newton’s Second Law of Motion) as the mechanics of “disequilibrium” – the opposite of “balance”. Dynamics is the heart of skiing. Unfortunately all national ski instruction systems worldwide actually teach “balance”(Statics – Newton’s First Law of Motion) and get the physics totally confused – hence also the instructions. That’s why it’s so incredibly important to get this right.


Skating is bio-mechanics. Skating is just a very natural way of moving. It simply combines our normal propulsion movements with a continued sliding. Whereas Dynamics is more concerned with the overall motion of the body, skating gives us a framework to understand the relative motion of all the body parts. 


Centering is the application of both dynamics and skating to directing the motion of the centre of mass. Skis are operated though their relationship with the centre of mass. The centre of mass actually moves around the physical centre of the body (it’s not a fixed location). The physical actions of the body all start from and move out from the centre and mental focus has to ideally be brought to this point. 

Those core principles – nurtured overall by mindfulness – provide all that is required to raise skiing from being a superficial leisure activity to one of the greatest personal development platforms available. Interplay between the three physical core principles generates an inexhaustible universe of creative possibilities to explore. In nature, when three or more objects interact, there is inherent and mathematical unpredictability. In Newtonian mechanics the formulas of the laws of motion work perfectly for two objects colliding but are unable to cope with three objects. Even the motion of the planets cannot be precisely predicted too far ahead because of this phenomenon. Here we just have three main components on which we can base skiing – but the creative potential this unleashes is boundless. The underlying simplicity of each of the three core principles however remains unchanged – like three primary colours – or the hexagonal form of a snowflake. Every snowflake is different – every turn on skis is different  – but the the underlying principles don’t change.


The beginner must be made aware of the basic principle of dynamics right from the start. This means that every exercise should be focused on accelerations of the body and how to create and control them. The skier begins with only one ski and on very flat terrain. This is standard procedure in most teaching – but here the main focus is entirely different.

After the new skier is given a brief explanation of the equipment (bindings, brakes, ski design and boots) then when sure the boots are buckled up correctly one ski is put on, preferably using the person’s dominant leg (right handed usually means right foot). Initially they would walk/slide on completely flat snow in a straight line – turning and coming back to the start.

After a few moments they can be made to move in a circle as in the exercise video above. The circle should always have the free foot to the inside of the arc. Although this is a very standard exercise the correct emphasis – concerning the “Centre of Mass” is not common. The skier, while getting used to the equipment and sliding a little should be immediately made aware of the Centre of Mass, to focus on this Centre of Mass and how it is being moved. This is the correct emphasis. To simplify things at this stage we can talk about a point between the navel and the pelvis and just in front of the spine as representing our Centre of Mass – and simplifying even further we can just refer to this as our centre. In physics (mechanics) the Centre of Mass is a way of simplifying entire objects down to a single point which can be given numbers representing mass, acceleration, energy etc. and then used to calculate certain physical behaviours.

The skier is asked to be aware of the location of the Centre of Mass and to drive this point in towards the centre of the stepped turn. Each step is a displacement of the Centre of Mass and that should be the skier’s main focus. Meanwhile the inside edge of the outside ski (in the turn) is used to step from so as to actively displace the Centre of Mass inwards (requiring good edge grip). The ski has to be lifted and displaced cleanly inwards and in sequence for each step – by lifting the ski and pulling the tip across laterally – not by twisting the foot or leg. When the ski is on the snow the ski boot provides the lateral support to stop the ski flattening and just slipping away sideways.  Here the beginner is learning in a very safe manner how the equipment works and for what purpose. There may be slippage of the ski to begin with – but this is normal. (Alignment of the equipment may need to be checked and corrected if edge grip is not forthcoming)

“Good skiers displace their centre of mass inwards.  Poor skiers displace their skis outwards.”

“Already at this stage the inside edge of the foot can be related to the inside edge of the ski.”

“There is no “turning” or “twisting” action of the foot. Inside the ski boot the foot needs to be placed on its edge.”


Adductor muscles are the muscles on the inside of the upper legs – used for “squeezing” the legs together. Use of adductors is especially important if the skier has some trouble with holding the ski on edge.

