AASI 2003 Rider Rally at Breckenridge, CO

Can you say "terrain park"? Breckenridge, Colorado has the most humungous park! What an appropriate place for the 2003 AASI Rider Rally. About 40  people from across all regions attended this event from April 13-17 to ride with examiners and demo team members. The focus was fun and learning, even for those who chose not to go for big air. If you want to find out what this event was like, then read on.

On Sunday, I rode in a group with Earl Saline. Earl has moved from Steven's Pass to Winter Park. Our focus for the day was "all mountain" riding. This was a good way to get familiar with the mountain, warm up our legs and get some tips. Some of us warmed up pretty quick, because on the second run some group members split off for a run down some steep bumps. The spring "hero" snow was soft and easy to ride, but it was definitely an expert bump run. We did some video in the bumps on the third run. There's nothing like riding above your ability to spot things you need work on. I bent over at the hips and did huge upper body rotation in a successful defensive attempt to stay upright, but it was not pretty. The feedback was to get my lower body lower to the board instead. This was a simple key to bend my knees a little more and get the ankles into action and use the edge of the board more. In the afternoon, we did a couple of laps on the long Tbar ride on peak 7. More bump riding and more video. Earl encouraged us to take bigger turns through the bumps. This really helped our confidence issues.

On Monday I rejoined Earl for a session on carving. The morning snow was firm so Earl urged us to quiet the board. When you make all your braking motion below the fall line the board is very noisy. When you can get on edge above the fall line, the board is noticeably quieter. We discussed the role of ankle flexion to change the edge angle and maintain balance instead of making gross body movements. Earl also talked about starting turns using a passive release  (i.e. letting it go) of the front leg on firmer snow as opposed to a more active release (i.e. actively changing edges) on softer snow. We worked on "working" the front of the board more to get better turn initiation. I got a warning about hip movement loading up weight on the back foot. I also got more feedback about bump riding. I was moving my back hand to initiate heel side turns and using shoulder rotation on my toe side turns. Since it was not crowded, we did an exercise using the whole width of the trail where we tried to do our edge change exactly in the middle of the trail. The trick was to go slow. Like most riders, my edge change occurred too far across the slope, but my turns were much better when I could get the edge change done in the middle. To help get the feel for this, we practices traverses where we flattened the board as we went across (vs increasing the edge to turn up hill). This helped us get more comfortable with turn initiation and hooking up the downhill edge. Next we went to a flat trail. We practiced cross under turns using only the edge angle to get from edge to edge. Earl encouraged us not to push off the board when it was extended away from the body. He wanted us to let the board rebound on its own.

Earl made an observation that Flow bindings stiffen up the boot.

We talked about keeping knee movements in synch. If they are out of synch , you get resistance.

In the morning we witnessed a wonderful customer service opportunity. A liftie wasn't watching while a group kids made the turn at the top of the Peak 8 SuperConnect lift. He did manage to stop the chair after they had already passed the ramp on the way down. Instead of asking "Are you all right?" he barked "What do you think you're doing?" After getting a "beginner" response we could not hear, he started to go back to the lift shack. The kids asked for help and he turned around and said "How am I supposed to help you? You're 30 feet off the ground!" It was funny at the time. But it's also a great example of the kind of behavior that the NSAA model for growth and the PSIA/ASSI service model is trying to change. Meanwhile we went off to the little half pipe. I think the justification was that you need to carve while traveling between the walls.

After lunch we tried riding "one foot switch" on a flat slope. This is switch riding with only your foot strapped in. If I ever can get this down 1/2 as good as Earl, it's going into the "Evil Rusty" bag of clinic tricks. Until then, it is just too embarrassing (and damaging - Rusty went down hard). This is one of those great exercises because if you're doing it right, it's easy. If it's not easy, then you know what you need to work on. I really had trouble going from x side to y side because of Z.

We finished up the day doing laps on the super pipe. Because it was there. And HUGE.  The walls were over 20 feet high and the transition was so big it was supposedly easier than the regular pipe. Of course, if you are intimidated like a certain Rusty that does not help much. I did get up to the top once or twice without killing myself.

Monday afternoon we had the free raffle for tee shirts, hats etc. Rider Rally always has good SWAG. O yeah and there were stickers to be had, too.

Tuesday was our off day. Rusty took advantage of the sunny weather in the morning to get some pics while others went fishing or hit some nearby resorts like Winter Park, Keystone, A Basin or Vail. Big Joe said there were fish in just every pool in the river that flows right through town, but Zane caught more fish with the help of a guide. Warren Miller was filming in the super pipe. There was a brand new Nissan Pathfinder that had a rail mounted on it, but Rusty never saw anyone on it. I did get some pics of some of the skiers that he was filming. In the afternoon it started snowing and we got about 3 inches before the day was done.

Wednesday we road tripped to Vail. Since there was 6-8 inches of pow, we adjusted the pre planned groups into "tour the mountain" groups. I rode with Rob Bevier of ?. As we worked our way from Lions Head to the new terrain called Blue Sky Basin, Rob talked about using ankle flexion on toe side turns (even in the powder). After a couple of laps in the basin, Rob showed us a cool trick for introducing front flips. You start by grabbing the nose of the board (while your moving - you chicken), then yank the nose up and simultaneously roll over onto your shoulders and cartwheel around until you get back up. It helps when the snow is real soft. We did another exercise where we scooted our feet forward at the end of a turn and then suck them back when starting the next turn. The next exercise was focusing on putting weight on the front toes during toe side turns and on the back heel during heel side turns. This is one of Rob's favorites as he sees a lot of students doing the opposite. For example, a toe side turn problem is dropping the back knee. This causes the hip to rotate left (for normal footers), when you really want the hip to roll right so you can get pressure on the ball of the front foot.

Wednesday night was free pizza and beer. And the raffle. Rusty won the big snowboard prize (cough -  for the second year in a row). A very nice new Volkl Apocalypse. Other demo snowboards and a couple of snowboard style skateboards were given away too. After pizza, we commandeered a conference room in the Village hotel for SUMO! Chad's got all the video. It was hilarious, but Rusty does not recommend this activity at altitude. It took all night for my heart rate to return to normal.

Thursday was pipe day for Rusty. In the morning we started with a team clinician approach. If you wanted feedback all you needed to do was ask the nearest coach. We started at the little pipe and worked on the basics. Wait till you stall before you spin the turn at the top. Try slowing down, not going all the way up the wall and just focus on doing the turn. Make sure that you stay perpendicular to the board. One of my tips was to stay low to the board when going up the wall so that you could give a little pop to initiate the turn. We moved on to the super pipe and Rusty promptly did an oops. I cleared the lip .... and ... froze. The 20+ foot fall to the bottom of the transition jarred my insides. I spent the rest of the day struggling to keep up with the group. Jeff Patterson (Beaver Creek) (National Committee member) was my very kind coach for the afternoon. Meanwhile the younger crowd was working on their 360s. A couple of the groups did creek skimming in the afternoon. The video was shown at Maggies at the end of the day as folks said their goodbyes and started making plans for next year.

All in all, you just can't beat the Rider Rally for an event. The price is reasonable, there were deals everywhere in town, they give away stuff during the event, everybody gets a cool tee shirt, the clinic leaders do whatever you want, you get to know everybody there, everybody is cool, some are just plain crazy, the weather is great, the mountain is fantastic and you just might improve both your riding and your teaching. So, are you going to go next year or what?