Ski Inspiration #3: Training with Heart

photo credit: Droid Gingerbread

photo credit: Droid Gingerbread

Patty cake, patty cake may be just what’s needed. The game in which you clap your own and your partner’s hands requires eye contact or at least eyes on your partner’s hands. On the ski hill, keeping the game going by skiing backwards to face your student means the student needs to look up enough to see your hands. Looking up means looking forward and not looking down at the ground, which is helpful when going down a hill. That’s how a round of patty cake helped a little girl ski all the way to the bottom of the hill, which is why she raised her arms in victory like she won Olympic gold.

You need to think outside the box teaching kids. And with these kids, as it should be with all kids, the focus is on ability: the ability to move freely, learn, accomplish, participate, make friends, and do what other kids do. Having the opportunity to shine and be a part of something, not sit on the sidelines or watch out the window.

Every Track 3 volunteer says the same thing: once you start, it’s hard to walk away. I can see that. To quote Amy Bloom, “In the right hands, everything that you give, you get.” Patty cake and victory signs sound pretty good to me.

*On-hill training begins in January.  Instructor to student ratio is 1:1 or 2:1 and teaching methods are based on CSIA and CASI. Volunteers always needed.  Contact Ontario Track 3 Ski Association for the Disabled.

Advertisements

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!

Ski Tip from the Pro: Train Your Brain

It’s almost December and I need to get moving. Other than squats and ski tune-ups, what can I be doing to improve the likelihood of having a great ski season? I consulted my friendly CSIA Level II ski pro and he told me I should start skiing now. Well, a handful of snowflakes is not going to get me far. What he meant was start the season in my mind: visualize to improve performance.

Many elite athletes routinely use visualization techniques as part of training and competition. There are many stories of athletes who’ve used these techniques to cultivate not only a competitive edge, but also to create renewed mental awareness, a heightened sense of well-being and confidence.  All of these factors have been shown to contribute to an athlete’s sports success….With mental rehearsal, minds and bodies become trained to actually perform the skill imagined.             source: sportsmedicine.about.com

I’m not in the elite athlete category, but the benefits sound great so I’m happy to try. According to the pro, this is how you do it:

First, create a mental picture of what you want to achieve. The more detailed the picture, the better, so involve your senses and hear the sound of skis on snow, feel the wind on your face etc. (It’s been a while since I had a ski day, so thank goodness for CSIA and YouTube. Watching the technical reference clip refreshed my memory.)

Second, visualize frequently and consistently. Pick a time to take a ski run in your mind, before you go to sleep or right when you wake up.

That’s the very brief overview. If I do this right, these simple steps may help to train my brain (by creating new neural pathways, which I learned a bit about at the CSIA conference) and improve my self-confidence before the season even starts. They may also provide the basis for some very sweet dreams.

I’ve posted the clips I’m using to get a head start on my season.

  • CSIA’s Technical Reference
  • CSIA’s John Gillies & Natural Balance

  • CSIA’s John Gillies & Adding Skating to Your Skiing

Do you think it can work?  Can visualization make the difference?

Mt. Tremblant Celebrates 75

It may be time for a road trip. While we were counting snowflakes in Ontario this weekend, Quebec’s Mt. Tremblant was kicking off the start of the ski season with opening day on November 22.  They’ve had 3 inches of snow in the past week and the forecast is calling for another 4 inches of accumulation over the next few days.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the resort and their promo video includes some nice shots of skiing over the years. I think they could have picked a better soundtrack, but it’s fun to see the contrast of old and new. What do you think?

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 #1: Flying with Track 3

Snowflake

photo credit: Kelly Sikkema

I don’t need to be inspired to ski, but I can certainly be inspired to be a better person, reach higher, do more. Last weekend I had a taste of all three.

Friday night Track 3 hosted their annual Winterlude Carnival fundraiser at the Steam Whistle Brewery. Track 3 is a non-profit charitable organization that teaches children and youth with disabilities to downhill ski and snowboard. Giving disabled youth the freedom to fly is how their school program is described.

Over the course of the season, 450 volunteers get 200 kids outside to play in the snow and experience what many of us take for granted. There are 150 mentally and physically disabled children on the wait list. Once you add up the specialized equipment, travel costs and coaching, it costs approximately $1650 to get one child on the hill, hence the fundraiser.

Children waiting for the freedom to fly? Let’s help cut the wait list. How?

If nothing else, tell one friend about Track 3, and that friend may tell one friend and so on and so on. You may have someone in your midst who could make the difference between a name on a list and a child on the snow.