Jammin' in the Snow

Over 300 ski instructors (and 7 PSIA National Demo Team members) attended the 2000 Snow Pro Jam at Mount Snow, Vermont was a continuing education event held by PSIA-E.  Attendance was down this year (attributed to 2 bad years in a row previously), but the conditions were great. Rusty was there and here are his notes.

Rick Metcalfe from Nashoba Valley, Massachusetts (vertical = 240 feet) led our group of "Level 2 - all about you"s. That means our group was not prepping for level 3 exams. Rick asked us what we wanted to do for the week and Rusty got the "get the inside scoop" in right off. Our group consisted of Denise (Hunter), Tony and Peter (Jack Frost), Jim (Roundtop), Rusty (Whitetail), Howie (unaffiliated), Tom (Tussy), Cindy (Snow Ridge). Lon (Elk) was with us the first day but swapped places with Pinky (Sundown).

The big news is that the "centerline" is going away next year with the issuance of all new manuals. There will be a core manual for all sports and then discipline specific manuals to accompany the core manual. The BERP movements will get a new sibling: "Purposeful Movements". PM relates more to tactics, but also replaces centerline's implication of a "right way" to ski. The "E" in BERP, we will be renamed "tipping", so coming up with a new mnemonic is going to be tough.  This year there is much more emphasis on less change in distance on the lead foot so that the feet stay under the body. This will help the inside ankle close more and make the body more symmetrical (which continues the trend to reduce counter).

In other ski news, Rick mentioned that racers continue to move to shorter length skis, especially the slalom racers who are moving to increase shape in their skis. Rick also talked about new "learning" skis. His favorite was the Dynastar "Agyle".

The week was spent going through exercises to improve our skiing. Rusty's favorite was the "choose your car" warm up run. The task was to ski like a 4x4, touring car, or grand prix racer. Each member of the group got to pick a style. Then the idea was not only to invent ways to ski that mimicked the type of car, but to spot what the other members of the group where trying to demonstrate as well.

Rick's first progression focused on improving our inside ski steering. We started by tapping the tip of the inside ski through the turns. We worked our way to lowering the tail of the ski while tipping until it was just off the snow, then worked on keeping just the tip in the snow so that it "scribed" a line in the snow. Once we got the sensation down, we experimented with funnels of large to small turns and small to large turns.

Next we worked on pole usage. Rick described 3 approaches: plants, flicks and swings. Chopping pole plants were discouraged. Rick first encouraged to flick our pole touches, then tried to get us to make pole swings that were smooth and progressive (Rusty never did get that one figured out).

On Tuesday, the weather moved in and we went in to survival mode. We circled skied to watch each other in poor visibility and talked about using more guiding motions and less edge/pressure in the softer snow. One exercise we did was to move the pole hand forward and out 6" after touching the pole to the snow. Rick also gave us an exercise called canoe paddle turns, where we used double pole touches but both on the same side (as if paddling a canoe). This helped to promote tipping the skis to initiate a turn. We had lengthy discussions and focus on balance movements. The goal was to let the snow build up under our skis during the turn and use that build up to complete the turn. When the lifts shut down due to high wind, our group went inside to play with Rick's balance boards. Rick had boards in different configurations and different exercises to try on each board. It was an effective learning experience, even though Rusty snoozed through half of it.

Wednesday was elective day. There were lots of choices: women only groups, equipment demos, a clinic on how to test skis, the CE Burbridge race, a "very strange looking calf" roping event, a gates clinic, an alignment clinic with Greg Hoffman, an adaptive clinic, exam ski tasks, an adaptive clinic, and an extreme clinic. Rusty spent the morning doing a video clinic on his snowboard, then the afternoon doing another video clinic on his skis. Rusty and Gary Lindbergh stood ready to teach Whitetail required clinics, but for some strange reason no one wanted to do this!

In the morning session, Rich Weiss led us around the mountain, then gave us simple critiques when we got inside. Rusty pestered the camera guy for tips to use for his own video taping service back at Whitetail. We talked about major issues like the need to get a side shot to see stance on shaped skis and the benefits of skiing away shots. Rusty still prefers "skiing to the camera" shots only. Some of the ski form tips Rusty got included "elbows ahead of hips, arms outside of shoulders".

In the afternoon session, Rusty got to ski with Don "Bugs" Haringa (fyi - for the Whitetailers - Rusty has his email address). Bugs gave really good feedback to the group on the hill, then followed up with specific comments in the inside session when we reviewed the tape. We did a great variety of exercises on the hill, including a "lane change" exercise, where we made 4 small turns, followed by a large turn to lane change, then 4 small turns to stay in the lane, followed by a large turn back into the original lane. Some tips we got during the session included not to edge abruptly on ice - keep it progressive and early edge does not equal high edge. Rusty bought copies of tapes of both entire video clinics for use on his computerized system back home.

On Thursday, Rick gave us focus cards (3x5 cards with one thing for us to focus on to improve our skiing). We spent the morning doing pole drills. We started with  something funky with our  poles on our toe pieces, that progressed to dragging your poles in the snow so that the tips stayed next to your toe pieces that then progressed to extreme light pole touches. In the afternoon, we started reviewing inside ski steering and working on peoples specific problems.

The theme for this year's banquet was a "hoe down" (i.e. western wear). There was a poker thing, where you had to pick up sealed cards at different spots through out the week, then see what kind of hand you had at the banquet. The guy who won had a Royal Flush. We were all suspicious, but he did give the big prize (a new pair of boots) to one of his group mates who was in dire need of a new pair (maybe he was feeling a little guilty?). The food was good, but the lines were long. The most fun part of the evening was flicking the poker cards into the chandeliers (ok - the dancing was cool too). No names mentioned, but Helldorfer and Rooney started it.

As usual, people started bailing early on Friday. Rusty skipped the first few runs to show Kim Seevers and Peter Palmer the NEAT video analysis system. The weather was clear blue sky and the snow was soft packed powder. The focus was having fun and putting it all together. That the whole group was skiing great was testimony to Rick's effectiveness as a clinic leader.