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Bumps for Boomers

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
from The New York Times

THE SKI REPORT
Over-50 Crowd Can Keep Its Edge
By BILL PENNINGTON

Published: January 15, 2004

Joe Nevin, a former Silicon Valley executive turned Aspen, Colo., ski instructor, has a question: did you ever notice that 80 percent of skiers ski only 20 percent of the mountain?

That 20 percent is the groomed, intermediate and relatively safe part of the trail system. It is where most weekend skiers, especially those with older knees and important Monday morning appointments they cannot miss after an unintended back flip in the moguls, tend to congregate.

The over-50 crowd has become the forgotten society of skiing. It helped create the American ski boom of the 1970's, but so much in the ski world is now focused on heading for the backcountry or executing a back-scratcher aerial in a mogul field. These skiers are left to traverse the groomed 20 percent of the trails.

But Nevin, age 57, has another question: who says you can't teach an old dog a new trick?

Nevin has devised a novel instruction program for the Aspen Skiing Company called Bumps for Boomers. Its slogan: learn to enjoy skiing the whole mountain. After all, you paid for it.

In one day, Nevin said, his techniques can teach the average skier born between 1946 and 1964 to be comfortable, confident and content in black-diamond mogul trails or off-piste powder. "Most end up spending all of the next day on that part of the mountain," Nevin said.

Like many good ski-industry ideas, Nevin's program had its genesis in conversations on the lift. A longtime weekend ski instructor now retired and settled in Aspen, Nevin kept hearing the same story from skiers in their 50's.

"They said their reflexes were slowing down, they didn't want to get hurt, so they stuck to the same groomed runs," Nevin said. "The real problem was anxiety. Moguls or powder put them out of their comfort zone."

The fact is, when you've been skiing for a few decades, who looks forward to falling down five times in a 100-yard stretch of bumps? It's funny when you're 20 years old and entertaining your friends with highlight-reel crashes where one pole ends up bent and your goggles have catapulted into the woods. Over time, there seems to be a correlation between how much you have contributed to a 401(k) and how little you find that scene amusing anymore.

"The real problem is that the ski industry has been on a push to promote carving as everybody's ultimate goal," Nevin said, referring to the act of turning a ski on its edge and letting the shape and flexibility of the ski carve an arc in the snow.

This is the perfect technique on groomed runs, a pleasure of efficiency.

"But if you're going off the groomed runs, carving is the absolute wrong technique for most people," Nevin said. "Carving produces speed, which produces anxiety, which produces bad form."

Nevin's approach is to slow everything down by focusing on the flat part of the ski, not the carving edge. Using ski boards, which are 90-centimeter miniskis, he teaches his students that making turns with a flatter ski promotes balance, and most critically, speed control.

Nevin also advocates using what he calls a precision or intentional drift, using nothing more than the force of gravity to go from turn to turn. At times, he tutors his students to start a turn and his next exhorted instruction is to "do nothing."

"It is perfectly O.K. to slide sideways, and when people kinetically feel the improved control on a flat ski, the light bulb goes off," Nevin said.

Nevin is not the only instructor ever to preach mogul-skiing techniques centered on the moment when people lose that sense of pace and equilibrium. But he has skillfully focused on an audience desperate for this kind of skiing sermon.

"Someone will turn 50 every seven seconds between now and 2014," Nevin said. "Why should the ski industry be trying to attract only younger skiers? What about keeping all the 50-year-olds we've already got?

"We have kids' instruction programs, but we have no senior instruction programs. From 18 to 80, for the most part, it's one size fits all."

Rich Burkley, managing director of Aspen ski schools, has been convinced. He says Bumps for Boomers, one of several pioneering instruction programs at Aspen, has had steady bookings all season.

"Joe has hit on our biggest demographic, but it works because the guy teaching it is in the demographic," Burkley said. "He lives it."

Bumps for Boomers (970) 989-2529 offers a two-day clinic for two to four people for $649 a person and a six-hour private lesson for $539.

"Boomers will live longer and they should ski longer," Nevin said. "It's so much fun. We're just spreading the fun over the whole mountain."

www.nytimes.com
post #2 of 27
When a started to read this thread, I said "Oh boy, now the secrets out" but at that price do you really think that many people will be taking that lesson.

