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Today at the academy...

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
This is the first installment of what I hope will be daily notes on what I learned / worked on here at Snowbird.

The academy proper doesn't start until tomorrow. Having not skied since early March, I wanted to get a day in to get warmed up.

I won't bore you with all the sordid details but the journey was a nightmare. I finally arrived at the Cliff lodge at 4am (6am my time) with no luggage. The journey was capped off by a white knuckle ride up the canyon. The cabbie obviously didn’t know the road and was in some kind of ridiculous hurry to be some place else. On top of this he didn’t understand English well enough to comprehend my suggestions to SLOW DOWN.

Managed about 2 hours sleep before waking up to about a foot of new – and nothing to wear. Fortunately I was able to borrow and rent enough gear to get out. Low point was the rental boots (note to self – always take boots as carry on in future). High point was the Dynastar Bigs – that was a sweet ski for the conditions today.

Up on the mountain there was a lot more than a foot in places, particularly in the trees. So what did we work on? I tried not to think about too much and just enjoy the conditions – easier said than done for an instructor. The one thing I did focus on was inside ski activity. Nothing new there, except that I was intentionally exaggerating the issue. By that I mean using the inside leg/ski to set up everything that was happening with the outside. It kept me very simultaneous and 2 footed which was what the conditions demanded. It’s very easy to make movements with the outside leg and have the inside not follow suite. On the other hand it’s difficult to make a movement with the inside leg and have the outside not follow.

The caveat here is that the inside leg has to be making the correct moves in the first place.

More tomorrow.

post #2 of 28
looking forward to what you have to say tomorrow.
post #3 of 28
Well done, Gary! I look forward to regular installments, and wish I could be there.

Have a great time!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #4 of 28
Sounds like a hassle and fun at the same time.

Good report. Looking forward to more. Wish I could be there too. I miss LCC, UT.
post #5 of 28
Gary, Gary. (sigh) When you travel to ski, you buy a seat for your boots and you check your kids into luggage. (no charge for this advice!)
post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 
Weems - thanks for the sage advice.

Day 1 of the academy proper. No new snow last night, but still plenty of slightly used stuff and freshies in the trees. A lot of avalanche blasting this morning and later the Cirque and Road to Provo opened up.

This may be sacrilege, but I do not like the tram very much. I would rather take a chair any day. First run down the front was on my Atomic 9.12’s. They worked OK but seemed like a lot of work. So, while waiting for the tram, I checked out a pair of next years Atomic R11’s to demo. This ski in a 170 skied great on the day.

Our group leader is Kevin Mitchell. He is half way through his first term on the team. Since we will be with him for a total of 4 days his focus and feedback was low key. He began talking about stance. In particular he wanted us to get more weight / pressure on the inside ski so that it would behave the same as the outside ski in the changeable snow. Most of the problems we were having were when we applied too much pressure to the outside ski and the inside took off and did something different. At one point we found some very gently sloped untracked snow. Our task was to make some very slow speed turns and feel what was happening to the weight distribution foot to foot. Almost everyone felt a pedaling sensation where the outside ski was being pushed down while the light inside planed up. The objective was to feel both skis being pushed down and then both planing back up.

After playing with this for a while Kevin started talking about knee spacing. He wanted us to maintain the same space between our knees as between our feet. There many reasons for this, but on this particular day, he wanted to increase the probability that both skis were doing the same thing in the chopped up snow.

The evening keynote speaker was Mermer Blakslee (D team from ’96-’00). She is a great presenter. If you ever get the chance to hear her or ski with her I highly recommend it. Her topic was “Learning is a Radical Act” based in part on her book on fear “In the Yikes! Zone”. Some of her comments warrant a separate tread. I’ll work on that later.

post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 
Actually, regarding boots - I was going to carry them on the plane, but with all the security checks now I had visions of them being confiscated as some kind of club. What experiences have any of you had with this.

The guy in front of me had something strange detected on his shoes and soldiers appeared out of nowhere brandishing very big guns. It was quite a scene.
post #8 of 28
For those of us who are not in the know, could you please explain what the academey is?
post #9 of 28
I just returned from a trip to Alaska(Alyeska Resort and Valdez) yesterday. Three flights each direction. I carried my boots on all flights with no objections from security along the way. Jackie Chan could probably use them as nunchuks, and I thought of them as possible anti-terrorist clubs. My Adidas running shoes were inspected in Anchorage, however. I had to take them off my feet so that they could swab them to inspect for explosives. It was very difficult for me to not crack a joke about this with security.No matter what ALWAYS CARRY YOUR BOOTS WITH YOU!
post #10 of 28
Epic, That would be the PSIA National Academy. It's a big learning event for instructors.

