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*OFFICIAL RELEASE

Brilliant Skiing, Every Day

Introducing the Sports Diamond


By Weems Westfeldt

I dont teach people to ski. I teach them to be skiers.


~ Squatty Schuler, trainer, examiner, ski pro, counselor, and my
pet redneck in The Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen

Learning how to read (an ebook)


To Keep Things Simple:
Download it (which youve obviously done. Duh!)
print it out (double sided!)
read it

* Tree-Saving Option: (a very wise decision!)


Just read it on the screen, and then tell all
your friends about www.edgechange.com

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Brilliant Skiing, Every Day

This is a short ebook with a lot of stuff in it.


It contains pointers, information, advice, stories, photos, thoughts,
and philosophizing about one of the most magical sports of all time.

The Sports Diamond

And most importantly, it introduces the


an easy path to creating your own best days in any sport.

If you read it and learn it, you will be able to ski better, self coach
with confidence, and improve in all sports.
Furthermore, if and when you make the big step and come out
to Aspen/Snowmass to ski or ride with usyou will also have
some big fun!

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Brilliant Skiing, Every Day

A Note To Beginners:
Welcome to a sport and a lifestyle that will delight, inspire, and transform you.
This is not speculation. This is a guarantee, based only on your openness to
new experiences.
Good news! Everything in the first nine chapters of this book will be directly
applicable to youonly you should be experimenting at slow speeds and
on gentle terrain. However, youll need a little interpretation so that the
vocabulary has some meaning.
There are a few ski concepts you may not have acquired yet. (Or, if you
have, there is a good chance that you havent gotten them exactly right!)
Y Skiing is about more than fun. Or, skiing is about fun and more. My friend
Paul McKinnie, who teaches for the Ski & Snowboard Schools of
Aspen/Snowmass, likes to announce that he is on this planet to have fun,
and he is deadly serious about that! Thats a good description of what skiing can be.

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Brilliant Skiing, Every Day

Get The Right Gear:


Y Do not buy skis until you have become a lower intermediate skier or have
experienced about two weeks on skiswhichever event comes later.
Y Rent skis from a reputable shop. Its usually best to rent at the ski area
itself, in case you need to adjust your gear (switch sizes, performance level,
etc.)
Y Rent skis no shorter than 110cm (unless you weigh less than 90 pounds)
and no longer than 130cm (unless you weigh more than 250 pounds). These
skis will always give you a distinct advantage in your learning curve.

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Brilliant Skiing, Every Day

Whats a Weems?
Weems Westfeldt is
Y An ancient ski pro from the Stone
Age when skis were chiseled out of
very long rocks
Y A fanatic skier who loves to
teach

PhotoBrianPorter

Y A traveler who has taught skiing in Colorado, New Mexico, Maine, New
Hampshire, and New Zealand for 40 years
Y An examiner for Professional Ski Instructors of America
Y The former Director of Operations for Ski & Snowboard Schools of
Aspen/Snowmass
Weems has been in the ski teaching world for more than 40 seasons.
He has taught and managed in ski schools all over the nation and
the world. In 1986, he settled in Aspen/Snowmass as an instructor,
manager, and trainer.

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Brilliant Skiing, Every Day

Some words about the material


Y

Whos it for? Its for all skiers and all sports people. Even beginners and nonskiers will get it if they combine
the Sports Diamond with lessons from a reputable Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) ski school
(such as the Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen/Snowmass).
Y

This book is really two books in one.


y The

first section explains the Sports Diamond . This is simply a framework for moving forward in
your development as an athlete and having fun along the way.

y The

second section is an inventory of my favorite skiing pointers, the ones that really work when
Im teaching students. Not all of them work for everybody, though. Try them all, keep the ones you
like, and toss the others into your mental recycle bin.

y The

essence of both sections is described in Chapter One.

y The

two sections are first integrated in Chapter Five.

Y Above

all, dont get hung up anywhere. After all, the whole point of this story is to keep your focus
shifting so you dont get stuck in the mud.

