Skiing tips for beginners by Simon ‘Cookie’ Cook
BMXer, professional Mogul skier, snowsports instructor and snowboarder. There’s not much this incredible athlete hasn’t tried. With over 20 years’ experience in international snowsports coaching, he now runs performance courses alongside freeride, freestyle and personal coaching sessions. Who better, then, to dispel some common skiing myths and give us some top tips?
Myth: It’s easy to break your leg if you have a fall.
It’s true that you’re more likely to hurt yourself skiing than reading a book. But providing you follow good advice, progress at your own pace and avoid GPS speed trackers, you’ve got a pretty good chance of returning home in one piece. You may even come to ski again!
Myth: Moguls make skiing harder.
Yes and no. Moguls certainly aren’t as easy as skiing a perfectly smooth piste, but the challenge is fun! Finding a good rhythm and pace in the bumps is really satisfying. Personally I like to hunt out variable, bumpy terrain – anything off piste and away from crowds.
Myth: You have to start young.
Definitely not! I didn’t start skiing until I was 16. Skiing is for all ages and all physical abilities. Technology has opened up skiing for everyone: warm and waterproof clothing, goggles that don’t mist up all the time, lighter and easier to use skis. All of this has made a massive difference.
What are the benefits of investing in your own ski boots?
Comfort, control, ski performance, reliability, warmth. Having a professionally fitted pair of boots is worth every penny. Things you need to know; firstly the boots choose you, not the other way around. Good boot fitting shops don’t need to display shelves full of boots. Scans and pressure sensors, coupled with years of experience, will tell the fitter what boot you need. They’ll then give you some options to test out. I’d always suggest buying them from ski resorts – ask the locals where to go as most resorts have well known fitters (or even a few!). Once in resort the guys get daily feedback on how boots are performing and are on hand to re-mould and adapt the boot if needed.
What’s your advice for beginners before they hit the slopes?
Go to your local UK slope, dry slope or dome and get some lessons. Starting to ski is an alien concept: dressing up in boots you can’t walk in, being asked to carry skis, poles, wear goggles and helmets then sliding down an icy hill! Don’t worry, it’ll all become natural very quickly, but to make the most of your valuable holiday and mountain time it’s best to get the first few hours of awkwardness out of the way before you get to the mountains!
What exercises do you do off the slopes in preparation before a trip?
Running, squats, cardio: anything to get your blood pumping. This will make your skiing and slope time easier and less effort. Personal experience in my first few days getting back on the slopes taught me that I need to stretch out after each day. When I forget to do this, I feel terrible the following morning. Ask a good personal trainer and they’ll be able to give you a personalised workout plan that will improve your fitness in the weeks leading up to your trip. They’ll also teach you a pre and post stretch pattern to keep you going throughout.
Skiing well is all about using the right technique. What advice do you have for anyone wanting to perfect their parallels?
Get a lesson! We can make such a difference within just a couple hours of coaching.
Generic advice that will work for skiers of all levels: your outside ski in each turn is the “platform” you should be balanced on. The stronger you are on this platform the more natural it will be for your skis to remain parallel. Your inside ski will want to sit next to the platform. A good exercise to practise this is lifting the heel of the inside ski with each turn; the action of pressing onto your outside ski, creating a strong platform and effective balance, will allow the inside to release. We often use the term “peddling” to understand the action of changing our balance from one ski to the other.
What key essentials are always in your ski pack?
A buff or a mask. There’s nothing worse than being cold on the mountain and conditions can change very quickly. Something extra to cover up and keep warm is essential.
What’s the best advice you’ve received on skiing well?
Learn to ski backwards! Not with the aim of spinning and flipping in the parks (at least that’s not the plan for most of us), but with the aim of developing edge control and all-round awareness. Play with skiing backwards, sideways, flat skis, drifty/skiddy turns and side-slipping with pace; basically anything but normal turns. Play on your skis to build a “toolbox of turns”. This is a full understanding of how your balance and the building pressure of your body effects how the ski grips and turns you. Your skill and confidence will grow as a consequence.
Simon Cooke seems to excel at everything he turns his hand to – including giving new skiers advice on how to succeed. We’d like to thank our ambassador for taking the time away from his skiing, snowboarding, windsurfing and wakeboarding (to name but a few!) to talk to us. We’re excited to see what new ventures this incredible athlete will master in 2017.