Ski cross tips and tricks

First-time Olympic ski cross racer, Kelsey Serwa, tells us what works in ski cross

A former alpine ski racer, Kelsey Serwa—of Kelowna, B.C.—first entered a ski-cross race almost as a lark, but did so well she made the switch. In her first year on the Canadian team, Serwa placed third overall in World Cup standings and was named rookie of the year.

It’s all in the feet

When Serwa was a teenager banging gates, her coach told her to ski with her feet instead of her knees. “Rolling your feet gets the skis on edge,” she says. “When you do that everything else falls into place.” The tip still holds true for her when she’s avoiding banging into fellow racers and for the rest of us as we arc turns down a groomer. The idea is to start your turn with your feet and then use the whole leg, avoiding the common mistakes of either driving too much with the knees-which can rotate the upper body out of balance-or dropping the hip back and getting locked up and static. Skiing properly on the race course or down a groomer requires using the big muscles and the shape of the ski.

Save on poles

“You can spend $200 on a pair of poles,” says Serwa, “but the $50 or $75 poles work just as well.” Just make sure they’re cut to the right height. Hold the poles upside down, right below the basket. With the handle touching the ground your elbow should be bent 90 degrees.

Go kamikaze

If you want to own the ski-cross course, you have to be comfortable in the air and in a crowd, says Serwa. “Go to the terrain park or find a jump anywhere,” she says. “You need to spend time in the air to get good at it.” And when it comes to skiing in a crowd? “We used to do lots of Chinese downhills.”