Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fundamentals work in Chile

The following is a template of sorts created to assess the skiing of a group I coached in Chile this past month. Basically, each athlete has an analysis focused on each one of these elements.


I’m in the process of writing individual analyses of your skiing from our camp in Chile. They do take some time, however, so I wanted to give you a preview of the elements that will be discussed.

I’ve broken down what we worked on into five fundamentals. They are not meant to be overly technical, but if you need clarification I encourage you to call or to write. After each one, your own assessment will contain individualized comments for your skiing. The five are as follows:

1. Angle of attack. Probably the first and most primary element to master is the concept of being "with" the hill, which involves both sensing the pitch of the hill you are on together with an awareness of the location and position of your body. We’ve also referred to this as the optimal "angle of attack.” It is different for every situation and every pitch, and really more than anything needs practice to be habituated into confidence, first on moderate terrain and then on steeper stuff in order to be felt and acted upon properly. We have often begun practice with this concept as a group by getting into balance and alignment while standing still, facing uphill, playing with the feelings our body gives us when in and out of alignment, and being sensitive to how close optimal is to not optimal. We then observe the angle our body makes with the hill and remind ourselves that this is the optimum angle we should target when skiing down the hill.

To master this fundamental one has to work through the innate body fear that comes with trusting that falling forward (or even diving forward) feeling one must be comfortable with from the turn’s release until the horizontal line of the next turn, in progressively steeper and/or higher jeopardy types of situations. Mastering this skill runs counter to our innate fear of falling, and it requires a full commitment to a definite releasing of the bulk of one's mass down the fall line at precisely that moment when most of our instincts tell us to do just the opposite. Once you learn to trust this, however, you will wonder why you ever conceived of it any other way.

2. Parallel stance and base of support width. Once you have mastered angle of attack, one of the next major points is mastering a true, dynamic parallel stance on an appropriately sized base of support, or stance width. While generally it’s true that one should have parallel skis all of the time, a better description is that we should feel and control both edges, and that they should be running as cleanly as possible through the snow at all times. Width of stance may then be controlled by making minor adjustments of convergence and divergence between one's two edges at appropriate points in the turn. Without the parallel stance, it is difficult if not impossible to quickly and effectively move on one's axis at all points in a turn, and thus it becomes nearly impossible to easily achieve those body positions that are most advantageous to withstanding and/or creating force. Divergence with skidding essentially creates a drag on the inside half, which prevents moving forward and through when we need it most. What divergence does do however is give us a sense of security in that, should we fall to the inside, we have a safety net. The only problem is, it’s not safer and it’s definitely slow, like dragging an anchor along for the ride down a race course. To master this fundamental, you must commit to releasing the need for a safety net. Get comfortable with both feet running away from you on both your outside and inside edges, and you will be pleasantly surprised that your base of support will “catch” you better than ever before.

3. Athletic position. Once the previous fundamental is mastered, you now have a good chance of getting your body into alignment at all points of your turn, including achieving proper alignment at that point when you will create at the heaviest, or highest energy part of the turn. This opens the door to higher edge angles, the ability to generate higher pressure, and the option of a more direct line through gates on cleaner skis. Finding proper alignment is essentially anticipating the most athletic position you are capable of, that is not only dynamic and sensitive but also able to withstand forces greater than your body weight. This skill requires a good “mid-air” sense. While most ski racers are proficient at being aware of where their body parts are when they are under a load such as when the ski is hooking up, awareness of where their body is while not under load is often neglected, and neglected from a very young age. The good news is that, like anything else in ski racing, it can be practiced into mastery.

