Saturday, February 12, 2011

Profound Insights into the Blatantly Obvious: In which Kate learns to ski Bumps. Again.

About three weeks ago, I was working with Josh Fogg and Kevin Jordan on bump skiing. I love skiing bumps. And over the years, I've learned lots of things about them from lots of different people.

Dave Evans at Bridger Bowl first gave me the Nollie, Ollie lesson on getting the tips to dive and stay connected to the snow. My first understanding of ski/snow contact came from him.

Steve Hill and Chris Jones gave me opening and closing my ankles in the bumps, and Weems helped clarify it for me.

Lots of people have had me do Pivot slips down the bumps, in the bumps, on the groom, everywhere in order to work on leg steering.

Dennis Handley was the first person who had me ski the outside line (I know that lots of people had explained it to me before, but I wasn't really ready to incorporate it into my skiing yet.).

Squatty gave me "Sun Valley"turns, or upside down bump skiing, which works well in blue bumps.

Kurt made me do 8000 retraction turns on the groomed terrain before he would ski bumps with me again, and then Cindy skied behind me for two days yelling "NO" whenever I was extending off the top of a bump.

Over time, I had thought that I was going for one movement pattern that worked well in the bumps, whose DIRT, (Duration, Rate, Intensity and Timing) changed just a bit to suit the size of the bump.

I knew on some level that there were several ways to ski the bumps, several types of lines you could choose, but I was sort of looking for that "create" place where the line evolved as you skied. For some reason I was thinking that that line would evolve out of one kind of turn as it changed for the bump in front of you.

When I was working with Josh and Kevin, we went back to pivot slips. I got a rotary movement that Josh liked, but I increased my BBI (ballistic bump interface) and decreased my speed control. I wasn't really thinking about the tactical choice we were making, that of skiing fall line bumps, or the zipper line. I was thinking about skiing down the fall line, but not (for some reason) thinking that "skiing down the fall line" was the same thing as skiing the zipper line. Hmmm.

I realized during the day that I needed to make my rotary motion match the distance traveled down the bump to the next transition, just like any good turn on groomed snow.

After I put that piece in, Kevin told me that I had lost my ski to snow contact. How could I blend that diving movement back into this new movement pattern? By being conscious of that concept. The next run down, the tips were diving, I was pivoting through the entire turn and diving again. I was on my downhill ski. I was happy.

Then I went and skied with Jenn Metz, and she asked me if I could round the turn out more. I spent the day high siding until I pulled the movement patterns into a better sequence, and rounded out the turn, but stayed in the fall line.

Here's where I made my mistake. I've spent so much time thinking about one way to ski (oops, first off) for instance, on the groomed in a specific task, (for instance, medium radius carved turns), there is an optimal blend of movement patterns that go toward a better medium radius carved turn.

I let go of what I had learned with Josh and Kevin and continued toward what Jenn and Dennis had given me, thinking that this was headed toward the "optimal" and therefore more mutable bump turn.

What I didn't realize was that I had learned two different types of turns to use in fall line bumps. One is a short radius, reaching turn, and one is a short swing turn. Both of these turns are useful in fall line bumps, one is more optimal than the other depending on the bump, line, or rut you are facing. Having both well developed and being able to develop the blend of skills not ONLY in each turn according to the bump, but being able to blend these turns together as well, as needed is where the CREATE part of fall line, or any kind, of free skiing in the bumps happens.

Yesterday, I was skiing the rounded, reaching short radius turn down the fall line, and I felt really good about my ski to snow contact and about my development of my bump skiing.

Today, I went out and skied with Schanzy. He asked me to ski fall line bumps. I smiled. I was happy. I know that to get where I'm going, I have to ski bumps much better than I am, but I felt like in the last two weeks, I'd made a HUGE breakthrough in my fall line bump skiing, and I was glad to get to practice it now.

I skied the run.

"That was nice, but it wasn't fall line bump skiing."

I was confused.

"In fall line bump skiing, your center of mass doesn't really leave the fall line, Kate. Yours was going back and forth across it." Yes. Because I was making short turns. I was skiing bumps in a corridor, but I wasn't skiing the task of fall line bump skiing.

Schanzy showed me the pivot slip down the bump. I looked at Cindy in abject panic. Why was the "optimal" or "ideal" turn in the bumps this other vocabulary that I'd let go of? I felt like I'd spent weeks taking that out of my skiing on purpose!! Shit!

I let go of my fear and decided to open my ears as big as I could get them. The point here is to become a better skier. Passing the test is a milestone along the way, and not the point. The point is to understand with DEPTH the movements we make and why we make them. I'm here to learn from Schanzy, not to defend my old belief.

I peeled my fear off of me, dropped it in the snow and skied away from it. I kind of wanted to skate back up the hill and get it, but my ears were big and Schanzy was giving me gold. Screw it. I'm brave enough to walk down this path and fail tomorrow.

I worked on this turn. I worked on it until I heard him say that I had great steering and was doing what he wanted, but I wasn't diving the tips and could I add that back in. CLICK! Oh, this is THAT turn, for real! Yes, I can, I know I can because I did it before.

I added it back in. The last three turns had the piece I needed. I had still been, in this turn, missing something, and that was often times speed control. I also wasn't sure what to do when I came upon a bump that this wasn't the best tactic for. (Completely ignoring all of these other choices: a short reaching round turn, airing it out to the next bump, cutting the bump off, skiing the cross line, making an extra turn on the back of the bump... hello, Kate! You are hauling your bag of tricks around FREAKING USE IT!)

Sometimes I get so focused on the lesson I'm trying to learn that I forget that this is an integrative sport. Its about choice, its about creation, its about playing on the features the mountain presents to you. its about choosing from your bag and moving down the face. Its not about skiing a task ONE WAY.

As we stood at the bottom, Schanzy talked about edging in this turn. I love the way he teaches. He asked me, is there edging in this turn? Yes. Where? At the bottom and only for a moment. The rate is quick the duration is short. Its a check that happens just before the flexion or absorption of the bump, or right with it, depending on your choice.

We talked for a while about the blend, about the fact that that's where the mastery is: in the blend, as it changes, over the run.

For now, we'll take four things in sequence and over time, they will blend. Check. Absorb. Dive. Rotate. Repeat.

I had two runs like this, on the way down to the bottom. Then we got to a nice final steep pitch, and the concept of not only blending the movements in this turn, but blending the turns came to mind as I remembered that Schanzy had begun a run following four big bumps around and when they got smaller, he went to more of a check turn.

What if, in these bumps, I made some of each, and some that were both in some places?

It worked. It was the beginning. Finally, I feel like the lexicon has cracked open and I don't have such an unfortunately myopic view. It took real truths from Schanzy for me to see it.

"Often times you choose a bias and it shows all the way down the run. You don't have depth, Kate. You are showing me, right now, I'm working on steering. Right now, I'm working on fore/aft. Right now, I'm working on checking or quick edging movements. Eventually, I don't want to see that. I want to see that sensual, snaky, creative bump skiing that evolves with the run."

Oh, man. Me, too. I felt it a few times today for sometimes as many as six bumps. And there is no feeling I've felt in skiing quite like it.

Its time to get serious, its time to develop. Its time to commit to depth of understanding and move away from pictures into blends that create on the hill. Its time to start skiing.

No comments: