4 Ways to Charge with More Flow
“Phew – great backflip, but did you see that LINE?!?”
The last couple of years, folks in Golden have been lucky to have front-row spectating for the Freeride World Tour. The athletes will be back in February, ready to show off the gnarliest terrain Kicking Horse has to offer.
The tricks, the airs, what they’re able to stomp: it’s eye-popping.
But the meat of the comp, and the hardest skill to master, is finding the line. Heading into the steep unknown, with an ability to link up sections with speed, grace and flow.
And while they may be at superhuman level, the skill itself is something we all need to keep developing.
I asked Jeff to share some practical advice on how us mere mortals can do more flowing and charging, less stuttering and hesitating:
Seem obvious? Yes, but that doesn’t mean we all do it well. If we spend the vast majority of our time at the same resort, riding familiar lines, our ‘noticing skills’ can get sleepy.
We already know what’s coming, so we stop needing to read the terrain with the same urgency.
Consistently looking ahead is foundational for smooth (not to mention safe) backcountry skiing. Read what’s coming at you – whether it’s a dip, a squeeze or a steep rollover – so you don’t get caught off-guard and off-balance.
Terrain dictates the rhythm, not you
This is a common learning curve, one I remember bumping up against all the time back when I started heli-skiing.
If you spend most of your time making turns on the piste, where the slope is open and even, it’s easy to get into a nice, steady rhythm. You make turns at a pace that’s comfortable, and there’s nothing to mess with that control.
When you get into the backcountry, though, or off-piste or in the trees, it won’t be all planar pitches of perfect powder.
There’ll be perfect pow alright, but there’ll also be trees, gullies, wind lips and all the terrain variation Mother Nature serves up, au natural.
Don’t worry if your symmetry and perfect pacing falls apart. Apply your skill to work WITH the terrain, and keep looking ahead – you’ll see where the next turn needs to be.
Jeff loves to jokingly coach me to ‘be aggressive!’ anytime I’m not sure how to do something. It’s a joke because it’s just not in my nature. It never occurs to me that going faster will help.
But I’ve been putting this one into practice with my skiing because I’m starting to see the payoff.
What this boils down to is stance and approach:
You don’t need to grit your teeth or furrow your brow, but if you keep your body in a confident, ready-to-attack-the-turn posture, you’ll have your hands forward, shoulders down the fall line, looking ahead, pressing into your gear to feel it flex.
All together, that will support focus and balance – exactly what you need to keep the flow and react to the terrain.
And finally, most importantly…
Look for what’s working
Assuming you’re dialled in on looking ahead, you’re ready to find a rhythm that works with the terrain, and your body is positioned to charge, you still have to FIND. THE. LINE.
How does that get easier?
You commit to becoming an opportunity-spotting machine.
People who are really good at finding the line have lots of experience, yes, but they also have the right attitude: their brains and their eyes are attuned to look for what goes, instead of looking at what’s in the way.
As soon as there’s obstacles, it too easily becomes all we see: the rock, the tight band of trees, the tracks that just got laid in front of you.
The unexpected part is, the obstacles really aren’t bad news.
When I asked Jeff if his ultimate kid-in-a-candy-store situation would be an empty slope, free to carve however he wanted, he said:
“Nope. Honestly, completely featureless is a bit boring.”
Constraints make things interesting. There’s a problem to solve and a challenge to meet. There’s something to respond to. Not everything is an option, so you’re forced to engage on a deeper level.
It’s where you can feel the flow as something you MADE rather than something that’s already there.
Less freedom, paradoxically, leads you to have more vision.
A year ago, we took a leap, and committed to finding a line and a flow with our business that would ‘take home the comp’ so to speak – something that would be a win for our guests AND a win for our happiness and integrity.
One small group, all the resources, all the terrain. Simplicity: free-roaming powder hunting, with as few limits as humanly possible.
It came from a decision to stop just tolerating our constraints, and actually start embracing them, for the first time ever.
We had to decide to see our limitations as advantages, to see our size (small) and relative resources (few) as the key. To thrive BECAUSE of those things, not despite them.
And it changed everything. We got a view of something that looked and felt more exciting that anything we had seen in years.
A full year later, and a season of stoked guests and rad lines skied behind us, there’s nothing we regret.
The line we are seeing, and skiing, feels like flow. And we’re ready to stomp another landing.
We want you to know not just what we do, but why we do it.
Because we think the back story, the motivation, matters.
And because there’s nothing we like better than spending time in the mountains with people who agree: finding out what you’re capable of is the best adventure going.
Got questions about the winter ahead? About how we heli-ski and why it’s different? Get in touch.
Do you get it?
The Yodel is our uncommonly good newsletter.