We can call this a lot of things, such as “good posture” or simply anatomical alignment, but above all finding proper alignment is a dynamic act as opposed to a static position. And again, from a young age many of us are taught skiing “positions” rather than sensing balance in motion. For example, if you've just jumped off of a platform a foot or two high, think of the way your body automatically aligns itself in anticipation before contacting the ground if your goal is to spring up again. Muscles are ready, all joints have flexion, and above all the body is precisely aligned to the big force that is ABOUT to take place. This is the type of state you want your muscles and joints and awareness to occupy as you are upside down in your turn. Doing so requires mastery of all of the previous fundamental elements discussed. Needless to say, your overall fitness level and strength to weight ratio play a very large part in determining whether you can withstand those larger forces. That said, however, strength and power almost always come second to balance and alignment. Without these, all of the power in the world cannot be effectively applied to the ski.

4. Turn shape selection and control. We discussed the use of pressure, edge angle, and fore-aft application. These are the three basic elements we identified that can alter the radius of a carved turn. For example, more pressure creates more effective side cut, which reduces the turn's radius, which increases centripetal force (e.g. more pressure), which enables us to lower our CM (center of mass) to remain balanced against the additional force, which increases edge angle, which reduces the turns radius further, and so on and so on... The gist here is that all of the elements are tied to one another. Mastery of ski racing entails being able to balance and blend all three ways of altering turn shape, depending on the situation in which one finds themselves. Mastery of your own turn shape is largely a process of experience, whereby for example you should, at least daily, pick out one of the three and "play" with it. Every situation is different, so this process requires a lot of intentioned self-discovery and reflection on whether or not it is effective. One of the bigger cultural problems we face is that often times when free skiing, athletes choose to simply go with the flow, which, while admittedly fun, does nothing to develop a need to select a turn shape that precisely matches the targeted skiing we perform while in gates. This creates repetition of a turn shape that really doesn’t exist in most courses.

5. Pressing the "gas pedal." One of the most elusive but important fundamental elements of ski racing that we talked about was finding the "gas pedal." Formally speaking, the gas pedal is the ability to press on the new outside ski at the moment it is coming under the CM at transition. To understand this better, the analogy we talked about was imagining skiing down a two-tiered straight track with one foot above the other. At some point the two-tiers would become one. Now, if everyone started at the same speed and we timed such an event, the obvious way to be the fastest would be to precisely time pressuring one's higher foot as it came down to the level of the lower foot. This would give us a little acceleration boost. Pressuring too early or too late would result in no acceleration, but hitting it just right, on its sweet spot, would result in an appreciable boost. Because there is one of these sweet spots in every turn, it’s useful to time this pressuring of the new outside ski. Being able to master this skill implies mastery of 1-4 above and will launch you into a whole new realm of speed in ski racing. Your turns will link, you’ll be connected to the snow, and you’ll develop a keen awareness of where your switch happens and why. Accomplished ski racers utilize this concept of “pressing on the back side of a bump" almost every single turn.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The season is afoot. Snow: the good, the bad, and the transcendent

It's now December 9 and we've had a solid two weeks on snow here at Waterville Valley. Granted, it's limited terrain, but the snow has achieved an ideal consistency for race training. It's moisture content is high, it is consistent, and there has been just enough of a dusting of new snow each day to fill in any cracks that might have otherwise appeared.

For ski racers, snow is a very deep subject. Once a certain threshold of proficiency is reached, the subject of snow takes on a whole different meaning. Listen to any world class racer talk about their skiing and you'll notice how much time they spend talking about the surface. For them, the question is less about "how am I going to ski" than about "how am I going to ski on this surface?" There's a great lesson here for young racers... it's OK to think in terms of: "what do I think I can get away with?" In fact, it is precisely this line of questioning that invites an athlete to first step back and observe the environment in which they act, and then second to create a solution to be acted upon (we'll write another blog later on getting conception to action. It'll be entitled "faith and self-reliance in ski racing"). Too often we find ourselves fixated on our bodies, our equipment, our state of mind, etc, without giving the environment the attention it deserves. Or, when we do pay attention to the environment, it is often in a negative, reactive mode. For example, when I was young, when the conditions were "bad," my mind would simply say "this sucks" and leave it at that. When it was good, I wouldn't think about it at all.

