Hi Skeeter--"Pole Boxes," as I described above, are a great exercise to develop upper body discipline. They absolutely keep your upper body aligned correctly with your lower body. Some people call them "pole drags," but that does create nearly the right image to me. If anything, if feels like I'm PUSHING my pole grips forward, not dragging them.
Here's how they work--imagine that you put two shoe boxes on the snow, one on each side of you. Pressing down with your ski pole tips in these imaginary boxes, you're going to keep them directly beside each boot, at all times, as you ski. Simple enough image?
Here's a rough illustration:
This simple exercise can do amazing things for you! Just holding your poles there, statically (without moving), puts you in a highly athletic stance. Since both poles are the same length, both your hands will remain the same distance from the slope, regardless of how the slope tilts. This helps keep your upper body also tipped with the slope--so a line across your shoulders, like a line across your hands, will always be parallel to the slope. For the habitual "banker" with the inside hand low and outside hand up high, Pole Boxes completely corrects the problem.
By keeping the pole tips always beside your boots, it helps keep you centered (you'll be amazed how many people discover that their poles start dragging way behind their ski tails the first few times they try this). It also prevents you from "rotating" your upper body--which would result in the inside pole dragging way back behind the boots, or becoming excessively "countered," which would put the OUTSIDE pole too far back.
In the standard formula for correct upper-lower body alignment, lines across any right and left parts of your body--both boots, ski tips, hands, knees, hips, or shoulders--remain parallel continuously, both up and down, and fore-aft (see illustration below). Keeping both poles always in those imaginary boxes, as if they were glued to the sides of your boots, forces you to maintain these relationships. If the left boot is higher on the hill than the right boot, the left knee, hip, shoulder, and hand will be higher then their right counterparts. When the right boot is forward of the left boot, that lead will reflect all the way up through the body.
Once again, I emphasize that this discipline is a cornerstone of good skiing, but Pole Boxes is an EXERCISE--it is not itself good skiing! If you "try" to do it all the time, it will make you stiff and "too perfect" for real skiing. Develop the discipline and skill, then let your body "break the rules" as appropriate.
Practice Pole Boxes perfectly and carefully, for 25-50 turns in a row, then forget about them and ski for a while. Practice a set of 25-50 at least once a day, making sure each time that you are doing the exercise precisely and correctly. It is a good exercise to do yourself, because it provides clear feedback: you can FEEL and HEAR whether both poles are on the snow or not; you can SEE (and eventually FEEL) where the pole tips ("boxes")are. So you don't need an instructor to tell you if you're doing it right!
On the other hand, simple as it is, many skiers find this exercise EXTREMELY difficult when they actually try it. It will bring out all your bad habits--if you're a "rotater" or a "banker," you will have to find entirely new mechanics (good ones) before you can do the exercise. For those with already sound mechanics, the exercise will be easy, even "natural." For everyone else, it is likely to feel awkward and "all wrong" at first. KEEP DOING IT! Sets of 25-50, at least once a day, with some skiing in between.
Bob Barnes[ October 02, 2002, 09:18 PM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]