Sunday, February 28, 2010

God I love it

So I'm laying here in bed, all tucked in, its a bit late for me because I have to be at first tracks in the morning... I've got a pint of Karamel Sutra ice cream and the box set of classic ski films.

I'm hanging out ignoring my phone and watching John Jay's "Head for the Hills" which seems like it must have been a live presentation in 1995 of all of the best of his films over the years. He narrates and you can hear the audience laughing and gasping all the way.

Its an hour and a half or so of skiing from 1947 to 1982 or so, most of it looks like it was shot in the late sixties, and tonight I got my first view of Taos, and the adventurous skiers ripping through the trees and canyons like children raised by wolves with trust funds.

There is something about this activity that breeds playful joy no matter how old you are. I've been trying to put my finger on it all night, and I know many people have pondered this for their whole ski career, but this combination of moving through the mountains, playing in the snow, challenging yourself to be active and present and aware while letting it all just flow down the hill like water...

I'm grateful.

I love the way it feels to change something in my skiing and have this moment of awkward unsurity, and listening to my skis as they move in a new way, informing my body of where it needs to be, and it travels up the chain in slow motion, and takes a few turns to become familiar, but all of the sudden, when the message finally reaches your brain, you get this flash of understanding.

And then you let go even more, trust that new movement and listen more closely with your feet and your body and then you have that moment when everything is just right, it all clicks, boom in the bumps your body folds, absorbs, collapses and stretches and reaches, banks and butters and whump collapses again...

And then if you are me, and you think, WOW that felt good, lets do that AGAIN only a little bigger and a little faster (if enough is good, more must be better, right, Kate?) and you find the other end of the envelope, and hanging on to your last turn you hit one stiff and its all over... Mental note, more not always better...

I had been so frustrated lately with myself, I love to change my skiing, I am addicted to feeling all the new pieces synthesize and just as I think I get it, ripping it all apart again and rebuilding it. But as I'm improving, of course that process is slowing down.

I'm trying to find ways to keep it rolling, going for depth in understanding of simple concepts and making changes in intent, and subtle movement pattern changes hoping for another big A HA!!

Recently I've been working a ton in the bumps, and Cindy Lou has been my patient guide and mentor. She's trying to take me from my old white pass evolution turn into a more active absorption/retraction turn, and I was having trouble with speed control. Edge change while flexing, something Mike Rogan gave me in the slush last year, is really confusing in the bumps.

I mentioned this to Kurt the other day, and, as he does, he looked at me and I knew I was gonna get it. "Why do you think you could do it in the bumps if you can't do it on the groom? Go out there and do thousands of retraction turns on blue groomed terrain until you can do one. Then try it in the bumps."

So I did, I went out and did 8000 retraction turns. I counted them.

And then I went back into the bumps. It was then end of our first day out with Carlson Capital, a wonderful group that comes to Aspen every year that I had the honor of working with this year. I was all fired up at the end of a long day because my students were so willing, so excited and made SUCH huge changes in their own skiing, that I was just happy inside and ready to rip.

Andy Docken and Smilin' Tim and I loaded the gondola and we went up to do Long Face to Shoulder of bell on Ajax in heavy skied out powdery bumps. Docken likes to rip around and get in the air, and Tim is right there with him. I hadn't been in the bumps at speed since my retraction turn drill days, but I was just feeling silly and wild.

I really didn't care if I biffed it hard, that's part of it, and it was time to just go, play, and have fun. I jumped in with the boys and was amazed to see that the pieces were coming together!

I was seeing options, I was seeing the playground, I was skiing at speed and when i was in trouble, I could air it out and then absorb, scrub a nice round turn and hit it hard again. This was certainly a first for me, and it helped a lot to be following the choice example of the guys I was skiing with.

I couldn't help it, I laughed out loud the whole way down and when we got spit out into Copper I was covered in goosebumps.

People ask me why I train so much, why I'm "serious" about understanding what my ski is doing in the snow and how my body affects it, and I have to say, that was it. That was the reason right there.

Sudden kinesthetic understanding, the freedom to ski, to play to bounce, to let go and see what had stayed in my body, what did I own?

In that run, I owned retraction. We'll see how much of it sticks!!

Don't Teach them too much, this is just a play/cruiser lesson.

I get this comment quite often. Sometimes from people that are handing me work, sometimes from the clients themselves.

"What do you want out of this lesson?" I ask every client.

"Oh, I don't know, I want to get better at skiing for sure, but I like to just kind of take it easy. I want to stay on the groomer. The bumps scare me. I can get down anything, I've done some blacks, I just don't like feeling scared. I'd rather we just have fun today and if you have some tips along the way, go ahead and give them to me."

What did that person just say to me?

I don't think that they were telling me that they don't want me to teach them, I think that they were really saying something like this:

"There is something that I like about skiing when I feel in control. When I take a lesson, I often get put into positions where I feel out of control. Feeling out of control scares me. I'd like to feel more in control more of the time. Often times trying to get better for me includes a period of feeling more frightened."

This person is actually begging me to teach them! But I think that the place that we get stuck is in meeting someone where they need to be met.

This person doesn't want to and isn't ready to learn something on unfamilar terrain. That person is telling me clearly that they don't understand how to make a turn that consistently feels like they are in charge of their skis. Their skis surprise and frighten them.

This person, I believe, is telling me that they need to understand what the ski is doing on the snow, why it does it, and how to do it in a way that is easier, feels safer, smoother, and more comfortable.

They need to know why they turn! They need to know what their own reasons are for turning, and then I like to talk to them about other reasons you might turn. What does turning do?

Then, they need to come to a place where they are willing to let go of their ideas of what it takes to become a better skier. This often has to to with helping them be a bit gentle with themselves. This client, to me, is often very judgmental of themselves, they care coming to you with a story in their head that they are a bad skier, that you have to have been skiing forever to get good at it, that to get better you just have to be better at accepting being scared, that their friends or family resent the fact that they need to go slowly to feel safe, so they are often pushed to a speed they are uncomfortable with.

I like to start here by explaining that speed comes with proficiency. I don't like to spend most of my day scared and feeling like I'm about to explode, I'm sure my clients don't want that feeling either!

This weekend, I had the lovely opportunity to work with an amazing group of people who all wished they were better, but were facing similar issues. They couldn't dedicate more than three or four days a year to skiing, so they needed broad strokes on the fundamentals that allowed them to experience the mountain with a feeling of more freedom.

More thoughts on this coming... now, back to my incredible Organization Seminar! (Oh MAN do I need this!)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Because that's what I can do today.

So my new regimen of Fitness has begun. And I'm proud. I'm killing it. I'm on my path and I know it will build from here. Do you want to know what I've done? I've started taking my vitamins.

Yup. That's it. Oh, that, and I've made the choice not to work out even though I have all of the energetic and emotional intent and desire to, because I've been pretty sick for the last week and haven't had enough rest to properly heal and recover.

I also am recovering my knee from a sprained MCL, and skiing in a brace right now, so my Skier's Edge machine is also taking a rest.

I've been in this place before, where I've gained some weight, lost some fitness and been really unhappy with myself. I mean, I have a year and two months before the regional demonstration team tryouts, and two years before the nationals. I can't really afford to fuck around anymore.

But here's something that has changed. For the first time, I haven't had to talk myself out of doubting my ability to continue increasing my fitness. Yes. I am about TWENTY pounds heavier than I like to be. Welcome to Aspen, let me complain about my job, OH MY GOSH I have to stop eating at the Nell and Cloud Nine and the Ritz and the Aspen Mountain Club for breakfast, lunch and dinner or I'm going to need a uniform that's three sizes bigger next year! (That's a horrible fate, isn't it?)

Okay. The point is, yes I am blessed for sure to have such amazing food to taste, and such good friends to share it with. But there needs to be balance here. I think the major shift for me is that I have compassion for myself.

I understand that I need a huge level of fitness to get where I am going. But I also understand that everything I've been doing has been laying the foundation to create a place where I can focus on becoming fit at that level without taking from my kids or my mom or my partner. Moving here was the first step. Moving into three different houses, helping my mom get here, having discussions with her about how much she can give, how much she wants to give and how to make sure her life feels honored and full while still creating the space to allow me to train was another.

Learning how to exist in this environment professionally, focusing on doing my job well and integrating into this amazing school above my personal training goals, so that I CAN focus on my training eventually has been another compassionate step. And the journey hasn't been frustrating.

I find myself in this place, not as fit as I want to be, heavier than I like to be, but with depth in other crucial areas that are now ready to support the huge physical push I have before me.

