Time to Get this Party Started!

Enough of this off season! Last Spring was chock full o’ news with Vail Resorts and Aspen/KSL running amok with huge bags of cash buying up resorts. We’ll be keeping an eye on how that all shakes out.

dog fighting cat

Aspen Nips the Catz Tail! Trump Saves the Ski Industry!

We have some product reviews coming your way that you won’t want to miss.

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You will likely finish reading this installment confused by the many twists and turns and incomplete directions. GOOD…You darned well should be! The ski industry is slowly killing itself and the reasons are as complex as they silly.

Trust me though, I’ll get you straightened out on it all by the end of this season 🙂

What finally shook me out of my summer doldrums were two articles from the same author and source. Both articles referenced “experts” who talked about why the ski industry isn’t growing. I am always interested in that subject and I read them both, several times.

What struck me was not the specific opinions of the two experts but how two experts could be looking at the same industry and come up with conclusions that are perfect opposites. Could it be that the industry is failing to grow because there simply isn’t anyone who knows what is really going on?

The first article I saw was posted by ISPO.com and you can read it here. READ ME. 

Basically it claims that skiing is too “elitist” and needs to find a way to get more people from lower income demographics to participate. The article didn’t say it in so many words but I had the distinct impression that the intent was to socialize or, at least, to have governments subsidize snow sport participation.

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China plans to grow snow sports in an unprecedented way. If they are successful they would nearly double the number of active participants in the world. I wrote about that last year in…

Senior Skiing To Grow 400% Worldwide. 

If the rest of the alpine world is to survive, they may well have to learn how to compete against government subsidized resorts in China and Russia.

From that perspective, I can sort of understand where this expert is coming from. BUT, it seems like “experts” in Japan, Korea, OZ, NZ, Canada, and the US are gearing up for what they believe will be a  Wave of affluent Chinese coming their way.

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Given that China has proved it can build a world class ski resort in less than a year, it is likely that millions of folks from Japan, Korea, OZ, NZ, Canada and the US will pass them in the air…on their way to China...to enjoy government subsidized, world class skiing…on a free seat on government owned Chinese Airliners.

What I am saying is that China would very easily take the decision to offer free everything from travel to lodging to meals and lifts. One or two seasons of that could absolutely trash the ski industry in most traditional alpine countries.

Sometimes I wonder if Vail Resorts and Aspen/KSL understand that the 30 some resorts they own between them will be the only ones open in 15 years and are aligning themselves to serve only the wealthiest of the wealthy from around the globe. It’s already cheaper to take the annual ski vacation in Europe than it is to Colorado. How soon before it is even cheaper to enjoy world class powder in China?

The second article, from the same author and website… different expert.….posted in the same week contends exactly the opposite…Skiing is not “elite” enough. It needs the elite and not the “masses”!

First, I am curious to know who gets to decide if YOU are an “elite” or a member of  “the masses”. That decision almost never works out for you when you don’t get to make it.

This second article I didn’t spend a lot of time with. From the perspective of industry specific knowledge, the “expert” didn’t seem to have much. It was more like the standard Google/SEO – blast the world with “branding” thing that appears 400 times a day in my Facebook news feed.

From my view, it is really just a guy trying to sell some consulting time. I based that on the claim in the article that in a market populated by fairly affluent people he seems to think that dominating Google is the strategy of choice.

My thought is that the more easily you can define a target the easier it is to hit it. You go on LinkeIn, search keyword “ski” and bang – 1,000,000 affluent skiers that you can contact directly. His claim that “targeting” is dead is foolishly myopic and “tech-centric” and flies in the face of everything we know about how people in those “elite” classes make buying decisions.

Look, I am a free market guy and if you can get someone to spend $40 for a Cheeseburger by putting it on the menu as “Boeuf Haché avec du Fromage”…congratulations! PT Barnum told us many decades ago how that works.

I will make a prediction right now that $40 cheeseburgers and $300 lift tickets aren’t going to save the ski industry. Neither will socialized skiing. 

Again, the problems facing the industry in its traditional haunts has been the same problem for more than 20 years. The number of participants isn’t growing and neither is the number of times they go skiing each season. The industry has known for a long time that they need to do a much better job of hanging on to beginners.

The woeful statistic is that 82% of people who try it, don’t come back. NOTHING the industry has tried in the last 25 years has had any significant impact on that number.

According to the 2017 global industry study by Luis Vanat, participation in snow sports has been, and still is, in steady decline in traditional alpine nations.

The only places where it is growing are in Russia and China. 

The only demographic data that tracks directly with the decline in alpine sports is the decline of the middle classes in traditional alpine countries.

This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that Russia and China enjoy rapidly growing middle class. It is also supported here in the US that of the 200 plus ski areas lost in the last 20 years  most are predominantly small, local, low cost ski areas.

The cost of a day of skiing has grown much faster than inflation during a period when fewer and fewer people could afford even the low end of the cost spectrum.