The "ski the whole mountain" secret may be safe for a while.
post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
"...but at that price do you really think that many people will be taking that lesson."

it's aspen. you'd be surprised.
post #4 of 27
If they're skiing at Aspen, then pluncking down a few hundred dollars for a lesson is not going to be an issue. In fact, I am very surprised that more ski resorts aren't offering these kinds of ski lesson programs. I believe Whistler has a similar program for seniors. Besides, the over 50 crowd has on average a lot more money to spend than the younger teen and 20-30 year groups do.
post #5 of 27
Quote:
Originally posted by Max Capacity:
When a started to read this thread, I said "Oh boy, now the secrets out" but at that price do you really think that many people will be taking that lesson.

The "ski the whole mountain" secret may be safe for a while.
Depends what you mean by "safe". Thos is the same population group that generates the most revenue for the ski resorts. The entire sport benefits if the ski industry can stimulate and retain these people's interest in skiing.
post #6 of 27
Or.. for the same price including lift tickets, you can got to the 3-day Academy and learn to ski bumps from the ski school director of Aspen, and you can learn to "ski the whole mountain" from the guy who wrote the book by that name.

Pierre also has what he calles a "low impact" bump technique!

[ January 15, 2004, 12:15 PM: Message edited by: Lisamarie ]
post #7 of 27
Copper Mountain has had the Over the Hill Gang since 1976. It provides five distinct groups of guided skiing at scheduled times throughout the season. While not specifically instruction, many of the groups are led by certified instructors. The top group skis everywhere all over the mountain...
post #8 of 27
I think most good Instrutors know how to teach bumps and low impact skiing. It just took someone to put that together with the over over 50 skier. I do notice a lot of skiers in my age group that won't ski areas of The Mountain that I really like. It's a good Idea to market that to the those in That age group.
This would be a good idea for deer valley. they are working on a slight Image change. Yes they still want to be Known For excellent service and fine groomed runs. Now They also want to let the Public know about thier great tree skiing and some fine steeps. Something like this would go a long way in hitting thier core customer while offering a challenging lession.
post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally posted by ryan:
In one day, Nevin said, his techniques can teach the average skier born between 1946 and 1964 to be comfortable, confident and content in black-diamond mogul trails or off-piste powder.
Looks like oboe doesn't make the cut [born 1941]. Well, what the heck, if it's gonna help those youngsters out, I'm all for it.
post #10 of 27
Hey, Bennett, maybe we "old farts" from the pre-1946 era should start up our own program.
post #11 of 27
As charter members of the OFP, let's agree at the outset that I'm not ready yet to keep up with you, KB.
post #12 of 27
I have seen this demographic for quite a while. I have much written on the subject of bumps for Boomers but I had no idea that someone had already taken the title. I will change the title of what I have written.

Techniques that rely on a flat ski and mostly pivot are ok in open packed snow bumps but are a lot of work. They are less reliable in bumps that are coral heads, icy or very irregular. These are all things that are found off piste. My favorite terrain is bumps after a freezing rain. They are delightfully easy, no work.

What I have come up with is a fairly flat ski but slightly more edge than normally used in a pivot turn. The turn I use is a low angle short scarved turn to control line rather than depend on slipping and pivoting to control speed and direction.

Pivoting works near the tops of the bumps but I have not found pivoting to be superior to turns scarved more around the midsection of the bump with far less up and down in the line.

The technique that I use does require a slight change in where and how you flex and extend but essentially 90% of the need for absorption is eliminated. That includes more of the 50+ crowd than pivot turns. One thing pivot turns do provide is a decrease in the need for tactics and is somewhat easier to learn.

I absolutely agree with the statement of "start the turn and do little else". That is the same as saying be patient and don't overturn. You need not have quick feet or knees of iron.

I also disagree with any technique that depend on poles or rhythm in bumps. Leave the rhythm to competition bumps, rhythms don't exist in real bumps for very long. That is why control of line is so much more important. Pole will glance of from very hard bumps leaving you to fall.

I techniques that I use were developed in bumps of very nasty surface condtions and very irregular shapes, my favorite terrain.