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My personal biases
Y

I dogmatically reject dogma. This approach is carefully crafted to include diverse points of view and many types of
approaches, without getting lost in the chaos of too much material. This way Iand youcan remain flexible and
agile as styles, techniques, and beliefs change, so that I/you dont get rigidly fixed in one place.
Y

There are a lot of ways to ski, especially these days, with the advent of the nearly magical (and dont-doit-in-your-living room) new school of freestyle and big-mountain skiing. However, there is one unifying
element: All skiing is about descending a slope while making turns and, specifically, about turning left
on the left edges of skis and right on the right edges. The transition between turns is really the centerpiece of what we all do as skiers, and you will see a strong bias towards this idea in the pointers in
this book.
Y

I love ski racing. What we can learn from ski racing will be very obvious.

y As beautiful and elegant and stylin as new-school skiing is, the best skiers in the world are still rac-

ersmen and women. The best racers can more easily acquire the skills of the other ski disciplines
than the champions of the other disciplines can step into the boots of the racers.
y Many

of the great stars of modern skiing and teaching will attribute their present-day skills to their
earlier training as racers.
y Ski

racers also produce the best model for recreational skiers of all levels and physical abilities to
emulate. This does not mean that everyone should go faster. It does mean that ski racers are true
masters at efficiently harnessing speed and momentum to achieve control, comfort, safety, and
delight at any speed.

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Brilliant Skiing, Every Day

My sources
Y

The Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen/Snowmass. Im proud and honored to be able to call them colleagues.
Y

Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA). Im also very proud to be one of the 30,000 members of PSIA. PSIA
is the organization and family of ski instructors in charge of developing methodologies of ski teaching as well as
training and testing ski and snowboard pros throughout the USA.
Y

My teachers. (I didnt make up all this stuff!) In addition to Ahmed Yehia, I owe an enormous debt to literally hundreds of people who have mentored me along the way. A partial list goes something like this:
y Thanks,

Pat Westfeldt Sr., Phil Clark, Sepp Kessler, Mike Leahy, Sherm Carson, Knut Strmstad,
George Ostler, Harry Baxter, Loris Werner, Horst Abraham, John Armstrong, Gordon Briner, Nancy
Westfeldt, Jean Mayer, Dadou Mayer, Gunther Rdler, Squatty Schuler, Curt Chase, Curt Stewart,
Doug Mackenzie, Victor Gerdin, Jerry Berg, Rick Vetromile, Megan Harvey, Katie Fry, Rich Burkley,
Mike Kaplan, Joan Rostad, Cal Cantrell, and Tom Crum for the coaching.
y Thanks to the late Betty Weems, Ben Weems, Buddy Werner, Fred Iselin, Rip McManus, Sugar
Robinson, Ernie Blake, and Eric Smith for the inspiration.
y Thanks to all the ski pros for the friendship and the weirdness.
y And, most important, thanks to the students who have taught me so much and who have kept me
from having to get a real job.

My resources
Y

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Thanks heaps to Bill Blitz for the strategy, marketing expertise, and website; Tricia Hohl for the
website and marketing collateral; Michael Ericksen for the cartoons; Brian Porter and Ron
LeMaster for the photos; Cindy Hirschfeld for the editing; Marcus Knodle for the design; and
Rich Burkley, Katie Fry, Julie Bennett, and Geneva Templeton (all of the Ski & Snowboard
Schools of Aspen/Snowmass) for the company support.

Brilliant Skiing, Every Day

Contents
I N T R O D U C T I O N .......................................................................... 1

What If ? ..................................................... 2
C H A P T E R T W O The Plateau Challenge ........................... 10
C H A P T E R T H R E E The Sports Diamond ....................... 20
C H A P T E R F O U R Holding Polarity.............................. 32
C H A P T E R F I V E Master Pointers ............................. 42
C H A P T E R S I X Power .............................................. 60
C H A P T E R S E V E N Purpose........................................ 86
C H A P T E R E I G H T Touch .......................................... 102
C H A P T E R N I N E Will ............................................. 114
C H A P T E R T E N Advanced Brilliance .................. 135

