Originally Posted by LogicX
Since I have started skiing, this has been my major problem. My legs burn so much as I am going down the mountain that half the time it becomes impossible to enjoy and I just want the run to end. I talked to my friends who I ski with and they say their legs don't burn at all. I love skiing, but I can't imagine how much more fun it would be if I didn't have to worry about agonizing burning muscles on the way down.
I alluded to this problem in a different thread, and people suggested to stand up more. Well, I did that and I am still having this problem. It just seems like it would be impossible for my legs NOT to be under stress and burning just based on the nature of the activity. When you turn on skis you are holding your legs in a pressured position at high speeds into the ground. I feel like by definition, my muscles are going to be strained when I do this. So it baffles me and makes me insanely jealous when other skiers tell me their muscles don't burn at all as they are skiing. As you are going around a turn, are you supposed to be PUSHING into the ground? Because that seems to be the only way to actually turn and stay on edge without toppling over. Even if you don't actively push though, you have to lock your legs in a strained position. So I am hard pressed to even guess towards a solution to my problem. I would feel that the more rational answer would be that everyone is strained and burning while they ski, because I can't fathom a position where this wouldn't be going on. But apparently this isn't the case, so I'm coming here for help.
It usually starts up as I progress down a run, it isn't an immediate thing. I am not really out of shape either. At this point I am almost just resigned to the fact that I have weak knees. I have had jobs that required a lot of crouching, and my "crouching endurance" always seemed to be far below my colleagues. But it feels muscular, so I don't know if this is really the case. Help me make my skiing less painful!
"When you turn on skis you are holding your legs in a pressured position at high speeds into the ground.... As you are going around a turn, are you supposed to be PUSHING into the ground? Because that seems to be the only way to actually turn and stay on edge without toppling over. Even if you don't actively push though, you have to lock your legs in a strained position."
LogicX, great description.
What I understand from your words is that you are doing the equivalent of leg presses as you ski downhill. Is that right? Do you press downhill to the left with feet/skis, then turn your skis around and press downhill to the right? As you press, are you bracing against the snow, skidding against it with your skis and slowing down enough to then make the next turn? Are you going thrillingly fast?
If this is the case, it's a typical self-taught solution to skiing fast that people come up with when they follow more seasoned skiing friends around the mountain. It's an intuitive way to do the task, and builds strong legs because yes, you are working those quads big time. But it's not the way your friends are skiing, and you are working way more than they are. Plus, you are not in good control of your skis and are in danger of skidding out. You can end up in the trees, or pummeling into other skiers, because those recurring skids that slow your speed put you out of control. If you hit a patch of ice, you are toast.
Don't expect your friends to teach you to how to replace this default move with whatever they are doing. They may not perceive the difference between their process and yours. You need a lesson, preferably a one-on-one lesson with a seasoned instructor who knows how to analyze what you are doing and what steps to take you through to replace it with more effective actions. People on this forum can describe what to do instead, and it may help. But an instructor will really be able to show you on-snow how to fix this.
According to your description, you are whipping your skis around and doing a braking move on each turn. Think of it as pivot-and-skid. Part of the "pivot-and-skid package" is being in the back seat. Getting out of the back seat is a first step to replacing this turn with a new process, but it's not the whole solution.
To see if you are in the back seat, try this. Get on a very gentle pitch - a beginner slope is perfect. Ski alone - this takes some time and patience, and is definitely not thrilling, so meet up with your friends later. Think of a turn as a C-shaped half circle, with an inside ski and an outside ski. On this gentle slope, try to pick up your inside ski's tail as you make a turn, going around the "C" on the outside ski alone. When you lift that inside ski, keep its TIP gently coursing along on the snow for the whole turn. Do this at slow speed, on a beginner hill, with the inside tip barely touching the snow for the whole turn. Repeat on the other side.
If you can't lift the tail, if instead your tip comes up and your tail stays low, you are in the back seat. You are pivoting the outside ski around, with your weight on its tail. This is a great "backseat test."
The alternative has four parts. Do this on that beginner slope.
1. Get your weight on the front half of that outside ski. Bend forward at the ankle on that outside ski so your body will hover over the front of that ski. This is critical. Arms forward, elbows in front of your coat's side seam, is critical. Standing somewhat tall, not folding forward at the waist is critical.
2. Lift the tail of the inside ski; keep its tip lightly coasting along on the snow.
3. Tip that lifted ski sideways by tipping your boot sideways at the ankle. "Ankle-tip" the little toe edge of your boot down towards the snow. (This is known as rolling the ankle into the turn.) The tip is lightly touching the snow, the rest of the ski is in the air, the whole ski is tipped sideways with its little toe edge down and the big toe edge up. This is a brand new move for you. Tipping is critical!
4. Now wait. Wait. WAIT ... and see what happens as you stand on that outside ski, with your weight on its front half, the inside ski's tail lifted, the whole inside ski tipped to its little toe edge. Waiting is critical. Waiting and NOT pivoting is critical.
Result: The outside ski will gently turn without having to be pivoted. It's like magic! What's actually happening is the outside ski is tipping too, bending along its length, and piloting the turn. Repeat on the other side; link turns.
If you are really determined, work on this for three hours - alone - one day on easy trails till you get it down pat. The pivot-and-skid will disappear; you don't need it.
Once you get it going on easy trails, work up to doing it on steeper terrain. Work on keeping your turns short and round. You will be controlling speed with turn shape, no pivoting, no skidding, no braking, no quad burn. This is advanced skiing.
On steeper terrain where forces build up, you'll find that it's easier to lift the tail at the end of the turn, but very difficult to lift it at the beginning of the turn. That's because it's real hard to get forward enough at the top of the turn. Work on it!