Fall is a great time to use your skates to warm up for the ski season. Liz and I learned some time ago that our skating skills transfer well to both downhill and cross-country skiing. Here are two ski skills I'm working on this season on my skates. Even if you aren't a skier, give them a try. They're fun and will improve your skating too.
These drills assume you can already do controlled slalom turns on a moderate hill. If you aren't at that level yet, check out the downhill skating articles in the Orbit archives. They are full of tips on getting down hills on skates and having fun doing it.
Tip onto your little toe
This simple exercise helps you improve body position and the balance between your two feet. Find a moderate hill to practice on. Start down the hill, picking up enough speed to do medium length turns. As you approach the fall line on each turn, tip your inside skate so that you are pushing your little toe toward the pavement. Try to keep 30-40% of your weight on the inside skate. You should notice that skate gripping the pavement a bit more than normal, helping you make a smooth controlled turn. That's all there is to it. Practice this drill on skates and then on the ski slopes. It's guaranteed to improve your body position.
Relax your downhill leg
Shaped skies have made it much easier to initiate turns on all kinds of snow. In the good old days when my legs were strong and my skis narrow, making turns was work. Now we need different, more subtle skills.
Here is a good method to initiate turns on modern skis and on your skates, too. Again, head down your moderate hill making medium-length turns. As you finish a turn, try to initiate the next by simply relaxing the downhill leg. This will transfer your weight to the uphill leg and, if you are in a good position, start the next turn. In the old days (three or four years ago!), we would make a big step up onto the uphill ski. Now we just relax the downhill leg and slide into the next turn. Sure, there's still a place for the big step-up on steep slopes, but even there it's more subtle with modern skis. So there you go: Relax your way to better turns.
And after you get the feel for each drill separately, try combining them!--Liz