Here’s how a girl teaches her never-ever friend: she starts a mantra when they get on the lift for the first time, “Now don’t be scared, all you have to do is stand up, I’ll tell you when, they’ll stop the lift if you fall, don’t worry, there’s nothing to be scared of,” and by the time they get to the top, the friend is terrified. They spend the day on the bunny slope.
Here’s what Ashly Battersby advises doing first when taking a never ever to the mountains: “If they can’t stop or turn yet, then teach them how to fall. The way to do it is have them squat and then fall over on their side. It sounds funny to first teach someone how to fall, because that’s the last thing anyone wants to do, but it’s actually the safest if they don’t know how to stop yet.”
Battersby certainly knows how to quickly turn a beginner into an intermediate. She’s the world’s top-ranked female slopestyle skier, pulling off awesome tricks in the halfpipe and terrain park. At the moment, she’s in Aspen competing in the X Games, but the Park City hero will be back home for the Dew Tour stop at Snowbasin, Feb 10-13. This year, women’s slopestyle debuts at the Dew; it’s the second year for the X Games. More important for this particular column, Ashley teaches skiers at Windells ski and snowboard camp at Mount Hood, Ore., in summer. ”I’m the only women’s coach there. I teach park and pipe,” she says.
Follow her advice when teaching a friend to ski. First, get your head in the right place. She advises, “You have to have patience. Patience is key, because progress won’t happen right away. That’s hard for me, because when it’s a nice sunny day, all I want to do is be in the park, and not take 20 minutes to snowplow down the hill.”
The next thing after the falling lesson—and this can be done on the slight slope at the base before going up the lift—is to teach your friend to stop and to turn, starting with a snowplow. Ashley says, “Use what a lot of instructors call the “pizza” position. Basically, you just put your tips together and push out with your outer thigh muscles. They have to be confident with what they’re doing or they’re going to get hurt—so don’t say anything to destroy their confidence. Tell them they have to be confident, no matter what. The more you half-ass something, the more likely you’re going to get hurt.”
Of course, beginners will fall every few feet at first. You have to be there to pull them back up again, so don’t get too far away. Teach them that the ski facing downhill when they turn is, of course, the “downhill” ski. The ski in back of that is the “uphill” ski. The side of the ski facing downhill in a turn is the “outside edge” of the ski, the part below your crotch is the “inside edge” of the ski. Once you’re sure your friend understands that terminology, tell them to turn by putting most of their weight on the inside edge of their downhill ski. To stop, use that same inside edge and gradually tilt it into the snow while sliding to a stop.
“Use the whole side of the foot. Also, tell them to keep their knees bent, especially if they start getting out of control. If your legs are locked in a straight position, it will just make them go more out of control,” Ashley says. Surprisingly, she suggests dispensing with a basic piece of equipment. “For beginners, it’s often best not to use poles, because I think that it’s easier to keep your balance if you don’t have poles getting in the way.”
Perhaps the most important piece of advice from Ashley concerns basic survival. “If they’re getting scared or heading toward something dangerous, they definitely want to fall. The way to get your control back is just to fall down. Teach them that if they hit ice, not to lose confidence, but just to ride it out, the ice patch will end within seconds.”