[ January 15, 2004, 03:41 PM: Message edited by: Pierre ]
post #13 of 27
$649 for two days. Gosh I was worried about $450 for four days.
post #14 of 27
Pierre, you need s trip to Smugglers' Notch. I take it the tug boat is taking a rest?
post #15 of 27
He teaches skidding on snowlerblades? I'd like to watch that.
post #16 of 27
To get back to the original post, I agree that most are on the groomers on the hard pack easy turning stuff along with the crowds. I never enjoyed myself more than I did this past week and my legs felt young again. Perhaaps a weight loss had something to do with that but the bumps had all the fresh snow still and at the Boat, it was suprising how much was still in the bumps. Even with the last snowfall three days previous to my arrival. And most enjoyable was that it seemed like I was the only one skiing them.

I also agree that one should ski the whole mountain otherwise he is waisting his time and lift ticket dollars.

Pierre's approach to bumps is a good one for those who don't want to ski the zipperline or bash themselves to death and one that everyone could benefit from. I bet he would be up for a bump clinic at the Acadamy that would definitly help all.

There's also no way I would spend that kind of money at aspen or anywhere else for lessons.
post #17 of 27
Now you all got the squirrel spinning the wheel upstairs in my mind. I am going to try to write something on bump skiing and simplify it enough for others to understand. I will post it over in the technique forum. This may take me a couple of days as I will likely throw out a few drafts first. If I read it and wonder I will throw it out and try again. The first draft is already to confusing. :
post #18 of 27
I have an idea. How about a clinic on skiing the whole ski instead of 20% of it? You plunked down good money for the whole ski, might as well use it.
post #19 of 27
I think nolo's suggestion would work for certain people. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #20 of 27
Nolo,

which 20% do you suppose I ski on?
post #21 of 27
Yeah I figure if a person can ski 100% of the ski, they can probably handle 100% of the mountain.

As for pivoting in bumps, my preference for older folks is to ski smarter: take a look at the run and find the flattest route and the slowest line and ski that as fast as they care to.
post #22 of 27
nolo said:
Quote:
Yeah I figure if a person can ski 100% of the ski, they can probably handle 100% of the mountain.

As for pivoting in bumps, my preference for older folks is to ski smarter: take a look at the run and find the flattest route and the slowest line and ski that as fast as they care to.
Pretty good tactical advice. I have come to the same conclusion. There is no magic bullet to great mogul skiing, it just requires good skiing and a mixed bag of tricks.

One turn, one size fits all does not cut it in bumps. Like racers a good bump skier uses whatever it takes to make the size turn at the speed they want. That may include scarving, pivoting, stepping or an occasional hop. None of these things are learned in the bumps but applied to the bumps.

Using one type of turn tends to get the skier into rhythms that depend on features of the line in moguls. As soon as the features change, the rhythm is uspset and the skier loses balance.

[ January 18, 2004, 06:30 AM: Message edited by: Pierre ]
post #23 of 27
Pierre,

Absolutely. In the bumps you have to be versatile. I'm looking forward to your article on bump technique and tactics.

Jim
post #24 of 27
Pierre,

To me there are two kinds of technique: functional and dysfunctional. There's no such thing as a "mogul technique," "powder technique," etc., except in marketing.

Moguls and steeps require tactics, not a *new* technique (just a functional technique). It is tactical to ski the backside of the bump where the snow has been scraped from the previous bump's frontside. It is tactical to skid instead of carve to create friction. The "ready pole" is a tactic. It is tactical to ski the slow, flat line.

The one turn is also a fallacy. What we have technically are the same basic ingredients in every turn in different proportions. It's sort of like baking, where one ratio of ingredients gets you a muffin and another a biscuit and another a bundt cake.

Anyway, when I am skiing bumps I am thinking about "where" not "how."

[ January 18, 2004, 10:46 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #25 of 27
nolo I will pretty much agree with that. Perhaps my choice of words is marketing.
post #26 of 27
I am all for marketing.
post #27 of 27
Kneale Brownson said:
Quote:
Hey, Bennett, maybe we "old farts" from the pre-1946 era should start up our own program.
Guys can I join in? DOB 1937. Oboe maybe we could hold the intial meeting at ESA or the Gathering?
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