Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snowboarding to start the season

Since my Teleboard is in the shop, I started the season on a snowboard--twice, proving definitively that learning to teleboard does in fact teach snowboarding. I had a lot of fun ,of course, and learned a little finesse as I went. Forward slanting bindings seem to help. It's time to get serious about winter now though. The teleboard should be out of the shop in a few days. Stay tuned and think snow!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Getting some air at Sunapee

Me, hop turning on over-sized bumps
Mikey especially likes the view of Lake Sunapee.
Yesterday I took the day off work along with friends Mikey and Jeremy and headed over to Sunapee. This was a case of following deals and conditions. We got an early enough start to see the lifts start spinning, and rode nearly every open trail. (Full disclosure, I have no financial relationship with Sunapee, or any other ski area.)

Fooling around on the beginner area's terrain park
Both of my co-conspirators were on snowboards, and Jeremy was early intermediate. Since Jeremy needed some advice getting down steeper sections in control and without chatter, the conversation turned to technique. Unsurprisingly, nearly all of it was relevant to teleboarding.

Lessons of the day:

  • One-footed hop turn: I've written before about the utility of hop turns on steeps and how any kind of jumping is good practice, but there is an even easier way to quickly pivot your board. Hop with your back foot but leave your front foot on the snow. As you are getting ready to transition into a right turn, get your weight onto your front foot. Quickly pull up your back toe and set it back down to the left of where it was. Your foot need not leave the ground for very long, nor go very high. This will help you make very quick and solid turns. You can also use more subtle version of this to turn on top of moguls.
  • Round scraping turns: (Thanks to Mikey for articulating this and to Jeremy for learning it in front of my eyes) Scraping the snow is the simplest and most common way to control speed on the snow, but it doesn't have to lead to slashing zig sags, unbalanced J-shaped turns, or poor form. I think the key is to not rush, even if you are on a steep slope where you could accrue speed to quickly. Let each turn develop gradually, and do it with steady rythym. If you apply this thinking to your scraping turns, your turns will come out round and you will go at a constant comfortable speed. I like to think of this as half carved turn, half hockey stop.
  • Blending techniques: I tend to write about techniques in pure form, but they can be adjusted and combined to your liking. If you know how to do sinuous, purely carved turns, and you also know how to do a hockey stop, you can make the round scraping turns I just mentioned. A hop turn can be toned down to make a light-footed turn where you stay on the ground, but still rotate more easily. The examples go on and on. Learn pure forms, and improve by trying extremes. But when trying for the best or most appropriate turn, ask yourself how you can mix and match techniques for the best outcome.
  • Even application of pressure: You can overcome chattering edges by pressuring your board hard, but smoothly and confidently. If you've ever learned to drive a car with a manual transmission, this is like getting the engine to stop lugging at low speed by just hitting the gas.
  • Get lower, lower than you think. Your whole body, especially your knees, is your suspension. You need to be in the middle of that range so that you can either extend or compress at any given moment to respond to shape of the slope and the turn you are making. Nice theory--In practice, people tend to ride to high, especially when they are tired or nervous. Also, you can get incredibly low on the teleboard, so the middle of the range is probably lower than you think. So adjust your stance to be lower, then lower still. Everything will start working better.
  • Goof around: At the end of the day you get tired. You probably know that this is when most injuries happen, so you should just call it a day, right? Maybe not. Why not go ride a part of the mountain that's way below your ability level? Yesterday Mikey and I found a beginner level terrain park, and it made the day complete somehow.

End-of-day fun



Sunday, February 12, 2012

Making the best of meager conditions in New England.