CHAPTER ONE

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Brilliant Skiing, Every Day

Introduction

he Sports Diamond is the tool that Ive developed over a lifetime of skiing, teaching, and observing to help
my own development as an athlete. Once you learn how to use this powerful tool, you can create your own
brilliant daysevery day. In the pages that follow, I invite you to open up your awareness and expand your
thinking about what you do to have a great day of skiing and, in contrast, what you do to sabotage your skiing
on a bad day. No matter how bad the situation is, only I can crash my day. Likewise, only I can choose to make
it brilliant.
In the last few seasons, my research has been integrated with the work of my friend and colleague
Ahmed Yehia and one of his great friends and mentors, Dr. Peter Koestenbaum. Their work has mostly
focused on business philosophy and leadership. However, Ahmed and I found that performance in
sports and performance in leadership follow essentially the same principles. We believe that both
fields are described and framed elegantly and effectively by the Sports Diamond and the Leadership
Diamond . (the Leadership Diamond is a model that helps one enhance leadership skills by drawing on the four basic orientations of Courage, Vision, Ethics, and Reality.)
In this, our first book together, we approach the world of skiing because thats my first love and main
field of understanding. (Besides, Im really not sure that I know how to do anything else!)
I hope you will find this book of value not only for your skiing but also for other sports. I also invite
you to stay in touch with us via our website www.edgechange.com because there will be more product offerings, discussions, great photos and cartoons, and more information as we grow.

Weems Westfeldt

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Brilliant Skiing, Every Day 1

CHAPTER ONE

What If?

Two Big Ideas for Your Skiing


If I could offer you a tool that would help you banish
your learning struggles forever, would you use it?
If this tool could show you how to feel great every time you went out on the
ski slopeeven when youre not skiing at peak performance or having a
breakthroughwould you want it? How would you like to be able to also
apply this tool to golf? Or tennis? Or cycling?
Furthermore, if I could also offer you the one great move, the mother of
all pointers, the big secret of skiing, would you focus your time to learn it?

The tool is the Sports Diamond


The Sports Diamond is a model for achieving brilliance in skiing (or any
sport) through the use of four opposing, yet interdependent, resources:
Power, Purpose, Will, and Touch (which comprise the four corners of
the Diamond).

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Chapter

~ What If ?

Here are the basics:


Power refers to the technical, mechanical, and biomechanical elements of a
sport; for example, the movements
and techniques you use in skiing,
the physical forces (such as
gravity, momentum, and cetrifugal force), your bodys own
fitness level and equipment.

Good technique can put bugs in your teeth!


PhotoBrianPorter

Riding switch makes your pants get lower!

Purpose refers to tactics, results, or


intentions, such as how your skis
move in the snow, what types of turns
or descents you make, and what you
wish to accomplish. It also encompasses your strategy, creativity, and
turn selection.

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PhotoBrianPorter

Brilliant Skiing, Every Day 3

Chapter

~ What If ?

Touch refers to your physical, mental,

and spiritual relationship with the


medium or field of your athletic
endeavor (e.g., the snow in skiing, the
wave in surfing, or the course in
golf). It also involves rhythm,
flow, feel, timing, intensity,
awareness, fun, joy, and love
of the sport.

Feel the snow, feel the ski, feel the mountains, feel the speed!
PhotoBrianPorter

Will refers to commitment, action, and

choice. Will is about sustained initiative, managing anxiety, centering,


being present, and balancingphysically, mentally, and emotionally. You
can only make your move when you
elicit the will to initiate, act, and take
the risk.

Dropping in!
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PhotoBrianPorter

Brilliant Skiing, Every Day 4

Chapter

Use the Sports Diamond as a strategy for


sustainable progress in any sport you choose.

~ What If ?

Power, Purpose, Touch, and Will can coexist in dynamic balance through a

process called holding polarity. For now, think of holding polarity as alternating, with frequency and agility, among these four resources without excessively emphasizing any one.
Here is an easy and powerful goal for you as an athlete (dont you love it
when people tell you what your goals are?). You can achieve brilliance, each
day, by holding polarity among the corners of the Sports Diamond .
What holds back athletic performance are the inevitable negative consequences of an excessive preference for one or twoor only partsof the
four resources. What moves your performance ahead is the ability to use
them all in equal measure (over time), rather than merely parking yourself
within your preferences. When you hold polarity, the result is brilliance.
When you fail to hold polarity, the shine abruptly and inevitably disappears. Its that simpleonce you learn how.