All that boils down to that the ski industry really cannot have any impact of political and economic models. If current political and economic policies are eating away at your sources of revenue then you have to do something.

There are two ways to make a million dollars. Sell one million people a one dollar item or sell one million dollar item to one person. Between those extremes there are any number of potential blends of strategy and tactics to reach that goal.

So far, all we see are companies inching their way up the ladder. The cost of participating in lift served snow sports has been rising at a rate much higher than wage growth.

At a time when part of your client base is rapidly disappearing to economic policies, driving prices in the opposite direction only exacerbates the problem. Given the shrinkage in youth participation, the industry may well be heading toward a bubble that will fundamentally alter it and leave it no means of recovery.

When I was a kid in the late 50s and early 60s there simply weren’t many ski areas around. There were mountains of surplus military ski equipment that could be used on whatever local bump kids used for sledding. Our family “ski vacation” consisted of driving up Thompson canyon west of Ft. Collins and skiing the roadside ditch. Mom would drive us up and Dad would ski down with the kids. Then Dad would drive and Mom would ski with the kids. I had been skiing 15 years before I experienced a mechanical lift at a ski area. The current growth in a return to those halcyon days of hiking for turns is a breath of fresh air

In many towns these days the local sledding hills are shut down due to legal liability concerns. Kids are less active generally. Thanks in part to the explosion of a million cliff hucking, drowning-in-an-avalanche, GOPro videos, millions of mothers are deciding that skiing is too dangerous for their children.

There seems to be a growing list of reasons to NOT participate. At least, that list is growing faster than the list of reasons to give it a go and stay with it. The high costs certainly make it easier to stay away.

There are a lot of reasons why people don’t stick with it. Costs are certainly a part of that equation. Costs won’t change until the industry feels that is the only way it can survive.

One of the reasons that shows up in the annual surveys is poor proficiency. People think their skiing sucks and who is going to spend their annual vacation money doing something they suck at?

The problem is that there is much the industry can and should do about proficiency but they simply don’t care to do them. Lessons are expensive and will remain expensive, period.

When ski resorts are operating a government granted monopoly, there will not be any competition for the monopoly ski schools. Until there is, instruction will remain as expensive as it is ineffective and customer losses to “poor proficiency” will continue. Collision accidents on the mountain due to poor proficiency and over-crowding will continue to climb.

Sure skiing is expensive. The interesting thing is that once you reach a point in your life where you have the time to go skiing and you can afford to go skiing, the industry isn’t interested in you anymore.

Have Senior Skiers Been Abandoned? The Wrinkled Irrelevants…

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The outlook for increasing average proficiency is pretty bleak. Instructors with a lot of experience are “aging-out” of the profession and not enough young people are taking it up.

Instructor shortages are so severe that resorts are offering $1000 bounties to any employee who helps them poach an instructor from a another resort.

 

The outlook is so bleak, in fact, that the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) have taken to designing instructional programs for companies who make teaching machines.

But hey, it’s almost December and the local mountain is open. So, we’ll just keep on skiing and riding and muddle through somehow.

Kowabunga!! Tips Up Folks!

 

 

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El Hombre de Esqui! Senior Ski Lessons – International

Hey Senior Skier Network fans! I want to introduce you to Europe’s best selling author of Spanish language ski books, Carlos G. Castillo.

I want to share with you a Senior Skiers Network exclusive preview of his new book  – “Bailar – Esquiar – Fluir” (Dance-Ski-Flow). The excerpt is in the original language and I have included a machine translation to English as well. There is a translation button at the top of the right hand column of the blog page.

I like the way he describes skiing as entering a “state of fluency” 🙂

Movements are like words. The more patterns of movement you know the more fully and completely you can express yourself on the snow. The more you know -The more you will FLOW!

Señores y señoras de atención!

Demos la bienvenida a Carlos a la Senior Skiers’ Network!

Carlos Castillo

With four ski books published since 2003, Carlos is the best selling author of Spanish language alpine skiing manuals in the world.

He has thirty years’ experience as a ski instructor and coach. Born in Spain in 1966, Carlos has worked in the instructional profession in Spain, Austria, the USA, and Argentina.

When he isn’t busy cranking out books, Carlos works for the Vocational Training Institutes of Ski-Technicians in Spain, collaborating with many other ski schools and federations related to winter sports.

He is also an active blogger and works with the leading Spanish snow sports website NevaSport.com,  a channel with more than seventy million page views per year.

Here are his books and links to them.

