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Terrain or Technique: Gender Issue?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I'm probably setting myself to lose, by posting this topic on this particular board. But I'll try to be a good sport about it.

In another 2 weeks, my husband and I are headed out to Whistler. He is trying to talk me into doing Blackcomb Glacier. I think he's totally wacked!

A "cyber friend" instructor, who teaches at Alta, has made the interesting observation that men measure their progress as skiers by trail difficulty, and women, by how well they master specific skills.

For myself, I notice somewhat of a balance, with a tip of the scales in favor of the technique side. Sometimes, the technical aspects can become a bit of an obsession. When I was first learning to ski, I didn't want to progress past the wedge until I felt that the wedge was "perfect". I had to be "humored" out of that mindset. And early last year, I thought that I would never have any desire to do anything harder than easy greens. That's changed.

But more than anything, I love learning and perfecting new skills. And as these skills get better, trails that I used to think were challenging become almost boring. I have my own incremental pace for this. But as I've mentioned many times before, if I'm on somemthing that scares the living daylights out of me, I find myself in bad alignment, using survival skills such as stem turns. My husband thinks that stemming is progress for me, given that I used to fall back into the wedge, when in a "fear state". I say thats nonsense. Its still under the category of uncarved turns, and in my eyes, bad technique.

Given my chosen profession, I'll probably always be a little bit more conservative in my skiing style, simply because I never would have the opportunity to rest an injury. If I can't teach my fitness classes, I have no income. My husband, who is a faster skier, able to ski relatively challenging terrain, is always getting injured. This year, he has probably spent more on physical therapy than I have on skiing. Its hard to inspire someone to challenge themselves, if you yourself are always getting injured in the process.

Thoughts, but no flames, please.
post #2 of 23
There was a similar situation going on with my wife and me. She started skiing at the same time I started snowboarding which was last year. She was always trying to perfect her technique on greens and blues, not that I wasn't but I usually took it to slopes that were a little more difficult than I was used to. This didn't serve me very well the first time I went down the Cornice at Kirkwood because I basically ended up going down the whole run head first and on my back.

She hopes to make it up at least one day this season after she delivers the baby (due in 3 wks). She insists that she wants to re-take a beginning skiing class just to make sure her skills are sharp, something that I support as her husband, but would never do myself...being a guy.

Also, about injuries. Over the last three years, I've had a torn cartilage in my left knee, a sprained right knee, a strained bicep, strained hamstrings. My wife has been perfectly healthy the whole time. And we are both very active. So, your situation doesn't surprise me at all.
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 
Congrats on your new addition! I actually teach pre-natal exercise. One thing your wife should check out before she starts skiing again. There's a hormone called relaxin, which in some women can make all their joints a little bit hyperflexible, pre and post partum. It dosen't happen to everyone, but if she looks a bit wobbly when she's walking around, have her do some strength training. This will help alot with her balance.
BTW, glad you decided to stick around!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #4 of 23
Don't let your Husband bully you into anything you don't think you are ready for.
I have done this with my wife (not to the extent of glacier skiing, just pushing her to take a lesson) and we both regreted it for several days. It also resulted in her proclaiming she would never take another lesson again. After doing my homework I finally got a good instructor (Lyle) and convinced her to just ski with us. The result is a happy one. My thoughts now are, to offer the opportunity but not to push. I have seen the lock up in some people when faced with a situation that they think is beyond their skills and it just becomes miserable for everyone involved. Enjoy your time skiing, and let him find some buddies that want to show their "manhood" by doing the Glacier thing. When you are ready, then join them. When my wife feels she is ready to join me, I will be happy to have her company. Until then, I will continue to ski with her some of the time and enjoy that time together, then take a few runs on my own with someone closer to my ability and enjoy those times as well.

Just my thoughts...
post #5 of 23

First of all, I am an intermediate skier..have improved ten fold this season, but earlier in the season, I skied the Blackcomb Glacier....BADLY. I put it down to bad technique, poor muscle tone at the time, and not believing I could do it. I did it...but didn't enjoy it...

