Stopping (also--oops--Falling)

How do you stop on skis? Simple: you quit moving your arms and legs. If on the flat, you will slide to a halt. If on a downslope, you may need to use one of the techniques described in the preceding screens: Going Downhill and Turning. Most effective is a hockey stop, where you suddenly shift skis to the perpendicular--although this takes practice.

No, the subject of this screen is actually falling down--though also getting up. I was afraid of scaring beginning skiers by suggesting in the list of screens that "falling" was part of the ski package. Most of you probably figured that out anyway, and the fear of falling prevents a lot of people from starting the sport. Here's how to avoid falling, as well as how to get up after you do fall.

Take lessons: I've offered this before, and will offer it again, but proper instruction is the key to learning any sport. Even if you begin on your own by skiing in a local park, you will progress faster if you eventually take lessons at a Nordic Center. Lou Awodey, the Nordic director at Boyne Mountain, begins each lesson by teaching skiers how to get up after falling down. At the same time, he is teaching them not to fall down.

Follow the leader: I was skiing with my granddaughter Holly at Boyne Mountain one winter. She was six, and this was her first time on cross-country skis. Skiing from behind, I kept telling Holly what to do, but she kept falling. Fearful that I was distracting her more than helping her, I moved ahead down the trail. Glancing back, I saw that she had fallen again, and was crying, more from frustration than from anything else. So I went back and simply skied a few strides ahead of her. She did what I did, and suddenly she stopped falling. A smile creased her face! If you can slide in behind a good skier and do what he or she does, you can learn to ski--and stay upright--much quicker.

Stay focused: Most of my falls occur on the flat. I'll schuss down a steep hill and zip around a tricky turn in perfect form, then while I am skiing across a flat meadow--bloomp! Suddenly, I'm picking myself off the snow. What happened? An experienced skier like me should not fall down on the flat. But I had lost concentration. My mind had wandered, and I wasn't focused on proper technique. That had been Holly's fault too; she had been listening to Grandpa instead of doing what he was doing. If you can stay focused, you will be much less likely to fall down.

Quit while you're ahead: Fatigue probably causes more falls than poor technique. This is true in downhill as well as cross-country skiing. It's difficult to focus when you're tired, or cold because you're soaked with sweat and too far from a warming hut. Don't ski too long, particularly if you're new to the sport. Sure, I know you drove 200 miles to get to the ski resort and paid for lodging, lessons, and a trail pass, but don't feel that you have to ski all day to get your money's worth. Sitting by a warm fire and sipping a hot chocolate while reliving an hour on skis often can be more fun than spending two or three hours on those skis and dragging yourself back to the lodge.

Practice proper nutrition: Cross-country skiing soaks up a lot of energy. Not only does doing the sport burn more calories than almost any other physical activity, but you'll also burn calories staying warm. Think like a marathoner. Eat well and drink well. See Nutrition for more information on this subject. If you can maintain a high energy level through proper nutrition, you will be much less likely to fall down.

Suppose you do fall down; how do you get up? Awodey tells skiers to squiggle around and get in a position where they are on your hands and knees over the fronts of their skis. This is much easier to accomplish on cross-country skis than downhill skis, because your heels are not attached to the ski. "Make sure that your skis are perpendicular to the slope, so you don't start to slide," says Awodey. From a kneeling position, it should be easy to stand up, pushing off the snow with your hands. If even this proves difficult, remove one boot from the ski. Practice getting in and out of your bindings before you start, so you know how to accomplish this.

If you follow all of the advice above, you will be less likely to fall. However, if you do fall down, don't be embarrassed. At some point, everybody falls--even the good skiers. In fact, some skiers claim that if you never fall down, you'll never improve, because you're not pushing against the edge of your ability. I don't believe this, preferring to remain upright, but it's a good rationalization to use while brushing off the snow.

Getting Started Ski Technique In Full Stride
Introduction Moving Forward Destinations
Conditioning Going Uphill Racing
Equipment Going downhill Nutrition
Where to Ski Turning Snowshoes
Two Techniques Stopping Downhill Skiing