APRENDER A ESQUIAR – UNA PUERTA ABIERTA AL MUNDO DE LA NIEVE”  

ESQUÍ, RENDIMIENTO Y EMOCIÓN

ESQUIAR CON LOS PIES

ESQUÍ MODERNO APLICADO A LA MONTAÑA –TÉCNICA DE DESCENSO EN NIEVES NO TRATADAS”

You can catch up on his blog articles here…

Y ahora, aqui es Carlos…

“Fluir en el esquí y, como ya lleva unos años en “un cajón”, hoy lo saco a que respire un poco. Espero poder meterle mano y terminarlo de una vez, juas, mientras tanto, he aquí un extracto…

Si hay una actividad humana donde sea sencillo fluir, o adivinar que los demás están sumidos en un estado de fluencia, es la danza. Lo bueno de ella, además, es que no hay que dominarla para poder disfrutarla. Ni saber para ver cuando alguien baila bien. Bailar nos puede enseñar a esquiar mejor si nos fijamos en cómo seguimos y nos sumergimos en el ritmo de la música. También puede enseñarnos a practicar el esquí como una experiencia autotélica que, a su vez, nos da pistas sobre otros aprendizajes vitales.

Percibimos la música a través del sentido del oído y, utilizando nuestra capacidad de abstracción espacial y temporal, movemos el cuerpo al compás de ese estímulo sugestivo que sentimos. El ritmo está presente tanto en el esquí como en el baile y, bajo el punto de vista de las cualidades perceptivo-motrices, se entiende con toda la facilidad de su árida explicación: llanamente, el ritmo es la capacidad de predecir y organizar el movimiento para adaptarnos a los estímulos regulares del entorno. Ese foco en algo que, además, me resulta agradable, produce un estado de auto-atención en el que percibimos, a la vez, conectados, nuestro cuerpo y el medio estimulante. Entramos así en un estado de fluencia que nos induce a ensimismarnos aún más en la actividad.

En ese estado “fluyente” del baile, muchos nos conformaremos con un sencillo movimiento rítmico y, otros, se sentirán estimulados a probar un paso nuevo, algún movimiento más complicado dándole su toque personal atlético, artístico o incluso cómico; y lo mismo ocurrirá, de forma individual o compartida, con una o varias parejas. Esa pulsión natural de enriquecer la experiencia, aumentando la dificultad o la complejidad, propicia más oportunidades de diversión pero, también, favorece estados de fluencia aún más frecuentes y profundos, pues el desafío atrayente y accesible induce a esa auto-atención disfrutada, tan cercana a la felicidad mientras se experimenta.

En el esquí, como al bailar, también percibimos el entorno a través de los sentidos, principalmente el del tacto y el del propio movimiento: el sentido cinestésico. Si hacemos como con la música, y prestamos atención a esas sensaciones del tacto bajo los pies, la aceleración, la gravedad… interactuaremos con esa información externa hasta fundirnos con ellas en el entorno. Esos patrones repetidos una y otra vez, lo que sentimos circularmente, nos permitirá predecir, organizar y regular los movimientos con precisión y armonía, haciéndonos esquiar con eficiencia. Así, al igual que llegamos a convertirnos en una extensión humana de la música que escuchamos, si nos centramos en los estímulos sensoriales del esquí podemos confundirnos con el entorno por el que descendemos, como un elemento más en danza con la naturaleza que nos invita a su baile.

Al igual que con la danza, si vamos añadiendo a nuestro esquí ligeras complicaciones, pequeñas mejoras y pequeños desafíos, no sólo enriqueceremos nuestro repertorio de destrezas y la competencia global con la que esquiamos, sino que aumentaremos la frecuencia y la calidad de esos estados de auto-atención perfectos en los que todo parece fluir. Las personas que mejor esquían suelen decir que en su deporte nunca se termina de aprender. Y es verdad. Por eso, en el esquí, ya que siempre tendremos oportunidades de encontrar un desafío un poco mayor y proporcionado a nuestras habilidades, de introducir variaciones según nuestro estilo y de practicar solos o en compañía de otras personas – exactamente igual que con la música – continuamente encontraremos ocasiones de entrar y gozar esos estados de fluencia, de disfrutar mientras nos preparamos para ellos, y de recrear luego con satisfacción, en la memoria, los que hemos experimentado.”

Translated by Bing….

Today I share one of the chapters of a little book that, due to personal circumstances, I have not yet been able to finish. It will be called, I believe, Flow in the ski and, as it has been a few years in “a drawer”, today I take it to breathe a little. I hope I can put a hand in it and finish it once and for all, in the meantime, here is an excerpt …

If there is a human activity where it is easy to flow, or to guess that others are in a state of fluency, it is dance. The good thing about it, besides, is that you do not have to dominate it to enjoy it. Not even know to see when someone dances well. Dancing can teach us to ski better if we look at how we follow and we immerse ourselves in the rhythm of music. It can also teach us to practice skiing as an autotelic experience which, in turn, gives us clues about other vital learning.

We perceive music through the sense of hearing and, using our capacity for spatial and temporal abstraction, move the body to the compass of that suggestive stimulus we feel. Rhythm is present both in skiing and in dance, and from the point of view of perceptive-motor qualities it is understood with all the ease of its arid explanation: flatness, rhythm is the ability to predict and organize movement To adapt to the regular stimuli of the environment. That focus on something that, moreover, pleases me, produces a state of self-care in which we perceive, at the same time, connected, our body and the stimulating environment. We thus enter into a state of flux that induces us to become more deeply involved in activity.

