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Worldwide Ace » Room for Improvement

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Room for Improvement

14 January, 2011 (13:55) | Skiing


Someone skiing. I wish it were me. Dumbass doesn’t have a helmet.

“I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to do that.”

“Sure you will,” he says with a smile. “It just takes practice and dedication.”

“If I’m truly dedicated,” I respond, “when will I have time for practice?”

The silence says it all.

On Wednesday, despite my illness and the extreme discomfort I was experiencing, I fled the doctor’s office and rushed up to Eldora for a clinic on Level II PSIA maneuvers. To be honest, it was a stupid thing to do, but I had already scheduled the day off specifically for that clinic and I wasn’t about to miss out unless I was ordered.

“You should be good to teach by Saturday. You won’t be contagious by then,” he told me. “If you need a note for work, I’ll write you one.”

“That’s ok. They trust me.”

I, being the selfish douche that I am, didn’t even ask if that meant I couldn’t ski at all. In all likelihood, he would’ve rolled his eyes, told me it wasn’t a good idea, and that would’ve been that.

Instead, for four and half hours, I adjusted my stance, bounced questions off and argued with the trainer, and, most importantly, improved immensely as a skier. Given how I felt last night and today, it’s unclear at what cost, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. After all, my opportunities to practice and learn are few and far between given my hectic work schedule.

Each certification and accreditation for the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors has a specific set of requirements. Not only, must an instructor be able to teach core concepts, but there are stringent standards to which that instructor must ski. For my Level I certification last year, this included the gliding wedge to a gliding stop, side slipping, basic parallel turns on both groomed and variable terrain, the beginning wedge Christie, and basic wedge turns.

While none of these may seem difficult on the surface, the level of critique and demand makes some of them far harder than they should be. The most difficult for me was side-slipping.

To experience the proper side slip, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Now rotate your feet and knees so they remain pointed in the same direction but are perpendicular to the direction your hips and shoulders are pointing. If your feet are pointer right, your left foot should be slightly in front of your right and vice versa. My examiner’s primary complaint, due to my lack of flexibility, was my general inability to adjust the positioning of my upper body separate from that of my lower body.

Needless to say, I feel this is moderately nitpicky, though I understand their desire for rigid standards.

For Level II, the maneuvers are linked hockey stops, parallel skidded turns, switch railroad tracks (switch means backwards), linked railroad tracks, short radius turns in bumps, medium radius turns, wedge Christies, and a NASTAR racing silver medal. While my wedge Christies are excellent (thanks to Level I) and my switch skiing is pretty good, everything else needs a load of work.

“Is that as much as you can bend your knees?” he asks me.

“It’s as much as I can bend my knees without adjusting my upper body,” I argue back. “I was once told by a gym teacher that the only way I’d do the splits was with a chainsaw.”

He laughs, but it’s clear he still disagrees.

Donnie Roth is a PSIA examiner. He tests all certification levels and runs his own business out of Aspen doing year-round ski tours. He skis beautifully, but that’s to be expected.

The three other members of our clinic, Michael, Susie and Elana, all ski better than I do as well, and I’m no slouch. I simply have a long way to go.

“I want you to stick your butt out, lean forward, and get as low as you can without losing your balance,” Donnie tells me. I do so, though it feels weird.

One of the things they drum into you in the level ones is keeping your upper body independent and upright, your arms and shoulders pointed down the mountain. This task is completely contrary to that training.

I guess, had I examined our teaching progression in general, this should’ve come as no surprise. We’re instructed to teach the wedge (or pizza or snow plow), and then teach people not to use the wedge when they’re comfortable. It’s odd that we teach people one thing and then spend so much time trying to get them to relearn a different way, but in essence, that’s what Donnie’s asked me to do.

Previously, my hips dropped approximately two inches from upright to fully bent. By dropping my center of gravity, I can achieve more than a foot of vertical movement, allowing more tilt in the knees and feet. It feels awkward and unnatural because I’m not used to it, but this is exactly the sort of coaching I need.

There is nothing more important in skiing than keeping one’s weight forward, and by adjusting my body position, I’ll better be able to do that.

“Well, I’ve reached my goals for the day,” Donnie wraps up. “I think each one of you can perform any of these tasks at a basic level now. You’ll need to practice, but with practice, I think all of you can pass your level two.”

“Man,” Michael tells me as we head to the locker room, “switch is my Achilles heel.”

“You’re did fine. In no time, you’ll be better than me,” I remark.

“Thanks, but I doubt that.”

“I may have you on switch now, but everything else is my Achilles heel.”

He laughs, but it’s true. I’m a great skier, but I’ve got plenty of room for improvement.

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