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EpicSki › Performance Articles › Thousand Steps Drill By Bob Barnes

Thousand Steps Drill By Bob Barnes

"Thousand Steps" is, as others have pointed out, an excellent drill for many things. In various forms, it can be a great introduction to good skiing movements on the flats for first time beginners, or a challenging, ultra-dynamic drill for the highest level experts at top speed. It develops a functional, athletic stance, and fore-aft and lateral balance, including proper movements through the dramatically changing dynamics of ski turns, as well as the cross-over through turn transitions. It develops independent feet, and foot-to-foot movements, and it's a great "step" in a progression prior to working on the myriad weight transfer (inside edge to inside/flat/outside edge) and stepping (parallel/lateral, converging, diverging, skating) variations. It develops fundamental rotary skills ("independent leg rotation"), tipping/edging skills, and the flexing-extending movements responsible for both pressure-control and balance. It produces the "feel" of gliding and carving turns, and of controlling speed with line (e.g. completing turns), rather than braking. Effective arm movements, good alignment through the turn, "offensive" attitude.... Not to mention, it's good aerobic exercise (don't forget to breathe!) and a great warmup drill for a cold day.

Beware, though, that its versatility is also the achilles heel of Thousand Steps. It can "fix" virtually any problem in skiing, develop any skill. But it is only as specific as you, or your instructor, make it. For any particular effect, you have to choose terrain and line carefully, and modify the drill, or at least focus on the desired movement or component. It's already apparent in this discussion that people here have been exposed to several different versions, presumably for different valid purposes. Simply shifting your balance from foot to foot, for example, develops very different skills than "skating" through turns. Both are useful. Both are "Thousand Steps."

"Thousand Steps" is like a broad-spectrum antibiotic that works for many things, but can be so overused and non-specific that it loses all effect. I think it's important, especially in light of the original question ("What is Thousand Steps?"), to understand that it can have many faces. It isn't so much something you "do" as a tool you use in particular ways to accomplish particular objectives. The simple, unqualified instruction to "do some Thousand Steps" is pretty much useless on its own.

As generally good as the exercise is, it's worth noting that it can also produce or reinforce some very bad movement patterns if you aren't careful. I strongly recommend the watchful eye of a good instructor to make sure you learn to do it "right." For example, imagine simply stepping around in a circle, without moving forward--the most elementary version of Thousand Steps (sometimes called a "star turn," after the marks it leaves in the snow). You have two basic choices. You can open and close the tails of your skis, creating the letter "A" with each step, as you look down at your skis, and pivoting around the ski tips. Or you can open the TIPS, creating the letter "V" with each step, and pivoting around the tails. Add some forward movement now, and step around a small circle on the flats. The two movement options produce two very different effects. "V's" allow you to walk or skate cleanly around the circle, each step moving you into the turn. "A's" cause you to push your tails out, away from your intended direction, making it difficult to make the turn.

Since offensive ski turns are used to "go where you want to go," they require the movements of the "V" technique. The majority of intermediate and even advanced recreational skiers, though, will usually make "A's" when they first try Thousand Steps. This is instructive, because it's also how they make their "normal" ski turns as well, initiating them by pushing their tails, or their outside tail, out into a skid. Focusing on Thousand Steps with "V's," not "A's," is an extremely effective drill for replacing this defensive "negative" movement pattern with the "positive" ("into the turn") movements of offensive skiing. If anyone wants to try this, focus especially on your movements at the transition between turns. Most skiers can quickly learn to make "V's not A's" through the turn, but then resort to a few "A's" at the transition. You've got to fix it there too, if you want to make truly offensive, high-performance, linked, carved turns. Make sure you're on very gentle terrain, at least at first, so that "fear of the fall line" doesn't interfere!

Enough for now. Time to get on the snow. Right tip right to go right.... V's, not A's.... Go!

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Best regards,
Bob Barnes

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EpicSki › Performance Articles › Thousand Steps Drill By Bob Barnes