However.....the experience and many others since then, including some great coaching and encouragement from my partner.. has taught me that I CAN ski that terrain. I still need to learn a heep more but with this lift in confidence and skill I am enjoying my skiing so much more. Of course I enjoy my skiing most when I am perfecting a new skill, getting there makes the thrill in the end so much sweeter.

The fear of injury is a natural human instinct. Most women probably recognize it more than most men...maybe cause we're the smarter sex ....its how you chanel that fear that will determine the outcome...mind over matter...the will power to succeed...and the willingness to take a risk.

In the end ski what you enjoy...if your not having fun its not worth doing.


post #6 of 23
"men measure their progress as skiers by trail difficulty"

Yes, I do. But not only by trail difficulty, but how well I ski it... which really relates to how well I've mastered specific skills.

Personally, I'm more likely to push myself into tougher terrain than to spend a day on blues, which kinda fits your friend's assumption.

Being an instructor, he should know. Being intelligent human beings, we should know that no rule is absolute.
post #7 of 23
I'm a guy and I (being a low intermediate)find a pleasure in challenging myself with technique rather than a terrain - so I'd say this is not at least exclusively a gender issue. I go to a new terrain only when the old one doesn't seem to challenge technique anymore...

I'm also very mindful of possibility of injury which I do not welcome at all. A technique in my perception is one variable that can help to reduce this chance.

Skiing is wonderful but at 44 I'm aware of the fact that I have many other things to enjoy and a lot of responsibilities to fulfill - and putting it all in jeopardy to the rest of my life because of serious recreational injury isn't worth it on my own personal scale of things. In fact I'd feel pretty stupid rather than, say, heroic, if this would ever happened to me. Some will say I'm just a whimp I like to think about it as my own custom set of priorities...

On the other hand I suspect we're all do it at least partially for a thrill of it - so it makes it very personal compromise about price we're willing to pay and risks to take for a size of the thrill we want. Different personalities at diferent times would make diferrent choices.

Yesterday I saw a girl coming down from a rather steep black diamond slope equipped with only a wedge for a technique - and she made it without wiping out.. I don't know if she enjoyed it - but she certainly earned the bragging rights! And I thought that chest pounding is primarily male trait...

I'm amazed by those who have "guts" to do death-defying tricks, brave the risk of injury - often even for free - but when I watched on TV a close-up of silent twitching body on the snow of the 19-yr old from Belarus after crash landing at the worlds freestyle aerial competition - I couldn't help but wondering how could somebody called this spectacle of teenagers risking their lifes every time they get up in the air - a "sport"? Maybe just to glorify "X" stuff to recruit more teenagers to risk their life "on their own will" to market new "sport" wares and to improve TV sport shows rating for the price of several medals?...

So I do not think it's only a gender thing... It's more about life priorities, I think...
post #8 of 23

Don't write off exploratory skiing before you get there. Perhaps you will warm up to the snow and ambience of Blackcomb on that day and feel ready to step up to a challenge. Perhaps there will be an easier line down the glacier that you can take. Have your husband check it out first. If the light is super flat or there is white-out conditions, don't bother, that can be uncomfortable for anyone, stay below in the trees.

Remember your sign-off message, be braver in your body, so your luck won't leave you. I think that's great and try it every ski day by small degrees.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by GregB (edited February 27, 2001).]</FONT>
post #9 of 23