Last night, my mom and I watched Lindsay Vonn's winning downhill race on the computer. I have never seen a person, male or female, be affected less by the external forces which act upon a skier at such high speeds. She was so often in balance, so rarely pulled or knocked out of balance, and when she was, the movements that she had to make to get back into balance were so minimal, that she was able to ski at an unprecedented level with less effort. This is a direct result, I believe of her tremendous fitness.

This is what I want from my body. If I have a huge level of fitness, the forces which act on me when I am skiing will have a diminished affect compared to other skiers, it will be harder for me to get out of balance, and easier for me to get back into balance. I'll be able to last longer, perform more athletically, and accurately even on the fifth day of the tryout.

Yes, I have one year and two months to get there. No, that's not as much time as I'd like. But its what I have. And now that the foundation is laid, my kids are happy and thriving and well adjusted, we are moved in, my mom is here and much more comfortable, things are hitting their stride, I can turn my focus to taking the time that I have left and maximizing my ability to become as fit as I can.

Today, I took my vitamins. Because that's what I can do today. I went to on snow training, but I didn't work out further than that because I'm recovering from a cold and an injury. Healing and sleeping well is a part of this. Its a part of patience and restraint that will add up to an ultimately much stronger body.

So for the first time, I don't feel thwarted by being sick or being injured or having no time or needing to move or unpack or care for sick kids when I have the need and desire to train hard and get strong. I feel that I have a real understanding of doing what I can do, with intent towards increasing my focus in this area so that in the next three weeks, I'm in a program that allows me to travel toward a level of fitness that allows me to ski in a way that I only dreamed was possible.

Today, I took my vitamins, because that's what I could do today. And I killed it!

Hello there...

My computer screen is shaking in front of my eyes, because I'm cooked! But I wanted to say howdy and update whats going on... today was the next on snow demo team training, which was outstanding. It was quite a challenge to come off four days on the couch and no sleep because both my kids are sick and waking me up every 20 minutes while I'm trying to recover from the same cold...

But I learned a lot. Todays discussion was on flexing and extending movements and how they relate to pressure maintenance and change. I have to say that it is a real honor to be a part of this group, there is so much trust! Our group has no leader, its a group of like minded pros that are all training toward the common goal of making it to the Alpine Demo team, and to that end, we've created an amazing space where we break down concepts and speak openly towards common understanding.

The thing that blows me away about this group is that it has yet to be hijacked and held captive by someone who needs to prove to the group that they have a certain level of understanding. This group is truly simply holding a discussion, coming up with some hypothesis on the snow, and then testing them to see if they are accurate. When we really click, its amazing to see how the concepts gell and how our skiing as a group gets exponentially better!

Tonight was another indoor MA session, this time with all the examiners talking about real vs. ideal in the bumps, both ski performance and body movements. Many of us in the room had been in team training on snow all day and had been really working hard on our MA as a result of trying to answer some of these very tricky questions about pressure. Because of that, Megan offered Cindy, Kristen and I up as sacrifical lambs to play with the examiners in MA.

I ended up getting Rotary and the summation after John Wiltchen and Squatty had tackled edging and fore/aft pressure, and foot to foot and maintinance/change respectively. I was slightly terrified, but with the help of Cindy's devlish smile, I let go of my fear and just talked as clearly and sucintly as I could about what I saw. I was proud of my ability to communicate what I saw, and I think I did a fairly decent job experessing it in a really high pressure environment. I'm glad I did it, even though I was truly terrified until I started talking.

One difference this time was that I wasn't listening to myself talk and asking, "Is this right? Is this what they want to hear? Do they agree with me?" I just said what I saw and why I thought I saw it. I think because of that it was clear, and even if I had been off the mark, I would have been glad to have finally hurdled my ability to just answer the question put to me.

I was just as happy to have my analysis be accurate, and defend-able, and to have been able to participate in the resulting discussion in an engaged, rather than scared or defensive way. I think THAT may be a result of actually having stated what I saw rather than worrying about whether what I saw was right or not. In any event, it went well, and I was proud, and REALLY grateful for all the work that Cindy and Shanzy and Kristen and Buddy have done with me over the summer in our MA workshops. Those guys worked diligently all summer long, and graciously included me when I came in the fall, and it had a profound affect on my ability to speak with confidence.

Course, it probably also was really helpful that Cindy came up to me one day and just said, "Hey, Kate. Cut out the bullshit. Stop apologizing. You know your shit. You have technical understanding. Just say what you want to say." Thank heavens for friends who give it to you straight!

Tomorrow will bring some more training on snow, and then... our first meeting of the Guest Service Task Force which I am the chair of! Oh my goodness, I'm excited and nervous. I'm really flattered to have been asked to chair this task force, and the people sitting on it are veterans of the industry. Cross your fingers, here we goooo!

I'm looking forward to writing a lot about what I'm working on in my skiing, the concepts we went through today were really revelatory. But right now, I'm off to bed, I'm bushed!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Manifest through Intent

We've all heard the idea that you make what you want in life. That you get what you ask for, be it positive or negative. I see it often in action on the ski slope: Henry Ford said it well. "Whether you think you can, or think you can't; you are right."

I was talking with a good friend of mine the other day, and he was frustrated. "Just wish it. Wish for what you want. You know, it says so in The Secret." And I understand this train of thought. I get why he was frustrated, and I've been thinking about it ever since.

I think there is a question of integrity, ego and intent here.

I believe that our path unfolds in front of us as a direct result of our integrity. I think that when we wish for things, like, I wish I had a pair of Elan Pogosticks, in white, with grey bindings in a 172.

I believe that those skis may show up in my future as a manifestation of other hard work I'm doing that will make that possible. I don't think you just wish for things, material items, and you are rewarded with them.

I think that the way it works is that if you live your life listening and giving as well as taking, if you honor your path, if you are willing to set your ego aside, and look for the lesson in every situation, good ones and bad ones, easy ones and hard ones, that you tend to stay on your path. And when you live with honor and integrity like that, I think you tend to attract other people into your life who feel similarly. These are people who are open to meaningful communication, who have learned or are also working on setting their ego aside.

When you get a group of people together that are more interested in communicating than in being right, you have a powerful impetus for both learning and change.

And its interesting that when you throw just one combative or ego attached person into that mix, how easily shaken a lot of the group can feel. Our old patterns can come to the surface, we are triggered into doubt and defensiveness.

Finding these moments of challenge to be moments of opportunity, for you to practice humility, patience, and to help someone who is in a place where their self worth is defined by the amount of the time they are right, and help bring them to a place where they are a part of the group rather than pulling the group apart helps you walk down your path well.

I believe that it is this kind of integrity that helps the "universe" put what we need in our path. I don't believe that its truly a manifestation but that when you live your life well, when you are unafraid to be transparent, when you practice it every day in spite of the fact that you will fail, your world and the people in it change materially.

Intent is the next piece, and I believe its twofold, my intention for my lifepath; so for me that means living transparently and loving well, which includes loving myself well, which includes honoring my boundaries, no matter how painful that may feel to someone else when they bump those boundaries. I believe its my responsibilty to tell them gently what has happened, but I also believe that integrity in my person includes being steadfast with that which honors my own moral code. My intention toward my own personal growth and health. Because if I don't have and enforce those clear boundaries, I can not give to anyone else from a place of strength, I only give by bleeding, and that kind of gift is no gift at all, its a gift with a heafty price to myself and to the one trying to recieve from me. So for me, lifepath would encompass spiritual, emotional, how I want to be in the world.

Intent in my career path is the other side of it, but its not so terribly different. I want to honor the things that make me feel like I am contributing as much as I can to the world around me, and that I am being filled up at the same time. Honoring my boundaries and checking to make sure I am walking on my path are the things that keep me working with integrity in this area, as well.

I think that when this happens, the net result may be that the path to those skis, if that material desire is important for my path, will unfold. Either in a financial ability to buy them, or a relationship that allows me to ski on them without taking a finanacial hit.

But I think that's the sticky point there. I don't think you just wish for Prada Jeans and wait around for them to materialize. Not to say that you couldn't have a life path that didnt' lead you to Prada Jeans. My point here is that manifestation of material needs and wants is a secondary side effect of living your life with intent, integrity, and humility.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ligning up the training

Wow things are moving fast! Here it is the middle of February and we are already planing into the end of the summer.

Now that my mom is back, she's moved here with all her stuff now, and the kids are settled in school and both are skiing, and we are mostly moved in, and Christmas is behind us, its time to realize that I've got all my ducks in a row, and its time to implement the reason we came down here.