Alignment of the ski equipment should already have been checked – the sole of the boot being at 90° to the hip joint when the femur and tibia are straightened out at the knee. (This takes some expertise to judge correctly and most shops and boot fitters do it incorrectly with the skier standing and flexing – hence confusing several issues together including their often desperate attempt to sell expensive anti-pronation foot beds etc.)

Already the skier should feel the basic principle of actively moving the Centre of Mass to make a change of direction. This is where the correct basic skills are established and initial problems (equipment or coordination) are sorted out. Patience is required as awareness takes time to develop and for the nervous system to stop over-reacting to accelerations. The more time that is spent getting all of this seemingly boring coordination correct the more rapidly the goal of enjoyable, competent skiing will be attained. However – if this is carried out mindfully there is nothing boring about it at all. Every time I do exercises like this myself along with clients I learn something new.

“All  actions in skiing can be related to dynamics and skating.”

“Basic skills should be constructed from actions which involve the skis diverging and/or stepping.



Remaining on flat snow the same exercise – stepping in circles – is repeated with two skis on. Here the beginner learns to diverge the skis. This divergence is how the skis naturally relate to skating.
Prior to this exercise – when two skis are put on for the very first time – it is probably best to  do some “star” turns first. The star turns are just a way of sequentially stepping the skis around in small increments while the skier remains on the same spot. The goal here is to get a feeling for the physical boundaries of the skis and boots – specifically so that they aren’t crossed over at the tips or tails.In our case it’s best to do the star turns by diverging the tips and then bringing the skis back parallel – instead of through twisting one foot after the other with the skis in the air and causing the skis to converge at the fronts.

Skating on the flat
Some people simply have no experience of skating so they need to be taught how to skate. Teaching skating is very simple. The skier simply diverges the ski tips very wide – legs wide apart – bringing the tails almost together. The instructor stands in front – with skis on but held parallel and close together and between the diverged tips of the student’s skis. A ski pole is held across the front of his body in two hands. The skier is then asked to grab the pole in the middle and push the instructor backwards. To make this happen the skier has to fall forwards and apply pressure. The inclination forwards pulls the diverged skis both onto their inside edges. Grip is required from the edges and a push from the legs so it helps if the feet are both rolled onto their inside edges inside the boots (and adductor muscles engaged in both legs) to prevent the skis from flattening and skidding outwards.
The key focus here is to ensure that the ski grips and the centre of mass is displaced forwards. Once the instructor starts to move backwards the skier will accelerate due to the continued pressure, forward inclination and continued pushing with the legs. The stepping and sliding forwards will feel safe and natural due to the support in front and so the sensations of skating/sliding and propulsion will be experienced.
The final stage is for the skier to just hold onto the pole but without the instructor there – imagining that the instructor is there and going through all the same motions – pushing the imaginary instructor ahead. This time there is a natural acceleration and skating as a result of falling forwards through gravity – the extending skating leg maintaining height.
The sensation of both feet being held on their inside edges and of pushing the centre of mass with the legs are fundamental to skiing. Awareness of this should be the focus of the exercise – not just the fact of “skating” itself.

Terminology is now important

“Inside Ski” refers to the ski toward the inside of any turn.
“Outside Ski” refers to the ski towards the outside of the turn.
“Uphill (or “top” or “upper”) Ski” refers to the ski furthest up the hill.
“Downhill (or “bottom” or “lower”) Ski” refers to the ski furthest down the hill.
“Inside Edge” refers to the edge of the ski towards the inside of the foot.
“Outside Edge” refers to the edge of the ski towards the outside of the foot.
“Uphill or “top” or “upper”) Edges” refers to the edges of the skis uphill when skis are parallel across the hill.
“Downhill Edges (or “bottom” or “lower”)” refers to the edges of the skis downhill when the skis are parallel across the hill.
When actually turning it’s always best to refer to the inside or outside ski because what begins as the uphill ski finishes the turn as the downhill ski and so using the inappropriate terminology can be confusing.

When stepping around in a turn (still on the flat here) it’s only really important to be aware of the inside edge of the outside ski – and correspondingly, the inside edge of that foot. This aspect of the feet should be a focus here – with the main objective of moving the Centre of Mass.

