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Learning Strategy Question for Former Free-Heel Skier (long)

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Sorry this is a bit long-winded, but it somehow feels necessary for me to explain all this, to provide some context for my questions.

My skiing background is somewhat unusual... I started as a cross-country skier, on the hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado almost twenty years ago. I got pretty good at skiing narrow hiking trails, with snowplows, step turns, and various clever ways of scrubbing speed. Even though I was usually on Telemark gear, I never really took to the telemark turn. I taught myself a crude parallel turn (really more a stem christie) by going to Copper Mountain, figuring out how to get on a chairlift, and then figuring out how to ski down, starting with snowplow turns (that was an adventure!)

I've mostly skied the backcountry all these years, although I ski the resorts now and then... I can do a crude telemark turn, but I mostly continue to "parallel" on my freeheel gear. I've watched a few videos, and have gotten a tiny bit smoother and more confident. I feel OK on most blue runs, if it's not terribly icy... I managed to ski some powder on a ski mountaineering trip in the Canadian Rockies, and it was one of the best experiences of my life, and I'm addicted!

I've never been on real downhill equipment, but I've acquired some Alpine Touring gear. I figure since I didn't really telemark, it would make sense. I've used it a few times--certainly made skiing on the ice at Mad River Glen easier a few weeks ago! But reading here has made me understand even more that I have no clue.

This is all a long-winded way of saying I want to learn to ski for real. I want to go on hut trips in Western Canada. I want to ski Alta some day. Closer to home, I want to ski more than the blue groomers at Mad River Glen. I really want to do the Bruce and Teardrop at Stowe. But right now I don't have the skills. I'm a very defensive, very abrupt skier. I get down the hill, but use way too much energy, and don't feel graceful.

My question is, how do I start? Should I just book a private lesson with someone, and show up with my AT gear and unusual history? Should I get real downhill gear, even though my passion will always be the backcountry? Might there be sympathetic instructors in New England, who would understand my goals? I almost feel like I need a "diagnostic" lesson before I do anything else.

I live in Western Massachusetts and work in Southern Vermont. Almost every weekend seems to find me in Vermont, skiing the backcountry near Mt. Mansfield or Bolton, or skinning at Magic Mountain, or riding the lifts at Mad River Glen (a place that feels magical to me), or just cruising the XC trails (and former downhill slopes) at Prospect Mountain (which has great cheeseburgers in the lodge, by the way!)

It's been incredible reading through this site over the past few weeks. The level of understanding of the dynamics of skiing has been eye-opening, and this feels like a lovely online community. I hope to meet some of you on the slopes some day!

Dave, thinking about heading to Berkshire East tomorrow morning, because snow is in the forecast!
post #2 of 4
Hi, to me it seems you are not content with your current situation. Since you have been on telemark gear for quite some time and still never bothered to learn the telemark turn my suggestion is that you rent yourself alpine gear and book a private lesson. Eather that or get an instructor for a proper telemark lesson. This will get you going forward with your passion. Alpine, telemark and snowboard gear are all great for back country so its really up to you. It sounds to me like you need a lot to unlearn for proper skiing but dont take it too negative. We all need to learn and perfect our skiing.
post #3 of 4
Hi dauwhe

Lots of people have stories similar in spirit, if not in details. As a level 3 alpine and tele instructor my suggestion is to pick one set of gear and take a lesson. I really think that given your history and goals you "may" be happier taking a tele lesson, but it is not unusual to see people on AT gear in alpine lessons. From the sound of your history you probably have as much to unlearn on whatever gear you show up on.

This time of year group lessons are frequently small (or even privates) but each area has its own policy about group sizes. Mad River Glen has some good instructors.

In some blatant advertising, If You stop at Sugarbush I teach Tuesdays to Saturdays till the end of the season, and I love working with people who are inspired to learn.

Dave Wales
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice! I took a group lesson at Pico on Saturday morning; luckily the group was rather small (just me)! I learned a lot, although I'm still a bit overwhelmed with information. The instructor was very nice, and I had fun (great conditions and sunshine didn't hurt). Skied on my own the next day at Magic--only a couple of runs, as I was earning my turns. More and more I was feeling the groove, when the ski starts to carve. I'm feeling a lot smoother than I did, and more confident. Big fun!

I think the plan will be to take lessons at every opportunity. Hopefully even a few more this season!

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