I've been doing what I can to get to as much training as I can, from MA to on snow to technical concepts in conversations and books, but its time to stop filling in the cracks and build a program.

A good friend of mine asked me if my Fairy Godmother came down and gave me everything I needed to have as high a chance as possible of making the team, would I still write my blog? The answer, of course, was yes. Because I don't write my blog to get stuff, I write my blog to connect with people who are living the same dream, who are human just like me, who love to ski and want to make better and better choices, to grow and become who they can be while they help other people become as well.

But his question got me thinking. If I could build myself a program that had everything I could need, like I had at the Olympic Training Center, what would it consist of? Lets pretend that there are no time constraints and no financial issues. purely in pursuit of getting my body as strong, fit, balanced, responsive, flexible and whole as it could be.

I would go to yoga four times a week. I would train with the sports Physiologist who used to train the US Ski Team who runs the performance center at the Aspen Club four times a week at least. I would alternate swimming with skinning up Aspen Mountain. I would see a nutritionist, a massage therapist, and acupuncturist, and a chiropractor, as well as a performance therapist.

I would attend MA and early morning training, I would get new snow pants and new boots. I would replace my down layer.

I would increase my core strenth CONSIDERABLY and work on balance like crazy. I would watch old ski films, re-read all my ski books, and keep growing my library of both. I'd hike the bowl and do all the training I'm already doing, and get out there and play with my mentors on the snow.

There's more, but this is where I would start. I think what I'm going to do now, is prioritize these things, for instance, I need to increase my core strength, but I can do that at home with my skier's edge machine and some sit ups. Since I'm not at the Aspen Club right now, I can't work out there (I took myself off the schedule so that I could spend more time with my kids).

Anyhow, stay tuned, because I'm going to post my training schedule and some thoughts on how to build from here to tryouts rather than waxing and waning on my way there.

The next piece I need to look at is summer training. I have Academy, a Rossignol Race Camp and a trip to Portillo Chile in the works, as well as the possibilty of going to a NASTC camp and a trip to Alaska for some steep Heli Skiing and an article. These things all take a huge amount of financial commitment, so again, that's the wish list, prioretize and see what gets done. I can write some articles for some of these things, so they may be easier to do. We'll see. I do know that I have 808 days to get my feet there, and while my skiing is changing every day for the good, I have a LONG way to go and a LOT of work to do.

Lastly, I plan to take a course in organization so that I can handle all the pieces of this rapidly evolving career and still take great care of my family as well as my clients.

I'm enjoying the process of focusing down, I hope as I focus down that everything runs more and more smoothly. It seems to be trending in that direction. Keep your fingers crossed!

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is INCREDIBLE!

I had the unbelievable pleasure of watching the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet perform tonight with my mom. I have heard wonderful things about this company, but nothing could prepare me for the incredible treat that was waiting for us tonight!

The district theater is in the Aspen Elementary School, and, thinking once again that Aspen is a typical town (silly me), I expected an average school theater. Wrongo, the theater itself is a wonderful container, reminding me of some of the terrific small venues in Mountain View and San Francisco.

We watched three pieces, all of which were exquisite, from the lighting to the costuming to the stage design. But what really stood out for me was the incredible choreography. Somehow, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet has managed to stay firmly rooted in classical ballet, honoring the discipline of form, the dancers expressing line in a seemingly never ending extension and unfolding, while bringing us into the conversation with the language of today's movement.

To call this "modern ballet" would be doing it a terrific disservice. There is none of the stilted self indulgence of purposely awkward and unusual movement, every gesture with foot or thigh or shoulder is an economic and carefully chosen dialogue with the audience.

I was astounded at the complexity of relationship and story telling that was accessible to us through these dancers and the beautifully designed choreography. I felt drawn immediately into each relationship, and not because of didactic over expressionism, but because I recognized the physicality from my own human experience.

I lived in LA, Boston and New York, and spent a lot of time at the ballet, and rarely have been so captivated, not since Mathew Bourne's Swan Lake, which I had the pleasure of seeing on its American Debut, have I held my breath like this.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will be in town again March 6, if you can get yourself here, by all means, drop everything and go see this rare and incredible treat.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bring the Travelocity Roaming Gnome to Aspen!

The Travelocity Roaming Gnome has Cabin Fever and can't decide where to spend his next winter vacation, Aspen or Vail. No Contest, right!?

We it IS a contest and YOUR VOTES COUNT! Go to and click on the Cabin Fever tab to vote to bring the Travelocity Roaming Gnome to Aspen! Vote as often as you like through February 17. Please share this campaign with friends and family!!

Training for Powder 8s with Jill Dorken!

Image from
It's on! I'm competing in my first ever Powder 8 Championships! Holy WOW! Jill and I went out today to begin training for this event, which is two skiers synch skiing down a very steep powder run. The contestants are judged on turn shape and form, and should basically look like the same person, leaving a beautiful clean 8 in the snow. The run will take place in the Highlands Bowl, wich averages between 37 and 50 degrees of pitch.

Training for this event is great for my skiing, because the turn shape needs to be so smooth and specific, and I can't be hard on the bottom of my turn. So I'm needing to fix some of the issues in my skiing, such as speed control without jamming the bottom of the turn on steep terrain. Looks like I'm going to be getting in shape, I need to hike the bowl a LOT before March 4 and 5!

Jill and I have to get matching outfits, and we're thinking of going for a western theme, just cuz we can... She had the hilarious idea of looking for a pair of chaps like the Colts Cheerleaders wore in the Superbowl... I didn't see the Superbowl, because I don't have a TV, but it sounds like a good time to me!

We are, of course, looking for sponsors for this event, because the entry is pricey and we need to get clothes. We are hoping for white pants and chaps with a sky blue jacket and a little bit of BLING. Perhaps sky blue helmets with white goggles.

The great thing about this training is that it opens up a bunch of performance issues that have been hiding for me. I have gotten used to skiing in clinic and skiing for exams, so I don't face a lot of nerves right now. But the Powder 8s are going to more appropriately simulate the tryout siutation (minus the bling, of course).

Training with Jill puts some pressure on, as well. She knows what kind of turn we need, and its up to me to make it happen, because I am in front. While we were training today, I found myself wondering, am I doing it right? Do I have the pressure in the right place, is the turn shape consistent, am I gaining speed, can she follow me?

What I really need to do is just let go of those thoughts and think to myself: There is my target down the hill. Screw the outside ski into the snow, and then let it go. Over and over and over. If the initial pressure starts to move down in the turn from the top to the apex, I need to make a rounder turn to give myself enough time to reset to the top of the next turn. Jill can make that adjustment, she is really good at following, (The stronger skier goes in the back, they have to be more adaptable).

So now, my plan is to get out into Spar and Copper and Thunder Bowl and get a long, consistent pitch of rhythmic turns. Then, I plan to get into the steeps and refocus on my steep skiing tactics. Then, I plan to synthesise these two together.

Should be fun!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

But at what cost? (Part 127 at least, in a series)

Reading Bill Pennington's incredible article about Lindsay Vonn has once again shone a light on a piece of my path that I try so hard to paddle carefully along. (hmmm... that's quite the mixed metaphor, but you see where I'm going with this...)

At what cost, success?

I know what it takes to get there. I've seen those that have made it and those that haven't.

I lived at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Arrowhead for a time, and while I was there, I saw more talent than I could believe. The thing that floated the champions to the top was their team, support and the selfless giving of those around them.

Whether it was their family or just a group of coaches, these people had the ability to build a team around them, to be gracious and thankful and humble, and to rely with confidence on the fact that their team was there to hold them up.

Michelle Kwan moved to the Ice Castles when she was 11. Her parents lived over an hour away. They took turns living at the training center in a cabin with Michelle and her sister Karen. Her parents never saw each other. They had a brutal commute, and incurred incredible expense helping their kid achieve her dream. And Michelle was succesfull in part because it was her dream. She loved to skate. She ate up her coaching, and she rested comfortably in the support of her parents and her dedicated team. She said thank you by working hard, staying positive and believing in herself. And she rose to incredible heights. I never felt that Michelle lived in a world of entitlement. I never saw her struggle with gratitude and guilt. She seemed, at a very early age to understand how to balance her job, her goal and her desire with her obligation to those who were helping her get there.

The balance between the emotional state of focusing so strongly on yourself and being grateful to what is given to you can kill an athlete. I felt it myself when I stood at line up the first time I took my full cert.

