Dry Slopes- Gyms for All Mountain Technique
Saturday, 20 October 2012 | Evan
You know the feeling. It's your first day on snow at the start of the new ski season. You're at the top of your first run. You've been sensible and chosen a nice cruiser to warm up on, and it should be easy as you were skiing much tougher slopes than this at the end of last year. You set off but after a few turns, oops, that doesn't feel quite right! Your carves are skiddy, you're all over the place when you hit a patch of ice, and the less said about the little mogul slope you ventured into the better. The truth is, it's going to take half of your precious first ski week to get back to where you left off last year. You haven't skied for about 8 months, and those brain-nerve-muscle connections that you had working at the end of last season are rusty.
But it doesn't have to be like that. We have fantastic artificial facilities, both indoor snow and dry slopes, here in the UK where you can practice all year round. Dry slopes in particular offer a relatively cheap way to ski regularly- it's perfectly feasible to ski for a couple of hours for under a tenner. OK, these slopes are limited in terrain and length (at least you won't need your avalanche kit and airbag rucksack!), and it's obviously not the same sort of open, ever-changing environment as mountain skiing. But you can practice all of the movements that you need for all-mountain skiing on an artificial slope. Want to practice your technique for steeps? Try a few laps of short swings to practice your rotatory movements. Want to practice for deeps? Try some pushing/pressure type turns or some cross-unders. Want to practice your carving? Introduce some drills to get those lateral movements going, or even better, join a race club (by the way, with modern kit it's perfectly feasible to carve on dry slopes, but you need decent technique- if your carving isn't spot on, the dry slope will find you out).
If you keep at it regularly, you'll start the new season at least as good as you were before, and most likely much better. You'll be well prepared for the steeps, deeps and cruisers and your general ski balance will have improved as well. Get out there and do it!
To get you started at your local slope, here are some links to lists of UK artificial slopes.