Academy, Participant Perspective (long)
The EpicSki Academy summary: WOW!
If you missed this first ever event, put next years on the list of "must do's". It is a "can't miss" event.
You have already read the short version above. The long version is below. I apologize in advance for the rambling! Hope to see you next year.
What an amazing group of organizers and coaches. I was fortunate enough to arrive early and meet several of the coaches on Saturday while checking into the Extended Stay, and later join them for dinner while they got to know each other and work on final planning. Clearly, the focus of the entire group was for each and everyone of the Academy participants to have an exceptional experience and to achieve their personal goals in skiing. I cannot stress enough, the atmosphere was extraordinarily: THIS IS ABOUT THE PARTICIPANTS. This theme continued through breakfast Sunday morning prior to heading out on Brighton to scope out and familiarize themselves with the terrain - and throughout the week.
During dinner Saturday I met J squared (an exceptional skier by the way), and we also headed out after breakfast to get the feel of the area. Several times throughout the day we came across the coaches and were able to follow them around (or try too - make sure your hat is bolted down if you attempt to stick with these pros) and observe their skiing. Another: WOW! As we all know, a lot of people can really "talk skiing". There are no questions with this group, they can ski it and talk it; on, in, or over any condition and make it look like a stroll in the park on a lazy afternoon. At one point, we followed them down off the Great Western chair into an interesting dead end trail where it appeared as though we were in for a climb back out, until Weems exclaimed that he had found a way out, and everyone immediately headed in the direction of the -hmm, well, I don't know what he found, but I can't call it a trail! In any event, I am convinced that he has developed some of his incredible skills by training in the off season with mountain goats -- otherwise, I see no explanation how the route could have been identified. It was great to watch these pro's at work, and we would have liked to have skied with them more, but, at the same time, we knew they were going to have their fill of us during the week, and did not want to start the week as a nuisance on their coaches day.
Monday morning rolled around and the participants were split among their respective coaches and assistants by various means. I started the morning off with a large group, and several coaches and assistants, that were soon split into three small groups. I was very lucky to be able to spend the week studying under VailSnoPro (VSP), assisted by Mike_M, along with a great group. VSP is an exceptional skier and can clearly communicate and explain what he does and what he wants you to do - and he is able to present the same information in many different ways to relate it to your individual style of learning. More importantly, VSP is very interested in your goals, objectives, method of learning, and feedback in order to enable him to pattern his instruction to help you achieve the outcome you desire - and he will work patiently and tirelessly with you from several different directions until he sees the light bulb come on. The depth of knowledge in instruction, technique, equipment, and equipment maintenance is phenomenal. VSP has a great passion for skiing, and great passion to share what he knows with those motivated to learn it. While I was not involved in any other groups (except Weems' Perfect Curves), it was clear from the feedback of other participants that all the coaches are this way. Beyond coaching, VSP is a blast to ski and socialize with - high energy, great personality, extremely articulate and it was a genuine pleasure to have met, share experiences and work with him this past week.
Lori (lgeib, my - MUCH - better half), Lisamarie, & Bonnie somehow managed to land Weems as their coach for the week - what a great experience this had to be. Obviously, I wasn't there to experience his wisdom, but I do know that Lori has developed an incredible respect for his abilities, insight, perspective, coaching, and -most importantly- friendship (no comments, VSP). Beyond that, I gather that he was not only able to teach her skiing technique, but - incredibly - was able to unlock doors that let her find the essence of "being a skier" (Unfortunately, I cannot find the right words here, and can only hope you are able to discern my meaning). I will be forever in debt to Weems. He made this past week an incredibly positive experience for Lori (who came to the academy apprehensively and primarily at my urging), and transformed her from someone that skis, into a "skier".
Monday evening we met at the Silver Fork for our evening session. To start off, Bob Barnes (at least I assumed it was Bob?) had some old skiing instruction videos playing for all to laugh at. What an interesting experience, as I had been taught much of it, and VSP had just spent several hours trying to rid me of those habits! Lisamarie led us through some stretchs/exercises to relieve the muscles we had been working in new ways. B. Barnes then provided us with an overview of the agenda and objectives of the academy, and followed with a great presentation on the Epic-turn we would be learning, and how and when to blend different techniques. As an added bonus, we learned a highly technical method of converting a digital computer presentation to video tape for display on a television
However, we were all sworn to secrecy on how to accomplish this, and you will have to come to next years academy if you want to learn how!