In this “flowing” state of dance, many will settle for a simple rhythmic movement, and others will feel stimulated to try a new step, some more complicated movement giving their personal athletic, artistic or even comical touch; And the same will happen, individually or in a shared way, with one or more partners. This natural drive to enrich the experience, increasing difficulty or complexity, provides more opportunities for fun, but also favors even more frequent and deep states of flux, because the attractive and accessible challenge induces that self-care enjoyed, so close To happiness while experiencing.

In skiing, as in dancing, we also perceive the environment through the senses, especially the touch and the movement itself: the kinesthetic sense. If we do as with music, and pay attention to those sensations of touch underfoot, acceleration, gravity … we will interact with that external information until we merge with them in the environment. Those patterns repeated over and over, what we feel circularly, will allow us to predict, organize and regulate movements with precision and harmony, making us ski with efficiency. Thus, just as we become a human extension of the music we hear, if we focus on the sensory stimuli of skiing we can confuse ourselves with the environment through which we descend, as an element in dance with nature that invites us to your dance.

As with dance, if we add to our skiing slight complications, small improvements and small challenges, we will not only enrich our repertoire of skills and the global competition with which we ski, but increase the frequency and quality of those states. Perfect self- attention in which everything seems to flow. People who ski better often say that in their sport, they never stop learning. And it’s true. That is why in skiing, since we will always have opportunities to find a challenge that is a little bigger and proportioned to our abilities, to introduce variations according to our style and to practice alone or in the company of other people – just like with music – continuously We will find occasions to enter and enjoy these states of fluency…

 

Gracias, Carlos!

 

 

Senior Skiing DIY Instruction – The Harbist …

If I have learned anything after a couple months of blogging it is this…Writing about controversial subjects is a bit like being the mole in the Wack-a-mole game at CHuckie Cheese. Stick your head out of the hole on some subjects and by-golly someone is bound to take a poke at it!

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The Establishment Kitty Offers an Opinion.

There is likely not a single person in all the world of American ski instruction more controversial nor more loved and hated, than Harald Harb and his “PMTS” system of learning. The western style range-wars over PMTS on the EPIC forums are, well, …epic. The posts and comments about PMTS there are at one turn excoriating and the next, adoration. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground in how people feel about him and his method.

Part of my duties as the Senior Skiing Crash-Test-Dummy is to go out into the ether online and track down useful Do-It_Yourself learning tools. I actually work at using the learning tools exactly as described by their authors and evaluate whether or not a person can actually improve their performance using them.

crash test dummy

Part of the disconnect between the skiing public and the standard ski school fare is that customers expect that after all these decades, learning to ski should be formulaic. I tend to agree with them.

Making competent parallel turns really isn’t very difficult…unless…you started out learning in a snowplow and then “moved up” to stemmed turns. To make a decent parallel turn you really have to “unlearn” all the stuff you were taught as a beginner.

When Harb introduced his “direct-to-parallel” methods back in the 90s he was immediately set upon by the instructional establishment. He was branded a heretic for parting with the accepted establishment pedagogy and considered by some to be a traitor to his US Demo Team roots. Perhaps,the worst thing about PMTS was that it worked. It worked then and it still does today.

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With several hundred instructors certified in his methods and some ski schools accredited to teach it, his persistence has paid off. You don’t have to like the guy, but you have to admit his “direct-to-parallel” methods are effective.

His methods may not jibe with traditional ski school dogma, but who cares about that? Let’s all pretend like the customer is the most important person in the equation.

If a particular method gets beginners making competent parallel turns during the first lesson, we need to embrace them for the customer’s sake..and our own. It delivers to that customer expectation that learning should be formulaic.

The point is to simply things and not make them seem impossibly complicated..if for no other reason than…they are NOT all that complicated from the perspective of the average recreational skier. You know? Those people who PAY for lessons?

With the stage set, let’s begin…I started with this video on YouTube…If you have the athleticism and the persistence, eventually your skiing will look like this…

 

But, you have to start somewhere….

 

I watched that video several times about his “phantom move” with the inside ski and then watched the one about the “Super Phantom” a dozen times. Then I took it to the snow.

I got off the chair and there at the top is a 200 yard long section that is almost flat. I was cruising along on flat skis, intending to just ride down to the steeper part of the run before I started. Typical of me, I was ready to get started with this new stuff so, I figured, what the heck, let’s just try that Super-Phantom thing.

I picked up the tail of my left ski and tipped it to the left…BAM! I turned left so fast it almost threw me over the handlebars to the right. I was only going 3-4 mph. If you have been having trouble with short radius quick turns..This is a move that will help you past that plateau.

If any of you had been following me on a another on-line magazine, you would know that in the 2014-15 season I had donated my body to science and went chest deep into learning Clendenin Method Skiing. I recently revisited that experiment on this blog (read more).