This is a tough winter in New England for anyone who likes sliding on snow, even in northern VT. But my most recent 2.3 days riding the teleboard tuned out very satisfactorily, possibly because I employed every coping strategy I know. Here's a list:
Race gates
* cameraderie. Riding with friends can press mediocre snow into service for a fun and memorable trip. Swapping stories in the hot tub is almost as good. Thanks to my friend Steve for making it happen again this year at Smuggs!
* Follow the conditions, not the trail map. My favorite trail was closed and others that are often enjoyable were better for displaying machismo than making satisfying turns. I found some good snow by taking the path of most resistance on popular trails, and later by visiting an obscure glade. The best riding was to be found on morse mountain, which is where the beginners tend to ski. It turned out that the one expert trail under the lift line was relatively unscraped. In addition, the wide, shallow, easiest-way-down trail received the best grooming and snowmaking on the mountain. My teleboard and I carved deeply sideways into this modest-looking slope, turning it into an exuberant spectacle. Teleboards are perhaps most at home when carving hard and turning heads.
* Get up early. My 3 runs before breakfast and the long ride home today were the best of the trip, and it was no accident. I made the first tracks on newly manufacured snow on a trail chosen the day before.
* take your technique out of the box. Play with the coefficients on all the parameters af your turn and find something better for the situation you are in. For man-made wind-slab on boulders I found my sweet spot by reaching a pole down further than usual and throwing a few hop-turns around to punch through the snow. When my edge found purchase in flatter terrain, sitting down hard into the turn or throwing my torso at the ground did the trick. (Watch video of extreme carving and try to imitate it sometime--It's even more fun to try than to watch, and falling from 4 inches doesn't hurt much.)
* Be opportunistic. Race gates open to the public cleared my head. A terrain park provided soft snow on an icy day. When what normally works for you fails, something unexpected might work.
smiling ladies
Thanks to everyone who showed up for making this trip one to remember!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Telemarking at smuggs

At Smuggler's Notch, Looking at Madonna from Morse


My friend Adam wanted to build some telemark skills today, so I jumped on the opportunity and joined him. Sinc my M.O. is helping people learn, and because my skills are somewhat past his, I filled his head with too much information and told him to focus on the best nugget and ignore the rest. I have a lot of respect for instructors who seem to know the right thing to say in the first place.
Adam, learning telemark turns
I also got to thinking about crossover skills. Like how practice alpine skiing teaches upper/lower body independence that translates to the teleboard so well. Or how being used to the quick-turning teleboard makes me more nimble on a snowboard. Today I noticed another crossover skill. Riding a teleboard has made me a better telemarker bygetting me used to always being on edge. I think being on only one board with such a pronouned sidecut has ensured that I naturally make an effort to keep the teleboard as much as possible. It prevents catching an edge and is a good way to keep your speed up in the flats. Today I found myself keeping my skis on edge, which served a different purpose. The parts of the trail that would have been merely runout were instead a place to practice carving telemark skis. And that is quite a valuable skill. Even so, I'll be back on a teleboard next time.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What to expect

I just arrived at smuggler's notch with Superfan and Adam, and I thought It would be a good time to set expectations for this blog. I'm going to take notes for the teleboard book by writing here, which means that this blog should theoretically be of some value to beginning or potential teleboarders.

I'm also going to sit down and write on a regular basis, and whatever comes out wikk get posted.
I am not going to spend much time editing my posts, so they may be a little raw.

Look forward to smuggs pics soon.

--Scott

Teaching Aaron, days 6 and 7

Aaron, day 6

Friday we had a great time riding at Stratton, VT. Aaron needed miles under his feet more than advice, and that's what he got. We enjoyed sunshine, loose granular snow, and chatting with lots of friendly strangers. We stayed near the green-painted signs but still managed to see some decent terrain variation.

That night Aaron's very cool Uncle & Aunt put us up for the night. We surely learned more spending a few hours with them than the three previous days teleboarding and taking notes, but that's for another blog.

Yesterday, we decided to try to save some driving time and ride a mountain that Aaron might be able to conquer. We pointed the car towards Massachusetts just long enough to get to Crotched Mountain. More sunshine and sugary snow greeted us, as well as some cheerful locals. Within a few runs we had stopped talking about fatigue from the previous days, and starting talking about making some big gains. At the end of the day, Aaron was hop-turning down "satellite summit", a nice little face marked with a black diamond.

