So while everyone else was enjoying some nice easy warm up run. We were
dropping our jaws wondering if we'd last the full two days. Gondolier had
these little piles of pushed up powder snow that were just itching to grab
on to a skidding ski. Michael told us we should hit those suckers
straight on, extending our legs to meet them. We could scoot our feet ahead
a bit and lift the toes, then reconnect on the back side of the pile.
There he goes - O .... MY ..... GAWD ....... He's not
Yes folks, that was Rusty's warm up run at the 2005 Epic
Ski Academy Weekend that was held at
Stowe, Vermont on December
17&18. Rusty has spent the previous 5 days a Killington rooming with
Epic, the ESA head honcho, et. al. (small world, eh?). Epic had said
getting assigned to Rogan (the "advanced" group) was a shoe in
so that was not a surprise. But after seven consecutive days on snow and the day after hiking
all over Killington in a foot of fresh, Rusty had no legs left for
ripping down 2/3 of Gondolier at mach 5 non stop, even if it was only a
blue run. That was a surprise. Thoughts of bailing out
for a mellower group faded when we collectively decided that we were not
PSIA demo team material. So Michael had plenty of time to analyze us as
we moseyed on down to where he finally stopped. He was going to teach us
how to ski better after all. Do you want to know how it turned out?
There were 28 people
at ESA Weekend this year. We were split up among 5 groups ranging from
rank beginner to expert run skiers. The clinicians were Stu Campbell,
Robin Barnes, Bob Barnes, Jeb Boyd and Michael Rogan. Their bios are
impeccable. Rusty would have been ecstatic to ski with any one of them.
We all met on Friday night in the bar at the Stoweflake Inn for an
informal early registration. It was pretty cool to have Stu Campbell
walk up, greet me by name and introduce himself ( I think he cheated -
we had never met). It was even
cooler to meet some of those wacky Bears in person. You never know what
kind of in person experience you'll get from an online friend. It turned
out most of us were pretty normal. Well, everyone except that guy in the
Fox Hat. Rumor has it his display name comes from rhyming slang.
Saturday morning started with a free breakfast over at Spruce Mountain. It was
tough getting there by 7:30, but heck we only had two days and there was a lot
of (cough) work to do. Like everything about ESA, breakfast was first class. We
got our gear on and got into our groups and ready to go early. Rusty was all set
for an easy warm up run when we found we were going to have to wait for the main
lift at Spruce to open. Thus sprouted Plan B - hop the shuttle over to the Mansfield
gondola and well, you know the rest already.
The official list of barking bears in Rogan's group were:
Byron (Max Capacity)
Rusty Carr (therusty)
Chris Geib (cgeib)
Rogan's group is in the back row in the order listed on the right
from left to right.
Picture by Wear The Fox Hat
Someone was skiing Nordica skis (Michael's brand) and having trouble.
Michael switched skis with him so that he could feel that the addition of a
metal layer gave him better ability to hold input and return the energy.
Good news: low performance skiing is not your fault. Bad news: you need new
It did not take long for Michael to focus in leg extension and hip
movement into the turn as the key to success. But he was saving the good
stuff for after lunch. He asked us what we felt was the most challenging
conditions for us to ski in. He got back a variety of answers from bumps to
ice. He challenged us back that this simply represented the skill area we
were weakest in as opposed to something being inherently difficult about
We started working on bumps next. Michael wanted pole touches on EVERY
bump. He wanted to see a pole touch on the uphill face of the bump just
before the crest of the bump. He explained that pole touches on the
very top or the back side of the bump occurred too late (i.e. after the edge
change). If we pushed our tails out, then went on edge in the bumps we would
be skidding through the bumps.
Next we skied a run with no poles. Our arms could either be outstretched
or crossed. Our task was to keep the skis on the snow and parallel at all
times. The goal was to make turns slowly and accurately. Somewhat ironically
(considering our first run of the day), Michael encouraged us to develop a
warm up routine that compliments what we're working on in our own skiing.
The no poles routine would be an example.
Our philosophical observation of the day was "where does edge change
happen? (with respect to where the feet are relative to the upper body).
When the feet are underneath the body, the edge change is effective. When
the feet are ahead of the body, the edge change sucks. We proceeded to watch
other skiers going by us on the trail. Every last one of the mediocre skiers
was changing edges with the feet in front of the body. Ok, we've seen a ton
of comments about how deadly being in the back seat was. But looking at it
from the feet being forward perspective instead of the weight being back
combined with WHEN the edge change occurred was really frightening,
especially when viewing from the side.
There was time après ski to hit the hot tub and the steam room. The
facilities at Stoweflake were quite impressive. You know a place is first
class when they have 3 phones in your room. Of course they had turn down
service with the little chocolates. In addition to the indoor and outdoor
pools, hot tub, sauna and steam room, they had a combination
squash/racquetball court, a decent weight room and of course the spa
facility. When was the last time you had "sea moss" as an
ingredient in your hair conditioner?
Next it was off to the video analysis room, where PJ was ready to handle
any boot fitting issues identified in the video. Nobody in our group had any
boot fitting issues, but Rusty used the opportunity to receive a mini
lecture on the tradeoffs between full size cork footbeds (e.g. Super Feet)
and a hard plastic 1/2 length custom made by a Doctor orthotic. PJ confirmed
Rusty's fear - it often takes a lot of tweaking to get footbeds to fit
comfortably. Doug Stewart and Michael did the video analysis. They used
Stu's Mac hooked up to a video projector. We tried to get the video copied
onto USB keys but we couldn't figure out where Apple's Imovie software
stored the video clip files.