As it happens, at least from my experience, the whole good/bad thing was more of a distraction than an accurate way of meeting the universe with whatever skills I had on loan from God.

Those on the warrior ski racer path may want to consider the alternative of non-judgmental observation when it comes to things you can't control, such as snow conditions, course set, weather issues, etc. Although you cannot control the conditions, you certainly can control your observation of them, your subsequent interpretation of them, and thus how you act upon them. If life gives you death cookies, frozen muffin chunks and sugar, you give back a technique perfectly suited for it, period. The great thing about ski racing is that, most of the time, everyone has to deal with the same crazy variables. You're missing out if you don't embrace this wonderful nuance of our sport. Once you understand that the true joy and satisfaction of the sport is to meet the conditions as you find them, as opposed to pursuing a lifetime of linked park and ride hand-touchin' sweet spot crushing ego-stroking turns, you'll achieve an openness in your ability to perceive things that you may not have had before. Trust me, you'll start having "hero days" where you never dreamed you'd have had them before.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Deconstructing the mythology that is Ski Academies, Part I

This is a long overdue topic that I've been taking notes on for quite a while, and have thought about for even longer still.

The purposes of this entry is to give the big picture, I'll try to describe ski academies from three different perspectives: 1) what it's like to go to one, 2) how they're thought of in the skiing community in general, and finally, 3) how they are perceived from they lay person's perspective, e.g. a parent who doesn't necessarily ski or ski race.

I went to a ski academy in 1981. At the time there were far fewer full time ski academies in the country; basically it was the Big Three, Stratton, GMVS, and Burke, all of which were located in Vermont. For me the choice seemed obvious, school was important (take note young racers!), and as I climbed the competitive ladder, it became increasingly difficult to juggle school and skiing.

I think I got around 10th place at the J3 nationals GS in the spring of 1981. Yes, we still had them back then. Apparently this was right around the time that USSA began to figure out that they could sell their mailing lists, and apparently my result was (just barely I'm sure) good enough to qualify me to receive a one page, double-sided solicitation from all three of the Big Three. My dad worked for the airlines, I got a ticket, flew out there by myself at 15 (how cool were my parents?), and took a look around. I'm glad it was just me that went out there that first time. More about this later and how it ties into the perceived value of these institutions, but suffice it to say that Burke was not about the physical plant. To put it bluntly, it was a bunch of old farmhouses on a remote hillside in northern Vermont.

Needless to say that didn't matter at all to me. And, take note parents, it still shouldn't. Don't be fooled by the sticks and bricks! At the aforementioned J3 nationals GS race eight of the nine who placed ahead of me were from New England, and seven of them were from Burke. As a result, the way my mind worked back then, they had me at "hello." It was the whole idea that I could actually be both a scholar and an athlete that drew me in, at a place where I would be soundly beaten every single day.

I was neither the star skier nor the star athlete, although I showed glimpses of both. Regardless, the details of my tenure at Burke are for another post for sure. What I want to convey to you is the overall experience of a student while I was there.

Being surrounded by like minded young people in pursuit of a similar dream is no small thing. Whereas at my home in Colorado I felt like I was on a mission akin to sailing to the South Pole alone, going to a ski academy gave that little boat I was in a wave to ride on along the way. At home I felt like I had the biggest boat, and at Burke my boat was anything but! Improvement in physical fitness aside, and reduction of FIS and USSA points aside, it was being in a culture where you know there are no excuses that has the most powerful effect on a young mind. For the record, my skiing did not improve much while I was there. I do not recall one thing that any coach said to me while I was there. I was, for all intents and purposes, an "also ran." It was being surrounded by like-minded student athletes that made the biggest and most lasting impression on me.