People have given me so much. What if I fail? What if all the time and effort and energy that Weems and Squatty and Megan and Michael and Josh have given me... what if I fail and what they gave me was for nothing? What if I can't say thank you by winning?

And there it is. What if I can't show my gratitude with the success they expect.

This thought is yet another filter that stands between you and your ability to perform in the moment. Mermer Blakesly was there that day, and she walked up to me and helped me feel my skis slice into the snow, and pull me back down out of my head and into my feet.

I didn't pass that day, but I did feel that I skied as well as I could. My team was still there, around me. I wished that I was stronger, strong enough not to feel guilty for letting them down, and needing them to work even harder telling me that it was okay that I hadn't passed. I wished we could skip that part and just go to an evaluation of the performance and how to make it better.

That afternoon, I found out that Weems had lost his son. My swirling world opened up. Weems was holding my hand with his friend, and my mentor, Squatty, and telling me that he was proud of me. In spite of the wave of grief that he was riding, he had something to give me.

In that moment, I dedicated myself to selfless gratitude for my team. I let go of my guilt and poured myself back into Weems, whom I had only recently met. I realized that we are all vessles and that I needed to be able to fill myself up if I was going to have the strength to accomplish what I wanted, and the strength to believe that the people who are supporting me are doing it to the extent that they are able to. That I am not taking more than they can give, that they will take care of that end of the bargain. My job is to listen with every cell, practice hard, implement and come back with questions. My job is to never forget that they are filling me, and be sure that I fill them as well.

I look at where I am now, that this path is not a daydream, or some ridiculous fantasy. I am halfway through my trainer passport on my way to qualifying to be an Examiner for Rocky Mountain. I teach at a full cert school, and not just any full cert school, but one of the oldest and most respected in the country. I am surrounded by incredible, giving, fluid people who are strong enough and have worked hard enough on themselves that their sense of self is solid and true.

Yesterday, I had a tough day. I rode the gondola with my boss and good friend, Andy. We had on our GS skis and were blowing out the cobwebs at fifty miles an hour or so. I was feeling lost, wondering if I was asking too much from Mike, wondering if a person can do this without becoming so internal and selfish that the goal becomes narcissistic rather than healthy.

Andy, in his beautiful, gentle way, told me brutal truths. I love this. I love to just hear honesty. I love to get it straight. It feels so clean, so clear.

I ended the day knowing that when I ski, my world makes sense to me. I ended the day knowing that my kids are happier and healthier with me reaching for this goal. I ended the day knowing that my mother has made huge sacrifices in her life to help me reach for this goal, and that I am dedicated to my path.

I knew as I rode up the gondola and saw the world falling away below me and the sun intensifying as it reflected off the highland's bowl across the valley that I was home, where I belong, doing what makes sense to me. I know I am on my path. I know I can honor those who help me get there.

I know that staying true to my path means facing brutal truth, and that facing brutal truth makes the path and the people who walk it with me clear. Crystal clear.

I ended the day fatigued and banged up, with the sensation that you get when you've been pounded by the ocean and your body is bewildered, but you know you've survived.

Today, I am back in the GS skis, I am with my kids in my heart, I am flowing to my mom who holds space for me so I can believe, I am on the phone talking about the fact that its impossible to accelerate out of a turn, I am learning more about tuning my skis, yes, I need to tune them every single day to keep them in good shape, super sharp and fast, I am reconnecting to my dedication to fill in all the corners that will let me succeed.

Fitness, mental and emotional and spiritual and physical, nutrition, technical understanding, gear, my blog, my support group, my team, my sponsors, my children, my home, my nest, filled with ski books underlined in pencil and highlighter, films, meetings, movement analysis... friendships and gratitude.

If I am going to get there, I must allow myself to believe I am allowed to focus intensely on these things, that it is my job to focus on these things. And I love to do my job well.

Lindsay Vonn at the Summit by Bill Pennington

Read the full article at the New York Times Magazine

On the November day last year when Vail opened for the winter season, the base area was a swarm of skiers and snowboarders, a mass that swelled with the approach of a tall, 25-year-old blonde carrying ski boots and poles. As she walked into the resort’s plaza, a gaggle of young children trotted in her wake, shouting her name. Many of those waiting to board the nearby gondola recognized Lindsey Vonn as well and surged toward her.

Smiling all the while, Vonn parted the crowd with the help of her husband, Thomas, who carried her prized skis. Cellphone cameras were raised overhead and pointed in her direction as Vonn ducked beneath the chain guarding a restricted entry to the gondola. I waited at the top of the entrance, and when Vonn finally stood next to me, she laughed and said, “When I was here as a little girl, it never took that long to walk 50 yards.”

It was not just another day on snow for Vonn. It was, in fact, the rarest of occasions. The most decorated American female alpine racer ever was going to ski outside a race course, something she almost never does. We had arranged to ski together and shoot a video, an appointment that was years in the making, if not actually going all the way back to the first time I met Vonn, in 2002.

On the ride up the mountain, Vonn looked out the gondola windows at the trails packed with a joyous opening-day crowd and talked about how she once skied the same slopes with her brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. At the summit, however, we did not head for familiar routes. Instead, snowmobiles escorted us to an isolated, otherwise unopened trail on the other side of the mountain.

“I haven’t skied like this in a while — you know, like, alone,” Vonn said, clicking into her ski bindings. “There’s usually so many people everywhere.” Then she pushed off down the empty trail. It wasn’t long before she was at high speed. Chunks of the mountain disappeared fast under her feet, but her movements remained smooth and elegant, and I recalled how Jim Tracy, a United States ski-team coach, described the first time he saw Vonn ski. “She’s hauling down the mountain, her skis probably going 60,” Tracy told me, “but the rest of her was hardly moving. It was like watching water flow down a hill.”

Vonn eventually came to stop on a plateau in the trail. “Pretty quiet up here,” she said. We were able to look out over Vail, where Vonn has a pricey condo and where an elaborate rally in her honor would be held later that day. The theme of the event, as it has been in dozens of public appearances she made in the last year, is Vonn’s pursuit of five gold medals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Hers is one of the signature American faces of these Games. No American alpine skier has ever won more than two Olympic medals in a career, let alone in a single Olympics.

And so, as it usually does, the subject of her quest came up. This winter, she truly never skis alone. Expectations await around every bend in every trail. “Five gold medals?” Vonn said, staring into the distance. “Well, it’s possible. But I haven’t won even one Olympic medal yet. I’d like to win the first one and let’s see from there. But people are getting pretty amped up. Kids yell to me, ‘Lindsey, win a couple of gold medals for me.’ ”

We have been through this before. Four years ago, the skier Bode Miller was expected to win multiple gold medals at the Winter Games in Turin. Instead, he won none, and his Olympics were portrayed as a failure borne of apathy and late-night barhopping.

Vonn is continually compared with Miller, and she has learned to politely deflect the predictable questions, saying she will try not to let anyone down. Having spent much of her childhood in Apple Valley, Minn., Vonn is “Minnesota nice.” But privately, she’ll reveal that having to constantly talk about Miller’s Olympian misadventure irks her. I found that out at lunch with her in New York last year, when I brought it up. She put down her sandwich and nearly snorted. “I know what I’m not,” Vonn said, “and I am definitely not him.” The conversation drifted away, but a minute later, she steered it back. “He was partying nights before Olympic races,” she said, her voice rising. “What was he thinking? I can tell you, I’m not going to be the one that says it doesn’t matter if I win an Olympic medal. I know what that means to me and to the country. The Olympics are huge.”

For the rest of this incredible article, including a beautiful in-depth look at what it takes to help and athlete reach her best, click here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

My kids are SUPERHEROS!

Bodhi and Ethan continually blow me away. They are absolutely thriving here in Aspen. Bodhi has found his adventurous spirit and wants to try as many new things as he can. He watched Mike and Ethan and Ethan ski in the terrain park from the Elk Camp Gondola, and decided then and there that he wanted to ski. This from a boy who has been refusing to ski and getting put in "the tank" at the Treehouse, and generally just harrassing everyone, from my mom to me to Alisa to Ethan.

The next day, after he decided he wanted to ski, he skied from Mid mountain to the base without help in a ski school lesson and was lapping the skittles on Fanny Hill. The NEXT day, he was moved up to Level 4 because he's linking parallel turns on groomed blue terrain.


Ethan, meanwhile, has decided that he likes the way it feels when he gets on the front of his boot, and he is crushing it in every turn, and has now moved up to Level 5. They are both addicted to ski school. In celebration, we ate dinner at an AWESOME restaurant called The Sweet Life at the new base village in Snowmass.

