By: Jackson Hogen
Published: April 3, 2017
If there is a single quality that epitomizes how great skiers ski, it’s fluidity. Fluidity is the application of technical skills to the opportunities the terrain and snow conditions provide. Fluidity is anticipation so precise every arc appears effortless. Fluidity arises from the awareness that when we ski, we step into a torrent of gravity.
Harald Harb pouring himself downhill.
Fluidity is hard to teach. It’s much easier and more effective to nurture nascent skiing talent by demonstrating a series of movements that build confidence and develop competence. Intermediates intent on improvement tend to focus on mechanics, trying to integrate a series of technique tips into a coherent whole.
This isn’t the best way of thinking about skiing, but it is a path all must tread to acquire the technical skills that are the foundation of fluidity. Without proper stance and balance one can’t achieve fluidity, the ineffable essence of beautiful skiing.
Since I’ve brought up the subject of thinking and skiing, I remind my Dear Readers of Commandment #4, “Your brain is your enemy.” Like a lot of holy scripture, this statement isn’t strictly “true.” A brain is actually a very useful place to store images and ideas. But it has a nasty habit of allowing consciousness to babble on about when to do what, always focusing on the negative, barking instructions. What a pain.
Use your brain to completely visualize the sequence of turns you want to make then put it away. In order for you to disappear into your movements, you must mute your nattering inner critic. Fluidity can only be achieved when managed by a calm and focused mind.
“Focused on what?,” I hear the inquisitive interject. Where you’re going, one hopes. Skiing fast and fluidly demands that the pilot expand his or her sphere of awareness to include everyone else on the hill. This shouldn’t be a constraint on the fluid skier, who can still indulge full freedom of expression without detracting from other skiers’ enjoyment.
Did you ever notice how great skiers seem to have a signature style that can identified at 100 yards? They all share solid fundamentals, but there are subtle variations in body position, hand location and turn shape choices that give each a distinct personality. These idiosyncrasies are manifestations of how each channels the flow of the hill. Taken together, they form the personification of fluidity.
Consider the case of my super-smooth co-author, “Guru” Dave Powers. All his movements are quiet and supple, his hands low and slow, an exercise in minimalism. Dave can still ski 6 days a week for an entire winter because he goes with the flow, wasting no energy yet never sparing the horses. I love skiing with the Goo because he’s sublimely predictable and knows the flow of Snowbird as well as any man alive.
So how do you learn to ski like Guru Dave? You don’t. You learn to ski like you. You master the basic mechanics until they’re engrained. Then you play to your own music. You become fluid. You become the notes.
And the silences between them.