Although the temptation is great, and although this unfortunately happens all of the time, an academy cannot, and should not, provide a guarantee of success to either athletes or parents.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chile Training; Fall 2010. Some history of me and coaching tidbits

I just got back from La Parva, Chile this past Saturday. For much of the summer, it didn’t look like I was going to make it to the southern continent this year at all. Just two weeks before takeoff, however, I got the call, cleared my schedule, and packed my bags. Thank you ski gods...

Aside from a delay in Dallas that percolated its way into our plans to ski the day of our arrival, things went pretty much without a hitch. After all these years, I’ve almost learned to sleep straight up in a postage stamp-sized coach seat. The secret, I think, is one part post-hypnotic suggestion (“Self: you WILL fall asleep and be well rested and you will not drop your head to such a degree that it causes a brain aneurism”), and two parts sensory deprivation. I use high fidelity earbuds.. essentially earplugs with really nice speakers grafted into them. The ones I use cost about twice as much as my IPOD.. worth it. That, and a little eye mask, and I’m down for seven straight hours. No pills, no muss, no fuss.

La Parva is an interesting, powerful, and special place. I doubt I'm the only one who feels this way. Very strong presence in the mountains there.. The 18,000 ft mountain immediately behind La Parva is a holy shrine for the indigenous Chileans. They certainly must have been onto something and probably would have skied it if only the technology had been there. Call me crazy, but I've always liked these “power” places -a lot. I knew the first time I went down there that I would be returning again and again.

So there I was, yet again, still with two relatively good legs, nice 27 m sidecut GS race skis, and a bunch of willing rippers to help me drink the cool aid.

I was first introduced to La Parva and the two neighboring resorts, Valle Nevado and El Colorado, in 1991 during the South American Pro Tour. A Chilean friend of mine had like me just retired from racing world cup, and invited me to stay at his house just a few miles away while I got to clean up at those races. Now, when I say "clean up," bear in mind that there wasn’t too much competition. Two really exceptional Austrians: Roland Pfeiffer and Sebastian Vitzhum, both dominant on the World Cup and pro tour, had flown down there with me as well. Unfortunately for them, the US Pro Tour had contacted the organizers of the Chilean pro tour while we were en route and had forbade them from competing on the threat of disqualifying them from the following season up in the states. They had signed a binding contract with US Pro, I had not. I was a rookie. So I got to train with them, live with them, learn from them, and GULP.. drive with them, but they didn’t get to race and I ended up dominating. It was a great start to an otherwise average pro career. Trust me when I say that Roland and Sebastian had their revenge in the states the following season though.. I don't think they ever forgave me!

After that first trip, I didn’t get down there again for a very long time indeed, like about two careers, three longitudes, several latitudes, a marriage, children, and one law degree or so -thirteen years in total. I brought a group of mostly J1’s and 2’s down in 2004 and, although not much had changed there in the way of lifts or otherwise, the place was still just as powerful as it had been all those years ago. And the kids loved it as I knew they would. Mileage and epic pow make for good gate skiers... I’ve had dozens of conversations with parents over the years on this particular topic. Before you eat the fruit of excellent gate racing, you’ve got to first fuel the fire, watering the roots if you will, that runs the athlete’s engine down the long road that ski racing is. See: Way of the Peaceful Warrior.. The Warrior Athlete, etc. by Dan Millman. See also: irresponsible blending of metaphors 101 by Troy Watts.

This most recent trip was different in that for once I wasn’t running the show, and wow.. what a difference. Without the distraction of being the uber-organizer, I felt noticeably more present while coaching, and certainly felt a lot more clarity coming through in the process as well... I’m hopeful the athletes felt it too.

The camp had no complaints.. no injuries, no illness, and really no worries. At least not for me as I've already said. And these were great kids.

Which means we were able to work our butts off while being playful, god forbid. Because I will in large part be coaching the FIS women this coming season, I was relieved to be at this camp because of the opportunity to work with some of the athletes I’ll be with this coming winter.