Meanwhile, they are socially integrating in a way that they never have. Ethan is learning to make his way in the world as a less bossy, more open person, with more patience, and Bodhi is opening and making friends right and left.

They both have gotten tremendous report cards, and are going to bed on their own, brushing their teeth, clearing their plates, eating well, (did I mention going to bed on their own?) getting dressed in the morning, getting up without any issue, and holding it together when things get rough.

Ethan has had a tough couple of days injury wise. A glass bowl fell off the top of the fridge yesterday and cut his foot. After a minute of tears and a lot of blood, he said to me, "Mom, my foot is cut and I cant make it not be cut by wishing it wasn't. So I am going to practice accepting that my foot is cut." And he stopped crying. And then he told me that it hurt way less when he didn't wish it wasn't cut.

Wow again.

Today, Ethan was playing rough with some kids on the playground, they were rowdying around and having fun, and Ethan got tackled and hit his head on the ice, hard. When we all got home at the end of the day, he was grey and tired and nauseous, so off to the Hospital we went.

In the past, Ethan has milked his illnesses or injuries, being a bit of a drama kid, liking the attention and wanting people to know when he's hurting. Apparently, he's let go of that too.

He told the Doc what was going on, didn't add or embellish, just did the tests and tracked his headache from 1-10 over the course of two hours. We were sent home with instructions on a mild concussion, and he rallied with a little Tylenol. He's doing much better. (I think he handled it better than I did!) I have to say that it was nice to have a paramedic to call, I was trying to stay calm for Ethan, and I think I succeeded well, but I was afraid that he'd really done some damage as he was not acting his usual self at all.

Mike gently filled me with courage, and assessed Ethan over the phone, and agreed that we should go to the hospital just in case. I was glad for his experience, as I tend to err on the side of caution with injuries (to others, not to me...)

Both the boys are caring for each other and helping me out tremendously. They never complain that they are bored, they are always building and reading and drawing, and as we don't have a television, they are constantly coming up with some new, creative way to play. The most INCREDIBLE part of it is how happy they are. Happy, content and at peace. There are no fights. There are no meltdowns. There are tears, but normal and appropriate kid tears.

They feel so free and light to be around, and while they have always been a deep source of joy for me, its wonderful to see them step so boldly into their own, lay down their swords, because they just don't need to fight, and simply thrive. Its awesome!

I'm so very proud of them!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What is Initiation in a turn?

Megan Harvey sent this out to some folks, and WOW... look at how many answers there are!!

I would like to know where and when in the turn you consider the initiation to be....
What constitutes the INITIATION to you?


Alpine Technical Manual (2nd Edition)

Initiation Phase:
This is where the turn begins. The mass of the body moves over the skis and to the inside of the new turn. This involves changing the edge and shifting weight from one ski to the other.

I think there is one answer: you initiate a turn when 1) you decide to change edges and 2) when you then change edges. These events are usually separated by varying time intervals, since you may not do 2) for a while after 1). So, you initiate a turn when you change edges. Of course, as in all human endeavors, you can change your mind and go back to the original edges before significant deviations of your path occur. As noted in discussions before, you have a couple of mechanisms available to actually effect edge change.

1. What Juris says.
2. There is no such thing as an initiation--especially from a traverse. Instead there is a seamless transition where all the big changes happen: speed change, edge change, steering direction change, and usually pressure change.
The idea of initiation implies coming from a non-turing traverse. Even by definition--initiation of what? Of a turn. What were you doing before initiating turning? Not turning.

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Vagners.
I believe that the initiation phase of the turn begins once the skis have flattened out and begin to engage the new edges. That is, the initiation phase follows the transition. Once the new edges are engaged, they have a few different options: skidding, sliding, carving, being bent or not, or how actively they will rotate into the turn. These options, in the initiation phase of the turn direct the behavior of the ski through the remainder of the turn.

What fun - if the traverse state is maintained because edges are used (and with shaped skis, this is actually a turn uphill ..) then changing edges would signal a change in the direction in which you are moving, or, loosely speaking initiation of a turn. Thus, even starting from a traverse, we make a turn of some sort, i.e. change in the direction of travel for our body.

The ski is not necessarily turning if the edge is used. There are other factors which could momentarily keep it pretty straight.
And starting from a traverse is not really how we ski. I'm thinkin' its more arc to arc. no?

Yep - and so am I, arc to arc. Otherwise, a bit boring.
My definition of a turn in general is any change of where the body CM is going at the moment, that is, a deviation of momentum instant to instant with respect to the hill. The skis are a tool to manage ski/snow interactions in addition to the action of gravity - these are the only external forces capable of changing momentum. I can indeed accomplish a linear traverse across the hill by judiciously balancing what my edges are doing with what gravity is trying to do to me.

I think Megan posed the original question..."what consitutes initiation to you"? To me...for practical purposes, initiation occurs with the change of edges. The word initiation implies the start of something, a new turn; and there is a lot which could be debated regarding what defines a "new turn",

The reason I would say "change of edges" is that once you do switch edges you are definitely going the other way - with intent. We were playing around in a clinic the other day, and a skilled skier can pass right through what we would normally call the "transition" and travel awfully close to the fall line of the "new" turn before actually switching edges. Until you pass the fall line, you are, in a sense, in a very shallow traverse out of the last turn. But once you do switch edges, you are definitely going the other direction - you can't keep traveling right once you move to the left set of edges. You are in the New Turn. Now we just need to decide when you should change edges?

What about initiating a wedge turn? There's no edge change, but I'd say
there's still an initiation. So I'd say the initiation begins when the skier
does something to get his or her body to the inside of the new outside foot
("inside" being in the context of the new turn) and the ski to eventually
engage the snow with its inside edge.
In a wedge turn, there is always a ski that's to the outside of the skier's
center of gravity, going in either direction, so the skier doesn't make a
movement to establish that relationship in each turn (because it's always
there). But in all turns made from a traverse or that start from the end of
a turn completed on matching edges, some sort of movement of the new outside
ski (edging, pivoting or displacing laterally) or the skier's body moving
laterally is needed.

I'd like to add something to the note I just sent: Supose you're linking two
advanced parallel turns with up unweighting. I think most people would say
that the initiation starts with the start of the up movement. But that
happens before the edge change. But that up movement is something you do inorder to get your skis and center of gravity to change sides, and help get
your skis to where they can engage their new inside edges.

I’m in with the edge change camp. As soon as I start to change the edge I’m in the process of initiation.

I would add, that from my opinion, as soon as the committment has been made and we have exited the old turn (we are unable to return to it) that we have initiated the new turn---that would fall into the camp around the edge change having been made.

Is there a bet riding on this somewhere?

I, too, am in the edge change camp and apply the "change" to an initiation phase.
I think a skier is in the initiation phase of a turn when the old outside ski has released its edge to flat or to slightly tipped (non-parallel or parallel turns) and the edge of the new outside ski has begun tipping to engage the snow.

When I said that I didn't think there was an edge change in a wedge turn, I was thinking of the skis changing edges. If you define the edge change as "changing the edge that you're putting most of your weight against", then you'd have to say that there is an edge change in a wedge turn.
I like the element of intention that Katie (and someone else, I can't remember who) put it, and what Mike said about making a movement that results in an edge change. That would cover things very short turns from an edgeset where your skis change edges after your body has already started to move toward the inside of the new turn, and you're committed.

On this point - we should think of ""edge change" as any deviation from status quo of the edges and how the body is interacting with the edges. To transfer the forces from the edges to the body CM, there must be some mechanism at play. This mechanism is some combination of skeletal alignment and muscular tension. As soon as we alter these, the effective transfer of the forces from the edges to the CM is changed, and your body

moves in a new direction, usually towards the inside of the new turn because of the action of gravity, which we cannot change. Then the edge change happens. Of course, this isn't the only mechanism at play that results in "edge change" - we may use active rotation of the femurs in the hip sockets to "roll the knees downhill". These considerations move us from the "initiation" issue
to what one may call the "execution" issue - that is, what mechanisms do we have at our disposal to change edges.

Loving this!!!!! Such a great discussion.