That effort woke me up to the tremendous value of the inside ski in controlling speed and shaping turns. Once I knew what I was looking for, you can see the beginning of this concept in the skiing of Jean Claude Killy inthe late 1960s. Ingmar Stenmark used the inside ski to dominate World Cup racingi the 70s and become the winning-est racer in history.

Even my school director in 1978 had us teaching students in a wedge to turn left, not by leaning on the right ski but, by picking up the left ski. Seems like a small differentiation, but it is monstrously important in your progress toward advanced skiing.

The only thing that changes more slowly than a glacier is “ski instruction”. Stenmark made clear use of his inside ski in the 70s. Only recently,  has the instructional establishment made grudging references to the inside ski…after 40 years of chanting a mantra ..”outside ski…ommm…outside ski…ommmm…outside ski”.

After 20 years of the shaped-ski driven carving craze, the OSV, the organization that develops the standards for ski instructors in Austria, has declared “carving” to be a niche skill rather than the be-all-end-all of skiing. (More on that here)

They came to that conclusion by actually going out and ASKING recreational skiers what they wanted to learn. Go figure…imagine actually asking a customer what they want…but…I digress.

My personal battle-cry is “Two Feet – Four Edges”. Basically I am a cheapskate. I PAID for two boots, and two skis with four edges so by-gum, I am determined to use them all at anytime, anywhere, in any conditions to execute my intention for any turn.

I am sure they would both say they are entirely different, but my feet tell me otherwise. The basic difference between Harb and Clendenin is a matter of edge angle and WHEN you use the Little-Toe-Edge of the inside ski.

Clendenin Method leads to a steered-smeared “drifted” turn at low edge angles and Harb Systems leads to a high edge angle turn. Clendenin Method is a “go-slow” method and Harb Systems is a “go-fast” method. Both are useful and both lead to a level of control over turn shape that a singular focus on the outside ski simply cannot provide…ever…period.

In general terms, the free Youtube (here)videos on the Harb System are not effectively serialized so you may have to study them all and decide when each one is appropriate to tackle next..or just buy the organized materials here. Harb Ski Systems

The product values are ho-hum. I don’t care for long explanations about why it’s better than someone else’s method nor why what is being taught is going to be really hard to master. I am that “Just shut up and show me person”

So, if you want to amp up your performance of high speed, high edge angle, carved turns, you owe it to yourself to study Harb System skiing. Even if it doesn’t fix everything, it gives you a kit full of new tools and that is ALWAYS a good thing.

Don’t worry about the high-angst declarations of “experts” on either side of the public argument. By studying methods outside the establishment dogma you are educating your feet and body to do things other skiers can’t for no better reason than they haven’t been exposed to it.

That, too, is ALWAYS a good thing. Especially when it’s free (or less than a day’s lesson fees).

Remember to structure your learning and focus on the sensations in your feet and learn to sue them to guide your every move! (D-I-Y Senior Ski Lessons – Your Skiing Sucks?)

 

 

 

Nurture Your Inner Skiing Geezer….

 

 

Growing older is a goal we ALL share.

Wouldn’t it be nice that when you reach 40..50…60…70…80…90 , the snow sport industry would still be interested in you senior skiers as an active participant? You may not consider yourself a senior skier now but you WILL be one day. Why wait until the last minute to insist the industry will want you around?

In the 1940s and 50s, from coast to coast an idea sprang from the mountains. My father’s generation returned from WW II in Europe with a notion and built the American ski areas. My generation, baby, our generation, built the industry as we know it today. Yet, if you pick up nearly any ski-related periodical or surf the web, you might get the notion that skiing is illegal for anyone over the age of 25

                                                 .th-52

According to the AARP, seniors control 70 percent of the world’s wealth. That makes seniors the third largest economy behind the US and China. In the US alone, the 100 million seniors represent $200 billion dollars in disposable income. They spend 20 percent—that’s $40-billion—of that on their kids and grand kids. Seniors who ski or board spend a lot of money on their families!

We take our families on winter vacations, pay for their lodging, buy the lift tickets and often, rent or buy their equipment. In the immortal words of Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, “We are going to be spending an obscene amount of money in here. So, we’re going to need a lot more help sucking up to us…’cause that’s what we really like.”

It turns out the seniors skiing is worth a lot to the industry!

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Which demographic is trending up? Yep…Seniors          Credit:NSAA

( for more analysis, go to: The Wrinkled Irrelevants?

As an age group, we spend 27 percent more time on the mountain each season than any other group. By 2030, there will be 34 percent more people in the 50-plus age group than there are now. Nielson calls us, “the most valuable generation in the history of marketing” but also say less than five percent of all advertising targets our age group. HEY! Ski industry! Time to get in a little practice on seniors skiing, maybe?

 

Ever since the unfortunate industry report that the senior skiers who built and supported the  industry for the last four decades would be dying off in large numbers, the industry has treated the senior skiing segment as a lost cause. As if we are the last seniors to walk the Earth.

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Their focus on the 24-40 year-old segment may appear to make sense from an economic perspective, but the industry is being more than a bit short-sighted.

Barring an Extinction Level Event, those young whippersnappers are aging, too. Time for the industry to gain some valuable experience in hanging on to the one demographic that will always control the bulk of disposable income. Yep, you would think so, wouldn’t ya? You would be wrong

(for more on skiing for cheap, go to: Skiing on the Cheap

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Take heart, active, sporting Boomer skiing souls! All is not lost. If you could take over the Student Union in 1968, you can handle a few ski bums. In the upcoming series of articles, we’ll take a look at resorts with successful senior-focused operations in “Right This Way Ma’am, Happy to See You Again”. We’ll show you how to handle a resort deaf and blind to the needs of seniors with “A Girl Scout Could Handle this Outfit”. Once you have your mountain under control, we’ll show how to wring the last ounce of joy from the slopes with “How to Shred for the Nearly Dead”. See ya up the road a piece. Talkin ’bout my generation…Peace….

Small Muscle Conditioning for Senior Skiers

Devil is in the Details (so think small)

If you love snow sports, this is always the time of year you start thinking about other stuff. Still, in the back of your mind is that voice, “If I had just been in a bit better shape….”. Perhaps All Things are not possible anymore, but Better Things are. So, at this age, the question becomes, “How do I wring that last little bit of fitness out of the old carcass?”

Three things come to mind: strength, flexibility, small muscle control.

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Something like yoga or Tai Chi or old fashioned gym-class stretching handles the flexibility issue.

For you men new to yoga…unlike women, no one really wants to see you in your yoga pants at the grocery store. OK? It’s  that whole Speedo-smuggling olives to the beach thing…don’t do it.

Strength? Most gym exercises and machines focus on building those big attractive muscle groups. The big muscles are important to senior skiing. They hold us up. They help us resist the forces that build at the bottom of the turn. Hit the slopes with weak quads or abs, and you will suffer.

exercise

What machine designers and exercise gurus often miss is that it’s the small muscles and the minute adjustments they make that keep us feeling balanced, comfortable, confident and in control. If you want to control your edges like a surgeon wields a scalpel you are going to have to target the small muscles around the joints.

There’s also fun.

 

Gym routines and running and biking will hit these small muscles by default but not always in a focused way that will benefit your skiing or riding. So, Mike, oh postulator of unscientific theory, you ask, “Whatever shall we do?” So glad you asked…

My own personal off-season regimen is to simply keep doing what I was doing.

Skiing effectively involves blending the skills of Pressure, Edge Control, and Rotational Movements (PER), lots of small movements in feet, ankles, knees, and hips. While the big muscles hold us up. The tiny ones are constantly making all the micro-adjustments that keep us feeling stable, and happy, and avoiding solid objects.

Many exercise regimes don’t really provide enough focus on small muscles to do you much good on the hill. Additionally, sitting in a machine, or on one, doesn’t fine tune your subconscious reactions to minute changes in balance that are so important to skiing effectively.

Start thinking NOW about your fitness program for the non-snow season.

Personally, I detest organized exercise. Classes and machines and routines leave me cold. But, fear not, Where There is a Hill There is a Way. It is no harder than going for a walk. What?!

Really, it’s easy. Walk backwards up a hill.

Walk in circles on a side-hill. Vary the width and depth of your stride.

Hop from foot to foot as you walk backwards or forwards while widening your landing zone.

Take a run up and down a dry stream bed from rock to rock. Feel how angulation and inclination come into play.

stream bed

Walk the top of a curb on your street.

Do some slack-line work

When you have all that mastered, add some weight to your ruck and start over.

What I am saying is get out and PLAY! Make getting fit all about having fun out of doors.

You don’t need a mat or stretchy pants or a membership.

Just go PLAY.

Give some thought to the things that give you trouble in the snow (remember the PER model—Pressure, Edge Control, Rotation) and devise some form of play that incorporates those same movements.

Play isn’t just about physical fitness. It’s FUN and FUN is good for the mind and spirit, too!

Being ready for the 2015-16 season doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, nor dull. . So, while you twiddle your thumbs waiting for the next snow season, go have some fun, would ya?!  Just Sayin…

D-I-Y Instruction – Horse Training Secrets for Senior Skiers

DIY TRAINING RULE ONE:

“MAKE DOING THE RIGHT THING EASY AND DOING THE WRONG THING DIFFICULT”

Far too many people on the DIY path do exactly the opposite. They make doing the right thing hard and the wrong thing easy.

I’ve trained horses, dogs, cats, kids and, even a squirrel. No matter what creature you may try to train, RULE ONE ALWAYS APPLIES. It’s a broad concept so, let me unpack it for you.

Before you ever get close to the mountain think about what it is you want to accomplish and set everything up so that being successful in that session is easy. Also, think about things you could do to make failure difficult.

Before you start a DIY session, have a plan. If you haven’t decided what you want to practice, where you will practice, when you will practice, who you need with you at practice, how you will practice or, what parameters define success. WHOA! Hold it right there! DON”T MAKE DOING THE RIGHT THING DIFFICULT.

