Jon West

04 Jan 17

Free Skier – How to Prepare for Free Skiing

Jon West

04 Jan 17

The snow has arrived early this season, so in anticipation of some epic powder and variable snow conditions, this month Jon looks at some of the skills required to enable us to ski in these types of conditions. On a groomed regular piste the snow below us can be quite predictable and constant. Off-piste and in variable conditions, where you would often find people free skiing, things are different; they are constantly changing and we are required to be super prepared.

Core Muscles – Train to Gain

As in all areas of skiing where your balance gets tested, i.e bumps, off-piste etc, having a strong core so you don’t get thrown off balance is vital, and nowhere is this more important than in variable conditions. This can be taught well before you arrive on holiday and will really help you to enjoy the challenging conditions that you will hopefully experience this winter.

Tip: If the conditions look variable, try keeping a bit of tension in your core before you set off and maintain that as you ski down.

Staying on Top – Recovery

When you are challenging yourself and optimising your performance, skiing can feel like a series of linked recoveries! When free skiing in the variables, this can feel especially true. The art of recovery is an important one. This is something you will develop with time and practice, but always try to fight to stay on your feet, even if it feels like a battle inside.

Tip: Variable conditions are challenging to the best of skiers, and I can assure you, even though it may not look like they are working hard, they definitely are!

Spot Your Line – Look Ahead

Being able to predict ahead of time what the snow is going to feel like and how to react to it will help your skiing improve tremendously and give you much better “flow”. Experienced freeskiers are at an advantage because they have the knowledge to help them make decisions in advance rather than always reacting.

Tip: Make sure you are always looking ahead and not at the front of your skis so you can see that patch of ice, powder or crud and be ready for it, or avoid it if necessary.


Keeping a good rhythm between turns is something that will always help make things “click together”, especially when on challenging terrain or slopes. Prior to setting off, try tapping the rhythm of your turns with your ski pole in the snow. Then as you set off down the run, try to stick to this rhythm for all your turns.

Tip: A strong and accurate pole plant is crucial to enable you to ski with ease and keep good rhythm as you descend the slopes.

The Altitude winter company portfolio includes the ski and snowboard school, the Futures instructor training programs, and FREERIDE VERBIER, a new school dedicated to off-piste coaching in Verbier.


Jon holds the top qualifications from France, Switzerland and Britain, and we can say first-hand that he is a great ski instructor! Jon heads up the team at Altitude Ski School – Verbier’s most established British ski school. Each month Jon or one of his team will provide us with a few tips and words of wisdom to help improve our understanding of skiing.

For more information please contact us on: 0041 27 771 6006; [email protected].



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