No matter whether you’re into slalom, trick or jumping, a well-honed sense of balance is one of the most important skills in skiing. Balance forms the foundation for all of a skier’s other movements, so improving your sense of balance actually works to enhance your entire range of skills. Fortunately, there are many ways to improve balance, so we asked three-event pro Ryan Dodd to share his five favorite balance-training exercises.
Get on a slack line
Go online or to a hardware store and buy what’s known as a slack line. It’s basically a tie-down strap that you connect between two trees or posts and practice balancing and walking on. The longer you make the line, the tougher it gets. Once you master simply walking on it, you can practice 180s and even single-leg squats. The device is pretty much a tight-rope walking exercise, so be careful because you can take some pretty hard falls!
Buy an Indo Board
The Indo Board is a perfect balance tool for water skiing. It works all of the small, stabilizing muscles in your feet, ankles, knees and hips. It’s also a great core strengthener and all-around balance-training tool. For slalom skiers, the Indo Board is great because you can stand in your slalom stance and really learn to use your feet to control the board. This is really a perfect exercise because the connection between your feet and your ski is the most important of all. For more info, go to indoboard.com.
Get active outdoors
There is no better way to improve you balance — and your overall athleticism — than going outside and getting engaged in other sports. I like to mountain bike in both the offseason and whenever I get some free time. Mountain biking on variable terrain is great because you’re always adapting, adjusting and keeping balanced on your bike. If you get into the trail-biking scene, your balance will be really challenged. Riding on logs, boards and narrow bridges will hone your balance to an optimal state.
Close your eyes
Vision is the primary factor in balance. Spending some time exploring my vision and trying some new things in terms of how I use my eyes has been the biggest factor in my success this season. I can’t give away all my secrets, but practicing a few simple exercises with your eyes closed will introduce you to a whole new level of balance training. Try standing on a balance board, and then try it with your eyes closed. Or stand on one leg and practice simple knee circles. Pretty easy, huh? Well, now try the same thing with you eyes closed. Try walking the slack line with your eyes focused 90 degrees from your direction of travel. You’ll find that altering your vision makes simple tasks much more challenging. It’s funny that a large percentage of ski coaches just work on body position and movement patterns, and then when that doesn’t work, they look at your equipment. Working on a skier’s vision may be the easiest and fastest way to boost your ski skills. It amazes me what some people look at when they’re on the water!
Move from the bottom up
I’ll keep this simple: Movements should always start from your feet, and the body should follow that lead. If you don’t start movements with your feet, you’ll lose the all-important connection to your ski, and your body movements will disturb your flow on the water rather than help it.