A couple other thoughts to add to this discussion. It seems to me that these days there is more “multitasking” going on in a turn, (lets say the everyday medium radius, carved turn on groomers….) and between the turns, that a clear and defined initiation is much more blurred than in earlier days on the straight ski. Today while one turn is being completed the new turn has already been set up which blurs this initiation question. These days I think more of the word transition. My initial knee jerk response to this question was a sense and wonder if the word initiation could be considered a bit of a dated term. Consider this: (for carved turns)

70s skiing – to begin a turn one would flex to provide the room to extend into the turn allowing the ski to flatten and lighten for a direction change. While in motion this flex at the end of the turn also could be accompanied with an edge set followed by the extension……. With this I see a very clear and defined ending and beginning of a new turn. So at this time there didn’t seem to be such a thing as a smooth transition but that the completion of a turn and initiation of a turn was clearly identified/defined. Also back in the days of the straight skis one strived for less pressure at the top of the turn while entering the fall line. Less pressure would allow for more steering and placement of the ski at the top. Today we carve into the fall line which takes pressure and edge but to set this up successfully this preparation must happen earlier (back up and higher in the turn, just following the apex)

Today what I see, experience, coach – is a long transition beginning just as one exits the fall line and ending as one enters the fall line of the new turn. In my mind the initial move upon exiting the fall line is a pressure shift – not an edge change yet but certainly the new platform ski is being established at this point (I call this the multitasking phase because we are completing one turn while simultaneously “initiating the new turn?”). With this pressure shift, establishing of the new platform one is poised for the tipping of the ski and the extension of the “hips to the tips” into the fall line………………

With so much “multitasking” going on in this modern turn isolating out an initiation doesn’t seem to be what it was in earlier days when a clear and definite completion of a turn existed followed by an initiation. What seems to be more relevant at the moment in modern skiing is an understanding of the full extent and complexity of the transition.

I am opinionated here as you all know but my thought is that the transition is the least understood phase of the turn out there for our masses. I would also place pressure as the least understood skill out there for our masses.

As for the wedge turn, I am in the pressure camp (surprise, surprise…..) a pressure shift comes first to establish the new platform. Once balanced with the new platform more effective edging or rotary follows……….

Food for thought. Megan, thanks for posing this question and including me. I appreciate it. I have loved seeing what folks have shared.

I thought initiation was where you drink a ton of beer and make applicants do really degrading things. Wow. I've missed so much!

It is killing me not to scroll down before I answer but here are my thoughts.
A very smart person once told me "you just have to get in there". So, for me edge change is the initiation. Now that being said, it could be the release of the old edge or the engagement of the new edge. An edged ski starts turning when it is weighted and that is the initiation.
And if the skis are not parallel you could say that the edges are always changed and all you have to do is shift your weight. In a wedge you are always inside the turn.
None of this addresses the mental aspect of initiation. But I do not think that is what you are interested about.

Hmmmm…. I’ve been pondering similar things as what Deb stated since Megan brought up the question. Precision in the transition allows for whatever type of redirection of the skis is desired (tipping, steering, pivoting, displacing, etc.). There’s a lot of preparatory stuff that goes on before the skis begin to change direction, but if initiation is defined as when the skis begin to change direction, then perhaps it is the giving up of the old edge(s), when the skier may opt to tip, twist, etc., etc, that is the initiation. So the “edge change” is not necessarily when the new edges are engaged so much as when the release of the edges results in the skis succumbing to gravity hence becoming the impetus at which time the skier determines which type of movement to use to continue to shape a turn.

Hi all-- I know I'm coming in late and I can only guess at the original question, but here are my thoughts about initiation. It's a cultish word that

inherently fosters a glitch by separating the old and the new turn. I like the word transition better--it connects the two.
But if you have to have the word I would say initiation is:
1) In the mind: when you intend to change edges and/or transfer pressure (pressure applicable only if you're on 2 skis).
2) In the body: when you move to change edges and/or transfer pressure.
3) In the skis: when the edges start changing (and there is no return).

What strikes me about this conversation is that most of the interpretations are one dimensional. As a turn is defined in the dictionary there are multiple versions that would apply to skiing.

1. to move to face in a particular direction or toward a particular location, or move something so that it does this
2. to go in a different direction when moving or traveling, or make a vehicle change direction

Changing edges or twisting the skis to point somewhere different does not always mean that a skier will change direction. This is the content that I feel is important to understand. Turning is not just about changing edges or twisting them to point somewhere different. It is important to bend the ski in addition to these things to impart a change in direction.

Years ago, Taos, we got a visit from Stephan Heinzsch, who was racing at the time. We asked him about his sequence in the turn.

He pointed his skis down the hill, leaning on his poles, and said, "Okay...I'm ready to start my turn." It was very clear to me at that moment what the difference between an advanced skier and a lesser skier was in terms of initiation. It was fall line to fall line, not traverse to traverse.

Through you posing this question it seems like we might be creating a new definition.
Really liked the last email from Weems regarding the racers perspective.
We often refer to a skier returning to neutral so I wonder if everything you do before you get there should still be considered part of the old turn. Making neutral the true staring point.

I have really enjoyed the responses to "the question", and it seem to me, if I can jump in, (now would be the time to erase this email as you can see its long) that we are reworking what we have known for years rather than what has become clearer with the equipment advances. Initiation for me, and the

definition that makes the most sense, is: starting something or the beginning of something. That seems to indicate the turn and then define it as when the skis edges engage the snow, resists the forces and go off in a different direction.

Now there is a bit of stuff that happens before this, but they are related to the previous turn. If the ski edges (in the previous turn) are relaxed. if the skier goes from a bent inside leg to a straighter one (in the previous turn), if the skier goes from a more inclined or angulated position to a upright position (in the previous turn), they may be expecting a traditional action that leads to a change in direction...but not necessarily. Someone pointed out that all of that could lead to a traverse ( I am sorry I don't remember who said it) or could lead to a side slip. To say they are initiation moves preceding the next turn seems to be presumptuous on my part. I have seen moves made on the world cup (relating to a skivit turn) where the skis are pointed in a different direction, but the skier is still moving in the same direction. It isn't until the edges engage the snow, that the skier moves off in a different direction.

I think traditionally, we looked at the initiation as a drawn out process that include moves we were making (pole swing, up motion, down motion, weight shift, etc.) that we thought were important or needed to start a turn, I'm not sure they ever were. I remember getting caught at this by a race coach trying to get met to "initiate the turn at the rise line". With a change in the equipment, I think things became clearer. There may not be a initiation phase, but more, an initiation point. A point at which the turn is initiated. When we looked at a dynamic turn track this morning, the edge change from one engaged turn to the next, looking at the edge marks on the snow, they were on top of each other. That's a short phase! I seem to be getting to two descriptor of a turn; the shaping phase and the initiation point.

We did play with a bump turn, but that's for another time....if anyone lets me talk again. Thanks again, I have really enjoyed your comments and insights and had the advantage of all your comments to play with, makes me really long winded hopefully you will continue to let me play.

Taking your WINS when you feel Fear Fear Fear. Or, Permission to speak, Captian?

Today was another day of Demo Team training... this is the team of people that are training to try out for the team in just a little over 800 days.

Our group is really a unique experience, its a group of people who want to work together, without a captian or a leader, but as a bunch of like minded people who ski around together with a common focus and a discussion on our beliefs.

Today, we delved into fore/aft pressure. The group had a meeting the night before to discuss their beliefs on fore and aft pressure, and lay everything on the table before tackling the issue on snow the next day.

I missed the indoor meeting because, well, sometimes I'm brain dead and I left my lights on in the Bronco because I have to climb in and out of the passenger door because the driver door is stuck shut, and the "Your lights are on, dumbass" dinger doesn't ding if you open the passenger door. So.

My point is, I joined the group this morning (late after forgetting my boots at home... that's the subject of another post on responsibility and reliability), I noticed something interesting. The group wasn't talking like it had in previous sessions. I wasn't sure if they'd all decided to do a clinic with Schanzy as the leader, or if everyone was just tired and brain dead, or what was going on, but the energy was bizarre.

We skied around together working on stuff, and everyone was thinking the same thing, but no one was saying anything. I talked to Schanzy about it at lunch, and because he's constantly trying to step back from the leadership role and throw it back to us, he said, "Why don't you do something about it, then?"

So I did. I opened my big mouth. And the result was lovely, we talked about some really important things.

We talked about permission. That this group is a place where you have permission to ski badly, to fail, to fall, to look stupid, not to demonstrate perfectly. because we are trying to learn about our own skiing, and create it as we go, and if we are afraid of doing it "wrong" or saying it "wrong", then we won't be this creative, free, supportive force that we can be.

