So you’ve got through the ticket process, rented and checked all your equipment, and finally you’re ready to take on the mountain. What to do next? No, the answer is not to put on the skis, head to the top of the highest slope and shoot down the hill completely out of control. The torpedo-style skier is a well-known phenomenon in the resorts near Beijing, and while it is entertaining to watch wobbly figures everywhere converting their momentum into spectacular tumbles, it’s best not to try this approach.
There’s nothing boring about a thorough warm-up to start the day, and it should not be limited to winter camps and school trips. As a family, you can disguise part of the warm-up as a simple game for the kids, by encouraging them to have a running race on the snow, have a snowball fight, or see who can jump the highest in their ski boots. Loosen the knee joints by doing kung-fu kicks or drawing circles in the air with your toes while standing on one leg. It shouldn’t then take much to throw in a few vital leg stretches before stepping into the skis.
Whether or not you’ve been skiing before, choosing the first slope of the day should be a decision based not only on your own ability, but also how likely you are to be ploughed into by another skier. You may be able to control your speed, but if there are hundreds of others skiing past you at twice the speed, you may be better off in a slower area. Take a look around and see if you can spot a space with less skiers and the right incline.
Skiers are allowed to overtake on the right or left, so there are no fast and slow ‘lanes’ as such, but here’s a tip: out-of-control skiers are like running water – they will head in the direction gravity takes them. Therefore, if a slope has a camber to one side, it’s best to stick to the higher side as you make your way down, until you build up the confidence to go with the flow, dodging and weaving your own path through the crowd. Alternatively, take an internationally-qualified instructor with you on your day trip, who will be able to keep an eye out for other skiers, guiding you on a safe path and allowing you to concentrate on more on learning than looking out for others!
Complete beginners should start on a completely flat area, anywhere that isn’t directly in line with the bottom of a ski slope, where you may be in the ‘line-of-fire’. Find a good space and start by walking around on your skis, getting used to the length and weight.Practice falling over safely by squatting down, then lying down and rolling onto your side without extending your arms. Try pushing yourself along with your poles and sliding in a straight line. Try ice-skating movements to propel yourself along the flat. Finally try making the classic ‘snow plough’ or ‘pizza slice’triangle shape, with your ski tips a hand-width apart and your ski ends widely splayed. This is the shape you will use to slow down and stop.
At this stage it is best to try out your snow plough on the shallowest incline you can find – any terrain that gives enough speed to test out your braking ability, but not so big that you would continue flying downhill if your first attempt isn’t so successful. To find such a small incline, it may be necessary to walk part way up the bottom edge of a slope a few times, instead of taking the lift to the top.
Only after getting the hang of an effective snow plough stop, should you head up on the lift to the top of the designated beginner slope. This gradual progression in steepness of terrain will be hugely beneficial to the learning curve of your kids and yourself, boost confidence and keep you and other slope-users safe. Once you have mastered a technique on the appropriate slope, there is plenty of time to consistently progress through the stages of learning to ski.
Next week on the blog, we will learn how to ride ski lifts, and what special hazards to look out for in China’s unique ski resorts.
In between seasons training and working as a ski and snowboard instructor in Austria, Pete Tupper did a degree in Chinese and German in the UK and came to Beijing in 2010 to run winter camps under the name of O’le Ski. Since then, he has become a well-known face in the family and schools activities scene, creating and hosting the first climbing and skiing championships events for international schools and running all kinds of adventure weekends and trips. He just formed new music classes for kids and adults. Information on the various O’le organisations can be found on www.ole-sports.org and www.ole-music.com and Pete can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of O’le Ski