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Chapter

~ What If ?

The move, The Mother of All Pointers


is to change your ski edges perfectly.
If there is a single answer to the question, How
do I ski well? this is it: Complete commitment
to learning and practicing a smooth and
simple release of the uphill edges of the
skis as you initiate a turn, followed by an
immediate and efficient engagement of
the downhill edges as you move
through the turn. Its the bottom line,
end of the day, dharma, big kahuna,
boss hog, enlightened, essential, and
sacred mission of great skiing.

PhotoRonLeMaster

Before you start to panic, know that


perfectly is more an expression of
intention than it is a requirement for
Daron Ralves tipping it over.
success. Sometimes it will be perfect
and sometimes it wont. Sometimes
perfect will be different for one set
of circumstances than it will be for another. Merely having the
intention to make a perfect edge change corrects all sorts of problems
in an instant.

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Chapter

~ What If ?

Whether you are a first-time or a life-long skier, the edge change is the ONLY technical move
that you MUST do to turnevery time. You can turn on the uphill, downhill, inside, or
outside ski. You can unweight or pressure the skis. You can tip, pivot, or guide them. You
can brake or accelerate. But you cannot turn right while standing on your left edges.
Changing edges with purpose, commitment, and finesse creates the critical linkage between turns that makes
skiing fluid and beautiful and masterfulor not. Everything that happens
throughout the rest of the turn is
influenced by how well the skis (and
you) change edges at the start.
It is no accident that the largest body
of technical knowledge put out by ski
instructors focuses on edge-changing.
It is the very life-breath of the turn.
Julia Mancuso: a perfect edge change over a bump.

PhotoRonLeMaster

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Chapter

~ What If ?

Making the perfect edge-change is considered


The Mother of All Pointers because:
Y It is a perfect cue. It is a very small, simple idea that expands into a whole constellation of great movement patterns.
Y It is preemptive. It launches a host of great movements just before the launch
of a thousand sinking ships. It blocks out all the stuff that can make my eyes
bleed when I watch another skier.
Y It touches all the corners of the Sports Diamond . Though mainly found
in one corner (Power), it fully embraces all the others.
Y It can be interpreted and
used differently, yet with
consistent benefit, by different people with different problems. It blocks
out a whole raft of mistakes with just one simple idea.
Hermann Maiers version of splitting the uprights.
PhotoRonLeMaster

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Chapter

~ What If ?

Different people at different levels will use this pointer differently, to taste. All will
learn to relinquish the grip of the old turn (the past) to ready themselves for the new
turn (the future). All will enjoy (even when perfection is elusive) the opportunity to
feel the skis come alive, to float and fly down the mountain, to be totally focused
on the moment, to manage anxiety, and to connect effortlessly to the snow
through the dynamics and engineering of the skis. This is a hefty promise, and
I guarantee it.
So there you have it: the two big secrets to brilliant skiing in one chapter!
Now I encourage you to dive into the rest of the book to discover how to
become unstuck from whatever plateau you may be on, hold polarity,
shift among the Diamond corners, and use the dozens of pointers offered to
transform yourself into the brilliant skier that I already know you are. In
fact, this stuff is so good that it will also help you lose weight, lower your
cholesterol, remove unsightly wrinkles and blemishes, and gain job
promotions with higher salaries as well as attract the lover/partner of your
dreams. But I dont guarantee any of that!

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Brilliant Skiing, Every Day 9

CHAPTER TWO

The Plateau Challenge

Youve nothing to lose But Your Plateaus!

One of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated on the world of sports is the learning
plateau. This fixation is nothing but a bogus excuse and a bad place to hide.
The plateau, depicted as a flat line, acts as a metaphor for a perceived stall
in progress, and it then takes on a ridiculous life of its own. It becomes a
self-fulfilling prophecy: Believing youre stuck on a plateau effectively
puts you just where you think you are. The real challenge is how to escape
the illusion that youre stalled just because youre not in the middle of a
breakthrough.
That is the substance of the Sports Diamond .
Furthermore, everything you read here you will recognize as stuff you
already know but perhaps couldnt quite see. What I have discoveredin
collaboration with students, teachers, and performers throughout my
lifeis a fine lens through which to view, understand, and act on this
prior awareness. My friend and partner Ahmed Yehia calls it surfacing the model. The pieces are already there in your tool kit. The
Sports Diamond helps you organize and quickly retrieve the right
tools for the right job.
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Chapter

~ The Plateau Challenge

Choosing Our Metaphors:


Plateau, Peak Performance, & Brilliance
My rejection of the plateau is partially tongue-in-cheek. I understand that plateau
is an effective word used to describe that place where we process new information and possibilities into our behavioral inventory. I also understand that this
processing is often perceived as confusion, frustration, and regression, when,
in fact, huge learning is being anchored at that time.
The word plateau has come to imply that youre stuck in a bad place from
which you must break through or out. This perception distorts the process.
My intent in reframing the idea of a plateau is to reject the inevitability of
confusion, frustration, and regression during what should actually be an
exciting time in the learning process.
Joan Rostad (a well-known ski instructor and trainer in Montana) has a
great expression for teachers who undermine the period of processing. She
calls it stealing the learning,and I agree.

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Chapter

~ The Plateau Challenge

Minimize your struggle by widening your definition of success.

Similarly, peak performance is a hard thing to get your mind around. I look at peak
performance as the counterpoint to plateau. Furthermore, it seems as ephemeral as
plateau seems eternal. Both of them distort my awareness of the true shining
moments that are available to me all the time, if I look at them through the right
lens.
These metaphorsplateau and peak performanceare not reality. They are
fragmented ways to look at one phenomenon. Instead of riding the junkies
roller coaster between plateau (or worse) and peak performance, I choose a
different state, one that I can achieve every day and that keeps me engaged
and fascinated. This approach evokes energy, fluidity, awareness, and a
feeling of dancing with the elements. It evokes the luminous brilliance of
a diamond.
Long term and short term, my goal and my processes are about brilliance.
I cant make the best turns every day. I cant shoot my lowest golf scores
every day or beat my opponent in tennis every day. But I can be brilliant
each day I go outin my manner, training, tactics, poise, attitude, engagement, attention, centering, feeling, sense of humor, and my will to shine,
even if its a brilliance that only I notice.
Relative to the Sports Diamond brilliance is simply achieving
sparkling, radiant results using an inspiring, compelling process.
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Chapter

~ The Plateau Challenge

Why the Sports Diamond?


Four burning questions that created it.
How do we make decisions?

1
Each moment, in sports, we make thousands of decisions: Short turns or long
turns? Bumps or groomed slopes? Faster or slower? This move or that move?
Drop shot or top-spin shot? Fastball or curve? Ski with your husband or ski
with your boyfriend? Can we uncover an underlying framework that will
help us make better decisions, with grace and agility, as well as recover
more quickly from poor ones?

If there is such a framework, will it apply


2

to other sports and to life in general?

Can what I do and learn in skiing make me a better golfer? Can I improve
my cycling skills while skiing, or my tennis skills while golfing? Can I
become a better guitar player from my ski lessons? Can I better access
my personal potential through how I grow in sports?

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Chapter

~ The Plateau Challenge

How can I become less discerning about how I learn?

3
How do I call up all of my resources instead of just the ones Im used to? It is so easy to
get caught in the trap of drifting to a favorite prejudice: I just do this for fun. I only
like to ski groomed (or bumps). Im visual, so dont tell me anything. Just show me.
Teach me only this technique or that technique. All of these statements limit what
I can accomplish. When a pro in any sport asks me what or how I want to learn, I
just say, It doesnt matter. Give me your best shot! I want to learn his or her
beliefs and moves and patterns. My preferred learning style may have served
me well on many occasions. However, it can also act as a barrier to keep me
from accessing a vast collection of other learning resources I might also own.

Why is it that in my more than 50 years of skiing,


4

I've never had a bad day on skis, although I've had


many, many days when I've skied very badly?

