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Rachel Croft - 5 Things About Skiing I Wished I'd Known Sooner

Five things about skiing I wish I'd known sooner:
If you grew up on a ski team of any kind, you may have had these things drilled into your head. But if you're like me and grew up skiing with your parents as your instructors (read: they probably told you many of these things but you didn't listen because they're your parents), here's a list of things that improved my skiing enough to somehow land me on the Freeride World Tour last season.

1) Flex your knees and ankles. I was a backseat skier forever, it's still something I have to focus on, but somehow being told to pressure the fronts of my boots never got through to me. When you're used to skiing in the back seat, you're generally flexing at the hips, so when you attempt to pressure the fronts of your boots and continue to flex at the waist, you find that your weight is actually too far forward. When I instead think about flexing my knees and ankles and keeping my shoulders more upright rather than bending forward at the hips, my weight stays centered over my skis.

2) Make round turns. I used to ski a zipper line even where there weren't moguls. My tips would stay almost stationary as the rest of my skis rotated side to side around them ("windshield wiper turns"). Focus on drawing that big letter "S" down the mountain. Even skiing a zipper line should involve rounded turns rather than windshield wipers (I was doing that part wrong too), or freeride competitions encourage making big GS turns through mogul fields.

3) Keep your shins parallel to each other. Standing up strong on your outside ski is important, but it doesn't mean your inside leg gets to take a vacation. Drive that inside knee into the turn so the outside edge of your inside ski is actively engaged. Sliding that inside foot back (by flexing your knee and ankle) to keep it almost even with your outside foot will also help you accomplish this.

Pic 1: Got caught in the act of "A-Framing" on my first day back on skis after surgery this year... This is not how you keep your shins parallel. I've been focusing on returning to better habits since then, which brings me to my next point;
4) Watch yourself ski. I remember skiing in my first few freeride comps and wondering why I didn't score better. Finally one of my friends videoed one of my runs and I realized that while I felt really fast when I was skiing, I actually looked really slow, and I had very awkward penciled out form in the air. People can give you all the advice in the world, but actually seeing yourself ski allows you to determine what you need to work on.
Pic 2 - Taken by: Eric Sales. Watching footage of myself helped me realize I needed to bend my knees in the air, and drive my hands forward. Making those changes has helped me feel significantly more confident in the air.

5) Ski what you want to ski. This is the piece of advice I've found myself repeating the most to freeride competitors, but I think it's also an idea to live by. I spent years trying to ski a textbook freeride line, the problem is that there is no textbook. When I finally quit trying to guess what line the judges would give the highest score to, and started skiing lines that played to my style of skiing, I started having success. Several times I chose lines that I thought would cost me my spot on the podium, but chose to ski them anyway because they looked fun and challenging. It didn't always work out, but most often I was rewarded for creativity and for finding something that I was able to ski well rather than a line that would have been impressive but difficult for me to grease.

Pic 3 - Taken by: Hywell Williams. It turns out I'll point it through a sketchy chute over sending it off an air any day. I just never believed it was possible to win a freeride competition if your feet never left the ground. I skied this chute because it looked like the biggest adrenaline rush on the venue (and it was), ending up on top of the podium for the first time was just an added bonus.
Follow Rachel on her road to recovery and back to the Freeride World Tour.
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