Skiing is an easy sport to learn. I know a lot of people who have said to me that they would like to learn but are either afraid, or believe that they are too clumsy, uncoordinated, or too old to learn. My response to them is that they should allow me to teach them because I have taught visually impaired skiers for 34 years and “if I can get them to ski, surely I can teach you”. We have a good chuckle about that but the truth of the matter is that……it is the truth. Skiing is not a hard sport to learn and I would encourage anyone who wants to ski to take a lesson and do it right. The Polar Vortex has set the stage for a good winter and now is the time to experience the thrill of skiing if you have the notion to do so.
Skiing was not always as easy as it is today. If you look at the picture of me as a young lad above, you will see wooden skis, cable bindings, and double lace boots. The edges on these skis were not very sharp and snowmaking had not yet been developed to any great extent, so we had to rely on natural snow which eventually turned to icy conditions here in the east. Skiing on this equipment was survival and the technique was basically to try to up unweight and get the skis across the fall line the best way we could. Lots of skidding on the icy conditions and not much support with the leather boots. But we didn’t know any better and loved getting out on the snow even if we had to make the best of conditions and survive multiple crashes and spills. As equipment developed, metal skis and plastic rigid boots became the norm and the turns became more stylish and control was becoming a reality. Edges were sharp, control on the ice became better and the elementary beginnings of carved turns were starting to be seen on the slopes.
Fast forward to today and you see shaped skis which are a lot shorter than the ones that we used back in the day. The nice thing about a ski with shape is that the tip is wide and the tail is wide and the waist of the ski is more narrow allowing the ski to be tipped on edge facilitating an easy turn to the right or the left when pressured by flexed ankles. In the beginner area, you can see real progress with this new equipment because it is easier to control and the equipment makes it a breeze to execute beginner moves on the slopes. People make real progress with today’s equipment and make their way to more advanced trails and slopes because of this new technology.
Take a look at the snow groomers above. That technology along with snowmaking has made the sport of skiing even easier to learn. Each evening, the grooming crew take these machines and make white carpets out of bumpy, icy slopes. The hydraulic tillers on the back of the tracked vehicles break up ice, moguls, and other imperfections on the trail. The end result is what skiers refer to as corduroy which you see in the above picture. This is great for beginners on trails and for intermediate skiers on intermediate trails. But as much as experienced skiers love the challenges of powder, steep chutes, and skiing in the trees, there is something about facing a slope early in the morning that has been groomed to perfection. For those who have mastered the art of a carved turn, this sight is appealing in that the skier pushes off with his/her poles, flexes his/her ankles in his/her boots, and tips the edges towards the new turn. When you move your center of mass towards the new turn and slice the ski edges from tip to tail in the radius of the turn that you choose, the arc that is formed in the snow is putting a slice in that nice white carpet. Good skiers can feel the pressured ski slicing those turns and know when any skidding occurs resulting in a determination and concentration to make the following turns perectly carved. If it weren’t for the expensive grooming equipment, and the shape of the skis, and the confident forward postition of the skier, slicing the white carpet might not be possible. Good skiers can feel when a ski carves perfectly and today’s equipment is so good compared to equipment from yesterday, that everyone has a chance to move up one level in their skiing.
The reason that I have gone into detail of the ski turn is to encourage those of you who have not tried skiing to give it a go. Winter is wonderful and there are a lot of options in outdoor winter activity. But in my mind, there is nothing quite like waking on a winter morning, having a good breakfast, taking in a picturesque view of the mountains, and launching into a series of great turns on the white carpet. Whether you are a beginner making wedge turns, an intermdeiate skidding in a wide track parallel stance, or a racer carving it up on the carpet, the thrill is the same. Skiing is an exhilarating sport and anyone who is reasonably athletic can be a proficient skier in a reasonable amount of time. Take a lesson and learn the right way. But make the effort, you will not be disappointed. Thank you for reading and think snow.