Friday, June 17, 2005

Something Strange Going On

I have ski instructor friends who rib me about my technique. Yes, rib me, ridicule me. They do it in a good-natured, joking way, but they tell me that I stand too tall, that my feet are too close together, that I slide my tails, that wedeling went out of fashion in the early seventies. And, while these chiding instructors acknowledge that they can’t keep up with me in the bumps, they seem to respect me only as a sort of risk-taking freak who somehow skis moguls well despite a lack of technique.

Of course, the truth is that I don’t lack technique. I just use technique that’s different from the technique of most instructors. I use mogul-skiing technique. And I’ve used that mogul technique, now and again, to do fairly well in mogul competition. Isn’t it strange that instructors don’t recognize mogul technique that’s been proven in competitive bump skiing? And isn’t it strange that instructors see mogul technique as either improper technique or a lack of technique, even while their own mogul skiing lacks efficiency, smoothness and speed?

This strangeness is due, at least in part, to the instructing establishment’s infatuation with racing-derived technique (carving, arcing). There are a few instructors out there who understand that the bumps (and powder, and trees, and steeps, etc.) require special techniques that have nothing to do with alpine racing. But even these instructors don’t seem to agree upon just what those special, non-racing techniques are. And the average instructor talks about carving and all of the techniques that surround carving as if they’re the only legitimate skiing techniques in existence. But let me dramatize all of this for you.

Let’s say that, while skiing, I come upon a group of instructors on a mogul field, instructors in the midst of a high-level certification exam. And let’s say that I stand and watch the examiner and a few examinees ski the moguls in that meandering, wide-stance style of mogul skiing that is not really mogul skiing at all, but just a form of mogul survival. And let’s say that I then hop into a nearby zipper line and fly by this group of certified professional skiers. Let’s say that I ramp it up to 25 or so miles per hour, hit a big air right next to the group, and then rip the rest of my line, making clean, fast turns all the way down the trail. What do you suppose that examiner would say about my skiing?

Well, knowing what I know about instructors, I can tell you. It’s likely that the examiner would tell his examinees that, despite my athleticism, I don’t exhibit the techniques the examiner hopes to see from his examinees, the techniques that will allow those examinees to pass the mogul-skiing section of their exam. And isn’t this, too, a little strange?

The reality, of course, is that I’ve just out-skied these instructors and their examiner. The reality is that I use techniques of which many mogul competition judges have approved, techniques that allow me to ski even hard and icy bumps with smoothness, efficiency and control. According to the ski instructor, however, I don’t exhibit the correct techniques. Like I said, strange. But let me shift gears here.

The season before last, an instructor association magazine ran a mogul instruction article in which the author claimed that female World Cup bump skiers pivot and slide their skis all the way down the course, while male World Cup bump skiers set their edges firmly at each bump. This just isn’t true. All bump skiers, men and women, make a firm edge set at the bump. Any skier capable of steering his or her skis will make a firm edge set at the bump when those turned skis meet the uphill face of the bump. The firm edge set happens automatically, naturally. You can hardly avoid it. And the women on the World Cup bump tour have been doing it since they were small children. But this instructor-author says that female World Cuppers pivot and slide all the way down the hill. And the magazine editors printed this and distributed it to instructors all across the country.

The main point of the article was that the author had had an epiphany when he realized that racer-like carving is inappropriate in bumps. It’s true: mogul skiers don’t carve like alpine racers. But why is this a huge revelation for instructors? Among mogul skiers, it's fundamental knowledge. Why, for the instructor, is it cutting-edge news to be published in a professional association magazine? Why hasn’t the instructing establishment simply asked us mogul skiers about our technique? We could’ve told them, years ago, that we don’t carve like racers!

Unfortunately, that whole magazine article dwelt on turns, which is typical of the mogul instruction you get from groomed-trail devotees. The average instructor doesn’t understand that, when it comes to bump skiing, the key answers are not to be found in the turn. Yes, to the alpine racer and other groomed-trail devotees, the turn means almost everything. To the mogul skier, however, the turn is only about half of the picture. The other half is the absorption and extension that help the skier to maintain balance and control speed. But let’s move on.

At times, I’ve offered to teach my instructor friends a bit of authentic mogul technique. And how have they responded? A couple of them have been eager to learn. They now ski with me often, and they’ve developed their bump skiing skills. The rest of them have acted as if I were trying to push heroin on them. We’ll be standing on the side of the trail and I’ll ask them to try something and they’ll first look around to make sure none of the ski school’s clinic leaders are nearby. Or one will warn the other, “this might be fun to try, but it’ll hurt your chances of passing your level-two exam.”

Let me get this straight: learning to ski moguls with control, smoothness, efficiency, comfort, confidence and speed will hurt an instructor’s chances of passing an instructor exam? Is it me, or is there something strange going on here?
-dd

9 Comments:

Blogger Rick Chaffee said...

Hey Dan
I've been patiently waiting for your mogul skiing words of wisdom! When is the book going to be ready? Your advice has changed my style of mogul skiing, vastly improving it! I credit your instruction with my first place win at Attitash this past year!!
You seem like your making an excuse for your technique. I guess you've been having to defend it too long to other instuctor friends.
Have more confidence and stand up with pride(hips forward)!!!

