Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Skiing with focus: the pursuit of quality turns over quality snow

Last spring ignited my pursuit of telemark racing, which I knew I wanted to pursue with much more focus into 2014/2015 season.  This meant guidance, equipment, effort and focus.  Cycling has Fred's, skiing has Gorby's.  I wouldn't really have called myself a Gorby, but I was also far from having the experience I needed to reach my goal - skiing at the World Cup stop in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 2015.

On the learning side, which is most important, I've joined the Alberta Masters.  Great group of positive, helpful, quality skiers and coaches.  They alpine ski and race, however I haven't found it much of an issue getting quality learnings applicable to telemark.  We ski Saturday and Sunday at Nakiska, Monday nights at COP, all with video and coaching both on free skiing and gates.  Eking out improvement is focus on a couple issues at a time, listen, practice, execute.  It's not easy, if it were we'd all be Olympians after a dozen points of feedback, but it's challenging and the progress is fruitful if looked at over time spans greater than run to run.  Being able to ski gates with supportive people 3 days a week is amazing.

I've had to up my game on the equipment side.  I'm rotating between a couple skis and trying to find out what works best in what conditions.  They're all new old stock on ebay type deals, and I've stuck mostly with Fischers as their undrilled plates are easy for mounting NTN bindings to.

I've finally invested in a quality Toko table and Swix clamps that felt the nicest to me.  I tune every time I ski.  I'm doing high performance hard COP and Nakiska snow/ice tuning with quality tools.  Quality tools produce quality results, whether it be quality metal edge files or diamond hones.  Edges are now a pursuit rather than a chore.  It's satisfying.  I have a library of wax that suits many conditions instead of just slapping on what I have.  I know what I'll bring for important races, and although it's expensive, it's not near the cost of bike racing equipment!

I've picked up Lange race boots.  I have very skinny feet, and my feet always swim in my boots.  Not these ones.  I move my feet and my body and skis move, instead of getting lost in translation.  It's like a sports car vs. an SUV.  I got old model year and alpine race skis (slalom and GS) to make more use of the Monday nights at COP in particular.  I'm very happy with the deals accessed on all of these.  Why alpine boots?  Besides a couple days of cross training (heels locked down is weird!), the boots provided another useful set of information - it's the first set I've had that are properly canted, footbedded, etc. to deal with my flat feet and bow legs, which are both things that work directly against good inside edging.  The next challenge is to get my tele boots adapted with the canting information from the alpine fit.  Without long explanation, it's not as easy to accomplish with tele gear.  And I'd prefer to do much of it at the boot rather than shimming bindings, as I have several tele skis, and I don't want to multiply out the work, and I'd prefer not to have L and R skis.  Canted footbeds and shimmed cuffs are the first couple of steps.

Skiing is fast...  I now have Get a FIS speed rated race helmet and mouth guard to ward off concussion as best as possible if crashing, knock on wood I've still never really made head contact with snow in all these years of skiing, but it's both wise and necessary by club and Alpine Canada guidelines.  Further I have new magic underpants... ha ha... they're warm and protective. Get protective underwear for hips and tail ones with soft but instantly hard padding. And a back protector, again, warm and comfy, and makes the snow slides I've had so far a total non event! Skiing regularly at COP nights means clear goggles, an item that had been absent from my equipment list for quite a while, plus I even splurged for a second set for winter commuting at nights.

I've skied 15 times with coaching and video this season. Do it a thousand times and one might feel like progress has been made!  How to turn, how to weight, when to turn, when to initiate, how to initiate, stance, where to look, mental focus are all reviewed each run in my mind vs "just skiing". 

I've had a positive experience from reaching out to Altius Nordic Ski Club to have access to the ski jumps to practice the jump at speed and size, plus in a telemark landing.

I've been hammering away on the XC side.  It's been a mix of technique training from those who are qualified to help, and just brute force intervals.  My painful favourite is below our GS course at COP there's another 100 yards of gentle slope in between the XC area and the lift, which is partially occupied by a magic carpet for people learning.  I start at the bottom, point the skis uphill, and either skate or just double pole uphill.  The looks on the magic carpet riders faces is classic when I go faster and higher than they go... it's all good until especially the double poling ones I go until stomach muscle cramps set it!  Different muscles than cycling intervals but same engine.


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