Monday, March 16, 2009

Squaw Ski Lesson

Apoligies, but this is a bit dry and techie, but it's what I learned and I don't want to forget it.

I just blew the rest of the season's ski budget on a 2 hour private lesson with an instructor I like at Squaw Valley. "Blew" implies wasted, it wasn't. It was very effective and I'm not likely to forget it though I want to get it all down here as best I can.

My instructor was Greg Rosenthal, and Greg is very good at deconstructing the mechanics of skiing and what makes a ski turn smooth and effective. (Those classic S shaped turns.)

Sadly, it now is completely evident to me that I'm not going to become good enough of a skier this season to feel comfortable on Shasta with its ungroomed slopes and little details like steepness and these things called trees that inhabit the less steep parts. I think for me to feel comfortable off piste, I'm going to have to be able to ski without thinking about the mechanics of turning and that's going to take another season. Right now, there's about a month left in the season and I certainly could spend it skiing, but I'm going to Shasta to climb it in May so my time is probably better spent training to go up the mountain instead of down. :) though it would be so nice to just ski up on skins as that is easier than walking. Ah well, some day.

Back to the ski lesson. First bad, but important, news is that I'm working too hard on my right turns and overusing my left quad instead of shin pressure on the boots to cut the turn too short and slow myself down. I've always struggled on the right turns, but never realized that it was the over-braking that was exhausting my quad (it's been two days and it's still tired). I need to learn to stay in the turn longer and not put so much effort in my quad, but instead use skletal force from my shins to the front of the boot to weight the ski. In other words, bend at the knees, and lean more forward. Like really lean forward. I actually tried falling forward (slightly terrifying - what a trust exercise) and suddenly I had a lot more control because the front part of the ski is widest and the easiest to steer. I tend to lean backwards even after stopping carrying a pack.

Greg taught me another way to learn to shift forward by showing me how to ski backwards. Skiing backwards resembles a silly terrain park trick, but you simply can not do it unless you shift your weight forward and this helps you to learn that positition which is what you need going forward as well. What was fun, that skiing backwards involved overturning all the way around which is something I do by accident all the time when I forget to look down the mountain and turn my hips up the slope. So now I feel I have a touch more things I can do when that happens and I feel a bit less of a dork.

Steps to turning
- stand up (out of any bent position)
- with your weight evenly balanced between the skis, steer your feet, meaning turn your feet in the direction you want to go. Many ski lessons now only empasize putting the weight on the outside ski, but on anything but a green run that's actually not quite enough (In my head, I'm saying "point your feet" - in the direction where you want to go). The skis will turn and start to head down the hill (eek - don't panic)
- now just before it starts down the hill, weight the outside ski and bend your knees applying forward pressure from your shins to the front of the outside boot (make sure your weight is forward). By bending your knees you can put more than body weight pressure on the ski.
- hang in there and let the ski turn (this is where trying to fall forward really helps). If your inside ski's inside edge seems stuck, roll your inside knee out some which should let the ski slide over.
- if you feel you're going too fast turn up the hill .

You can see how well you're going by examining your tracks. Mine generally look like backwards number 2's :) which shows me cutting my right turn too short.

Other Notes
You can learn a lot by watching others while you're hanging out on the ski lift. It's disheartening to see how poorly people ski when you're looking at an intermediate run. One day, I should take a video camera and film the expert runs. The trouble is that the expert skiiers are not always easy to see or get to, unlike us amatuers who are everywhere. :)

Also I had just bought a really nice North Face Ski Jacket from REI (on sale - $120.00 off!) and was really glad I did, because at Squaw, I was being pelted by blowing snow while sitting on a chair lift at 8000'. Which was pretty funny since it was a gorgeous snowless day.

Anyway I got to spend the afternoon practicing what I'd learned so it could set into my muscles, but have decided to say good by to the rest of the ski season and spend the rest of winter snowshoeing and training with a pack. Thank you to the weather gods for providing us snow to have fun on and to give us water for the rest of the year. More snow is very much welcome as we really need it here in California.

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