How not to fall over while skiing

Posted by Hannah Engelkamp 2nd January 2012

Every skier must be familiar with the sympathy fall. It's when a fellow piste-user falls over nearby, causing you to do that same almost instantly, even though you had no real reason to. It's caused by the suggestion of falling - as soon as you think "Oh! Falling! That person fell, I might fall!", your body obliges and makes the situation a reality.


Several Januaries ago I started a new year by deciding to combat some ski demons and lay them to rest.  It wasn't until I arrived that I realised how unusual the course would be - the emphasis was almost entirely on the mind rather than the body.


The main lesson I drew from the experience was - as with the sypathy fall - that what the mind expects, the body will do. If you find yourself having a bad day, thrown by low visibility, icy conditions, sore legs or a hangover, the worst thing is to start thinking about how badly you're doing. "I can't do this, this is too difficult for me, I can't turn there, oh no - ice!" etc, etc - these thoughts are a self-fulfilling prophesy. Think about falling and you will fall, think about skiing badly and you'll ski badly.


Many of the techniques of the course were efforts to instill the opposite - ways of feeling good, confident, comfortable. There were mental tricks like remembering how you feel when skiing really well, and bringing that feeling back on demand for a little surge of confidence. Other techniques were learned while on skis - a favourite of mine that appealed to my childish side was when we skied in turn like a lion (brave) and an eagle (swoopy and light). We also sang and whooped while we skied to drown out the icy scraping noise that lots of people find really offputting. Again, my inner child was delighted, and other Morzine skiers were a bit alarmed.


That January was dreadful - the worst piste conditions I've ever skied. Some low slopes were much more mud and grit than snow; further up whole pistes had melted and refrozen into clear sheets of ice. But with the coaching I managed not only to get around successfully, but even to enjoy it, a lot.


Anthony Davis (the guy on the right, above) was the brains behind the operation and the off-slope coach, and since then he's started up his own company, along with on-slope instructor, Glenn Wellesley. Together they are Ski Wizards, and as well as courses in Morzine and Les Gets, you can also book coaching sessions over the phone or through Skype. In case I haven't been enthusiastic enough about this already, I recommend it wholeheartedly. Everyone has off days when skiing, and it can make you feel really wretched - what an enormous waste of precious holiday and expensive liftpasses. Don't suffer in silence - get a confidence boost for New Year!


Skiing like eaglesSkiing like eagles in Les Gets really helped with those big icy patches. Above, Anthony Davis on with two members of the course. Pictures by Hannah



About the author

Hannah Engelkamp is a travel journalist, which involves a pretty decent balance of writing and zipping around the pistes and bars of the Alps.

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