We agreed to hold each other accountable. We all agreed to approach everyone in the group and ask them about the dreaded "Grey Zone" by asking this question: "What is your perception of me?" I think we may then do an indoor session where each person goes around and gives the distilled version of the common perceptions, both good and bad about themselves from the group, and their plans for growth in that area. This is a dangerous, but important piece, and must be handled with grace and trust.

We talked about what it means to do the thing that scares you the most, like approach someone or talk to someone to get their perception, and we talked about the fact that having permission in the group to say the "wrong" thing in your MA, or in your concepts, or in your beliefs allows this group to be a safe place to practice all of it.

Jax offered up that she was terrified to be in the group. That coming to the group had made her feel like shaking and crying and that she threw up before she got there.

I asked her if she gave herself a win for coming anyway, and she looked at me, a bit surprised.

Taking your wins, I believe, is one of the most important things you can do. You have fear. We all do. People with courage are not people without fear. People with courage are people who feel fear and move through and with it.

Jax showed up in spite of her fear. To help diminish her fear in the future, she needs to give herself the win of showing up. I was scared, and I came anyway. I give myself permission to feel fear. I give myself permission to ski badly. I give myself permission to make a mistake. I give myself permission to look like a fool.

And when I am brave enough to do all of those things, I enter a place where I can have a beginners mind. Open. Not expecting to be perfect. Willing.

And therefore, able to make change in a huge and significant way! And EVERY time I take that risk and move through it, with EVERY step up the mountain, up the hike into the bowl, every turn in front of my peers, every word in front of the MA group, every pole plant in the bumps that I risk in spite of my fear, I tell myself, good job. You were scared, and you did that anyway. This means you are stronger than you thought you were. Do it again.

I just want to say thank you to the group for showing up this afternoon. For taking risks and working to put ourselves out there. For making a space of accountability, where we are expected to try hard, hard enough that we look or sound foolish, and that the judgment is removed. There is only room to get back up and try again.

Skiing With Integrity

People often ask me why I'm so into training, why I'm out training all the time. There are lots and lots of reasons why that is, but first and foremost, I think that if you are going to get paid to ski, part of your job, part of the way that you say to your employer and your clients, "I respect that you pay me to do this, and because I have integrity, I will do all I can to give you the best product possible", is by training all the time.

I believe that if you are paid to ski it is your JOB, part of your job description to seek knowledge and understanding, so you can better facilitate your client unlocking their own skiing.

So I believe that I am obligated to never tire of gaining deeper understanding of how the ski works in the snow, and how our bodies affect that ski.

I believe I am obligated to explore and create my own skiing, questioning my beliefs about skiing and being open to understanding that may come from different angles or areas or people than I expect it to.

I believe I am obligated to look under every rock and pebble, but also to play, I am obligated to continue falling in love with skiing, so that I can help my clients wake up to the joy that is there in every turn.

So often we get caught up in doing it right. I lived in an Olympic Training Center for a portion of my life, and during that journey, I became so obsessed with making the movements right so that I could get more clean rotation, there was absolutely no joy.

The pathology of perfection was toxicly present, and I forgot that the reason that I started skating is because I loved to glide and jump and spin on the ice, and getting better at it made it more fun.

I think our students end up there, as well, they enter a lesson and their social standards come up, I'm an adult, I need to excell, I need to show that I am capable, I need praise, I need to be doing this right.

No. You need to realize that you are playing in the snow. And I'll play in the snow with you, and along the way, we will become better at skiing! And that makes more of the mountain accessible to us, and then, we can play even more!

To that end, I believe it is part of my job to better myself in every way I can, to be open to feedback, to be open to coaching, to be open to meeting people where they need to be met rather than forcing my own dogma down their throats.

Its, obviously, a work in progress, but I have to say that I enjoy meeting the obligations that come with a job like teaching skiing. I am lucky that to be the best teacher, the best employee I can be, I need to get out, and play in the snow.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Trainer Passport Journey Begins!

One of my goals is to become a trainer for the ski school at Aspen. To this point, I've been training this year refining my understanding and movements. In order to become a trainer, you have to pass your current Level 3 cert (they look at your skiing again to make sure you are skiing at a contemporary Level 3 level), and complete the Trainer Passport, which includes the following:

Professional Development:
Interview with your Coordinator, Lead Trainer and Team Leader
List of Accreditations (Including Freestyle, Children's, Coaching etc)

Teaching Ability:
Current Level 3
Organize and lead a small group indoor movement analysis video session, formatted with the current GCT model. 4-7 people.

Technical Understanding:
Completed assessment with boot alignment pro (or checkup on current alignment)
on snow movement analysis of another trainer skiing
attend a physics/biomechanics lecture

Skiing Skills
Verifiers can sign any number of maneuvers - must have 2 signatures when one verifier has signed more than 3 maneuvers.

Short radius leapers
dynamic medium radius turns
wedge christi
linked pivot slips
short radius performance turns
open stance parallel turns (in the bumps)
railroad side cut turn
Fall Line Bump Run (double black)
Crud/ powder run (double black)

I was not really expecting to get any signatures on my passport until the end of the season, and then maybe just one or two. I met with Rick Vetromile, our Lead Trainer at Aspen Mountain to ask him if it was appropraite for me to go down this path, if he could see me as a member of the trainer pool, and he was very enthusiastic that I get started. With that encouragement, I went to the Race Clinic that he held, and have been working hard ever since our first Demo Team training day on getting short turns down.

Being in the brushes, and stubbies and skiing with some true legends from ski racing for two days really changed my understanding of what I was doing and how to get to that outside ski early early early. I was pretty beat up by the end of the clinic, but I was beginning to bend the ski in a way that I never have!

With this new understanding, I went out to our verifier day and was lucky enough to have Mike Haas as my clinic leader. Right off the bat, he re certified my Level 3, and signed off my bumps and railroad track turns as skiing at the trainer level. I was BLOWN AWAY!

We had a big talk in the large group before we went up about Aspen's standards for trainers and how high they are, and how stringently the Verifiers keep to those standards.

My short turns were STILL not quite there, and I could feel it. By the end of the day, I was touching it, the turn was shaping high up, but I was still getting kicked into the back seat with the skis squirting at the end of every turn. It was making me crazy. I am getting obsessed with short turns and how to take the movement patterns that have changed SO significantly in my skiing exist in such a compressed timeline.

Mike asked me to allow my hip to come through, apparently I've worked so hard at keeping my pelvis open to the hill that now I'm all locked up. Mike asked me to advance my outside foot through the turn. I couldn't believe it.

I'm getting the ski to its edge by pushing the toepiece back! This is the thing that is moving my core foreward and against the platform progressively. I feel power and control with that move, I don't want to change it!

But, as Milton Katsellas used to tell us in acting class, you have to be willing to kill your babies. Its true. Don't ever love anything in your skiing so much that you aren't willing to try it differently. So I tried advancing the ski.

Suddenly, something clicked. When, where and why?

I can still push my toe piece back at the begining of the new turn, and then slice the ski through the snow. Think of slicing a tomatoe. You have to pierce the skin first, and then slice the knife through. If you just push down, you will crush the tomatoe. If you glide a blade with no pressure across the tomato, you won't get any penetration through the surprisingly resiliant skin.

If you drive the tip into the tomatoe, and then slice the knife forward, it goes through beautifuly.

I was now able to pressure the ski at the top and bend it just before the apex. Of course, once again, I got rocketed across the fall line from the energy of the ski, and spent the rest of the day learning to want that energy and put the energetic intent of my core down the apex of the turn while letting my feet turn under me.

The only issue now was that in short turns, the skis were still squirting.

Kurt and I went out a few days later, and he agreed that my skiing had changed significantly, it was smooth and much more powerful. But the short turns don't match the rest of the skiing yet.

The next day, Cindy and I went out together to train in the bumps and take a break from the insanity that was becoming my obsession with the short turn.

Though my bumps had been signed off, I still have a lot of work to do in the bumps (and always will!) We participated in a clinic with Weems in the morning on hand positions and pole planting (a hand jive clinic) which gave me some clarity about alowing my hands to "float" in a neutral position that is equidistant from anywhere they might go were I to get out of balance.

With this piece floating in esoteric extsacy around my brain, and with Megan and Katie's video analysis of my hands in the bumps from the week before, we went to work.

Cindy and I worked Scarlett's, a long blue bump run on Highlands and lapped it with Weems. I am working hard to learn to steer a flatter ski in the bumps, engage my spine, and quiet my hands.

We spent quite a few laps up there, and by the end of the day, my understanding of how to navigate my way through the bumps had changed and improved YET again. Cindy was incredible, she's working hard on her movement analysis eye and her ability to communicate coaching ideas, it was an ideal day for me!

