Sunday, February 10, 2008

Alpine Skiing Intermediate Private Lesson

Saturday I went to Sugarbowl and my parents had recently given my a cash gift after the sale of some property (my mother the queen of privacy/secrecy would give me hell for even discussing that much) they had so I decided to spend some of it on a private lesson to work on parallel turns. My instructor was Rich and he was excellent (another instructor said that as well).

His main points were
  • focus your weight of the turning ski on the big toe
  • rotate the other ski into the hill
  • face your upper body where you want to go
  • the rhythm is similar to riding a bicycle (turn-beat-turn-beat-turn...)
  • (probably the hardest) during a turn, stay in the fall line a bit longer to gain speed and momentum and to allow the skis to get into position (my words). My right turn is not as strong and I cut the turn shorter than it should be.
He lengthened my poles to 120cm which initially felt way long but felt perfect later on.

In alpine skiing during a turn 70+ of your weight is on the outside ski (in Tele it's 50/50). Focusing on the big toe helps you get the correct edge into the snow. Now that I think about Tele's big toe / little toe adage is pretty similar to the first two points.

The third point is the very important and easy to forget "look where you want to go," but don't just use your head, your whole upper body should get into the turn as well (this is also expressed as "look down the mountain")

Later in the day as I practiced I finally started getting the idea of developing a turning rhythm. That's why good skiers look so good and why a intermediate skier generally doesn't. They're turning a lot more for one. They're turning while I'm resting my tired legs. But the cool think is that I can feel the rhythm working its way into my muscle memory and that's so excellent and probably the best reason to take a lesson. A person taking the time to watch and work with you can speed your improvement more that 3 times (in my experience) and help you push through stumbling blocks, and notice if you're doing something incorrectly or not as efficiently.

The last point about staying in the turn longer (on the "fall line" where you're basically going staight down the mountain momentarily) is the hardest one for me (and I would guess many folks) It's dealing with speed without getting panicky and my right turns is not there yet. I need to park myself on the Trailblazer blue run (via Jerome Hill lift) for a few days. The thing that's hardest for me is that the ski doesn't seem to respond as quickly and that may be me tightening up on the turn because of the speed, but part of it is that I want the turn to happen faster that it needs to.

As I speed up I can see that I'm going to occasionally crash harder. I did wack my head once. Maybe it's time for a helmet. If I'm going to write about how my head is important to me since I think for a living I should probably start protecting it in this realm. It seemed completely silly when you're going slow but now it's starting to feel more relevant and the snow gets harder at speed especially on a groomed run.

I did work up the nerve to go up the Judah lift and do the blue Tunnel 41 run. The top of the run is lovely, but it quickly gets too steep for me to do anything beyond survive. And the run takes you through the lower part of the terrain park which is not nearly as scary as it sounds but don't fall right before a jump as they don't like that. :) Fortunately the jumps are obvious and it's quite natural to ski around them. So it's back to Trailblazer and its cousins for me.

My leg endurance is better and I'm hoping that it doesn't have to get much better. As I improve it should take considerably less effort and that's a stage that's probably the hardest to get through.

Marianne of Babes in the Backcountry said that her Alpine skiing improves after she works on Telemark. My experience is the same. Wonder if the reverse is going to happen as the second part of my Tele clinic is going to be next Saturday also at Sugarbowl. I'm going to be using one of their group discount lift tickets so I have to remember to not have the pass around my neck like I usually do (but keep it around for lunch). Oh and this time I'm keeping my poles as they keep me from falling in stupid ways.

The pizza was delicious as usual. It feels so self indulgent to pay that much extra for a pizza at a ski resort, but it's such a nice reward.

The stretch lycra jackets that the instructors wear intrigue me. It seems like a nice compromise, but I'm wondering if that fabric has the same issues as the North Face one that I wound up returning because it was cold to the touch and stayed that way.

Did I mention that I was really into the equipment aspect of winter sports? (of any sport) - will have to write about that someday.


Elf said...

Turn your upper body towards/face want to go: Isn't that exactly the same as in agility? You should be an expert!

Feeback on the site: I don't like the index being the first thing, because what I always want to do is read the latest entry. And I don't like the dog blog being the first link, because when I get to the index, I know that I don't want it and just want to go to the nondog blog, so my instinct tells me to click the first link to get there, and instead I'm back at the training journal. So instead of one click to get from training journal to nondog blog, it's now taken me 4.


Ellen said...

So why am I not an agility expert I want to know?

Thanks for the feedback on the site (once I finally understood it). I'll try to rearrange it in a more useful way.

Elf said...

Looks good. Thanks.