British Olympian Alpine Skier Ed Drake practises regularly at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead whenever he’s in the UK. Whilst he cites Morzine and the Portes du Soleil as his favourite ski area, the year round snow and perfectly groomed 160m slope at The Snow Centre, just north of London is a convenient alternative for Ed when he’s not able to train in the mountains. Ed, who was introduced to skiing before he started school, is keen to encourage others to take up the sport. Here are his top tips for learning to ski:
• First and foremost, if you’ve never skied before, get in some lessons before you go – ideally on real snow. Alternatively, pre-book your lessons for when you arrive in resort. It makes such a big difference to your confidence when you have mastered the basics in stopping and turning.
• Build up your fitness and stamina before you leave. Cardio training will help ensure you don’t run out of steam throughout the day, whilst squats and lunges will help build lower body strength. Don’t forget the importance of flexibility – make sure you stretch out regularly!
• Dress adequately for the snow. It’s so important to make sure you stay warm and dry, especially if you’re new to snowsports. Go for lots of layers, ideally a thermal layer next to your skin and make sure your outer layer is waterproof (especially the bottom half). Sunglasses or goggles and good quality gloves are essential. Whilst it’s not always top of the fashionista list, don’t leave for the slopes without a helmet!
• Make sure your boots are comfortable. If you’re a first-time skier the chances are you’ll be renting your boots but it’s worth making sure they fit well. You should be able to move your toes but your feet shouldn’t slip around inside the boot. Keep them as tight as is comfortable around your legs but not too tight across your feet, otherwise they’ll restrict the blood flow and you’ll get cold toes. If you’re reading this in resort, and you’re experiencing these very problems with your boots, take them back to the rental shop and ask for some advice.
• Get familiar with moving your skis. It sounds obvious but if you turn your foot to the right your ski will turn to the right. Try picking up one foot at time and turning to the right and left so you become familiar with how it feels and which muscles to use. Remember skiing under control means making regular turns, shifting your weight from one foot to the other.
• Make sure your stance is right. Lean backwards and you’ll lose control as skis are designed to turn when your weight is balanced in the middle. For greater stability keep your feet about shoulder width apart, toes pointing slightly inwards, heels apart. This is the snow plough position and it will help you move under control until you feel more comfortable about sliding down a mountain on two planks!
• Look where you want to go, choose a route and decide where you will make your next turn. If you look at the snow just in front of you the chances are that this is where you’ll end up!
If you take Ed’s advice and book lessons before your holiday, The Snow Centre at Hemel Hempstead has the most highly qualified instructors outside of the Alps. With the closest real snow to the centre of London, they offer a range of private and group lessons for all levels from complete beginners and children’s sessions right through to top performance coaching for competent skiers.
They are currently offering a 10% discount on advertised prices for group ski and snowboard lessons and a 30% discount on their beginners ‘adult only’ social lessons. There are also lots of different packages and lesson options so you can find the best fit for you. Rusty Refresher sessions include a guided practice session with feedback on areas of progression and the beginners ‘Learn to Ski or Snowboard in a Day’ will take you from absolute beginner to making controlled turns down the slope.
For those of you who want to maintain the skills you’re developing during your holiday, remember it takes 10,000 repetitions of a technical skill to make the performance last! The more practise you can fit in, the better your skills on the snow will be so you’ll feel much more confident on your next snowsports holiday.
If you’re able to spend some time improving your technique on real snow in between your mountain holidays you really will see the benefit next time you ski. Hitting the slopes confidently will help you get more enjoyment out of your holiday as well as being able to tackle more challenging runs and safer off-piste experiences.
Contact The Snow Centre on +44 (0) 845 258 9000 or visit www.thesnowcentre.com for more info and bookings.