Harb Carver e-mailStart of e-mail **********************************************
I just got home from a carving session---it started out a bit rough---I was tired from working on a grant proposal that's due in a couple weeks and still have lots to do but the weather was perfect--low 60's with crystal clear sky so I put my work aside and headed out. As inevitably occurs when I'm out on the carvers, my energy level surged and the session got better and better as it went on. I went through some of the exercises we've talked about: "running gates" with courses to work different parts of the turn (those soccer cones are really great for focusing attention on problem areas) ---and working on the weighted release with lifted uphill ski.
I also worked on carving on one foot----taking whole runs----one run on my left foot then one on my right foot…although the early runs took a heavy toll on my rubber tip protectors----I eventually got it together enough to free myself from this crutch. I think that doing this exercise helped me understand the idea behind the “phantom foot”----if I was carving on my right foot----I initiated my turn by tipping to my little toe edge----no big deal other than some balance adjustments----this is just what I’d do anyway-----BUT----to turn back to the left (I’d release) and then instead of trying to tip to my big toe edge------I tipped my lifted left foot to its little toe edge----and lo and behold ---I turned to the left. For me, another benefit of having this phantom foot in the air is that I was able to “pull it” back-----It also seemed that by tipping to the LTE while the foot was lifted----I was flexing that leg----and it was easy to shift my left hip forward and pull my right hip back (countering---right???)----this seemed to tighten the radius of the turn and help with balance. The phantom idea is interesting---you are doing things with the lifted phantom foot----but it’s like its not really there ---Does any of this make sense????
Anyway, each time I took a free "run" after doing one of these exercises I noticed some improvement---in terms of balance, body position or higher wheel angles. For a couple of hours I kept repeating the sequence---do an exercise set---then some free runs. I then ended up making what for me was an important breakthrough.....repeatedly completing the "Linked Release Test" on slopes of varying gradients-----from gentle to quite steep. Although I had read the description of what Herald calls the “Undergraduate Course --- Final Performance Check" I never really paid much attention to it or put myself through this test. I suppose I thought that I was beyond this---after all, I could "carve," handle fairly steep lines, and turn where I wanted to turn. I guess I thought I would be better off just focusing on "advanced issues" like countering, leg flexion, and quick edge changes.... What I did not recognize is that these are the same things that the test evaluates.
Taking the test was really an eye-opener. It unambiguously pointed out every area where my technique was not as strong as I thought it was. I think the test is not only a good assessment/reality check but also a very good exercise that helps consolidate everything covered in the first 125 pages of HH's book. The feedback I got from the carvers was direct, precise, unequivocal, and very helpful in getting me focus on what I needed to do in order to successfully complete the test!
[Speaking of feedback----I was wondering if anyone has looked at wheel wear patterns in diagnostic terms? What, for example, would an uneven rear inside wheel wear pattern indicate i.e., more wear on the right than on the left? What would heavier wear of the inside middle wheel indicate? What should wheel wear patterns look like---when carving correctly/when carving with inefficient/incorrect movements? How might wear patterns be used to help assess alignment problems?]
Although today I reached an important personal milestone, every time I am out carving I either see some improvement or learn something that I should work on ----something that makes me look forward to my next session. I also just have a lot of fun----CARVING IS WHERE IT”S AT!!!! I am surprised how compelling carver sessions are----maybe it is because you get continuous specific feedback about your performance-----and then you have an opportunity make corrective changes based on this feedback --- immediately. It's almost like having your own personal coach. Maybe it's the intrinsic movement value------carving just feels good. Maybe it's just because carving is fun. Whatever the reason I find myself out carving several times a week--- sometimes for three or four hours----sometime twice a day! I suspect that carving probably has considerable value as a “ski improvement tool. But for me, I say so what---carving is something I do for its own sake -----independent of skiing. In fact, for me, carving is probably something I will do-----instead of skiing!!!!
This year, instead of thinking about opening dates and snow reports I find myself on the lookout for new carving locations. In addition to looking for good roads (type and quality of pavement---little traffic), I have sussed out dozens of industrial/office/church parking lots----looking for the right slope and pavement granularity, the presence of lights for night carving, best days and times for use---(Saturdays/Sundays---or after 6:00 PM or before 6:00 AM best for office parks-----and other hours (9-5) during the day----except on Sundays and some Saturdays being best for churches). I am always looking to add to my stash of covered parking decks----these are especially nice if they have elevators and when it is raining or really hot. Carving on concrete seems pretty interesting ---- and different from asphalt in rolling resistance ---and it often has some interesting wavelike features/ripples that keep your attention. Unfortunately concrete wears wheels rapidly so I tend to let the weather dictate my use of parking decks. All in all, Birmingham is really an ideal place for carving. I have all sorts of carving spots to choose from --- of all types and grades. Remember how surprised you were when you saw the hilly it was in this part of Alabama? And you know what? It’s the same in Tennessee, Northern Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia--- North Carolina, I bet would be spectacular.
With all these carving opportunities available---I have to say, that unlike previous years, I really don't give skiing a great deal of thought. I am perfectly content to carve! I am even starting to think about do think about “adventure carving”---great opportunities for first descents!! Think about early morning runs down Whitney Portal Road or down from Tioga Pass, or the many roads that run down to the Mediterranean along the Costa Blanca or the south of France, or along Blue Ridge Parkway. Think about the possibilities for carving expeditions to really remote roads----Peru, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan--the possibilities are mind boggling. Now you are probably just shaking your head----thinking that I’ve completely lost it!!! I can remember how amused you were when I started talking about “classic boulder problems” or about going to France or California----just to boulder. You argued that bouldering was not "real" climbing…maybe something you did to help your climbing…but it was not really climbing. Well--bouldering has come into its own. In fact a whole industry has developed around it---there are boulder comps all over the world--- (one of the circuits hits Horse Pens)--there are guidebooks, videos, specialized gear, and entire magazines devoted to just to bouldering!!! Many people who boulder probably will never touch a rope. Is it climbing? Maybe not. It may share some common elements with “real climbing” but bouldering now stands on its own.
I view the relationship between skiing and carving as being very similar to the one between alpine climbing and bouldering….or maybe like the relationship between surfing and skateboarding. I’d bet that as more and more people discover carving they won’t necessarily view it as only something you do to improve your skiing. While I really don’t feel a great need to see how carving has influenced my skiing----at least not any time soon anyway, I’m sure it probably serves this purpose very well. I’m happy enough go carving, just for the sake of going carving. Carving could evolve just as bouldering or skateboarding have. It may attract people who have no interest in skiing----no interest in: shelling out for lift tickets, waiting in lift lines, being on crowded slopes, risking injury from a collision with an out of control snowboarder, or in dealing with bad snow and the cold and wet weather. Clearly, skiing is much more than this for most people who ski. But for those who are winter-phobic, or live far from the mountains, carving could be an appropriate urban activity that provides an exciting opportunity to experience to the joy of carving.
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