As a coach, I get really excited every time I get to work with a new group. I gather that this is not a universally held sentiment, however. Often the air can be thick with expectation on both sides, so great is the understandable mutual desire to be successful. It’s kind of like dating. No doubt I’m preaching to the choir here, but expectations can and often do kill the flow in any relationship, and the process can sometimes be undermined by focus on hope and future desires right from the beginning. First impressions are kind of important.

Therefore I would advise coaches who think about this kind of thing in similar situations to at first just.. get to know them OUTSIDE your label as coach, and INSIDE your role as a fellow human being that shares a deeply held value for this sport called skiing and ski racing. Even though ski racers necessarily as a group assimilate to new situations quicker than most, everyone is different, and thus will have a different rate of acceptance for a new coach. Because we are not figure skating and do not have a private coach athlete model of teaching, we necessarily have to learn how to accommodate the personalities of a group. I frankly prefer this model because group energy can be extremely positive when it's structured correctly. Whether it’s wading through the emotional content that’s attached to the inherently power-imbalanced connotations inuring to the label “teacher-student” that our post-industrial educational model has indoctrinated young persons into believing (nay, fearing), or whether it’s just a matter acknowledging that it takes just a little bit of time before an athlete will huck their bodies off a cliff or down the Steilhang for you.. patience is the rule. No amount of yelling has ever made a seed grow faster, --Indeed, to the contrary.

Whenever young athletes come up against their risk threshold (indeed, as with most people), a lot of the more superficial emotions that “protect” the ego come right to the surface. Many a rookie coach takes this stuff personally and is reactive to it. Better to take it for what it is and acknowledge that it’s just a facet of human nature. ONLY when your athletes see that you’re there for them unconditionally, regardless of their emotional state, will they even consider letting you in past the superficial stuff.

Cover letter accompanying DVD of Athletes' training runs in S. Americas

August 12, 2010
Hello all:
Enclosed is your personalized DVD from the Chile project. I’m hopeful that after watching it and being entertained, the process will evolve into studying it and being entertained. This will help you to gain that critical personal insight into what your “next steps” should be, or at the very least should form the basis of meaningful further dialogue between you and your coaches.
When you notice yourself doing the right thing or moving the right way, try to recall the circumstances that surrounded that series of turns, that run, or that really awesome day where everything seemed to click. At some point you should absolutely expect this to be the norm in your skiing rather than the exception. Leave no stone unturned, e.g. how your body felt that morning, how much sleep you got the night before, whether your skis were tuned, your diet, the composition of the race surface, visibility, whether you were shy, scared, aggressive, etc. It’s all relevant, and remembering these things will help you to move forward in the process a lot faster. Similarly, don’t shy away from or be in “athletic denial” (as I often did back in the day, LOL) about mistakes that you may see. Observe them, confront them directly with the right questions (e.g. how did that slow me down or make me go further, what am I doing that’s causing that to happen, how can I change what I’m doing?), perhaps take a note or two, and I think you’ll be surprised how much quicker those repetitive mistakes turn instead into another step forward in the learning process.
Ultimately your job is to learn to see your skiing the way the clock sees your skiing, which is to say, “how far did I travel between the start and the finish, how fast was I going while doing it, and WHAT can I do to optimize these things?” Any and all ski technique and tactics that matter are in service of these basic principles. I submit that anyone who conceives of it differently is forgetting that our sport is one where form follows function, rather than the other way around.

Finally, log onto MORE than once in a while. Although it’s summer, the offseason gains you can make now by educating your eyes with world cup skiers “just doin’ it” are proven to be effective, efficient, and powerful learning tools. The latest science on this subject is that your body in fact does learn while you watch, and if you do it often enough you eventually won’t be able to conceive of doing it any way other than the right way. Fifteen minutes a day is all I ask. Treat it like studying (except that you actually get to enjoy this), put some music on, and allow yourself to imagine what it feels like to do what you’re seeing. Jason, Bob, Tom and myself all thank you for a great experience, and look forward to working with you this winter.  This is where we live!!

