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 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!!