For Those About to Send: Three Mistakes We Make in Unfamiliar Terrain
Before I got into skiing, show jumping was my sport.
I learned to ride as a wee kid, feet barely reaching the stirrups, and spent my teens training and traveling to competitions to see if I could score the fastest time over a course of fences on horseback.
The horse I spent the most time with, Sunny, was fast and springy and nimble in the corners, but she also had an occasional, unfortunate habit.
Find her in the wrong mood (and there was no telling until it was too late) and she would take me full speed right up until take-off for a jump, then suddenly and decisively but on the brakes.
Sometimes I’d manage to hang on, while getting a face full of her ears and mane, but more often I’d go sailing right past her head and crash onto the wooden poles and gates.
Two creatures trying to be on the same team. One with a different idea than the other. Less than optimal results.
Even without a separate brain and set of hooves in the picture, sometimes we’re of two minds on our skis or board, especially when we’re in unfamiliar terrain.
There’s a part of us that start thinking about putting on those brakes, and we can end up going over the bars just like I used to into the dirt.
We see it happen to the strong and the seasoned alike – there’s three common mistakes that get us there:
(1) We fixate on the obstacles
Our brains are wired to notice threats, and hey, that’s an instinct we don’t want to lose. We all want a working warning system to alert us to danger.
BUT. The other thing about the way we’re wired is that our bodies tend to follow our eyes. If you keep looking at the tree, the rock, the drop-off or the gully you want to avoid, your body will only draw you closer to it.
Take note of the hazards. Yes. But as Olympic athletes know, you also have to visualize success.
Look for the line that goes. Keep your eyes on where you want to go, and your body will follow.
(2) We stop leaning in to the terrain
When we feel we need a minute to assess something, it’s natural to lean back. Pause. Get the full view.
Is it understandable? Yep. Helpful while skiing? No.
Even unconscious hesitation can make us drop our hands, lean our shoulders back, and sit too much weight over our heels (or back foot on a board).
The more we lean back (yes, even in deep powder), the less control we have over our gear. The more out of control and out of balance you feel, the more reason you have to keep hesitating. You dig yourself deeper.
Oh, and your quads might spontaneously combust, too.
Even when you’re on a less-than-confident pitch, or I should say especially there, your stance is your strategy. Keep it strong.
(3) We stop finishing our turns
Do you ever notice how when you get nervous you have trouble finishing your sentence? It’s not just me I hope?
You rush, lose track of what you were saying, you lose the rhythm.
It’s the same with skiing or riding.
If #1 and #2 above are messing with your stance and focus, survival skiing can take over, where you’re skimming the surface, a little out of control, washing it out while you brace your body and grit your teeth.
Your once rhythmic turns, super G or slalom-style, get ragged.
Are you picturing it? I know. It ain’t pretty.
Jeff’s take on this: control and balance is the birthplace of flow.
Finishing your turns isn’t just about going slower (though it’s definitely the dial you can use to check the speed), it’s about getting real performance out of your equipment.
In fact, in a well-executed turn, you feel acceleration. You feel the resistance of the loaded ski or board beneath you, and you feel the release at the end as it pops and slingshots you into the next.
If the spring never releases, your momentum is something you’re chasing, instead of something you’re in charge of.
Want to know how some people can throw so much snow around and get the biggest faceshots, like the shot on this issue’s cover? They finish that turn.
It’s sort of like the entire ski season:
If you rush ahead without finishing the whole thing, and straightline into muddy bike trails and puddles on the golf course, you’ll miss the deepest part of the winter.
It’s not over.
The best kept secret in heli-skiing is just around the corner.
For those about to send, especially right to the sweet sweet end, we salute you.
Ready to finish the season strong? Check out the remaining late March availability here.
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