J1/J2 Head Women’s coach, WVBBTS

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mirror Neurons II, Putting it into practice, and some examples

So we're back to talking about Mirror Neurons and their applicability to more effective athletic training. In my last entry on this subject, we looked at the concept and the science behind it, albeit in layman's terms. If you buy into the science and the experiences of those who've benefitted from it, then it's pretty hard to deny the value of learning to utilize techniques to leverage this innate skill.

So now it's time to talk about how the rubber meets the road. How to put these principles into practice, both as a coach and as an athlete? For me, long before I was ever formally introduced to the science behind the process, I would dub my favorite music onto VHS tapes of world cup racing. At the time, back in the mid to late eighties, finding world cup footage was pretty difficult. Outside of the Olympics, skiing wasn't often broadcast in the US, and recording shows in Europe still presented the problem of getting their PAL format translated to something our US VCR's could understand. Can't tell you exactly how I got a ton of world cup skiing footage back then, but let's just say that I did, and that where there's a will, there's a way.

So I would dub the music onto the tapes. At first, this was inspired by a deep desire to shut out Beattie's color commentary, but I had apparently tapped into yet another powerful organic learning technique. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I spent hours and hours watching the best in the world, to my favorite music, again and again, in the comfort of my own home. Then I started taking the music with me on the hill. Remember when dinosaurs roamed and they first invented the Sony Walkman for cassette tapes? Yeah, that's me in that picture... I skied a lot in the spring at A-Basin in those days.. the ski season high in the mountains of Colorado often stretched well into June. When the music played, all of the repetition of correct ski racing movement patterns that I had "experienced" courtesy of my mirror neurons would come to the surface and onto the hill. My learning ceased being incremental at that point and started to consistently take quantum leaps and bounds. To be sure I worked very hard at everything I was supposed to... but then again so do a lot of people. I'm telling you I would not have gotten to the level I got to, not even close, without the video repetition.

Of course, learning this way isn't the ONLY way to learn. I share it with you here simply because the nature of our sport in particular (e.g. limited time spent actually doing the movement to be learned itself) demands that we utilize these built in learning mechanisms. Ironically, very ironically, the hardest part to grasp, ESPECIALLY for those coaching types whose teaching styles have perhaps unwittingly over the years fallen into patterns supporting their job security, ---is how easy and natural the process is.

Like anything else that utilizes the innate plasticity of our brains, developing the ability to learn by seeing... can itself be learned, developed, honed, perfected. It is much like, nay, EXACTLY like, the acquisition of language. Proper movement is like proper grammar. Eventually you get to a point where, if it sounds right, it IS right. Same with athletics, body movement, skiing, and ski racing in particular. As with language, over time the practitioner gets to the point where if the body's "grammar" feels right, it IS right.

And it is so much easier to employ these techniques these days, people. We live in a high bandwidth, zero transaction cost, information rich society. For our purposes (addressing coaches here), that means there are no excuses for not delivering these learning tools directly to wherever our student's laptops reside. In my world, Universal Sports is the biggest thing since sliced bread. On demand, any time, all the time. Wow! I simply turn their sound on zero, plug my laptop into my big screen, and jam out to whatever my current taste in music happens to be.

Its important to remember the "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" concept. You can't set athletes in front of a video screen and order them to utilize their mirror neurons "or else.." If the viewer isn't interested or motivated, the action is pointless. Mirror neurons require that the viewer have "interest" in what they are seeing. And as you may have guessed the intensity of one's interest can run the full spectrum from ice cold, to tepid, to hot, etc. That's why I strongly recommend taking that extra step and personalizing the individual student's videos with music of their choice. Even better, far better, if the students take it upon themselves to do it themselves. From ownership comes empowerment, from empowerment, motivation, and from motivation... interest. Follows is a video I made that I linked on the Loon Race Team website. NEXT ENTRY: "Balance is not a body position."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Zen and the art of ski racing

