Michael Rogan Clinic at Whitetail - 2006/02/09

How would you like to ski with a PSIA demo team member for a day? The Whitetail ski school calls up the PSIA office and asks for Michael Rogan to drop by for a 3 day swing, then gets 30 pros to sign up for a full day clinic for $80. Throw in a little tip for his troubles and you've got an experience that can't be beat. Why more resorts don't take advantage of this training opportunity is a mystery. Maybe they simply don't know that this can be done. Whether you want to see if this could be worthwhile for your resort or you just want to read what we covered, these notes will be helpful for you.

This was the third year that Michael has visited our fine resort. Per the usual custom, Michael arranged a miraculous cold snap just prior to his arrival so that we could all enjoy 3 of the finest days of the season to ski with him. Although the clinics are mainly focused on personal skiing improvement, Michael never comes with an agenda. We start with a couple of easy warm up runs so that Michael can see what's going on and ask us what we want to cover. Pretty soon a theme and a game plan emerges and we're in the thick of it. Except this year, the Thursday group almost stumped him.

We were:
Angelo Tutsi, Dirk Keller, John Egan, Ann Galvin, Steve Caldwell, Lloyd Mueller, deWayne Keener, Tim Schlaile, Charlie Downs and Rusty Carr

After a couple of warm up laps down Angel Drop, Michael admitted he was stumped for a common theme and wanted to try a potpourri of one on one sessions. We worked our way over to Bold Decision and started with a focus on short radius turns. Then we went to the bumps on Exhibition to test them. That was fun, but we needed some more work. So back we went to the steeps on Bold to practice the fastest short radius turns we could make. Michael then asked us, what would we have to do to make even faster turns? Boy did he get a smorgasbord of answers. They all summed up to building a platform to turn from then getting everything (parts of the body) to work together to get the skis to run faster. Then we narrowed the focus down to making fast pivot turns. The idea was to make the rotary part of the pivot as fast as we could make it. It was easy to focus on the stopping part instead of the turning part. Oops - make the turns fast and don't worry about the stop. The idea was to focus on the release and get the feet to do the releasing. Everyone knows you need fast feet in the bumps. This is the exercise to help improve foot speed. If your feet delay the release, then the head goes too far forward and you end up pushing your tails. Michael made a reference to the feet turning in a hot flash. Ann jumped all over that one for a good laugh. 

Next we worked on a variation of White Pass turns where we set our foot down going across the hill instead of in the fall line (i.e. make a turn on one foot, the inside foot, then switch feet going across the fall line). Rusty discovered that continuing the down movement when you set your foot down helped to better initiate the up and forward movement for the next turn.

Then we went back to fast pivots, but this time the emphasis was on quick stops and spraying snow straight down the hill. One the weaknesses of the group was not getting the skis sideways enough in the bumps. This exercise helps develop that as well getting pressure equal along the length of the ski at the same time.

Over lunch, Michael put on the just good skiing DVD. Rusty got a copy without the sound. Dave Gniewek or Mike Hicks might have a copy with sound. While the DVD was playing, the crew peppered Michael for opinions on issues. He talked about the possibility of offering a Level 4 certification at the National level as one means of possibly improving international respect for PSIA certification. However, the interesting part of the discussion was the lack of practical usefulness for such a cert and the political concerns for regional loss of control of the certification process and the budget that goes with it. These were some very practical reasons for killing an otherwise good idea. Michael talked about how he thought a $60,000 budget for producing a manual was too much. He'd rather see more online publishing of material with lower budgets, so that more manuals could be published more frequently. We talked about how the latest Alpine tech manual was dumbed down too much versus the older manuals. Michael floated the idea of having tech manuals specifically geared to the level of experience of the pro. Rusty like that one.

After lunch, we went back to the bumps and Mike Hicks took some video. The first open topic was "what do you do when there's a long ridge bump to negotiate?" Rusty's answer was "do everyone a favor and cut it in half" (i.e. take an extra turn over the top of the ridge and set your edges on it to start the process of splitting it into two bumps). Michael's line of thought was more along the lines of how to ride through the long trough and scrub the extra speed at the end. But there are other alternatives. One of Michael's hot buttons about bumps is it's all about having alternatives to choose from. Next up was use of a heavy pole touch to stabilize the upper body during the edge change. We were encouraged to hold onto the plant until the edge change had been completed. This can bring you into the back seat, but if you complete the turn it won't because you bring your upper body back to the pole. If you don't complete the turn, you're going to straight downhill into the next bump and can you use the extension caused by begin the back seat as a set up move to absorb the next bump. So this is a good example of having options to choose from. We spent the rest of the day getting better in the bumps. We had a little discussion of what the level 2 standards for bumps were. Michael's two cents were that it was mostly about keeping the skis on the snow and staying in control. At the end of the day we got to review the video and then Michael gave an impromptu tuning clinic (he tunes his skis every day). One tuning tip from Michael was that he only sharpens his side edges because his base edges don't wear down. Rusty thinks that's because he's got better technique than we do.

For three years in a row, Mr. Rogan has come to Whitetail and had absolutely sweet conditions to ski in. He has rewarded the ski school staff for this luck by sharing his teaching knowledge and improving our skiing. It is such a thrill to see in person a demo team person making turns on your home mountain and to follow in their tracks. Thank you Michael. We're already making plans for next year.  You should be too!