Ask the Pros: How To Be a Better Skier With Alex Ferreira

“Find the best person and just try and keep up with them. Ride with them as much as you possibly can, because that's how you get really, really good. From a personal perspective, I'm like a sponge.” ~ Alex Ferreira
Whether you’re a lifelong powder junkie or you just started skiing last year, there are always ways to improve your game. And who better to help you out than an Olympic champion? This week, Columbia Sportswear caught up with half-pipe superstar Alex Ferreira to pick his brain for some of his best pro tips. He talked about everything from preseason fitness to creating mantras to landing your first 360. Check out our interview below.

First things first: get in shape

Q: For people who love skiing but maybe haven’t pushed themselves a lot in the past, what can they do to improve this year?
Alex Ferreira: If you're trying to level up, one way that you can really improve your strength is by exercising. Specifically focus on your core, your glutes, and your mobility. When you're flexible, it really helps. I used to be tight and I’d go to the hill anyway. But nowadays, it's a mandatory 20-minute stretch. Then you're all warmed up and you feel great. Getting in a regular workout routine is a really simple place to start and you can even do the exercises on the floor at your house.

Q: What other preseason actions can people take to be more successful when they get out on the hill?
Alex Ferreira: It all starts with your gear. It’s kind of like golf—if your gear isn’t on point, it makes a very big difference. But if you have the best gear in the game, you have the potential to ski a lot better. Your boots situation is very, very important. I would highly recommend taking them into the store. It might cost some money, but it's worth getting custom-made footbeds, getting your boots punched out, making sure the plastic isn't digging into your heels or the back of your bone spurs. Boots are a number-one priority because if your ski boots aren't comfortable, then you're not comfortable.

Give your skis a tune-up

Q: What about the skis themselves? How should people get them in shape?
Alex Ferreira: At the end of the season, people throw their skis into the garage and you don't realize it, but the edges are typically oxidizing. You're gaining rust on them. The rust can cause you to catch edges, make weird turns, or catch your tips. This is why it’s important to get your skis tuned and waxed. It minimizes risk and it also makes you ski much faster. Most people don't have the tools to wax their own gear or take care of their skis, which is totally fine. That’s normal—I don't even have most of the tools. Just bring it into a shop and ask for a cleanup tune. They'll remove the burrs on the side of the edges and they'll give you a full wax. They'll just basically give your skis a manicure.

Q: What else is important gear-wise in terms of improving your performance on the slopes?
Alex Ferreira: You want to make sure you're warm. Think about what you’re wearing on a really cold day. I personally wear a jacket with OmniHeat 3D—the technology is so warm. It really does make the difference. I remember skiing in China one time and it was freezing, like negative 20. I would have died without that jacket. So definitely make sure you're warm. And I would personally wear mittens because it traps the heat a lot better.
Professional freeskier and half-pipe champion Alex Ferreira says that being warm and having good gear helps you ski better. He recommends waxing your skis before the season starts and wearing a ski jacket with OmniHeat 3D technology. Above, he’s pictured in Columbia Sportswear’s

Visualize your turns

Q: What about mental preparation? Do you have any mantras you tell yourself?
Alex Ferreira: If you're really trying to take it seriously and you want to become a better skier and mentally prepare, I would say, visualize the turn. Visualize yourself turning down the mountain and ingraining your edges perfectly into the corduroy of the snow. Really see yourself in that moment and breathe deeply, and be fully present. I personally do an affirmation every day. I say, “I'm going to win every contest this year.” If you're trying to be better on a normal day, just say, “I'm going to be the best skier on the mountain today.” It’s not in a cocky way. It's just to yourself. And it's very to the point.

Q: What are some simple adjustments skiers can make to improve their form?
Alex Ferreira: Really lean into the front of your boots. Buckle them tightly because tighter is better. I don’t care what anyone says—tighter means more control. Really lean. Put all that forward pressure into the tongue of your boots. You can sometimes even feel your hairs pulling out. This isn't enjoyable, but that's when you know that you are actually in the front of your boots. Most people keep their hands down to their sides, but really try and keep your hands in front of your chest. You'll be more prepared for anything and you’ll be a bit more balanced, so if you hit a little bit of crunch you can put your pole down really fast. It's like having your hands up in tennis.

Look two moguls ahead

Q: Any tips for handling moguls?
Alex Ferreira: (Leaning into the front of your boots) makes it easier to turn in between the moguls. Also, most people are just looking at the mogul directly in front of them. Look two moguls in front of you and put your pole on top of the mogul. Put your pole on top, then turn around it…put your pole on top, then turn around it. You’ll get in this really nice flow.