We went straight from video to dinner. Worries that the dinner would not
be worth it were unfounded. The convenience and the camaraderie were worth
it alone. But the food was absolutely top notch. SkierXMan won a pair of K2s
in the raffle. Rusty got a bright red Epic logo fleece and a maple
syrup/coffee mug gift pack. After the raffle Stu cranked up his laptop to
talk tech using past ski magazine columns as topic starters. It was amazing
how the clinicians could talk about real issues without using
"instructor speak". An example gem we got was that one reason a
lot of people in rental boots have boots that are too big is that their feet
swell up on the airplane ride to the resort. One that hits home for most of
us: "You can always modify a boot to make it bigger, but you can't make
it smaller. Two uncommon boot modifications that we ought to think more
about are: cuff adjustments and the boot sole plate.
Sunday morning for our group started promptly at 8:30 at the Gondola
doors. After a warm up run, we started a group circle ski where our group
would ski down, then watch Jeb Boyd's group ski past. Then we would ski past
their group. We did a couple of laps. Michael wanted us to see Jeb doing all
the things he was trying to get us to do and burn that image into our
brains. We also did some more watching of the other group turning with their
feet ahead of them. We asked Michael if it was so obviously easy to diagnose
as the reason for low performance turns, why couldn't you hot shots fix it
just as easy. The answer was that part was not so easy. But it makes the
Epic Ski threads that say pull your feet back seem to make a lot more sense.
The beauty of getting coaching from a demo team member is that they seem
to have the knack for the "laying on off hands effect". Chris had
been funny on Saturday when Rusty had asked him how he thought the coaching
was going. Michael had given some personal feedback to the other group
members, but we had gone unscathed/ignored (depends on your
perspective/attitude). Chris gave Rusty the no big deal so far look, then 5
minutes later - whammo - Mike lays on the hands and Chris gets what he came
for in the next 5 minutes of personal feedback.
On Sunday, Rusty's turn finally came. Rusty has skied with Mike before.
On Saturday Rusty got confirmation that last year's problem with countering
had been addressed. He also got a few little tidbits for improvements but no
big deal. Rusty expected the shoe to drop soon. He was skiing well, but
wasn't skiing great. Surely there was some pronouncement that would take his
skiing to the next level. Finally the answer came and it was MORE!
We were working on extreme carving. Michael wanted us to get our upper
bodies away from the skis and really crank up the edge angles. Rusty was
doing ok and even better when he was told to bring his outside hand forward
a little more. But oh no, that was not good enough for Michael. He wanted
MORE! What a nice compliment to imply there's nothing major that needs
tweaking - just go crank it up. That was the good news. The bad news was
that MORE was also more tiring and more dangerous. Rusty was following
Michael down Gondolier with his feet out way away from the body (and finally
getting it), when Michael's tracks dipped into a couple of moguls and
disappeared in a puff of powder. At best, Rusty is only half as good as
Michael. So it figures he came out of that with only half a pair of skis.
Oopsie! Best crash of the day. Thank you very much. Ok - so there was
something to work on - White Pass turns on scraped off snow at Mach 4.
Whining aside, Rusty was pretty happy because he does not get to ski this
way at home.
Dave Merriam (ex PSIA Demo Team coach and current Stowe SSD/Director of
skier operations?) joined us for a run. Nice guy. Fun to ski with. Works too
After lunch, we did a few laps on Liftline (Goat, National and Starr were
still too thinly covered). It was steep and the snow was hard. In a word it
was nasty. Michael's self assessment of his skiing on the first run:
"That was bad. Let's do it again.". And so we did. Using the tips
we had received over the last 2 days and watching Michael as a model, we
slowly started "getting it". Michael had said "You ARE going
to skid on this snow", but we started rounding our turns out and were
looking pretty good by the third go round, especially Kevin. The big
observation: "Fundamental stuff still makes it work.". The little
observation: Kevin-> if you're making turns that good on a double black
in nasty snow, you can call yourself an Expert skier now.
Michael made sure that each us was walking away with "what, where,
why and how" for our skiing. It's amazing what you can cover in 2 days.
The official last run of the day was a non-stop top to bottom run on
Gondolier that's more than double what Rusty is used to. It was a real test
of whether we were skiing efficiently or not. Chris gets the Speedy Gonzalez
award. Rusty was skiing slowly on purpose to, ahhhh .... help lead
Byron down safely. Yeah - that's the ticket. We said our goodbyes, but a
couple of us went over to Spruce Peak with Michael. We took a quick run on
the new Sensation Quad on Spruce Peak. All Rusty can say is that is one heck
of a long and steep "beginner" run.
So there you have it: Rusty's first ESA event. Many thanks go to StuC,
Epic, Nolo and Wear the Fox Hat for making the event happen. If you're not
an expert skier, don't let these notes scare you. The other groups went at a
pace appropriate to their ability. Rusty heard only high praise from the
other attendees. If you're serious about wanting to improve your skiing, ESA
is a first class way to do it at a great price. The accommodations and
facilities were impeccable. The trainers were world class. The attendees
were quite a marvelous bunch. It's cool to meet up with a bunch of
strangers, yet instantly be part of a big family. The results speak for
themselves. So when are you signing up for the next ESA academy?