I'm pretty proud of the transformation Aaron underwent over the last four days. Just Wednesday he was riding a conveyor belt like a box of cheerios, and now...I'm going to drop that analogy while I'm ahead.

I'm also very glad to have a friend who would willingly fly from Florida to semi-frosty New England in winter, push himself past all preconceived limits with a smile, and add bruises to his bruises--Just so I could take notes and pictures, and maybe sell 5 copies of a book someday. Aaron, if you're reading this, thanks for applying your get-it-done-right attitude to teleboarding, vacationing, and friendship.

Aaron and I came up with a short list of lessons learned or verified on our drive home:

* It's worth alternating between easy and challenging terrain as much as possible. Nailing every turn on an easy slope for two runs may keep a smile on your face long enough to succeed at something you thought you weren't ready for. When you are just starting to be comfortable with what you are doing, you are ready to take on an even tougher challenge.
* Laugh when you fall.
* Hip swivel. I tend to lead with my hips, and after trying it himself Aaron emphasized its importance repeatedly. It seems to help cut through snow sinuously.
* Steeper is easier. Yes, really. Steeps intimidate everyone at some point, but all of the basic movements of teleboarding work better when the ground is sloped.
* Stay positive or eat snow. (that sounded more positive in my head)
* If you think you are about to fall, adopt a lower stance and lean a little forward. You might stay on your board.
* Don't splay your your knees. You need both legs working together to use the whole length of the steel edge. Feeling your knees touch each other is a reminder that you have a good stance and you are about to do justice to the terrain you're looking at.
Aaron's 3rd attempt at a jump. 6 inches in the air and stuck the landing just like the first two.

* Jumping isn't a trick. It's a basic building block of good technique that you should learn right away. I mean beginners, especially. Take a meandering "easiest way down" sort of trail and look for little rises in the terrain. Not jumps, not dropoffs, just slight convexities. Get your board one inch in the air. Then keep doing it. It's fun and it sorts out your balance instantly.
* Once you jump, you can learn hop turns easily, which are great for steeps.

OK. That's all for now.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Teaching Aaron, day 5

Today was a big success. Over the course of 3.5 hours at Wachusett, Aaron got better by leaps and bounds. I think he is in the phase where he is less in need of information, and more in need of miles of snow passing under his feet. We mixed up the terrain slightly and I got to watch him gain confidence, control and speed.

Aaron said the big realization of the day was a lower stance. For him that made it all fall into place. When you're on a board, standing a little bit lower might make a big difference, but you might as well get as low as you comfortably can. It will take more energy, but many things start working better...suspension, edge engagement, etc. Also, I think it focuses the mind.

Another thing we talked about today was the "oneness" with the board. It's a hard thing to put into words, but I think I recall snowboarders talking about the same thing. One board, one thing to do, no distractions, natural focus, and mental bliss. Something like that.

Another fun thing tonight was getting more attention than usual. I think we were on the schoolchildren's shift, which came along with many questions and candid appraisals of our strange ski-like devices. One child saw Aaron on his teleboard and asked him if he had a prosthetic leg. Another boy asked me 3 quick questions about my board, said, "I know what I'm asking for for Christmas", and sped off on his merry way. Aaron and I both enjoyed the attention. Personally, I'm better at having conversations with strangers than starting them, so it works for me.

A thought on poles. One of my ski poles got stolen yesterday so I've been riding without them for two days. Leaving poles behind for that long is only slightly unusual for me. I like to drop them occasionally to force better technique, but Aaron came upon a similar realization a different way. His skill got to a point where poles were less necessary and he just stopped using them. They were still in his hands, but he decided to stop using them to cheat down the slope, and thus force good technique out of his legs and torso.

Near the end of our session, I happened to notice Aaron slide to a stop with some real finesse. It started out like a carve, changing the direction of his momentum, then shifted into a hockey stop, leaving him facing the direction he came from. I often use the same trick to pull up right to the lift line. I think that it might be a good indicator of readiness to graduate from the bunny slopes.

On that note, I'm going to bed so I can drive to Vermont bright and early tomorrow, for two more days of hurtling down frozen mountains.