Feet Awareness – reflexes

The feet are our contact with the surface of the Earth and our main source of feedback in skiing. Each foot has 26 bones and together the feet have over a quarter of all the bones in the body. Postural muscles and reflexes are automatically and unconsciously controlled via pressure sensors in the feet. Awareness of the feet is necessary for good skiing development. “This isn’t just a question of feeling pressure or weight through the feet, it’s about how to use the muscles in the feet and to keep the feet intelligently active.”

The tendency however is the exact opposite from the above statement. People clamp on their ski boots – often with boot inners foam pressure injected and with thick supportive anti-pronation footbeds – and then utterly forget about the feet, except when feeling pain. Boots must be comfortable, externally rigid and supportive with a strong shell but the feet must be able to move enough to change shape and adapt inside the boot. Overall the feet shouldn’t displace inside the boot but the joints must be free to articulate.
Initially, the important thing is to aim for pressure towards the front of the heel – directly below the ankle joint. This is another “centre” that the skier should always try to work from and return to. The beginner needs to try to roll the foot onto its inside edge, so as to grip with the inside edge of the ski while stepping around in the turns. The foot is actually “rolled” over right below the ankle joint by using another joint named the “subtaler” joint. Muscular tension in the foot is required here because the inside edge of the ski, depending on its width – may be further inwards than the edge of the foot. In a more natural situation – say with tennis shoes on a court – the supporting foot would actually roll the other way as it remained flat on the ground with the body moving inwards towards the change of direction. What’s actually happening here in skiing is that the rigid shaft of the ski boot running up the lower leg provides “lateral” support and so the ski and foot don’t remain flat on the ground as the ski is banked onto its edge. To work with this the foot needs to appreciate that it is now against a tilted surface and that by rolling inwards it can avoid being levered off its inside edge completely. With ice skates or in-line skates – or even roller skates – this axis of rotation is directly beneath the centre of the foot so conscious use of the edge of the foot is not required there. In contrast each ski has two edges – both displaced towards the actual edges of the feet. Later on we will explore the consequences of this and how this has a dramatic effect on ski design as well as skiing technique.
Many beginners (and intermediates) have a great deal of difficulty stepping or skating due to either badly aligned equipment or through having no awareness of the processes described here.  When they fail to grip with the edge of the ski they are usually not even aware of the fact. This is probably due to having learned to ski in a snowplough and never having felt or experienced the sensation of a solid grip. (At higher levels some people also confuse the idea of “carving” and despite extensive skidding they believe that they are actually gripping – when they are not.)
Individual morphology, ski equipment and past experience must be respected and correctly managed at this stage to ensure progress.
Ski poles should be used all the time for support and stability and even to push with for propulsion so as to gain the experience of sliding. Children however are often better off without ski poles. Children being much lighter do not have the rapid acceleration and instability issues that adults naturally encounter.

Note: The front of the foot can also be used but this is better reserved for higher skill levels due to the need to activate muscle use and to avoid the ankle collapsing and the ski boot being leaned against for support. Also the subtaler joint is far easier to learn to exploit when working from the heel.


People are often very concerned about stopping even before getting onto a slope for the first time. It’s important to prevent beginners from using the ski poles for stopping – or they will almost certainly impale themselves on the poles or fall over due to the skis being deflected by a pole stuck in the ground. The legs and skis are used for all stopping purposes however this requires some explanation.

The beginner needs to know that all stopping is achieved through turning. Any single turn can lead to a complete stop. Understanding this clearly will help to prevent defensive braking actions from arising spontaneously – though it may be almost impossible to prevent snowplough in somebody who has the misfortune of already being exposed to snowplough based defensive skiing.

At this stage snowplough is best 100% avoided and the student should learn only to use ski poles planted into the snow behind the feet for the purpose of pushing – or placed in the snow to the side for stability when stepping.


Stepping Uphill – Non Flattening Skis
Often at this stage side stepping up and downhill is the next skill to master. 

There are two ways to step uphill – either “side-stepping” sideways or stepping forwards with the skis diverging (as in skating) and facing uphill. This leads to the “herringbone” step – named so due to the trail left on the ground resembling the bones of a herring. This is good practice for using the inside edges of both the feet at the same time and feeling the skis grip. The herringbone step is only practical on gentle slopes and it helps to encourage a wider divergence of the ski tips, greater range of movement and an independence of the legs.

When the slope is slightly steeper or we also need to step downhill then side-stepping is required with the skis held parallel to each other across the hill.

