Portillo, Chile 2014

Portillo, ChileMade it!

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Know the Code

Lynn’s comment to 1 Boarder 5 Questions reminded me to write about the code. There’s nothing secret about this code. The more people who are familiar with it, the better. The Alpine Responsibility Code lists ten points that are the golden rules of life on the slopes. Skiers and boarders are obligated to ski or ride in a controlled, responsible manner. We all share the responsibility, so best to take a look and refresh you memory before the season starts.

source: Canadian Ski Patrol

source: Canadian Ski Patrol

This code is in effect across Canada (please note, Quebec has its own code). To learn more about the codes, safety and rescue, visit the Canadian Ski Patrol website.

1 Snowboarder 5 Questions

Fernie photo credit: cb6379

photo credit: cb6379

In the interest of happiness on the hills, I wanted to get a snowboarder’s thoughts on the upcoming season and that ongoing rivalry between boarders and skiers. Years ago, JP spent a day or two on the hills as a skier then quickly made the switch to boarding.  Now he’s reflecting on deep pow and sharing the great winter wonderland with his kids.

1. What’s your essential gear?

This really depends on your budget and specific needs, likely similar to skiing.  Of course the usual rules apply: keep warm and comfortable and dress in layers – nothing worse than being stuck at the top of the lift in Mt. Tremblant for 20 minutes at -32C and not being comfy (been there, done that). As for the technical gear, I recommend a helmet. I think that this is still a debatable issue as I once read that head injuries went down but neck injuries went up (people thinking that they are indestructible and therefore put on a helmet and try a Rodeo 540*). In snowboarding when you fall, you fall fast and hard, straight back or forward as you catch an edge and wham, head meets Ontario ice. Comfy boots are key. The rest is budget and terrain. I ride hard and fast, and have done steep and deep so I opt for a stiffer board, bindings and boots – more responsiveness at high speed and in tight terrain like glades.  Boards are all relatively the same in concept. Riding park and rails all day (which at 41 I do not do) requires a different board than bombing a cruiser.

*Rodeo Flip – An inverted frontside 540 off of a straight jump. In the halfpipe, it is more like performing a 540 degree rotation which is inverted and off-axis. source: the-house.com

2. What’s your dream destination?

I love Fernie, but that’s likely because I’ve been there. My favorite is deep pow and really long runs. I’d love to go cat or heli-skiing on a glacier – we talk about it with “the boys” but it is pricey

3. Do you have any suggestions for boarders and skiers sharing a lift?

Simple – communicate. Be cognizant that the skier wants to be banging his planks against your board about as much as you want the same so talk about it and be courteous. Which way are you going off the lift, left or right?  Simple question that solves almost all lift issues.

4. What are your thoughts on separating skiers from boarders with designated runs?

Bad idea. There is no reason that the two can’t co-exist. I’m kinda bored of the stories of the “boarder that was whipping down the hill with no regard for his/her surroundings and almost took me out at the knees…”  Guess what, I’ve got the same stories about skiers and I’m willing to bet that this issue was around before us knuckle draggers were “allowed” to co-exist on the hill. Realize that we are all there for the same reason – to have fun and be outside and the rest works itself out. If you’re going to get all worked up about that boarder/skier that cut you off, well then you haven’t found your happy place yet on the hill, and I hope that one day you will.

5. Are you teaching your kids to ski or snowboard?

I defer to the experts on this one. My kids are learning how to ski first because that’s what we were told to do. I don’t really think it matters to be honest. I just want them to learn to love being out on the hill for the day, the rest will be up to them. If they choose to learn how to board later on after becoming accomplished skiers, then all the power to them – now they have two skills instead of one.

And those my friends, are some valuable lessons for enjoying the outdoors.  Any thoughts skiers or boarders? Think we can all live in harmony on the slopes? Thanks for the great insights JP!

Skiing the Spine in Alaska

The New York Times recently ran an article on the “Behind the Line” video series by Teton Gravity Research. Alaska and extreme skiing: it never gets old, does it?

How the crew sets this up is pretty incredible. The behind the scenes footage is worth a look.

JP, these are for you!

Ski Tip from the Pro: Check Your Bindings

photo credit: Izzard

photo credit: Izzard

Airbags, seatbelts, life jackets: I assume they’ll do what they’re supposed to do if ever put to the test. Add ski bindings to that list. Other than being part of the annual ski tune-up, I’ve never given them a second thought. At least that was the case until I spent a few days at Mt. Tremblant.

It was a last minute trip and I was planning to replace my gear at the end of the season. I thought I’d squeeze in a few more days with the old skis and take a lesson or two while I was there. Mid-chairlift ride, my Mt. Tremblant Snow School instructor told me I better get my bindings checked. Why? Because bindings have a limited life span. And once they pass their best-before date, you could run into trouble. Your bindings may not release. Take a tumble and the results could range from a torn ACL to death. If you need to see the evidence, hundreds of painful crashes on YouTube make a pretty compelling case.

Now I’m double-checking the safety equipment I so casually trust with my life.

photo credit: Apostolos

photo credit: Apostolos

Next lesson: ski technicians cannot adjust older bindings.  Technology changes, release mechanisms evolve, and technicians will only work on bindings that are indemnified. If bindings are indemnified, it means the manufacturer stands behind their ability to function as intended. I’m pretty sure we all want our bindings to function – meaning stay on or release – as intended. If the manufacturer is stepping away from any responsibility, it’s time to pay attention.The National Ski and Snowboard Retailers’ Association publishes a Binding Indemnification List that reputable ski shops know about. And the professionals won’t touch old bindings.As I travelled along this road of binding discovery, I wondered if there was anything else I should be doing to minimize risk (aside from proper ski storage and maintenance and that’s another story). I took at look at what Mike Langran, President of the International Society for Skiing Safety, had to say. His take:  Self-test your bindings every time you go out. At the very least it could significantly reduce your likelihood of knee injuries. His suggested tests are posted below and take less than a minute. Check his article on the website ski-injury.com for how-to photos.

Test the toe piece setting

With your ski angled so that the front inside edge is on the ground, try and twist your boot inwards so that the toe should twist out of the front of the binding. Apply the force gradually – you should not have to use excessive force.

Test the heel piece setting

With your ski flat on the ground, slide your foot back until your leg is out straight. Now try and lift the heel of your boot out of the binding. Don’t use do too much force – you’ll strain a muscle or possibly even rupture your Achilles tendon if you’re too vigorous!

Sounds pretty reasonable. Given all the joy skiing brings me, I’m happy to take the advice of experts and spend a few minutes making sure things are working as they should.

photo credit: Trysil

photo credit: Trysil

What do you think? How often do you change or test your gear?

Ski Inspiration #2: Starting with Why

Nothing like spending a day with 300 real life ski pros to get you thinking about winter.

I’m not an instructor yet, so I’m lucky to have a friend who is.  Last weekend I was invited to tag along and attend the Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance Fall Conference.

What I learned: this is serious business and these people are at the top of their game.  Elite athletes, physicians, early childhood educators, motivational speakers – all skiers, all passionate about what they do and all happily spending time learning how to do it better.  Lectures ranged from Sarah Pilskalnietis’ “Inclusive Teaching for Children with Autism” to John Gillies’ “How Brain Science Helps Define our Approaches to Learning and Performing” to Warren Jobbitt’s “Motivation and Mentorship“.

Jobbitt is currently the Head Coach for Interski 2015 in Argentina and his lecture focused on purpose, the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’.  Inspired by author Simon Sinek and his views on inspirational leadership, he spoke of following your passion and harnessing that energy to drive something bigger than yourself.  Then he played a video for us.  This kind of video always grabs me, because I’m a traveller and a dreamer and an adventurer.  When you’re sitting with folks who live the ‘why’ every day, you realize sometimes life is even better than what you see in the movies.

Skiers, enjoy the 2:50 mark.