My suspicion is that your generalization is probably more or less accurate, with exceptions, of course. (We) men do tend to express our "accomplishment drive" differently. To be able to look back up at a "difficult" trail and say to oneself (or, more often, others) "I skied that" (for better or worse) is somehow more tangible than, say, the more inner experience of looking at a perhaps more moderate run and saying "I skied that WELL." We look to conquer first, refine later. (Please, no rebuttals; this ain't sociology; I'm just makin' it up as I go.)
HOWEVER, as indicated by innumerable posts HERE, there are plenty of guys that DO make a point of paying attention to proper technique, the eventual attainment of which easily fits the "conquered" category.
I'll be skiing the next few days with a couple guys who can't really keep up if we all decide to air it out. In fact, one guy would be alone in a hurry. But that NOT being the aim of the trip, we'll ski together (more or less). So, while I'm skiing "moderately," working on technique and "sacrificing" not being able to do (attempt) some of the trails I'd be on otherwise, I honestly can't say for sure that it won't actually be better for me as a skier. Because I do know the temptation of looking at a steep (or bumped, or crudded-up...) run and falling into the "Because it's There" mentality, I also know the potential for what can be, in a sense, wasted skiing; the kind in which yeah, maybe you got down okay, didn't even fall, but did you REALLY ski it the way you want to be able to ski it? (By the way and to finish, I personally WANT to be able to Just Get Down stuff sometimes, as I view it as a kind of emergency situation training. Maybe something comes up and I have to help, or I take a wrong turn. While the descent might not be pretty (even if I am doing it as "right" as I can), the main goal in those cases IS to get down safely, leaving me with the feeling of "well, if I HAVE to, I can," the parallel desire being to oneday be able to RIP IT UP, which gets back to things as seemingly simple as working on rolling my ankles on a little old green run.
Hope this wasn't too severe a digression.
post #10 of 23
you seem to be obsessing a bit about getting injured, One question, can you ski in control and stop yourself pretty much at will? If so then you have sweet bugger all to worry about! This topic is something i know about firsthand, My girlfriend had not skied in 5 years, she kept telling me she was lousy, didn't go near blacks etc., Well, our first day skiing revealed that she was actually a skilled intermediate skier. The reason why she thought she was not good enough was due to the fact people she used to ski with did not encourage her to ski different terrain. This does not even need to be said but i would never take her on terrain she could not ski or where she might risk injury. I watched her progression throughout the day and we just skied, we didn't look at signs, well she didn't, at the end of the day i showed her on the map where we had been. I got slugged, and i got a hug. After 5 days of skiing we went into the trees on a tough run, i decided it was best to ski back out to the black diamond run, she continued, so i went back in and skied above her. One fall over and the rest was controlled fun. This was a person that just needed someone to say it was allright to try something tougher.
I disagree that this is a gender issue. This is a confidence issue.
You are less likely to incur an injury on the glacier than you are on a crowded blue slope. Good luck on the glacier, good tecnique is no substitute for a good view, step away from your analysis and smell the roses.
Sounds like your Husband doesn't understand his limits very well if he gets hurt all the time.
post #11 of 23
Lisamarie, I think all skiers deal with fear in areas such as; looking foolish, heights, steepness and the possibility of pain and injury. It's not always easy to decide what's over your head or if your are just dealing with your survival instinct. I had a pretty extreme fear of heights before I started skiing and some of my early chair rides were done with my eyes closed.
It has been interesting observing my 14 year old daughter who has been in lessons or training since she was 4. She skis all of the terrain at my home mtn. (Crystal) and also at Blackcomb/Whistler. What surprises me is the lack of body tension in her when she is trying a new run that is very challenging. I think that it may be because she started early and received continued coaching and believes in her abilities.

I think you might enjoy the Blackcomb Glacier if the weather and snow conditions are good and you go beyond the blowhole area. The terrain beyond that point is not real steep and very wide open.
post #12 of 23
Listen to everyone here. I know I skied the BC Glacier but I can't remember what it was like. Check it out and make your decision up there. Like I said earlier, Don't let someone bully you into doing something but also don't pass up any opportunity to challange yourself some. I think after reading more of your posts, you have a good handle on what you can do. If you want to work on bumps check out 7th Heaven. If it is still the way I remember it, it's a long run of bumps starting with small bumps and getting bigger and bigger all the way down. Every few hundred feet, there is a bail out so if it gets to be too much, you can stop take a loop around the next section have fun.