We discovered that we have similar learning styles.

Stop me if I am doing it wrong, I want to identify in effective movements as well as effective ones, so I can feel when I am doing it "wrong".

Tell me (and show me) what you see, and what you want to see. Tell me succinctly with a good picture.

Tell me what I can expect to feel when I do what you are asking me to do.

Let me practice, stop me if I am doing it wrong.

Using these guidelines, Cindy coached me to a new level of understanding in the bumps in about five runs. It was fantastic!

Today, Cindy and Schanzy and I skied at Snowmass together, Schanzy was working on a new movement concept which he borrowed from Martial Arts, and Cindy and I were his guinea pigs. It was outstanding, as it plugged right back in to the short turns training I've been doing, and seemed to be the next piece.

Schanzy was talking about energetic initent (which I love). He was talking about what its like to throw a punch in martial arts, where you turn your fist over, effectively doing a corkscrew type movement with his arm and fist.

We applied this idea to the new outside ski, screwing the ski down into the snow as it lengthened. This simple idea combined so many movement patterns in one thought, we had tremendous success with it.

By the end of the day, I realized what was going on with my almost short turns, and was able to screw the ski down into the snow directly under me, trusting that this impetus would force the ski to bend and turn under me. As usual, I had a run of my best twenty turns about ten minutes before I had to go pick my kids up from ski school.

It was a great day of discussion of ski technique and technical understanding, Schanzy and Cindy are both terrific at creating a safe space to experiment and play, there is no judgement, just open discussion and space to create your skiing.

I came home exhausted but happy things are happening under my feet, my skiing is changing and I think I may just get my trainer passport signed off this season. Even if I don't the journey there is incredible.

Tomorrow the kids go back to ski school, I have on snow Demo Team Training again!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The people you meet, while balancing your life

I came to Ink this morning to answer all the email, facebook, twitter, and to write some posts and catch up on the task force stuff, and check in on my calendar, clients, clinics, articles for ski and ski resorts, and an article I'm trying to write on Kim in Alaska again this year, as well as schedule in training days, fill out my diamond pro application, update the team training blog, and read a little more of Skiing and the Art of Carving before getting out on the hill at noon for some short turns practice...

All stuff that got sidelined with lots and lots and lots of work! I have been trying hard to balance days on the hill with being home at 3:30 for the kids, so when I'm working a lot, any time I'm not working has been dedicated to them, especially since my mom has been gone for a week, and they are finding their little feet (well!) here.

Things fall off one at a time, but I like the way its working. I'm looking forward to getting a new computer and having my workspace set up in our new house (we moved AGAIN! Now we are in a huge 3 bedroom apartment on the ranch, and my mom is bringing her large desk.)

I know, now that I've been practicing patience for three years (I like to have a focus), that its okay if I don't post today, because today we are moving, or today Bodhi needs to practice reading.

I feel much more the fluidity of my life, without guilt or judgement, and because of that, even though I'd like to be able to write more, (especially now!), I know that the writing is there, and that time will open up if I keep my intention firm.

So here I am, the stomach flu has passed through our house, Bodhi got it, I got it, Ethan got it, we got a little reprieve, then Mike and his Ethan came to visit, and his Ethan got it. Meanwhile, we moved to our new home, my mom left for Palo Alto, I took a race clinic, had a Public Speaking coaching and MA session, the X games started, I taught with the US Ski Team, and this Task Force started.

In order to find balance here, its become pretty easy to check in: I need to have the kids to school ontime with their homework done, good food in their bellies and a smile on their faces. Check. Next, I need to be to work ontime, with my gear ready, tuned, and some knowledge in my head. Next, I need to be learning more about my craft, its history, and how I make my skis work on the snow.

Next, I need to make sure that my kids are happy and making friends, experiencing their world and feeling connected to and loved by me. I need to see that they feel sold, independent, with no fear, with confidence and purpose. To that extent, we ski, we swim, we play in the clubhouse, we play chess, we have playdates, we cook, we play cards, we read, they slide around on the frozen pond outside. (Time to get some skates!)

Next, I need to be sure that I'm meeting my professional obligations. Am I giving my clients and the Ski Co all that I have to give? Am I a valuable employee? Am I working to my potential? Are my clients growing and excited to take the courage they find in skiing into their own lives? Am I managing my schedule well, am I following through on the things I say I'll do? Am I working and living with integrity?

Next, I need to say thank you and connect with the people in my life, Mike and his kids, who are a constant through line in my day, am I giving to them, not just taking from them? Am I listening to them, am I hearing what happens in their day? Am I not just hearing them, but experiencing their lives as well, so they feel valued by me? Am I telling them with my actions that I care about them?

How about my mom and my sisters? How about the lovely people that help me every day here, my good friends who I get to train with and play with and work with? Alisa and Neil and Cindy and Stacey and Megan and Georgie and Katie and Schanzy and Andy and Kurt? How about my mentors and friends Weems and Squatty? Am I saying thank you? Am I listening to them and asking about their lives? Am I hearing what is going on outside of my own sphere?

How about the people in Bozeman who I love? Jill and Angela and Shannon and Chris? Am I checking in with them?

Lets check back in on the kids and my schedule and obligations, then start again; my friends and family that live far away from me, Sue and Emily, Scotty and Selko... everyone is busy, but I love to say hello, I'm thinking of you...

And now we have to think about writing, how about some articles, some posts, some future. To have projects in the future, you have to put your toes in the water consistently in the present... I'm trying to get better at slow and steady work, rather than heaps in one go.

But what I've realized is that we all balance this much work. We all want to love and care for the people in our lives, we all want to do an excellent job at our job.

Today, I came to Ink to do all these things and get some work done. I sat down with my computer, intent on answering all the emails, and climbing back on top of my work load after Mikes lovely visit (during which I did no work, because this was his time, and Ethan's time... Family time.)

I sat down with my computer across from a man who had a music notebook out. He had handwritten notes all over his handwritten music. I had a choice. I could put my head down, or I could be open to the fact that this person might be someone I might connect with. What could I give to him? What did he need in his day? What would he give to me?

"Are you a composer?" I asked him. And he was. And we fell into easy conversation about music, and life and art. I told him about my dad, who was an opera singer, and we talked about Enrique Caruso, and suddenly we were talking about the Norton Simon museum, Rodan, John Singer Sargent, the Getty, Eli Broad's private art collection, Mike's love of bluegrass, antique instruments...

I started work about 45 minutes later than I'd planned. In the meantime, I'd connected to a man who connected me to my dad, my mom, my history in art and music, my boyfriend and his children, their love of music, excitement for the summer, and filled me again with a love of the creative. He inspired me.

This, perhaps, is a long winded way to say that although there is a lot to do in life, I feel like I do it all better when I keep my intent toward integrity, check in often, use my paddle to navigate, but allow for fluidity, because, I suppose, you never really know who is going to float by and experience you might gain, just by saying good morning, even when you are busy.

Thanks for your patience while I've been gone... I've missed you!

Let your employees WORK for you!

So its been a very busy couple of weeks. I've been teaching almost every day, which is wonderful, and working hard to find out what my guests need, how to help them not just improve their skiing, but really enjoy and celebrate their ability to improve!

To that end, I emailed Katie Fry, the director of all four mountains here at Aspen to let her know that I had some ideas for my VIP guests, and perhaps guest services overall. I thought I might just email her a few ideas.

Her response was, lets have a meeting, and lets get Dee Byrne involved, our new director of Business Development. I was shocked. Really? Okay...

So we got together and met for a couple of hours, and Katie and Dee were excited and open to these ideas, and they formed a task force company wide, and asked me to Chair it.

We are now building a ten person team from ticketing to the Treehouse to Ski School to explore the guest experience in Aspen!

This is exciting and wonderful, but I have to say, one of the most incredible things about this is the way, consistently, that the Ski Co values its employees. I was just a person with an idea.

And the company I work for is interested in constantly evolving and becoming the best company it can be. The company culture is hungry to continue to change. It is always looking for ideas, and because of that, its employees feel valued.

Because we feel so valued, we are fiercely loyal. We are appreciated, so we work harder. We are listened to, so we feel ownership.

I have never worked for a company that understands, so clearly, how easy it is to get your employees to work as hard as they can for you. Listen to them. Value them. Be open to ideas from everywhere.

This idea is clear right from the top: our CEO, Mike Caplain, started as a liftie here. Aspen is a culture of impetus. If you have an idea, and a willingness to follow through, you will make it. And they'll help you get there!