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Breaking the ‘banking’ habit while skiing

By Kimberlee Hutcherson
SUN columnist

One of the more common mistakes made in skiing at an advanced beginner to intermediate level is called banking.

Banking occurs when a person leans their entire body into the slope when finishing a turn as opposed to leaning only their hips and legs. This is a balance issue. If you lean your whole body to the inside of the turn (or uphill), you will feel yourself get off balance and may even fall.

To adjust for this off balance, you must angle your upper body away from the slope. I’m sure when you’re reading this, you might be thinking, “Duh!” Of course you would do this. It’s natural.

Here’s the problem. As the terrain gets steeper and more intimidating, fear takes over and causes a person to want to, what I call, hug the hill. You might not, and probably don’t, realize you are doing this until your balance gets off and you perhaps even fall.

The banking motion might be very subtle but if it’s there, you will be off balance. To keep the proper alignment, therefore maintaining balance, you must angle your upper body over the downhill ski. This keeps your center of mass balanced and ready to initiate the new turn.

This can actually be a scary feeling for some to have your upper body angle away from the slope — particularly if you are used to skiing in a banking position. It can feel very unnatural to tilt your upper body downhill, but remember, that’s the direction you are trying to go. It is downhill skiing, after all.

The steeper the slope, the more you will have to angulate. A good visual to quickly check if you are in the proper body position is to look at your shoulders. If you are making a turn to the right, your right shoulder should be higher than your left. The steeper the terrain, the higher your shoulder will be over the left. Your shoulders will be at approximately the same angle as the slope.

OK, so the next time you are on your skis, go to the side of the slope. (Blue terrain works best for this, but if you are not quite there yet, pick a steeper spot on green.) Now, with your feet hip-distance apart, begin to tip your skis by moving your legs into the hill. Maintain balance by angling your upper body away from the slope. Keep going until you are very angulated. If you stay upright and don’t fall over, then you are in the correct body position. Now slowly try a couple of turns in this correct stance. If this feels awkward to you, chances are you’ve been banking.

Stick with this new body position and soon you will break that old habit.

This story was posted on January 23, 2014.