PS: Like Bob said, having an instructor check your skills might be a good idea. Check with guest services or the mountain host when you get there. If I remember correctly one of the hills has a "free" assessment service. It's an advertising gimic to get people to take lessons and they may have stopped this but it was a one run thing with a video or instructor watching and then one or 2 tips to work on. Then the pitch to take a class. See if they are still doing this and you can ask them if they think you can handle the Glacier.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by dchan (edited February 27, 2001).]</FONT>
post #13 of 23

Thanks for the kind words! I'll keep the relaxin in mind. My wife is really amazing. She's a former ballerina and even now at over 8 months, she's still able to lift her leg up to shoulder height. She can't however tie her shoes, heh heh.

Since you are a fitness professional, can I get your advice about something. I base my strength training on body weight exercise, primarily for my martial arts training. You can take a look at some of the movements here: http://www.mattfurey.com/exercises.html Let me know what you think. You know, when I mentioned my sprained knee it actually resulted from doing the "one legged squat" pictured on that page. I came up way too fast and I felt a distinct pop in my right knee. I'm still recovering, but feel good enough to board/ski. But skating around on a snowboard with your back foot out is probably one of the worst things you can do to a knee.
post #14 of 23
Thread Starter 
Wow! SO many great replies, I don't no where to begin.
Joe Canadian. You are correct in assuming that I put too much emphasi on avoiding injury. The irony: 28 years in the fitness industry, and I've never been injured. More ironic, I almost NEVER wipe out! Even my comment about my husband "always being injured" is perhaps an exaggeration. True, he seems to have a sign on his back that says "Boarders, hit me!", and playing up any injury he has is a good way to get out of walking I our energetic greyhound on an icy winter night.;}
Jane: If you were to ski Blackcomb Glacier again, knowing the new skills you,ve acquired, how would you do it differently?
Bob Barnes: I like that 20, 20 60 rule. That will be my skiing credo.
Ajax, the problem with this photo is that he is bending his knees in excess of a 90 degree angle, which can be injurious to some people.
BTW if your wife is a dancer, make sure she does not try to "turn out" her legs when skiing. Don't laugh! I work with many dancers in my Pilates classes, and many have had the experience of going to the top of the slope and asumming a perfect first position. Disaster!
Jane and dchan. I may be in SF for a fitness conference the first weeken d July. You guys around?

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #15 of 23
I should be. Can't think of any reason I might be away in July.
post #16 of 23

Is this relaxin the hormone your body releases to loosen up everything so you can let the baby out? If so, yes, postpartum strengthening is a great idea. I didn't bother with it, and after my second kid, my SI joint is way unstable.

As far as skiing terrain vs. technique, I am in the middle, but on the terrain side. I agree with those who said that increasing terrain difficulty is necessary before perfecting technique. I think that increasing your confidence will allow you to be looser on the slope, and I don't think (at least it's this way for me) improvement is possible while you're tight (mentally or physically). So ski the stuff you can't do, don't worry about how bad you look, and then go back to the easier stuff and it will be a piece of cake.

Fear of injury is understandable, but it's true: it's as easy to be hurt in the lift line or in attempts NOT to fall as it is when you are cartwheeling down the slope! Stay loose and don't worry about crashing. Flail around like a rag doll, and you won't get hurt. It's worked for me, anyway. I've been hurt FAR more often on the soccer field and tennis court than on the ski slope. Gravity and a slope are good things when you're falling because they decrease resistance (assuming you are nowhere near a cliff.) It's like that Dale Earnhardt crash into the wall compared with the earlier crash where the car flipped five times.

(I just noticed my theme in this post: loose-y goose-y, just like my kneecaps.)
post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 
Segbrown: Yep! Same hormone. Its supposed to relax the pelvis for labor. Unfortunately, for some women it becomes systemic. I actually stress the importance of strength training in the pre natal phase, as well as the post. Especially if the gal is a skier.
BTW, many women's ski workshops nowadays are using Kegels as means of teaching balance and stability.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #18 of 23
Lisamarie, from your posts here, you do not sound like you are a beginning skier. Balckcomb Glacier is a blue run (you're not talking of dropping in from Spanky's Ladder, are you?).

