The fundamentals of going with gravity are pretty simple: move with both skis as they slide down that slippery slope. In other words, keep your hips and torso over your feet so you can do what needs to be done to control your speed, to turn or to avoid obstacles and other skiers.

The challenge comes from learning to face what is waiting at the bottom. Skiers often recoil back onto their heels and turn their hips, torso, and head back up the hill. This throws them onto the uphill ski and their heels, locks their skis on edge and leaves them unable to turn or slow down. To keep your options open, learn to face the slope and ride a flat ski while moving downhill with it.

Normal, as used in math and engineering, is synonymous with perpendicular, defined by Webster’s as “standing at right angles to the horizon: exactly upright.” Since we walk around every day pretty much “exactly upright,” it seems normal to ski downhill in this same position (illustrated by the black arrow in photo 1). The only problem is that “exactly upright” puts you behind your skis, stuck in the back seat and out of options.

To “ski normal,” or perpendicular to the slope, focus on the first part of the definition and stand at right angles to the horizon. In other words, line up your spine with a line drawn at a 90 degree angle to the fall line (illustrated by the red arrow in photo 1). This will keep your hips over your feet as you glide, turn and stop. By the way, the fall line is an imaginary line that traces the path a large snowball would follow as it rolled down any slope.

Photo 1: Align your spine with the slope line

Skiing with a normal spine starts with desire – you have to want to go downhill. Many skiers do not. Find a hill gentle enough that you are wiling to go with your skis as they slide instead of trying to control or stop them. Once you have the desire, skiing normal is largely a matter of focus. Keep your hands forward and in front where you can see them and drive your knees over your arches by flexing your ankles.

Once you can ski normal while sliding straight ahead, begin to pick up one ski and then the other as you slide. If your skis seem stuck to the snow, your weight is either on your heels (flex your ankles and move your spine back to normal) or your weight is on both feet.

To shift your weight completely onto one ski, mimic the sideways shift from ski to ski made by your hips, torso and head while striding. Now pick up the unweighted ski, tip first. Keep your feet side by side instead of striding forward onto the next ski and balance and glide on one foot with your weight evenly distributed over your entire foot.

Once you can lift one ski, switch.