Stepping exercises help to develop edge grip and control plus a feeling for moving the centre of mass.

When encountered with a slope many people find it difficult to orient the skis across the hill to prevent them from sliding off – either forwards or backwards. The problem is that they are unable to recognise the direction of the slope. Imagining a ball rolling down the hill can help to reorient things correctly. The skis are always trying to flatten – in fact it’s their main job to do this – but we will look at that later on. The skier’s job here – through the use of coordination and ski boots – is to keep the skis on their uphill edges. To keep both skis on their uphill edges they must be kept relatively close together. (Placing the uphill ski too far uphill will oblige it to be placed on its downhill edge.)

The feet inside the boots however should remain exactly as they were in skating – both on their inside edges. The uphill ski will feel odd because the foot will be on it’s downhill edge but the ski on its uphill edge and it will be held there by the lateral stiffness of the boot preventing the ski from flattening. This is the first time awareness of the separation of the edge of the foot and edge of the ski can be developed – a key issue in more advanced skiing.

The skier’s main goal here is not to step up and down the hill but to learn that coordination and equipment design all add up to prevent the skis from flattening unintentionally and control the motion or stability of the centre of mass. This is another aspect of the two fundamental principles of skiing.
It’s the skier’s job to edge and the skis job to flatten. Otherwise put (when actually sliding) …  
“It’s the skier’s job to fall over and the ski’s job to lift up (by flattening).”

Straight Running – Accelerations – Perpendicularity

Once the skier can step uphill a little then it’s time to allow the skis to slide. This for most people will be the first time they experience gravity induced accelerations from sliding and the body will react to this – so it is a very important stage of development requiring considerable patience to prevent defensiveness from creeping in.

The “Bullfighter” turn is taught so that after stepping uphill the skier can point the skis downhill in security before moving off. To do this – with skis across the hill – the skier turns the shoulders to face downhill and points both ski poles straight downhill – one either side of the body. The poles are held in the hands with the ends against the palms and the arms are held out straight from the shoulders with the pole making a continuous straight line from the shoulder to the ground. The skis can now be safely stepped around. Just before sliding off the poles should be allowed to slip back into proper hold of the hand grips. Forget about using straps – personally I never used straps. (The only time I’d even consider using straps is when skiing very steep moguls)

Selection of terrain is critical here and must involve a run out area where the skier will come to a halt just due to flatness. This permits relaxation. Straight running must be repeated until the body stops reflexively reacting to the accelerations.

Already at this stage it’s important for the skier to be aware of the requirement to hold the body perpendicular to the skis when sliding downhill – and to avoid being “vertical”. When the skier is vertical by mistake then pressure will be felt on the back of the ski boots. There should ideally be no pressure either against the shin or the calf.  The correct feeling when sliding should be exactly the same as when standing still on the flat – being supported by the legs and not by the ski boots.

Skating Turns
First turns should be skating turns. The best way to start is from straight running downhill then simply skating out to one side to come to a stop. The key here is that the displacement of the Centre of Mass is what generates the turn and because this displacement is incremental – a little with each step, it is easy to handle.
When the terrain is flat enough whole turns can be attempted in this manner but it needs to be very flat. Usually instead at this point we move on to our first parallel turns

First parallel Turns

Straight running in the fall line all that is required is for the skier to begin moving the centre of mass to one side – as if to skate – but keeping both skis still on the snow. This almost infallibly leads to a successful parallel turn within the first two hours of starting to learn to ski.Here is David – a first day beginner (Jan 2017) on his first day – linking parallel turns…

When making the parallel turns it’s important to first move the Centre of Mass, engage the adductor muscles (inside of upper legs – especially on the outside ski)) and roll the feet onto their inside edges (especially the outside foot in the turn). The point is that they should all be pulling inwards towards the centre of the turn – as if you were going to skate in that direction.Sometimes as an exercise the sequence has to be reversed – rolling the foot, pulling in with the adductors, then moving the Centre of Mass (CoM).

Linking turns is achieved initially on very shallow and safe terrain so turns do not have to be closed off very much to slow down – then it’s just “CoM, Adductors, Feet” one way and then the other way – causing turns to link while remaining mostly close to the fall line. David is comfortably linking shallow turns on day one in the above video. By day three he was skiing off piste and loving it.