It is spectacualr back there and you can always do the short hike up, take a look before even putting your skis on, then if you don't like what you see (go beyond the double black "Blowhole" before making a decission!!!), then you could ski back down the way you came up. It is an easy one to bail-out on. But keep in mind, the top (which is the steepest part) gets easier the further you go along the ridge so get to a point wher you can see across the ridge.

By the way, why did you say this: "I'm probably setting myself to lose, by posting this topic on this particular board"?<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Freefall (edited March 01, 2001).]</FONT>
post #19 of 23

I would agree with Freefall...its a blue...easy to hike up and check out, then decide if you like or not...easy to bail out of. When I skied it the snow was heavy, chopped up and hard work, thats why I didn't enjoy it. I didn't know then what I have learnt about adjusting my skiing for those conditions.

if I was to ski it again I would:

- make sure the conditions, weather, visability were what I could deal with.
- approach it with the confidence in my ability I now have, use the skills I have learnt
- and damn well enjoy it !


Have FUN.

post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 
Freefall, since you seem to know Blackcomb pretty well, last year I skied Rock and Roll, Ridge runner, and a bunch of other Blues; In the middle of a whiteout. And lived to tell the tale.
Don't laugh, but a big fear I have about the glacier is how you get up to it. {T bar?} When I first learned to ski, one resort had one of those things. For some reason, I just couldn't get the hang of it. Kept getting slapped in the butt. Since recently, I went on a rant about people who cannot load and unload lifts properly. I have a feeling that it may be payback time.
Why did I think I was "setting myself up to lose"? This all started with my husband wanting me to ski the glacier, and my "cyber friend" making the comment about different male/female motivations in skiing. I was feeling very apprehensive about the idea of skiing the glacier. But since this board is mostly male, and more importantly, this board is where I describe in detail what my technique is like, I had a feeling eveyone would try to talk me into it.
But what I did find was alot of very objective , intelligent information.
Typical of Epic Ski.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #21 of 23

Tips for the T-Bar...hmm...easiest way is to go up with someone your own height. I hate the bloody things....no rest..and then you have to hike..what is with that !

Anyway, find someone your own height or close to it. Relax, keep your knees bent, and let it do all the work, don't sit down, and you should be fine!

Don't try the glacier if the weathers bad or risk of white out, there are no trees or markers and apparently its easy to get vertigo...

Oh and I should be around in July too !


Jane<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Jane (edited March 01, 2001).]</FONT>
post #22 of 23
The t-bar may be the hardest part! I find it is easier to hold on with two people, but more tiring since you are always keeping weight on the inside leg to avoid skiing into your partner. Easier on the legs solo, but you tilt the bar so far it is hard to hang on! I suppose worst of all is with a partner who is much taller than you. Plan accordingly .

And in one of Whislter's many sever whiteouts, everything is double black! Those are good days to get to Garf's early .<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Freefall (edited March 01, 2001).]</FONT>
post #23 of 23
Thread Starter 
Just to give this message a less gender biased slant, a 75 year old female ski instructor at Sugarloaf told me she thinks I should do the glacier. {More details about Natalie Terry in a post in the General Ski section entitled "Inspired at Sugarloaf"}
Her theory is that you do indeed learn and practice new skills on easier terrain. But the true learning of those skills comes from trying them on more challenging slopes, which, by presenting a greater challenge to balance and alignment, teach you more about those particular skills. This is a better learning reinforcement than only practicing these techniques on easier slopes. She also commented on the fact that while I was thinking "I'm skiing this badly", I was not. More thoughtfully and cautiously perhaps, but not badly.
Natalie also had an intersesting take on the "spirituality" of the varied terrain. She feels that always staying on the lower easier slopes of the mountain does not fufill the deeper, spiritual and psychological needs of "going to the top".
No wonder she's still teaching at 75 years old!

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
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