February 13, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Improve Your Riding

Tips and Tricks #2

"Integrating weight distribution to improve your riding"

By Braden Anderson

The Snowman

Braden is a recreational and professional skier and snowboarder and internationally-accredited instructor who has been slicing up the slopes since the age of four, and a lover of all things cold and snowy.

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If you caught my last blog, wherein I talked about a few helpful rotation movements to remember while riding, then you’re perfectly primed for this week's blog, and you’re also probably wondering when I’m going to talk about those pesky edges I mentioned. Either that, or when I’m going to get to the fun stuff. 

Ironically, the movements I’ve been talking about such as rotation and today’s (soon to be revealed) topic are the same movements you can use throughout the rest of your days on the mountain.  Even as your skills progress, you will realize that you are just adjusting different aspects of these fundamental movements.  So on some level, this is the fun stuff, just quieted down a bit.  Don’t worry, once we get these basics down, it will be a lot easier to explain the mechanics behind that 540, and understanding how the trick works is half the battle.  It builds confidence, and confidence on your skis or board can be one of your most helpful skills.

So in today’s blog I’ll be talking about rotation’s better half:

Weight Distribution

Ok, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, in some regard I guess this is a science class.  In fact, you can take a lot of what you learned (or slept through) in physical science class and apply it to snowboarding.  After all, there are not many better examples of the laws of friction, gravity, acceleration and so on, than sending a slippery piece of wood down an icy hill (a manned piece of wood I might add).  Keeping that in mind, let’s make this a bit more fun (I told you I’d try).

Let’s do an experiment:

  • Angle your monitor to about the grade of a hill (this will simulate our run, so angle it to the grade of the runs you are used to)
  • Acquire two (2) Post-Its or other small identically shaped pieces paper
  • Acquire one (1) Paper Clip or other similarly sized and weighted object
  • Attach the paper clip to one of the pieces of paper by means of the sticky side of the post-it, tape, or whatever you’ve got I guess…
  • Place both the weighted and non-weighted side by side at the top of the screen
  • Let ‘em rip! (This is the fun part…)

You will notice that the weighted clip won our desktop challenge by making it to the bottom of the screen first.  Why? It’s the same concept as free-fall, in which all objects of a similar same shape (“resistance factor”), regardless of weight, fall at 3.8 meters per second. However, when friction and a slope are involved the heavier object will always be the victor (assuming both objects have similar “resistance factor”).  Think of it as the lighter object not having as much “pull” to make it around this obstacle (the mountain and, unbeknownst to the object, the rest of the earth’s surface) on it’s way back to free-fall.   (If you’re actually interested in the physics behind it, there is a great article at: http://www.physicsclassroom.com/mmedia/energy/se.cfm.)

While the weighted clip winning the race may seem like an obvious outcome, the lack of attention to this concept is one of the things I see most on the mountain.  If you think about those post-its as your feet, and the paperclip as being your body weight transferred to one foot, it is easy to see how much of an effect on your riding your distribution of weight can have.

Remembering the post-it notes, would it not be safe to say that the best way to initiate a turn may actually be by shifting the weight to one foot to let that foot get ahead of the other?

Ok, I don’t profess to be a psychic but for the third time today, I know what you’re thinking:

“Duh…” Which I would agree with (if this were 1991 and people still said that) except that so often on the mountain it is easy to forget this simple concept.  Anytime you feel like your board or skis don’t do what you thought you were telling them to do, make sure your weight is distributed accurately in relationship to your rotation.

In regards to snowboarding, this concept is crucial in the sense that the boarder MUST make a connection between the rotation of his or her body and to where on, or rather over, the board their weight is.  If you have finally learned that steady heel-side slide (edges, I know, I’m getting there) and you want to control you direction you can do it by either twisting your body (which is the most instinctive movement to make) or by “pulling a post-it” and shifting the weight to the direction you want to travel.  This is inherently counter-intuitive because regardless of whether you want to go right or left, you have to go downhill to get there.  Unless you are confident in the mechanics of turning (or read this blog) your instinctual reaction to “going fast” is to lean on the back foot, the uphill foot, in a primal effort to slow down and be closer to the ground in case of a fall.  This is actually the worst thing you can do when trying to turn, as the offset weight will lift the front of the board, effectively leaving you with no way to turn (Finally, Edges!). It will pull your leading edges off the ground giving you nothing to turn with. 

By now, you’ve probably recognized that edges of the board or skis are what actually control a turn.  Moving our weight in relation to the edge is the movement.  How the edge then reacts to the snow is the outcome.  For example, when trying to stop, a skier or boarder applies more pressure to an edge (while using ROTATION to get that edge perpendicular to the “line of slope”, or downhill) by moving his or her weight to the extreme rear (uphill) of the edge.  When initiating a turn, (remember, whether right or left, it must also be downhill) the weight needs to shift to the foot that will first start downhill on the turn.  For skiers this is the outside foot. For boarders this should always be the leading foot (Right foot for Goofy riders. Left foot for Regular riders.) 

Of course there are a number of different movements and concepts that help our riding, but Rotation and Weight Distribution are two of the most important.  Once you become familiar with these concepts, your riding will improve along with your confidence on the slopes.  Once you have mastered these concepts though, and trained your body to instinctively think in a way that is mostly counter-intuitive, you can do anything.  Of course, you can't do it without something to do it on so...

THINK SNOW!

P.S. - For my hardcore readers, there is an event coming up at Pajarito Mountain that any skier or boarder can attend.  While the trophy will go to best trick and the winner of the slopestyle competition, the fun can be shared by everyone, with live music, drinks, demos, swag give-aways and a whole lot more.  Click HERE for more details about the Crazy Mother Meltdown @ Pajarito Mountain, brought to you by Red Bull and Santa Fe Mountain Sports (these guys are awesome!).

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