The first couple of times I tried skiing, I headed out on the slopes with friends who also didn’t know how to ski. Yes, we had a group lesson prior to going up on the slopes, but it was a very big group and the lesson lasted for only 30 minutes. Needless to say, we had to fend for ourselves on the bunny hill without ample mastery of the basic techniques.
At the time, we thought it was a good idea because we could all learn together and not worry about slowing anyone down, which is bound to happen if you go out on the slopes with an advanced skier. Boy, were we ever wrong! We did learn together but because there was nobody there to give us neither instructions nor feedback, it was more of a trial and error experience—something I highly don’t recommend to prevent a fear of skiing.
I’ve seen the huge difference learning from knowledgeable instructors can make. Yes, first of all you get instructions and feedback. I find that the quality of feedback is crucial. When you’re learning a new skill, it’s important to know exactly what you’re strengths are and what points need improvement. A good instructor can pinpoint all of those plus provide techniques to correct the problem. Skiing with a instructor one-on-one or with a smaller group also allows you to discuss your concerns in detail and have your questions answered. People learn in different ways. Others learn more by listening; I learn by observing and then doing something over and over until it feels right. A good ski instructor can tailor their coaching techniques according to a person’s learning style and throw in a good measure of encouragement to keep a learner’s interest and momentum going.
My ski instructor today was Kate from the UK. At the beginning of the lesson, she immediately asked what skills I’m working on. After watching me ski, she informed me what things I needed to improve on and with the confidence of a ship captain, promptly laid out a plan in order to achieve that goal. “And we’re going to do all that in just two hours!” she announced with a certainty that would make a cat believe she can learn how to bark.
Sometimes, all this cat needs is a little reassurance like that. And it worked.
This lesson was jam packed with tips and techniques—some new and others not-so-new but still need to master. She demonstrated how to slide downhill and stop by rolling the ankles towards the slope. I had a bit of difficulty on this last time, but today, I did it perfectly. Doing the same technique and allowing the skis to go forward was, luckily for me, also a cinch. Hockey stops are one of the tricks I can never seem to ace. When I finally crack the secret to hockey stops (and I mean hearing my skis screech to a halt like a true hockey player but on skis), you’ll know because I’ll be the one with biggest grin on the slopes. We also worked on using edges more, being aware of proper weight transfer when turning, and keeping the upper body quiet–all important skills that were put to good use when we went down Sundance at the end of the lesson.
The more I learn about skiing, the more appreciation I have for skiers who push the limit and do it with grace, confidence and skills. From watching the Olympics, I think of aerial skiers, downhillers, mogul skiers, etc. You know the type: those who do insanely dangerous tricks while making it look easy.
Speed skiing is another that comes to mind. Can you imagine attacking an almost vertical run at a speed of over 170 km/h? Well, I saw Subaru Velocity Challenge racers do it last year and I continue to be in awe when I think about how they do it. This year’s SubaruVelocity Challenge and FIS World Cup of Speed Skiing is going to be a thrill to watch. It’s happening from March 4 to 7, so if you’re in Sun Peaks, be sure to catch the action. If you’re not a skier, just take the chairlift up for $8 and you’re all set. Spectators I’ve spoken with in the past said it’s a treat to watch the world’s best speed skiers one-up each other in a World Cup competition right here in our own backyard. It’s also inspiring to see the community come together in preparation for this event. Organizer Adam Earle, with the help of generous volunteers and sponsors, has been doing this event for 21 years, and it does get better each year.
So come out and watch. Who knows, it might inspire you to learn the sport, or even better, join the race next year?
For more information on the Subaru Velocity Challenge and FIS World Cup of Speed Skiing visit www.velocitychallenge.com
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