Recently I've been helping a friend of mine with organizing her yoga retreats, and in doing so, did some focused research (I google'd it..) on yoga travel and the marketing mix of retreats in general. My friend is looking to go international, and having run a few summer race camps overseas and out of country over the years, I thought there would be some knowledge to share. Sure enough, my Macbook Pro yielded its usual window to the world of internet knowledge, and first up was an interesting article published fairly recently in the New York Times about the proliferation of yoga studios beyond spas and retreat centers to mainstream hotels and more traditional resort venues.

This article was helpful in several ways to both my friend and I. As for my yoga friend, it was something of an affirmation to see an article from THE Newspaper of Record pointing out the expansion of an industry niche that precisely fits the business plan upon which she is about to embark. The fact that increasing numbers of mainstream destination hotels are now calibrating their resources to sync up with traveling yoga practitioners can only mean that my friend will have lots more venues at which to plan the perfect yoga experience 'neath skies untouched by city lights, or looking out over the azure waters of Bora Bora... and so on. I'll be the first to sign up, and in fact we are in the beginning stages of creating another something of a first: Skiing and Yoga retreats. Stay tuned.

One thing in the article that caught the attention of yours truly was the mention of a former contemporary of mine: Kristen Ulmer. Ulmer was what I can safely say was an early adopting big mountain skier who in her day could pretty much outski all but a handful of skiers on the planet, men included. To me, the stuff she did still seems incredible, nay, impossible. But, there she is, alive and well, to tell us all about it. Anyway, it seems Kristin has been pursuing a little niche of her own with her company "Ski to Live," which bills itself as "Powerful mindset training for sports and business..." This is the PERFECT transition for someone who made a big name for themselves in the sport, and believe me, she did. What caught my attention was her website's claim that her clinics utilize "world famous Zen Master Genpo Roshi's Big Mind process.. "

As a former world cupper myself who, believe me, read every book under the sun about far eastern philosophy and Zen in particular, this intrigued me greatly. In looking back, my whole competitive ski career organized itself around bringing far eastern ways of knowing into my own practice of the sport that I hold so dear, and, now that I'm fortunate enough to work with young people who are taking on the sport for themselves, I'm able to attempt bringing what I learned into their lives.

So I take such claims with great skepticism. Zen is a buzzword like "fine Corinthian leather..." Show me the money, the beef, the proof in the pudding, etc. I couldn't find anything that Kristin actually wrote or recorded that would betray her deep understanding of satori, other than her beautiful skiing itself, which to be fair is as Zen as it gets, so I guess I will have to sign up for one of her clinics at Alta or Snowbird. She also offers one hour phone counseling.

Neither am I prepared (yet) to fork out $$ for Genpo Roshi's DVD's...

I must tell you that I, a teacher of skiing, do not teach skiing. To clarify.. it does not come from me, not directly anyway. It just doesn't work that way. Rather, I prefer to imagine my role more as facilitator, one who has traveled the path extensively who is able to show the way to those just starting out upon it. I am not the power out there on the mountain. To be sure, the ideas I share about the process may have tremendous power, but those come through me (not from me), and that's another story. No, the real power out there is the mountain, the environment, the large forces that those who are out there in the environment are not only experiencing, but creating, in real time. Further, skiing is all about becoming always aligned with those forces. Hence, skiing has always been one of the great vehicles to understand life: develop an awareness of that which is your world, your reality, then learn your place.. the space you occupy within it, and finally, come into power with it and learn to be wholly creative in, about, and for your own universe. Phew! Or something like that.

When I'm training ski coaches and athletes alike, I find the teacher student relationship remains cleanly defined by this, one of my oft quoted mantras: "The teacher's job is to shine a clarifying light on the path, but the student's job is to actually walk it.." In this regard, everyone has a light to shine.. because everyone has their own unique path to share...