Q: What’s the best way to hold your poles?
Alex Ferreira: Everyone has their own style, but I like to think of it like a pitcher in his strike zone. He's got this box, right? In skiing, it's a little bit more of a rectangle, but it’s right in front of your chest. It's called four-point. When you’re landing off jumps, you land in a four-point landing, poles right in front of you. Your eyes, head, and chin are up with a little bend in the knees.
Ferreira is an Olympic silver half-pipe medalist and winner of the 2019 Winter X Games XIX. He says that leaning into the front of your boots gives you more control and prepares you for any surprises that the mountain might throw at you.

Increase your speed

Q: If people want to start skiing faster, how can they improve their speed?
Alex Ferreira: If you're at that level where you're very much in control but you want to start going faster, one obvious thing is to wax your skis every day. On top of that, it comes down to form. If you really load your turns and lean into your shins and pop out of every turn, you'll gain speed. You'll fly. Especially down a steep pitch. Start slow and gradually work your way towards a more narrow line down the mountain. Take less turns. That's definitely how you go faster.

Q: What’s the secret to skiing in the trees?
Alex Ferreira: It's very simple: take it slow. You don't need to rush through the trees. I've actually hit a tree going very fast before and it does not feel good. Just take it slow. It's similar to the moguls. Plant your pole right before the tree, and then go around it, then do it again. And if you're going too fast or you feel you're getting out of control, take a check. Just lay on the brakes a little bit. You shouldn't be doing too many pizzas in the trees. Keep them straight. Just lay them over kind of like a hockey stop. And if you're going too fast, just stop and relax for a moment.
“I've seen these tricks in my head. I've done them on the trampoline. I've talked about them with other people. Then when the moment comes and the stars align—it's a beautiful sunny day and there's no wind—that's the moment to do it. It's on. A lot of it is just waiting for the right timing and the universe will present that opportunity. ~ Alex Ferreira

Catch some air

Q: Any tips for people starting to do rotations? What’s the best way to land tricks and start doing spins?
Alex Ferreira: You want to have a little bend in the knees, and you want to lift through the hips. Say you want to do your first 360. Lift all the way through the body. Lift your hips as soon as you take off from the jump. As you start to spin around, keep your arms (stretched out wide) in a “T.” Keep your arms extended, look back, find your point of reference, and come forward. The reason you want to look back for a point of reference is because sometimes people get off kilter and kind of get lost in the air. Land in the four-point landing with your arms more in a 90-degree angle.

Q: What about skiing in the terrain park? Any tips for things like riding the half-pipe or getting up on rails?
Alex Ferreira: It’s like I said with the trees, take it slow. Don't rush it at all. People get seriously injured every year. But it's fun. That's part of the fun. It's risky. It's crazy. It's big-looking. If you're trying to start learning on the rails, start with a fatter box, a wider box. It's plexiglass with metal coping on the sides so make sure that your skis aren't too sharp. If you go to the tune shop, ask them to take off some edge under the binding where the boot would go. As you slide the box, keep your arms shoulder-width apart, bend your knees, and look at the end of the rail. That'll keep you aligned.

Q: What about for regular jumps?
Alex Ferreira: Start with the little ones. Just get a really good pop. Keep your eyes up. Keep your arms up. Next, start spinning off the little ones and then, (as you move to the bigger ones), definitely make sure you're around someone who knows what they're doing and start building from there. Get that motivation, ask them questions, and see where it can take you.
Ferreira says that if you want to improve your skills on the mountain, it helps to ski with people who are better than you. “Find the best person and just try and keep up with them,” he said.

Watch and learn

Q: How can skiers leverage other people to help them improve their skills?
Alex Ferreira: Find the best person and just try and keep up with them. Ride with them as much as you possibly can, because that's how you get really, really good. From a personal perspective, I'm like a sponge. I'm always asking people, “Yeah, but what if you did this? What if you put your hand a little bit lower? What do you think about when you take off? What do you think about when you're going backwards?” I ask my fellow competitors and teammates and they're really open and understanding to give answers. They want to give answers. So I would say ride with the best person possible. Unless it's a powder day. In that case, go at your own pace—because there are no friends on a powder day.

Q: As you start becoming a better skier and doing bigger and more advanced things, how can people push themselves past their fear zone?
Alex Ferreira: You definitely need to have positive self-talk. I always say, “I got this.” And it's good to have that confidence, but it's also good to be a little bit nervous and scared because it keeps you on your toes. So you're not so confident that you get a little cocky and overdo it. It's all about calculated risk, right? I've seen these tricks in my head. I've done them on the trampoline. I've talked about them with other people. Then when the moment comes and the stars align—it's a beautiful sunny day and there's no wind—that's the moment to do it. It's on. A lot of it is just waiting for the right timing and the universe will present that opportunity.


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