By Ryan Dunfee
Alright, I'll bite. I ski more than a hun a year and so I spend too much time on chairs hoping in vain to see anyone skiing at a decent technical level. How few there are: more early and then late in the season to be sure , when the keeners and the courses are on... and its still only maybe two in a hundred.
So I'm just bored and staring out a bus window waiting for the chair ride to end. Boredom broken momentarily as some yo'dude in bad graphics tests the limits of bad physics and his luck, again. So the writer of this article has a real point. Equipment that is better than I could have imagined for the last decade and clothing and goggles that never let you down... and it is still less than one in a hundred that can actually ride the juice from one turn to the next.
And as for the gnar gnawers; I'll quote Mike Weigle; perhaps you've heard of him ? " Most of today's skiers would be just as happy in a grave-pit, if there was a hit in it. "
As much as I agree with the author's point about improving your own skiing, I disagree with the idea of going around telling others how wrong they are for doing what they're doing (not that the author says that; it's just something that others do). That's never an effective way of dealing with others.
Just focus on your own skiing and your look (if you care about appearances). Be a positive role model rather than a criticizing voice. When you see someone back-seating their way through crud, struggling and tumbling, ski it smoothly and show them how it can be done. But, don't give them any disapproving looks or critical remarks when you do it.
Don't be the pedantic ski instructor that no one wants to listen to. Be the laid-back mountain guide who skis everything smoothly like it's no big deal and looks cool doing it.
(BTW, if you ever want to see just how cool a skier can look, go to the Alps and ski off piste with a guide. They ski everything smoothly and look the part at the same time.)
Allow me to make a comparison in this context.
Skiing to me is dancing with the snow flakes. There are many types of dances and yes some skiers then to "dominant, over-power" the flakes. That is the sign of youth. To prove your "power, strength, etc,,"
As you mature you accept that nature , those flakes are more powerful than you and you try to seduce them, rather than dominant them.
That dance becomes more interesting, more elegant, more graceful because power is not the essence of skiing. It is the harmony between skier and the white.
Just my opinion.
While I agree with the general sentiment of the article, regarding some of the follow-up comments I'd like to point out that some of those skiers who do a lot of big hucks also happen to be some of the most graceful skiers I've seen. It's not mutually exclusive folks. I bet on average those who embrace air tend to be better / smoother skiers than the majority who do not.
Ryan Dunfee seems to be irritated about how other skiers choose to spend their time on slopes. I might understand his comment if he is an instructor because such skiers often are looking at the techniques of the general public.
Over the decades there has always been a long list of skiing styles. And most skiers will always to some extent compare themselves to talents of other skiers though such is not too important to most of us. Especially those whose style is similar to our own. Thus a racer tend to focus on other racers, their techniques, and may be most impressed by international champions. And many instructors tend to focus on those who are acclaimed to have the most precise and balanced body mechanics of movement etc and certified credentials. And this old guy has always been most impressed by fluid recreational mogul skiers and those descending most any slope with very dynamic fun rebound turning.
But it does not bother me that others are skiing either differently or with more or less skill. Part of that is because I've been an advanced skier for long years content to motor along at about the same level, uninterested in pushing challenging limits, with a primary objective of simply having fun enjoying the experience. If others are not primarily interested in fun but rather challenge and impressing others that's fine. Heck I still have some hot dog in me haha so know what that is about. My primary ski area has lots of cliffs and chutes with an army of skiers and boarders regularly performing. Some impressive stuff though to this person not of interest beyond amusing myself watching.
It is a trend that reflects urban sports and culture of today. If it helps to grow our sport and get more younger people passionate about winter sports, GREAT. If I were 40 years younger would be doing the same stuff and you would be gritching about me (and most of you would if you could do it too).
It is also a type of skiing that does not lend itself to older skiers. Time demands a kinder and gentler style, there probably will not be a Masters Air or Half Pipe series in 30 years. If the current new wave skiers are going to be skiing in 30 or 40 years their styles will change to fit their physical realities then. The current unwashed hoard will learn to turn and get smooth, and some will even wear Bogner; we always have. If you are old enough to remember Jet-Stix, you out grew it too.
For now rock the park and huck the cliff, this is your time younger people. You can always wonder what the hell you were thinking later.
I think it is important to separate grace from style.ie park boards vs carving boards. I see a carving boarder linking huge arcs and think that's graceful. I see a park rat hucking multiple airs and landing them and think that's graceful too. Who's to say perfect powder eights are more graceful compared to the slash and crash of a racer hitting slalom gates?
I believe the evolution of modern equipment and specialties lend themselves to a different style. You don't see many skiers these days, even experts, have the style of Stein Erickson, or Jean Claude Killy; never breaking the feet together, hip angulation form. To an old school skier, feet apart carving looks ungraceful but is now the norm; it's a different style adapted to modern skis. Grace is fluidity of motion, and seemingly effortless motion, it is an aesthetic measure not a technically correct or not judgement.
Yes. While it is true that park specialists, particularly rail specialists, may suffer in terms of other skills development -- just like really good racers may not excel in the park -- very few good park skiers and riders look really bad on other parts of the hill.
That said, I like the sentiment of the article. Even for ski flicks, getting hairier and hairier is getting to the point of it being a dead end, no pun intended. Showing truly creative lines, and even in terms of rails and similar showing a use of features that is creative and well-shot, is the future. At it's best, this can get to be sort of like some types of dance in terms of being artistic. And a number of those skiers and riders will I think be people that you can watch when they are 60 and still say, I liked that, I'd like to ski like that.