Gary, thanks for the notes. I saw Mermer at the PSIA-E Spring Rally at Whiteface a couple of weeks ago. I've never met Kevin Mitchell, but being on the National Team, he must be good.

So what else????
post #11 of 28

Every season PSIA and some of the individual divisions host Conferences or Acadamy events.
They put together training clinics and groups for members to attend so they can get their Continuing education, meet others and work on things. Exam clinics are usually run etc.. This is a great time to meet your fellow instructors from other resorts, share stories, learn and have fun. I missed PSIA-W due to work and other commmitments but I plan to attend at least one of these events next year.
post #12 of 28
Gary, thanks for the info. I always carry my boots on the plane and have had no problems to this point.
I really wanted to attend the Academy this year so I'm very envious. Hopefully next year I will be able to make it. Great coaches there with the D-Team members. My only gripe is that I wish the Academy could be earlier in the year so you would have more time to practice what you learn.
Please keep the info coming.
post #13 of 28
How was the snow today, Gary?

Tell us more about Mermer's talk, please. I was also in the audience and I thought it was fantastic. I would be interested in reading your impressions about:

The Europa Cup student in the group lesson...
post #14 of 28
Here's a thread that has an excerpt from her book:;f=4;t=001058

I want to hear more about her talk!
post #15 of 28

Are you up there at the Academy this week?

We're coming up around 5:30 pm on Friday to meet another person who's attending the Academy, and maybe I could introduce myself. Just a thought.

Have fun,

post #16 of 28

I came home yesterday. I was there for a meeting, not for the academy. I spent all my $$ on a heli trip this year.

Next time I am in the neighborhood I will let you know beforehand. There was much powder Saturday. The skiing was great Sunday morning, but it got warm in the p.m. It looked like warm temps would continue for the week.
post #17 of 28
Oh, well.

One of these days, we'll make a few turns in Wyoming or Montana.

post #18 of 28
Thread Starter 
Sorry for the lateness of this update. This mountain can wipe out a flat lander like me.

Day 2 of the academy. Weather was beautiful, mid mountain high around 40 with sunny clear skis all day. A steady breeze was just enough to keep you from over heating. Skis de la jour – in the morning I demo’d the Atomic R EX in a 177cm. This ski was could do everything from short radius with some rebound on hard corduroy to charging through crud. In the afternoon I tried the same ski in a 168cm. There was a noticeable loss of stability in the heavier snow at the shorter length.

Kevin began the day by describing what he considers the 3 components of skiing. They are the technique, the equipment (skis, boots, poles) and the physical conditioning – i.e. are you ready to perform. We are working primarily with the technique component. He focused in on our ankles and got us to start feeling the movements we were making at that joint. We considered all possible planes of movement – fore/aft and all the lateral variations. In reality I believe we are either moving our feet beneath the joint or our shins above the joint. Whichever way you look at it, ideally both sides should be doing exactly the same thing.

A question came up about popping or hopping upwards at the beginning of each turn. Several in the group were doing this to get the skis out of the heavier snow and then use a pivot to begin the turn. Kevin’s thought was that we should keep the skis in the snow, be patient and let the skis do the work. One person in the group had skied with Weems a few years back at Pro-Fest. He told us how that had been precisely Weems’ advice for crud. My thought was that if you do hop you’ve still got to get them arcing once they get back in the snow so you might as well do it from the start. It also doesn’t hurt to have the hop mechanism in your arsenal.

On the groomed (and there was very little of it) a couple of people were tending to lift the new inside ski at initiation suggesting that their CM was moving back up the hill before moving in he direction of the new turn. Kevin also noticed some loss of knee spacing in the second half of a lot of turns. Either the outside knee was being driven in too far or the inside was being lazy. Either way, this meant that the skis were doing different things down in the snow – exactly what we were working on avoiding. As a follow on to this, I skied the afternoon session with Scott Mathers and Jill Matlock. Scott’s feedback to me was that I tend to move my hip with my hip rather than moving my inside leg to move my hip. Using the hip to move the hip is very powerful, but much less precise than using the inside leg. It also tends to leave the inside knee too close to the outside knee.

About this time someone decided to open up the counter / tip lead can of worms and asked Kevin how much we should use. The answer boiled down to “just enough”. He did introduce an exercise to illustrate “just enough”. We held our pole handles on our hips and pointed them straight ahead. The objective was to ski and keep the baskets over the ski tips. By definition this had to keep us almost square to our skis with very little counter or tip lead. The next phase of this exercise was at the end of each turn to allow the skis to turn a little further than the poles before moving into the next turn.

That’s all for now.
post #19 of 28
Was that the first time you skied with Scott? The first time I saw him and then watched him ski, Wow. I took a lesson with him 2 years ago and the guy is amazing. And a lot of fun besides. I hope your impression was similar
post #20 of 28
In the Yikes! Zine is avalable at Amazon. Use AC's link and he gets some help keeping this place going. Just finished reading the book. Should be required reading for all EpicSki members. Everybody order your copy today. We will have a group discussion on chapters 1 thru 5 next week. Be prepared or else!
post #21 of 28
Will do!! And since she's at Windham, next year I want to see her in person!
post #22 of 28
You da man, BillA.

I guess Gary didn't want to say more about Mermer's talk?

I'll tell you the Europa Cup story. She had a class in which one student was a skier off the Europa Cup. The other students needed to learn tipping and to be comfortable with faster carving speeds. M. could have used the Europa woman as a technical example, but instead used her as an example of the courage to learn (after enlisting her in the experiment).

The E.C. didn't need to learn about tipping or going fast, but she did need to learn fine tuning, so Mermer gave her the task of turning slower and slower and going more and more across the hill and try to tip both feet without skidding. There comes a point where some pivoting of the feet has to occur: the student is challenged to FAIL. Then back off and start the task again trying to push the failure point.

E.C. got frustrated and became obsessed with getting the skis to tip at slower and slower speeds. While she was going painfully slow, the others were tipping and zipping down the hill. All were learning.

E.C. gave the less skilled in the group inspiration to persevere and immerse, as Weems says, in the learning. To become obsessed about it. They seemed to think, if she can learn at her level of excellence, I can learn at mine!
post #23 of 28

I was enjoying your updates do we get MORE !!!

Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #24 of 28
Yeah Gary--how did it turn out? Last we heard, you had your skis stuck down in the heavy snow, with "just enough" tip lead. Did you get out? Sometimes it helps to "pop up"!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #25 of 28
Thread Starter 
Sorry for the hiatus – I’ve fallen seriously behind.

I’ve been home almost a week, but in academy terms it’s now Tuesday – hump day. This was the elective day when you do things like GS gate training, ski with the D team, learn to telemark, learn to snowboard, inline skate or just chill. BTW, the D team seem to be touting inline skating more than ever as the best way to prepare for skiing. I decided to brave it and opted for “conditions of the day” led by Katie Fry and Jim Schantzenbaker. There were 8-9 of us with the 2 team members and they wasted no time in leading us to some of the steepest chutes off the upper Cirque. In places that had received some shade from the rocks the snow was pretty good. For the most part it was steep and thick. I think the most common phrase that morning was let’s go and ski some more of that “muck”. My mantra became “if it doesn’t kill you, it can only make you stronger”. Well it didn’t kill me, but did rough me up pretty good.

I think the high point that morning came when I realized Debbie Armstrong was in our group. For those that don’t know, she won the GS gold medal at the 1984 Sarejevo Winter Olympics. She now teaches at Taos and was at the academy as just another instructor. It was very cool to see a skier of her caliber asking questions and taking notes along with the rest of us and also to hear her talk about what she was working on in her own skiing.
post #26 of 28
Was having Deb in the group sort of like having the Europa Cup skier in Mermer's group?

Inspirational in a learning sense?
post #27 of 28
I'm glad someone posted about the Academy. Had no idea it was on...a friend from NY went to it and tried to get me to go, but it was a bit to close to the start date.

Here in Oz last season, we did some training in our very heavy fresh, which you usually have to hop in; the "new" technique we got taught was to suck the legs up rather than hopping with the whole body. Kind of a retraction turn, but the idea was to feel the snow pushing the skis back up toward you...body stays where it is. It actually seemed to work.
post #28 of 28
I also attended the academy and I thought it was an absolute blast. I have not been skiing for very long and had never experienced steeps or 4 feet of new snow before. We had a great group of instructors from around the country, and it was interesting to get their perspective on skiing and teaching. Anyone who can, should go to the academy next year. You will definitely see me there!
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