Tuesday was an absolutely fabulous day, as we arrived at the mountain to 10" of new snow - apparently, to some, this appeared as only 6" inches, that is another story, but at least the men were confident in the measurement. This didn't exactly fit with the Epic turn training agenda, but when you have powder ...you get out and ski the powder - and I did not hear any complaining in my group! So we worked on powder technique while exploring the steeps, trees and moguls. Our group cut out a tad early Tue afternoon to begin our evening session with a video analysis of footage taken during the day. This was very productive as VSP worked through each member of the group, citing strengths and weakness, and explaining benefits of the strengths and the consequences of the weakness with clear explanations (as always) of the how's, why's, and what for's. Again, Lisamarie knocked the kinks out to begin the official evening session. Steve Bagley gave an extremely insightful presentation on the A - Z of bootfitting and alignment, where he outlined his philosophy on sizing, footbed function, liner selection, alignment process, binding positioning and their importance and impact on comfort and performance. After his presentation Steve opened the floor to questions (great questions), pulled boots apart to illustrate answers and explained thoroughly the process he performs for a "complete" boot fit. I'm not a boot fitter and you need to attend the next academy to get the hands on from the professionals, so I won't even attempt to explain his process, but I am extremely grateful that our organizers had the insight to include this presentation as part of the academy - they could have easily concluded that the on hill coaching was sufficient - and by the caliber of instruction received it would have still been a bargain. I feel the inclusion of the "boot fitting" session was extremely valuable in making this an "Epic" academy, and should be included as part of any "complete" academy events in the future. After a brief drive through SLC exploring functions of Murphy's law, VSP led us through a very detailed step by step ski tuning and maintanance session using Nolo's skis - that had fallen victim to Sunday's goat path. Throughout the entire process, VSP provided in depth explanation of the tools, methods and outcome of the process, and explained how the tuning procedure should be changed to meet existing conditions - and why. Again, the inclusion of this session was extremely beneficial to those of us that took part, and is an important session to include in the future to provide a "complete" academy. You are coming next year - aren't you?
Wednesday, VSP got us back on the Epic turn track, and at some point during the day we finally zeroed in on the major thing I was doing wrong - and was I grateful, as it was getting frustrating and to the point I didn't think I could "get it" (naturally, VSP may argue I never did). Railroad track turns, pivot slips, jet wedges and more ......he had our nose to the grindstone. I certainly didn't get it all "down" in any sense, but I was able to take a lot home with me to continue to develop until I can go back next year. Unfortunately, we missed Lisamarie's session as we had some boot issues that needed addressed and spent the evening with Steve. After skiing Thur & Fri in Zipfit's, I would highly recommend them .....Lori thinks her ski's got shorter!
Thursday was mogul day, and VSP dolled out another gem for the tool box in the form of 'bridges' (if it was a snake, I'd have been bitten long ago), and worked us over on short radius turns and mogul strategy. We took a break early afternoon and ran into Weems and his "Perfect Curves Group" and I opted to take a few runs with them to see how Lori was doing - she's doing great - and to have an opportunity to see Weems in action ....smooth as silk, I'd like to ski like him when I grow up
Naturally, it didn't take him long to turn his sights on me, and I am incredibly thankful for his help and taking the time to give me direction. He is truely a master of the trade. At one point, we were discussing how I had been taught to ski back whenever, and Weems immediately rips off a dozen or so text book perfect wedel turns in about one third that many feet ....on his Supersport 5 Stars .....could you find a worse ski for Wedeln? Lori almost fell over laughing, as she had never seen anyone other than me wedel ....and I'm not anywhere close to Weems perfection - by a long, long, long shot. A fun end to a fun week.
If you made it this far, then, well, what is wrong with you? Seriously though, the meat of the matter is that I cannot think of one thing I would suggest to be done differently in the next academy, unless a consensus could be gathered for a 5th day? The organizers, coaches, and participants where all just incredible. Brighton was an excellent location, it provided great and varied terrain for our needs, and I hope we are all grateful for their willingness to host the academy. I think our group would have preferred a few more steeps and mogul runs, but they would have been there had the snow been, and that can't be laid at Brighton's door step. One aspect that Brighton offered is the centralized base lodge, and while I hadn't considered it going into the academy, I think it was extremely beneficial in coordinating the various groups activities and keeping the social continuity flowing. Without it, I could see the academy splitting into "several" mini's ....anybody else?
After reading about the academy on the forum, I gleaned there would be extreme "potential" for this to be an exceptionally great program. Going in, I was hopeful that I had assessed this potential correctly, and that it would not fall short of my expectations - as I had set the bar pretty high. I can say without question, that the past week far exceeded what I would have expected.
If you held off going to this years academy, don't miss the next one ....it is definitely worth your time and effort.
To all the coaches and organizers. Thank you for giving your time and efforts to the making of the Epic Academy. It was a pleasure to take part in the academy. I hope we can do it again.[ February 02, 2003, 02:18 PM: Message edited by: cgeib ]