Saturday, May 13, 2017

Speed, skiing's magic ingredient!

When I was a ski instructor in the early 70s, I read the various books written by Georges Joubert on ski instruction, in part because I was curious, and also because some of them ended up translated into American by the late Curt Chase, then Aspen ski school director.

If anything, this reading was supplying me the proper vocabulary to teach my English speaking students and by the same token, familiarized myself even more with Joubert's approach to ski instruction that was primarily derived from his observations of ski racers.

Because I didn't like to leave any stone unturned, I tried to test and apply Joubert's theories on my students and quickly realized that if they sounded good on paper, they didn't work too well in practice compared to the true-and-tried approach followed by ENSA (the French instructing school), but I could never really understand why...

A couple of days ago, I was in the Snowbird tram overhearing a conversation between what sounded like two senior ski instructors. They were talking about applying pressure, setting edge angles and the like as it related to that day's lousy spring snow conditions.

That's exactly when it downed on me that all instructing theories, either from the French ENSA, Joubert's or the PSIA, were mostly static and left very little room for considering the critical role of speed and momentum in the sport of gravity that skiing is.

Joubert's theories couldn't work for intermediate skiers because they weren't capable of producing the speed required in executing maneuvers like wide-track turns or “braquage” as Joubert called them then.

Same thing with spring skiing in lousy snow: Speed trumps everything and is key, obliterating the minutia of edging or pressure considerations. Balance alone is what goes hand-in-hand with speed or forceful momentum and both becomes the necessary ingredients that really move skiers smoothly and efficiently.

Yet, these essential aspects of the sport are largely ignored in ski instructing and, I must admit, are phenomenons I have discovered late in life after skiing a hundred days and accumulating between 1.5 to 2 million vertical feet each season for the past 13 years...

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