Great to hear from you and I look forward to more Mogul Blog soon.
Rick Chaffee

1:59 PM  
Blogger BrianBishop said...

When I started skiing, park skiing was the new and kewl thing...moguls have a culture and mystique to them, its as if the whole world holds thier breath when a bumper flies by...I needed to be that bumper. No on-snow arena is as unforgiving as an endless field of moguls. Draped in solid predator pants and flashy vests...skinny skis that can whip faster than even the sickest race skis. Hats istead of helmets and agility over strength...like the all powerful enigmatic prestiege of a ninja running through a bamboo forest...so fast and precise. To be called up into this elite level of skiing is an honor...I am truely blessed to be a part of moguls skiings everlasting culture...that sudden shuttering respect "normal people" gasp (WOW...you are a "bump skier" thats so amaizing) they shiver to think that the most menacing part of a sport could be tamed, mastered, and even perfected to a form-specific science is blassfimous in their eyes...its like taking Lance Armstrong and telling him that from now on, the entire Tour De France will be on cobbles. And I say what a blessing. After sitting in the park my first year of having a season pass...i remember looking up at the hill, the mogul field and seeing bodies in absolute focused speed...i realized that the sport needed more...the sport needed me...and that I would devote my life to the persuite of this skiing harmony known as bumps. I have never skied park since...after winning many moguls events myself i can say that racers have no idea...if they think turning is hard...tell them to try a sport where turning, no longer matters...moguls skiers can out rip anyone...but why cant other skiers out rip us? HAHAHAHA they cant even touch us. If you master yourself, the hill no longer confronts you, thats why mogulskiers are on a quick path to enlightenment.

12:35 AM  
Blogger BrianBishop said...

Moguls...when we are out there doing our thing, it seperates us from the rest...you will always see many bumpers skiing together and i think i know why...the only way to get faster is to find others with better technique and skills. Moguls are the hardest aspect of skiing. I know that at Mt. Sunapee we are thought of as Gods, we roam the mtn in search of the greatest challenge only to come right back to the bump fields. Moguls are at the very limit of human reaction speed, everything is moving so fast, so technical, everything, equipment, clothes, goggles, nothing can be arye. It all has to fall in unison all at once, thats why one-skill at a time is better to teach and learn...this is the fastest form of the winter sports...nothing can be by mistake, that is why we do it....because at the epicenter of the full-tilt throttl-action movments...at that moment of fierce chaos, there is a tranquil and majestic feeling of hyper-awarness...martial artists call it the "no-mind" state...others call it enlightenment or nirvana, when the entire earth is in flowing reaction to your every move, and all your moves are not planned...but instead are mere thoughts, you think and your body moves with the tide of the line you are commanding. All your thoughts are placed into motions...poetry in motion. To master this is to find that you not only can ski bumps, but master the entire world of sports, even your mind. Stop trying so hard, and relax, you will find that moguls come to you if you let them.

8:03 PM  
Blogger BrianBishop said...

If you get goose bumps when you pass by your skis during the summer...that is when you know that you skied a great previous winter mogul season

11:34 PM  
Blogger PTWithy said...

I'd rather ski bumps than pass a Level 2 exam! Looking forward to skiing with you soon.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Leo Costantino said...

I'm one of the one percenters at Cannon. A fellow instructor that never misses a chance to ski with Dan.

Bumps aren't just for the kids. I'm 61 years old and live for moguls.

Dan has taught me more about skiing bumps than all the PSIA bump clinics I've taken put together, and I've taken quite a few.

Happiness is a foot of new snow and an afternoon on Zoomer bumpin it up with Dan DiPiro.

11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

EXcellent site Mr. Dipiro!! I have thought about much of this, but have not heard anyone discuss it.(I am a level two certified instructor.)

7:26 PM  
Anonymous mike owens said...

Dan,

I realize this post was from August, but I have a question and can't find a resource. I am a very experienced skier, I ski about 7-14 days per year for the past 25 years. I ski almost exclusively black and double black steep mogul runs. I am looking for a new pair of ski's and will be damned if I can find any reference to any ski that mentions moguls, bumps, double black runs, etc. Are you familiar with what the industry would call ski's used for this purpose? All I see is "groomers", "off piste", "powder". That's not what I ski, and I see lots of other people skiing the same thing. How do I find the right ski?

10:24 PM  
Blogger Dan DiPiro said...

Mike,

You probably found your way to this old post by a Web search. Go directly to www.mogulskiing.blogspot.com, though, and you'll find all of the new posts and comments, too.

If you spend most of your time on steep mogul runs, you need a pair of mogul skis. You don't hear much about them because they are not in high demand and manufacturers make only a limited number of them. Here are some brands and models to check out:

Rossignol Exhibition Mogul
K2 Cabrawler
Dynastar Twister
Solomon 1080 Mogul
Volkl Dragon Slayer

Also, do an ebay search on "mogul skis" and see what that generates. More about skis in my book: "Everything the Instructors Never Told You about Mogul Skiing," available for order at www.LearnMoguls.com and wherever new books are sold. Have fun!

-Dan D.

7:03 AM  

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