Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mank vs. Powder

Hi, guys! Oh, man do I have a lot to share with you, but I'm gonna start here. One of my readers from the East Coast asked about the difference between skiing mank and skiing powder, so I thought I'd post my response here so we can all talk about it. I'd LOVE to hear what you all think!

Kate - thanks so much for all the updating! I know there are a lot of folks out there always waiting w/ bated breath to learn what goes next!
Skiing the 'mank' - is this what we'd call mashed potato here in the East? Wet wet sticky stuff that doesn't let you turn? You want to push it rather than ski it? Slush??
I wanted to work on this myself this Spring - having just for the first time ever skied powder (big powder in Tahoe)
I applied what I'd learned there; instead of looking for the carve, keep the skis more parallel & downhill all the time, using that 'push' or pressure motion that works so well in the deep. Extend and go long and be patient - that's what worked for me this year!
Somebody who knows even told me that I looked good doing it! YAY!
Am I saying the same thing you are, in a diferent way? Some of your terminology is a little alien to me, but if we're talking the same stuff, then it is great to read your blog and see what you've done to solve the movement mystery.
Good for you - your skiing life is keeping you focused on the future, and that's where your dreams are. You go.

Hi, Windeehill!
Thanks for keepin' me on it, it helps a lot! I want to post every day while I am on the road or at an event, and about three times a week when I'm not, (or more if I've got something burning in my mind), but knowing my readers are out there waiting keeps me honest, and on it!!

Thanks for the push, I need it!!

Okay, so to answer your question about the Mank. I don't have a HUGE amount of experience skiing in powder, this year was my second year trying to unlock the mysteries of that amazing experience, and I posted a bit about it.

Here it is from my take, but take it with a grain of salt, and geek out with it with a couple of other people. I may post this as an actual post, by the way, so we can get a discussion going!

Yes, Mank is Mashed Potatoes, but sticky, hence the Monkey Snot terminology... think of shin deep slop, wet snow, starting to slide, sticky, deep, sucks your skis under. Hard on the knees. I'm not sure what spring snow is like in the East, but I'm assuming wet spring snow is wet spring snow, and this is like late afternoon, way past corn, into slushing and warming.

Yes, extending in the apex is key, that feeling of pushing your feet also was in the mix, but instead of feeling like I was pushing them "away" I guess, pushing your body into a long position against that platform.

Because if you push your feet away, your CM will be most likely out of balance, too far inside, and then, just like in carving, you will get wound into the hill and have to make a big move to cross your platform again.

At first, it was helpful to think of not bringing the tips too far across the fall line, keeping them pointed more down the hill, but as I got into more challenging and steeper terrain, what I realized is that you still need to shape the turn, you just need to listen with your feet and legs and be PATIENT, so that you aren't trying to haul the skis around to make a slowing movement, but rather, bringing them around in time with what the snow wants to make a round turn in these conditions.

This way, you continue to travel the speed you want to travel, rather than the speed that the snow seems to be dictating, which in Mank can be a VERY straight line, which is very scary, because when it IS time to turn, this snow will grab your skis, and over the handlebars you go.

So I would say, the difference between Powder and Mank for me is this:

In the powder, when you can't really feel the bottom, or its knee deepish on a soft base, start in a straight line, depending on the slope, and then, when you get going just a bit slower than you want to be going for the rest of the run, start bouncing, compressing and compacting the snow under your skis.

Obviously, on a very steep pitch, like here at Bridger going off the cornice into the Saddle, that may be one bounce and you are ready to turn.

On lower angle terrain, you can just bounce and go straight all the way down.

Once you get the feeling of compacting the snow under your skis, try bouncing down onto the snow, compacting, and as the skis release, twist the skis together as a single platform across the fall line while they are light. Compact again, then twist across the fall line while they are light.

The light phase is a retraction feel, for me, I was allowing my skis to come up under me and twisting as they crossed under me. In this way, I never felt like they were stuck or diving, and I wasn't hauling my feet around with my upper body.

I practiced this with Mary Ball, who has done a TON of skiing with extraordinary ski photographer Lonnie Ball, and she gave me the hint that when it's time to come UP out of the pow, and twist, throw both your hands UP into the air, (I think of that old Saturday night live sketch SUPERSTAR!)

You don't want to do this in all your skiing, because you are cueing with your upper body, but its a great drill to really feel what its like to get your whole body into the up and down movement, and it allowed me to get "sporty" with the compaction of the snow without trying to pull my skis across the fall line with my upper body in a twisting motion.

Using this idea, I was finally able to keep my upper body moving down the mountain, but having quick feet under me, and still enjoy the sensation of just letting it rip. That was a nice, much less scary sensation!

The next piece of the puzzle for me was opening the ankle at the top of the turn, so I was reaching with my feet at the top of every turn. This magical little moment was brought to my by Josh Spuhler and Weems Westfeldt, and Weems put it this way: its a tiny move, 10% change, with 80% effect. Its hard to pinpoint, esoteric, but once it came into my skiing, my skis felt free to move, turn and play in any conditions! This is the move that unlocked the Level 3 for me.

Mank, conversely, feels more like it wants to suck my skis under. If you compact it under your skis, it doesn't let go, now you are just freight training under it.

Its still a retraction turn, but your intention is different. I'm in the process of working on an article about intention in skiing, its something I learned in Massage Therapy, and I think there is really something to it.

The mechanics of a basic retraction turn are the same, but with some subtle differences. By the way, if you want to REALLY feel an awesome retraction turn, get on the Skiers Edge Machine! WOW!

Okay, so here is the Mank turn: The skis are on a fairly solid platform, that is keeping them kind of rail-roading through it. I felt that I could think of an Edge Change in this snow, where as in blower powder, I'm thinking of skiing in a big box of feathers, trying to squish them down to find a trampoline to bounce off of.

So I started this off by traversing into the hill rather than going straight down it, starting with smaller turns, and then opening it up as I found my rhythm, it helped because I was afraid of ripping my knee to pieces while learning this stuff.

So you are traversing across the hill, get that long "push" feel, at the same time, curling your body into that old school "comma" position, legs long, spine curling, hands holding a beachball, abs engaging as you try to squeeze all the air out. As the feet come back around at the bottom of the turn, allow BOTH of them (retraction) to come up under you and change edges at your max flexion.

Now, your skis are across the hill pointing the other way (and YEAH, I brought the all the way across the fall line because I didn't want to gain a huge amount of speed in this snow while I was learning.) Key to not high-siding here is CORE STRENGTH and engagement. Skiing into and out of counter, thinking about that big beach ball.

Now your edge change is completed, and you begin to extend, but now, engaging your core in the other direction. squeezing the beach ball into your other thigh, feeling the push, like you are trying to push your body away from your feet, but your awesomely strong core won't let you.

Skiing this kind of manky snow felt to me like a huge amount of functional tension in the core, with precise and sensitive feet, listening to every phase of the turn. Being present in the moment is also very very helpful.

Loosing the judgmental voice and simply being diagnostic while learning to ski this snow made every turn better than the last!!

Best of luck to you, thanks for the questions, and thanks for reading!! Let me know if you have any more questions, and what your other ski buddies say, I'm excited to discuss this!


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