Piste Perfect

As anybody who has not been skiing since childhood will tell you, breaking through the psychological barriers that have formed can be just as tough as mastering the physical moves required to ski.

It probably doesn’t help that most adult skiers start their ski career on a package holiday with a group lesson. The whole experience can be frustrating, terrifying and addictive in equal measure but if the bug has bitten, making the leap from snow ploughing beginner to graceful expert who can ski the whole mountain can be a long hard road.

Lots of intermediate skiers progress quite quickly from blue to red slopes and then find themselves reaching a plateau. Most people turn to lessons and while there are some very talented instructors working in all major ski resorts, the difference in knowledge and approach can make for some mixed messages which can lead to frustration, lack of confidence and not getting any better at skiing!

Like most early intermediate skiers I have had my good days and my bad days on the snow and it’s the glimpse of how great skiing can be on the good days that keeps you coming back for more. Much as I love it though, facing into another ski season of trial and error and good days and bad days and hit and miss instructors, I finally came to a decision. This would be the year I either cracked skiing or gave it up.

We had heard a lot about The Warren Smith Ski Academy from friends and colleagues over the past year and how Warren’s unique approach to teaching is helping people to smash through psychological barriers and ski like they’ve always dreamed of. With nothing to lose and years of great skiing to gain we booked a week long coaching camp in the beautiful Cervinia, Italy at the end of November.

Despite the high praise I’d heard and the excellent testimonial I read online, I will admit, I was still a little sceptical that I could look forward to the type of progress talked about in just one week. After all, it had taken me 5 years to get to the level I was at so it seemed unlikely that in 5 days I would make such a leap. But with my ultimatum in mind, I was certainly ready to give it a try.

A talented freerider and coach Warren’s technique focuses not just on traditional methods of coaching but adds two extra layers on top – ski biomechanics and ski physiology – which Warren says is the only way to ensure 100% results. This very well designed program has been developed to unlock all your classic ski problems and open the door to performance and efficient skiing.

The Academy work with skiers of all levels from intermediate to expert and instructor training (but not beginners) and you have a chance to choose your level when you make your booking. Even this process is simplified with videos demonstrating each level available to watch on the site. Beware though – don’t try to exaggerate your level because it won’t last long. After warm up on the first morning the entire group skis with their selected group and instructor and following this, the final decision is made on your level and which group you’re going to be spending the week with.

We meet our group for the week along with Becky our coach and work begins. Warren’s initial inspiration for the course came about when he was working in ski schools in Austria. Working with up to 160 clients per season, he realised that he was seeing the same 4 or 5 issues with lots of people which were holding them back from being the best skiers they could be. He describes these issues as “physiological” or biomechanical” problems that were “blocking” his clients from making progress so he set about building a ski course from the ground up that would address these problems alongside teaching using the very latest techniques.

We get an insight into the biomechanics part straight away when Becky starts helping us to focus on our stance. Just like driving, bad habits can form in your skiing, like having your feet too wide apart or leaning back in to what your brain is telling you is a safe position. Getting your stance right is a basic and with a bit of effort and concentration on getting into the right position, we see immediate improvements.

From the basic exercise of getting your stance right the rest of the week we work from the feet up on techniques and exercises to help us “feel” the right position to ski in. Everything is designed to build skill and confidence and enable you to ski the whole mountain from steeps to bumps and off piste.

One of the highlights of the week are the 2 video analysis nights held in the team hotel. If you’ve never seen yourself skiing on camera before this is an extremely instructive exercise and it really helps to have your coach point out exactly where the problems are coming from along with feedback from all the other instructors. The improvements the following morning are noticeable.

I finished the week feeling like I’d made progress and counting the days to my next adventure on the snow. My next opportunity to ski came over a month later and I took my preparations seriously watching through the videos prepared for us by The Warren Smith Academy, thinking about my stance and going over the key points that had worked for me over the week long course. Would this be a permanent change or just an extended good ski day that would see me fall back in to bad habits and low confidence?

After my first couple of runs I had my answer. It works and I’m now a better skier than I was 2 months ago. By following the techniques from the course I was finally able to consistently enjoy my skiing and even had friends who I haven’t skied with for over a year ask me how I’d improved so much!

I think my favourite tip from the course, aside from the techniques, is something our coach Becky said to us towards the end of the week. No matter what level you ski at, skiing is all about tiny corrections. If you feel your stance or any other elements are wrong, correct them. It might sound like pretty simple advice but it’s impossible to follow if you haven’t learnt the correct technique.

If you’re serious about taking your skiing to the next level The Warren Smith Academy site should be your first post of call. All of the instructors are talented skiers in their own right and the energy and enthusiasm they have for making your skiing better is very impressive.

Another point that must be made is the value for money with options available from around €500. Courses run most of the year (glacier skiing in summer) in Verbier, Cervinia and destinations as far flung as Japan for a specialised powder camp. The rates are incredible when you consider that Warren can charge as much as €600 per hour for a private lesson.

Check out the course available here. We’re already planning our next one!

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