Heli Ski Tips: Develop your ‘steep’ skills

Many of our guests that take a heli skiing trip come to us at Last Frontier to ski the steeps of the mountains of British Columbia. A good overall technique is vital for mastering not only the steeps, but for all-round skiing ability. A solid stance and accomplished sense of balance are perhaps the most important parts of your technique, and these can be constantly improved upon. Below we will look at some methods you can use to enhance your technique in these areas, with specific relation to skiing the steeps.

A good position, with feet around shoulder-width apart should mirror the body’s natural stance, and should come naturally to most intermediate / advanced skiers. Similarly, most people who have skied regularly know the importance of bending the knees. Proper knee flexion is essential to maintaining balance throughout the turn, and especially helps during steep sections.

Something often overlooked in skiing technique – even by the more advanced skier -is ankle flexion. The movement you want with good ankle flexion is similar to when you release your foot of the gas peddle in your car. This pointing of the toes towards the sky is called dorsiflexion. Having this in both of your ankles, especially in the turns, and with your inside ankle, will allow more effective and natural leg movements. Mastering this will make turning a lot more effortless. However, beware of pushing down with your feet or ankles; this will produce a negative plantar flexion that will hinder turning ability.

Heli-Ski Skis
Heli Ski Tips, Photo by: Dave Silver

When encountering steep terrain, the natural reaction from skiers is to lean back and keep a more upright body position. Nowhere is the commonly overused ski teaching technique of ‘lean forward’ more appropriate. Broken down into more easily understood points, this becomes some very sound advice. First, try to slide your feet underneath your hips, or bring your body over your feet. This will reinforce vertical alignment, and ultimately bring the skier more perpendicular to the slope. Next, try not to forget to stand up straight. Bending over too much will revert the hips backwards, bringing the weight of the skier over the ‘backseat’. In the case of skiing steeps this will often and easily result in a fall. Lastly, pressing the front of the shins against the front of your boots by encouraging flexion of the knees and ankles. This will really help those who often fall back in their stance.

Overall, the best piece of advice we can give is to be more aggressive when you encounter steeps. Exaggerate all your movements, and imagine yourself charging down that mountain – sooner or later you will be!

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