Stick to your plan and MAKE DOING THE RIGHT THING EASY

WHAT to Practice? Remember, in a previous article, when I said you should have a Lesson Plan? That wasn’t just to give you busy work. Does the exercise you want to work on next fit into your lesson plan? If it doesn’t STOP. Stick to your Lesson Plan. The plan is there to build you from the feet up and in the right sequence.

WHERE you are going to practice? And I will make this one REALLY easy for you. If you start a new exercise on anything but a Green run, you are about to MAKE DOING THE RIGHT THING DIFFICULT.

If you can do it at low speed it, you can do it at any speed. Speed masks a lot of really bad habits. So slow down. Be a surgeon. Think slow, steady highly precise movements before you ratchet up the speed.

bunny-hill

HOW will you practice? You have to get out of the vertical-feet-per-hour frame of mind and think more about maximizing repetitions per run. It takes about 300 PERFECT repetitions of a movement before perfect movements are embedded in your core memory. That’s after who-knows- how-many repetitions it takes to first perfect the movement.

Make EVERY turn in your drill at 90 degrees across the fall line. Shallow angle turns don’t force you to implement the new movement to its fullest range. If you can do it at 90 degrees to the fall line, you can do it at 5 degrees. MAKE DOING THE RIGHT THING EASY.

WHO are you going to practice with? If you have a friend who has mastered the drill, you need them with you! If nothing else, skiing with a friend is more fun and it’s always good to get 30-60 seconds of video here and there to make sure you have the movement right.

Only YOU can decide what equals success with a session. Refer to the goals you have for your Senior Lesson Plan and set goals for each session and then decide how you will know when you have succeeded then, VISUALIZE success. If you have a video of an expert, study it, then visualize yourself making the new movement exactly that way.

boot-fitter

If you haven’t taken you and your boots to a master fitter, DO IT!! Trust me. You will be amazed at the difference it makes in your performance.

ski-tuning

Finally, always..ALWAYS keep your bases and edges tuned and have THE RIGHT WAX for the conditions of the day. Nothing makes learning more difficult than edges that won’t grip or skis that stick to the snow. Why? Class? Bueller? Bueller?

MAKE DOING THE RIGHT THING EASY AND THE WRONG THING HARD.

Here’s a link to a SWIX ski tuning video that will take you to a whole series of videos on ski tuning, care, repair and maintenance. https://youtu.be/CaovoNdVN04

Happy Trails, Pardner!

roy-rogers

 

D-I-Y Senior Skiing Lessons – What the Heck are you Lookin’ At?

CLICK the video for a sound track while you read!

Or so Mr Morrison told us lo, those many years ago…Fun on the snow was about an empty Bota bag and a nice fat one on the chair ride. These days I don’t even carry a bag-o-booze and the only “fat one” on the chair is me… But, there is no denying the wisdom of keeping your eyes on the road.

I have only a few mantras. Two of them are that, good turns start with the eyes and If you are looking at the next turn, you’re too late

When you are trying a new drill it is entirely natural to look down at your feet and legs and stuff to see if it looks right. I am not saying don’t EVER look at your feet. What I am saying is that just as soon as you can, STOP That!

The farther out in front of your feet your eyes are, the further in front your mind is.

When conditions and terrain get dicey, you need to free your mind to think tactically, to chose the best initiation and transition types that you can for each turn, and for your feet to execute your choices without conscious thought.

Balance is everything.

Your head weighs 14 pounds. When you look down at your feet, your fat head gets forward of your center of balance. If you have 14 pounds of skull hanging forward, to stay in balance, you must move 14 pounds of backside, to the rear. The next thing you know you are overly folded forward at the hips and backward at the knees and that position will wear you out in a hurry.

The problem with seniors skiing groomers is that the two-dimensional snow, and the lack of surprises let you get away with all sorts of bad habits.

The problem with looking at your feet is that you aren’t thinking about the next turn because you can’t see it. A lot of people have the physical skills to ski moguls or trees but they are constantly being surprised and get out of position in a hurry because their minds aren’t far enough out front.

Turns are everything.

Without them it wouldn’t be called “skiing”. It would be called “Flying thru the Lodge Windows”. When we practice, we are so very focused on the movements of initiation and transition that we forget that where the apex of a turn is placed is what keeps us from crashing into things and sets us up for success with subsequent turns.

Remedy..run some gates.

th-16
The Way We Were

Even if you have no ambition to race, gates force you to focus on the apex of the turn.

Gates force you to get your eyes and mind out in front of your feet. Gates force you to plan your line.

If where you ski doesn’t have a fun course set up, stop your run every five or six turns and plan the next five or six turns by picking specific spots on the snow to place the apex of your turns. Look at the spot for your last turn and try to ski the line you picked while focused on the last turn. Perform the drill you are working on while running gates.

“Head up, Eyes up, mind out front, have a plan, execute”

…and remember

…Fat head forward,

Getcha Fat butt back

Fat junk hurts

When you lose your stack

                                                                                Word

D-I-Y Senior Ski Lessons – Your Skiing Sucks?

