Skiing for intermediates: slopes to test your skills

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, here’s how to move up to the next level

You’ve skied for a couple of weeks and got to grips with the basics. Now you want to enjoy a wider range of pistes and start to tackle more difficult slopes – maybe even some moguls, steeper terrain, and different snow conditions? Here’s our guide on how to go about it.

Nail the fundamental skills

The first rule of thumb is to make sure you’re using all the fundamental skills of skiing well on the easier runs. A black run isn’t any different from a blue or green: you use the same skills, but the gradient and the environmental conditions (such as ice or bumps) will make it more challenging for intermediates.

“The difference between getting down a slope and really skiing it – feeling like you’ve conquered it – is about good execution of the fundamental skills” , says BASI ski instructor Steve Marsh from The Development Centre in Val d’Isere. _“If you can nail all the basics really well, it will help you master the mountain better as you progress to intermediate skiing.” _

_“A lot of people skip through things – for example, they might be a little lazy about standing on the outside ski – which will make steeper slopes hard. Good posture and balance, and being able to rotate the skis, will allow you to help set up the turn better.” _

Improve your balance and coordination

If you’re fit before your holiday, you’ll be a better skier and less likely to get injured. Tackling steeper terrain requires a greater level of fitness, balance and coordination, so work on your cardiovascular fitness and strength levels in advance to make life easier once you’re on those intermediate skis. Cycling, running, hill-climbing with a backpack are all good aerobic activities, while yoga and pilates are particularly good at strengthening your core – vital for skiing.

“Good fitness allows you to consistently use the correct technique at the right time and not develop bad habits. When people get tired, they swing their shoulders around but if someone is fit, that won’t happen” , says Steve.

If you are interested in finding out more ways to get fit before you hit the slopes, then why not try out our Ski Exercises guide.

Edging your skis and flexing

As you progress from snow ploughing to parallel skiing, which will enable you to ski all over the mountain, flexion becomes more and more important. Turning your skis using your feet, and rolling your ankles towards the upper slope to get an ‘edge’, helps you to ski on more complicated terrain and steeper runs – being in the right position stops the ski sliding beneath you. Always maintain a good bend (flex) in your ankles and knees, keeping your weight forward and balanced over the ski.

Learn how to deal with ice

“The most common question I have from skiers progressing to intermediate is how to tackle ice”, says ski instructor Steve. “Ice is difficult if you’re not standing in the middle of the skis so when you hit a patch of ice, your skis will go from beneath you. It all comes back to good technique, and good posture and balance.”

While you’re getting the hang of it, Steve shares this tip: one practical way to tackle ice is to drag the poles in the snow either side of you, to give yourself the right posture. “It works in a white-out, too”, he says.

Control your speed

One of the most important aspects to progressing on the slopes is the ability to control your speed and adapt your skiing to the conditions. There’s no point in being able to go down a black run, if you’re totally out of control – you’ll be a danger to yourself and to others.

“It’s simple”, says Steve. “If you haven’t got the skills, you shouldn’t be going that fast. On the mountain, we all have a collective responsibility to show respect for people, especially those with lesser skills than us.”

Use side-slipping to get out of trouble

When you’re progressing to more difficult slopes, there will inevitably be tricky sections that you’re not comfortable skiing and learning to side-slip (inch your way slowly down a section, without sliding or moving forwards or backwards) is an invaluable skill. Practice this on runs you are comfortable skiing, such as blues and greens, so you have confidence when you need it.

“It’s your get-out-of-jail free card when you find yourself on a narrow or icy slope. Or if it’s very busy and you don’t have the space to make a turn, a side-slip will get you through that tricky section”, says Steve.

Best slopes for intermediate skiing

Club Med has accommodation in a wide range of ski, most of which are perfect for intermediates looking to hone their skills on red runs. The new Club Med resort in Samoëns also offers great skiing for intermediates on the Tête des Sais, and the whole of the Paradiski® area (taking in La Plagne, Les Arcs and Peisey-Vallandry ) is an intermediate skier’s paradise.

Steve Angus is based in the Espace Killy, in the French Alps, and says: “If you’re trying to build confidence, steer clear of the runs that come into Val d’Isère as they’re generally under-graded. One particularly good run for working on your technique is the Fontaine Froid – it’s a really nice, wide red run with flatter and steeper bits to work”.

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