Good snow has been rather late arriving this year in California and much of the Western USA. While the East Coast gets pounded, we "suffer" through day after day of cool, sunny weather. It seems as though Nature is trying to make up for our abundance of snow last season. There was more snow at some California ski areas on the Fourth of July than there is now! While the skiing hasn't been great, Liz and I have been taking advantage of the dry conditions by skating over to the local hills and practicing our turns.
We've been working on what some ski instructors call "cross-under turns." No--they are not reverse cross-over turns. The concept of the cross-under turn is that your feet and legs cross under your upper body as you transition from turn to turn. Your upper body, by contrast, moves straight down the hill with a minimum of up and down movement.
Cross-under turns are great for skiing the bumps or wherever you need to make quick turns on moderate terrain--on skis or skates. Cross-unders can be quick and precise because the legs have less mass than the trunk of the body. You can make faster turns with just your legs rather than your whole body. Besides, cross-under turns look cool and are just plain fun.
There are three keys to making effective cross-under turns. First, a strong body position: knees and ankles well bent, back upright and slightly rounded, head and shoulders curved downhill, hands in view; second, vigorous steering and angulation from the knees and ankles; and third, a relaxed lower back, allowing the hips and legs to move independently from the upper body. We've also found that cross-unders are much easier to master while using ski poles.
You'll need some speed and the resulting energy to practice cross-unders, so find a moderate hill. If you're stuck in that almost-flat parking lot, get a fast start before you begin turning.
Remember to wear full protective gear, including a helmet, whenever you're practicing your downhill moves. When you're protected, you can shred the asphalt slopes with confidence.
Initiate the first turn with a strong twist at the ankles and knees. To keep your body from rising, flex your knees a little more as your feet pass under your upper body. Keep your head and shoulders facing straight down the hill. Extend your feet and legs as far as is comfortable toward the opposite side. Then twist and angulate your knees and ankles back toward the center, starting the new turn. Your upper body should glide straight down the hill while your feet and hips swing smoothly from side to side underneath you.
A Flick of the Wrist
If you are using ski poles, flick the tip forward and tap it on the pavement to initiate each cross-under: tap right, then turn right. Don't lean on the poles or let them drop behind as you turn. Just a quick flick from the wrist will help time your turns and keep your hands in front where they should be.
Cross-under turns take a lot of practice to perfect, so you'll get a great workout climbing back up the hill for yet another "run." Come Winter, you'll be in great shape when it's time to trade the skates for skis.