For ways to ski a resort, this ties in to thinking about creative lines. While it is not a written requirement anywhere, a full cert should, for instance, be able to get air in the pipe, byut also be able to see a little swale and do a cutback that is not big deal, but makes people smile.
I think one of the silly things that has happened to new-age skiing is the addition of style points to new competitions. Yet style has nothing to do with grace anymore. It started with ski jumping and I still don't know why the longest distance wasn't enough? I guess we've gotten to the point that higher-farther-faster is just too confining to determine a winner and maybe some self esteems were bruised because there were not enough gold medals to pass out. To be fair, perhaps we did this to add a broader range of contests to bring in more participants as the pool of new skiers shrinks and we become more and more urbanized. It just seems like the standards used to figure out who wiggled down the mogul field better or who exposed more of their butt bending over to grab a ski edge while upside down are a closely held secret that only a few celebrity judges seem to know. That is a type of style I'm not familiar with. I just have a hard time understanding the new X-treme sports (except ski-cross), I guess. Judging someone else's style in a sport like skiing all seems so contrived. Then again, I'm an old guy who skis for fun and maybe I just don't get it.
Look at someone like Richard Permin. He has the ability to throw it down in the air. His big mountain skiing is pretty awesome as well.
Or Henrik Winstedt. Sage. And my favorite, Ingrid Backstrom. Not as strong in the air department, but their skiing is a thing of beauty.
Of course, then you have Darron Rahlves. I wouldn't claim his skiing is beautiful, but it is the definition of powerful...
What about guys like Andy Mahre, Eric Pollard and Chris Bentchetler? They've basically carved their niche out by being some of the smoothest skiers around. Mahre doesn't even use poles half the time, and he still manages to make his skiing look effortlessly smooth. These are all guys who can rip up a park and throw huge spins off kickers, but they're also some of the smoothest and most progressive skiers around. Who hasn't watched Pollard effortlessly slashing and spinning in powder and wanted to do the same thing?
I couldn't get past the article's second sentence: "90 percent of us are straight-lining down the hill thinking we’re all badasses, while from the chairlift we look like a bunch of back-seatin’ morons carrying poles for the sole purpose of dragging them behind our asses so we can more effectively broadcast the hideous color combinations we’re sporting to the entire lift line—mostly hues that never existed before an American ink company developed a palate of fluorescents to help students take better notes on their textbooks."
I guess I am not skiing the same mountains as this guy because I don't see a ton of people straight lining and I am not a fashion critic. I see about the same mix of novices, intermediates and graceful skiers as always. I am guessing by graceful he means turning and using poles.... What is the dress code for grace though?
If you're graceful and skilled, you can rock a Packers jacket or 80's neon one piece for all I care. (or a big rainbow mowhawk, if you know who I mean)
The Packers are doin' it dirty this year, should be an interesting December.
I like seeing Grace on the hill. Smooth and elegant turns are where it's at....where I am skiers do it most often, although some borders have it too.
The more good examples on the hill the better!
Standing at the top of a skinny, bumpy, rocky, and icy Saddle Chute in the Chutes at Mt Rose--guy in jeans and a starter jacket with the name of some rugby club. No goggles. No helmet. Looked kind of like a doofus, until he flashed the run. I never saw him again--no way I could catch up.
Obviously we all have our own ideas of what "graceful skiing" implies. To the author of the article that started this discussion or to Bob Barnes or to many "technical minded" skiers, "grace" is about the art of the perfect turn... the awesomeness of feeling yourself get sling-shotted from turn-to-turn, or simply that easy-going feeling of doing nothing while your skis trace arcs in the snow. To be sure, there are multiple schools of thought in the ski instruction world, but for the most part, "good" in one is "good" in another.
To litterbug's point... I consider myself to be a reasonably capable skier. I've been coached a decent amount through various venues. I've had people follow me down groomers and when I stop, they stop and say something about how "smooth" I look. Or they tell me after a bump run that I made it look "too easy". I've made similar comments to other people as well. So there's a segment of the skiing population out there that watches for "grace" or "elegance" or "smoothness" or however you choose to word it. I know I look around at times for examples of skiers to emulate and I draw some inspiration from them as well.
Every group of skiers has their own definition of what "grace" is; we certainly can't agree on it in this thread. Not everybody has chased the perfect turn. Racers may be intoxicated to watching the clock record a time that's another 0.01 seconds faster. Park rats love the feeling of floating on air. It seemed to me that the author of the original article was simply asking "do you really need the fleeting feeling of a race win, or of floating off a kicker, or ... All a really good skier needs to feel 'graceful' is snow and a series of effortless turns down it".
I had the good fortune to ski with Stu Campbell at Stowe a few times. Stu had a skiing resume that most of us can only dream about. At the end of his life, he was happy to cruise some of the easiest terrain at Stowe. And he sure looked graceful doing it. A good skier on an angled patch of snow doesn't need anything else.
No kidding. The actual article itself was clearly written with his tongue firmly in his cheek. My response was in response to some of the comments in this thread only...
"Grace" is looking good with balance and style. Balance is beautiful to watch in people in general, and in any sport from skiing to martial arts. Style is the thing that makes everything look effortless and natural. We always remember with fondness those with balance and style. For example, Jackie Kennedy and Grace Kelly had grace (balance and style). Lindsay Lohan has some style but no balance in any aspect of her being (balance is hard when you are high all the time). Anyhow, getting on to skiing, anyone with grace must have skill (balance) and the required strength to have the style necessary to ski gracefully. Just like this guy from around forty years ago:
Or this guy from a 45-70 years ago (start at 1:40):
Or even this guy showing graceful skiing on one ski at 60 mph. The dude has strength and balance, doesn't he?