Skiing Tips to Boost Performance
Think of a time on your skis when you were skiing at your best. Recalling your best performance often produces memories of feeling at ease and being fully engaged. I call this state of being Peak Performance Presence (PPP). PPP has a felt sense that coincides with our best performance. These moments can be elusive as there are many variables in our human experience as well as the activities we involve ourselves in (in this case, skiing). The personal variables include our goals, what we are paying attention to, our worries and mood, physical condition, personal history, etc. External variables in skiing include our equipment, snow conditions, weather conditions, terrain, obstacles, others skiers, snowboarders, etc.
PPP is a state of being that can be self-generated through intentional practice. With practice, I have found that clients (and myself) are able to more consciously choose how to “be” as they enter a performance (of any type) and execute. Entering and executing with PPP leads to stronger performances in general, making it one of the best skiing tips I can recommend as an instructor.
The two main ingredients of PPP are relaxation and attention. By themselves, relaxed or attention, can put us on either side of the peak performance curve (see figure 1). Being relaxed tends to put us on the left hand side of the curve while being overly attentive tends to put us on the right hand side of the curve. PPP is found when we have a combination of the appropriate amount of relaxation and attention. A typical image associated with relaxation is being on a beach just chilling out, listening to waves, and feeling the breeze. By themselves, these feelings are sure to have us on the left hand side of the curve. Someone who is overly attentive generates feelings of anxiousness which will put us onto the right hand side of the curve.
An antidote for being overly relaxed is to focus our attention and an antidote for being overly attentive is to breathe and relax. Now imagine yourself in a performance (like skiing) and being both relaxed and attentive. The better we mix these two somewhat contradictory ways of being, the better we will perform. Imagine a sprinter taking her mark in a race. Her start will be the timeliest when she is both relaxed, yet very attentive to the sound of the gun. If she is too focused on starting fast, she will tighten up and therefore start early or start late while being overly tense. If she is too relaxed, she will be slow to respond to the sound of the gun. Figure 2 shows a representation of the Peak Performance Presence where the athlete is both relaxed and focused on the task at hand.
When I provide skiing tips I often have guests take a full run focused on our breath. Then, given the needs of the students, I may take a run or two focused on a particular skiing skill. As an example, we may focus on releasing our new inside ski (an edging focus). In this example, we practice independently relaxing (breathing) and putting our attention on releasing the new inside ski. Then, I work with them to combine the two (breathing and releasing the edge). We may practice on easy terrain first to get used to the feeling of being both relaxed and attentive. Then we may increase the difficulty of the terrain and/or turns and work to recreate the same PPP we felt earlier.
The felt sense of PPP can be practiced outside of skiing. I recently downloaded a random timer app onto my smart phone and played a game. I setup the app to make a tone on a random time between 5 and 20 seconds, and then repeat. Given these parameters the tone will sound and then repeat somewhere between 5 and 20 seconds later. Given that it is randomly generated; it is virtually impossible to know when it will chime. With app operating, I stand upright and center myself and hold my hands forward, much like the stance of a skier. With the centered stance I bring my attention to my breath and work to relax. After a bit of time relaxing, I decide to listen for the tone. Upon hearing the tone, my objective is to clap my hands as fast as possible and then return them to their “ready position”. In between tones, I work to both relax (through breathing and centering) and be attentive to the tone and clap as fast as possible. Doing this exercise for several minutes I start to feel the combination of being both relaxed and attentive. This state of being is what I call Peak Performance Presence (PPP).
The combination of relaxed and attentive can be practiced in a variety of ways. Think of your own and practice. Then go to the slopes and perform closer to your peak!
By Roger Henderson
Level 3 Ski Instructor – Professional Ski Instructors of America
Personal Coach – Coaching for Life, Teams, and Leadership
Henderson Personal Coaching – Boulder, Colorado – USA
303-448-0046 – Twitter: @
Photo source: ©Polytech Savoie