Time to un-suck it!

DO IT YOURSELF INSTRUCTION                    Can I?   Should I?… and How

Perhaps the real question is “Can you do it yourself?”. The answer is, absolutely you can!

I am living proof. Like many senior skiers, I had taken a long hiatus from the sport. While I was gone, some clever person invented the parabolic ski. The technology created new opportunities on the snow but, how to learn about these wonderful possibilities? I went online. I got lucky. I found some websites and videos and people willing to help from faraway places. My skiing improved.

SHOULD YOU? A lot of people say no, take senior ski lessons. In a ski lesson, the instructor watches you ski and picks out something that needs work. They show you an exercise and help you get the exercise right, they pat you on the head and send you on your way (gratuities are welcomed)                          

Great Grandpa Rocked it on lumber, dude!

In the time you are not with an instructor, YOU are your teacher. You are deciding if you are still doing it right. The truth is, sharpening your self-teaching skills is imperative and makes the perfect companion to the occasional live lesson.

Practice makes Perfect? I am here to tell you, tain’t so pilgrim.

Practice makes permanent. If your practice isn’t perfect all you will do is become really proficient at doing things wrong. When I launched into teaching this old dog the new tricks, it became immediately apparent that what I needed was a lesson plan and some support. Decide what you want to accomplish before you do anything else. If you can, get a friend to join you in the process.

It’s  handy to have some support in case you’re stuck

WARNING WILL ROBINSON WARNING!!!

Don’t tell yourself, “I want to be a better mogul skier.” or trees or whatever. It’s a trap. Whatever is wrong with your mogul skiing is wrong with your groomer skiing. Bumps or crud or what-have-you just make it obvious.

You might start with a wedge but let’s not take it to extremes, hmmmm?

At the beginning I looked at video “tips” on Youtube. The problem is the videos show you how to do a drill but don’t tell you the ways you can do the drill incorrectly. Too, “tips” are not organized into a lesson plan.

If the videos you are using are not organized into a serialized, logical process for improvement, find something else.

If the videos don’t take the time to educate you on terminology and the physical mechanics of the exercises, find something else.

If you are going to teach yourself, you need to learn that mechanical lingo! It will help you to analyze your own performance and better communicate with an instructor if you do buy a lesson. The PSIA book “Alpine Technical Manual” is a good resource for learning the language and is available on their website.

You can’t make it real if you ain’t got the feel, When you hit a golf ball or a tennis ball or baseball cleanly, you really don’t feel the ball. You did everything just right….BAM…

Same deal with skiing. When you do it right it feels right. Only you can observe the sensations you have while skiing. Pay attention to them, ESPECIALLY the bottoms of your feet. Your feet are loaded with cells to provide the brain with all kinds of interesting and useful information.

Too many of us ignore feet and ankles because we lock them up in boots and they can’t really move, right? Wrong.

All expert skiing begins at the soles of your feet. Your feet carry you around your daily life. You walk and run and even skip from rock to rock without giving a single thought to inclination or angulation or centrifugal force or metatarsals. You just do it because your feet KNOW what to do. They’re smart. Listen to them.

At some point you stop doing drills and just ski but, please, still pause once in a while and decide if the sensations you had while free skiing indicate if the drill is still working and fully incorporated into your personal style.

Learning can be stressful. Take a break once in awhile!

You are your own coach so you need to be able to look at your skiing and determine what you need to do next in your journey. Because you have been studying videos, you have already begun to develop an eye for what looks right and what doesn’t. The next step is to have some video taken of your skiing and begin to apply your self to movement analysis.

Thanks to smart phone technology it is really easy to get started. I use a phone app called Coach’s Eye. It will accept video from your phone or GoPro and a host of other sources. You can do slow motion, stop motion, progressive still shot series, reverse playback and draw lines and circles and record voice-over analysis. It’s everything a hired coach should be doing and it is very easy to learn and its fun to do with friends…Give it a go.

ALWAYS review! Say you spent a morning working on a new skill. Always start your training sessions with a drill you feel you have already mastered, always end on the new skill so when you start free skiing, the new sensations will be fresh in your mind and, your feet.

The last bit of advice is to use videos from people who provide remote assistance. If you are having issues and can either describe them textually or, better yet, send them some video to be analyzed, you will have a better chance of getting things right.

Look here ya’ll, skiing isn’t really a big mystery. There are a finite number of bones, and muscles and there are only so many ways to arrange the pieces. If you truly master the basic skills you will be able to ski any terrain in any conditions proficiently no matter what kind of skis you are on.

Grandpa and Grandma went crazy LONG before parks and GoPro!

If you have a plan, books, DVDs and streamed video, you can do this. Whether you are conscious of it or not, every time you ski you are teaching yourself to move body parts around. So, teach yourself the RIGHT things.

You are coaching yourself all the time so, bring it to the front of your mind, get a plan, grab a partner and go for it.