Harmony at Whitetail

One of the benefits of being a ski instructor is that you get the opportunity to get your own ski instruction from the very best ski instructors.  This year at Whitetail, we were privileged to be coached by Terry Barbour, a member of the PSIA alpine demonstration team. This page has the notes from a clinic that Terry taught to 11 members of the Whitetail Ski School on 2/1/2000.

After a quick warm up run and a peek at all of our level 2 pins, Terry knew to jump right into working on our alignment with the Tony Knows mnemonic. Or maybe it was "Toe - Knee - Nose" - as in get them all lined up. For many of us this meant getting our hips pulled back a little and moving our shoulders forward. For Terry, bad equipment alignment did not seem to be a deterrent to good skiing. Due to lost baggage, Terry did his skiing in borrowed boots that were a size and a half too big and with our ski school director's custom footbeds. Back to our alignment troubles, Terry also mentioned a different method for determining good hand position: start with your hands down at your sides, then bring them slightly up and out. The faster you go, the more you need to bring your hands higher and wider. Terry noted that the fore aft angle of the shoulders should match the angle of the knee ankle alignment. He talked about having a tall stance below the waist vs. having a straight back. Finally this all fits together to create a balance zone. There is not a single point where everything is balanced, but a trapezoid shaped zone in which the body is balanced. This allows your body to react to the terrain and remain balanced.

Did you know that DEMO stands for Don't Expect Much, OK? (or how about Developing Essential Movement Options) Speaking of demos, Terry's first exercise was a simple traverse. We started out using only our edges to turn into the hill. Next, we picked up the downhill ski. This started working us on building stronger inside ski steering skills. The trick was to step up and forward onto the uphill ski. Another trick was to keep the feet close together and let the tail of the downhill ski slightly cross the uphill ski. The next step was to set the downhill ski back down at the end of the traverse and finish with an uphill christy. The trick was to make the christy without washing out the tails of the skis. To reinforce the correct stance for this maneuver, we stood on the hill and lifted our downhill ski so that the tail crossed the uphill ski. We started by using our poles for balance, but some of us were able to balance this way without using our poles. To make this move really work, you need to open  your stance so that your upper body faces slightly downhill. At the bottom of the run, we worked on railroad turns on the flat run out to the lift.

Terry talked a lot about harmony - getting all of the body parts to work together. We started moving our traverses into linked traverses, then into turns riding on the inside ski. We were allowed to start the turns on our outside ski, then finish on our inside. We started with wide turns then tightened them into 1/4 trail turns. Some of us needed to add more lateral movement to get the turn initiation to happen. Next we had to make the turns all on our inside ski. It helped a lot to hold the tip of the outside ski on the snow.

Finally we moved to the "bold" bumps. The first focus was to turn with the whole body versus shoving your feet to the side to make the turn. A tip relayed from Terry's wife also helped: If your head goes "whoa", your but goes low. The message was to get aggressive on the hill and attack the turns or else your balance goes into the back seat and bad things happen.

After lunch we did the Whoop and Scoop exercise. This was a variation of the standard hop turn exercise, except that the hop was only a small move to get the turn started. The hop (i.e. the whoop) was supposed to be diagonally made into the new turn versus up or laterally. The scoop was to use the knees after landing to scoop your way through the remainder of the turn. One tip was to use the pole touch placement DOWN the hill. A couple of things to watch out for: hopping too high, hopping by lifting the tails only and landing heavy versus landing light on your feet and using your upper body to initiate the hop. Although this exercise can be used as a progression in to full hop turns, it was not cold enough for us to need to do this. (phew!)

After lunch, we built on the whoop and scoop. On top of  the focus on the knees driving the scoop, we added using the upper body to add to the knee scoop. During the launch into the new turn, Terry wanted us to feel the "stretch" in the back on the outside as opposed to the pinch in the ribs on the inside because you can cheat on the pinch but you have to use your muscles to get the stretch. In order to do this you have to get your hips uphill and the finish of a turn.

Flush with confidence, we went back to the bumps. Terry encouraged us to stay lighter and over our skis. He also wanted us to twist to make sharp turns versus pushing our feet out. Next we proceeded to an exercise that is a version of what Rusty calls the old man's way to ski the bumps. The end result is a tactic that provides a low impact method of skiing smoothly and confidently through the bumps. The exercise is to stand facing across the hill on the uphill side of a bump or bump ridge so that the tips and tails are off the snow, plant your pole in the top of the bump and carve (only) one turn with the intent of getting your skis as close to the pole plant as possible. Rusty's version of this involves the tactic of skiing to the bump from the side and turning up hill on the bump face to kill all the speed, then doing the same move to get around the bump and then head to the next bump from the side. Next we moved to using the same kind of moves to skiing in the troughs. A wise tactic at Whitetail is to "cut up" long bumps by using the kind of turns in the first exercise to make multiple turns on the same bump. Terry urged us to use the poles to touch, then punch our way over the bump and to use our poles constantly to move into the next turn. In the bumps you need to keep moving and think of water flowing downhill to determine your path.

As the day was coming to an end and the lift for the bump run stopped running, we returned to the easy stuff. The next exercise was to drag the outside pole to get our shoulders to line up with the pitch of the hill. Don't just dip your outside shoulder, lift the inside one too! The next exercise was to draw "X"'s in the snow next to our toe pieces. Our mission was to put our butt cheeks over the "X"'s when we made out turns. But Terry also made clear that we had to do this with continuous movement and using the theme for the day: harmony. We had to use all of our body parts working together. In harmony.

Attending the clinic:
Rusty Carr
Tony Galasso
Dave DePeters
Kory Williams
Steve Caldwell
Mark Palameras
Bill Wissinger
Bill Dietrich
Don Naismeth
Stan ?


Copyright 2000 Rusty Carr All Rights Reserved