Okay, this is not exactly true. I once had a really bad day when I got
knocked out cold on Aspen Mountain. Otherwise, its been very fine, even
when my skiing was not so pretty. Why dont I equate my bad skiing with
a bad day? For me, the moment I click into my bindings, Im a skier, and
the adventure is on. Sometimes its hard, sometimes its easy. It doesnt
matter how well Im doing itonly that Im doing.

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Chapter

~ The Plateau Challenge

Who is the Sports Diamond for?


You.
Everyone.
Learners, doers, and teachers. Experts, intermediates, and beginners.
In Richard Bachs Illusions, The Reluctant Messiah he writes, Learning is
finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know
it. Teaching is showing others that they know as well as you. We are all
learners, doers, and teachers.
You assume the role of learner, doer, and teacher in order to achieve your
daily dose of brilliance. On the other hand, trapping yourself in one role or
another, or in one place or another, will surely condemn you to an endless
plateau. Bach also writes, Argue for your limitations, and surely they will
be yours. Argue that you dont enjoy the learning, but only want to do it,
and surely your learning will decelerate. Argue that you dont care
about the teaching, and surely you will limit your role as an effective
self-coach. As we move through this material, youll experience the
value of all three modes.
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Chapter

Not knowing is really a good place.


The pre-breakthrough universe is magical.

~ The Plateau Challenge

Diamond Story: New Distinctions


I regularly work with my friend Tom Crum in his Magic of Skiing program
in Aspen. (www.aikiworks.com) In one of these sessions I had the opportunity to ski with Tony Robbins, the evangelical lifestyle guru. His skiing
waslikeawful. I hadnt thought it possible to work that hard on skis
with less real success. He struggled and struggled, and made a little
progress. A very little progress. A really very little progress. At the end of
the session, during a debriefing with several other ski groups, Tony
informed us that he had had a terrific day on skis. (I was shocked, thinking,
Jeesh, Id hate to see what a bad one looks like.) He then said something
wonderful that I will always remember and be grateful for, and I think you
ought to be as well. Tony said that he has a great day when he makes new
distinctions. Mistakes are new distinctions. Struggles are too. His reasoning is that they are interesting. Tom emphasizes that it is even more than
interesting. He remarks that the look of joy on the face of a toddler
falling down as she learns to walk is as powerful as the one she wears
while trying to stand up.

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Chapter

~ The Plateau Challenge

I have recently seen this to be true while watching my grandson learn to walk. (I informed
him that he put too much weight on his left leg. He replied, Bah ba ma mammmm ahh!
which means, Im making many new distinctions very fast. Im a learning master. I
spit on your trivial critique.) If your mistakes and struggles are compelling and
interesting, you have set yourself free. Wheres the plateau? Wheres the stall-out?
Wheres the pain from the struggle? Above all, where is the judgment? What I
presume to offer here is an adults path to becoming that brilliant child
learnerevery day.

Diamond Story: Knowing Nothing


Last season I was standing at the top of Aztec on Aspen Mountaina
precipitous section of the downhill race courselooking hungrily at a perfectly groomed, deliciously steep slope covered with about five inches of
fluffy, dry Colorado powder. In a flash of movement, a presence on skis
floated over the lip and into the snow. It was Chris Puckett, a former U.S.
Ski Teamer, dropping in and making exquisite GS turns with a dazzling,
high-speed light touch to match the snow and the pitch. His skiing was
so perfect that I was suddenly struck with that amazingly liberating
awareness that I know nothing about skiing.

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Chapter

~ The Plateau Challenge

This spring I took a guitar lesson from a virtuoso classical guitarist and professor,
Ricardo Iznaola. In a few moments he transformed my playing and set me on a path
to start over from the beginning to develop the pieces I had missed learning over
my years of self-teaching. I knew in that moment, also, that I knew nothing about
playing guitar.
Tom Crum tells a story about being confronted by a charging mother whale
off the Hawaiian coast. He was suddenly face to eyeball with this gentle
monster, and it made him realize that he knows nothing about anything.
Within an hour of Chris Pucketts dropping in, I was skiing better than ever
before. Within two weeks of my new guitar regimen, I blew past my
previous level. As for Tom, he sums it up it with a wonderful awareness that
the amount of knowledge we have as individuals, compared to all the
knowledge in the universe, is so tiny, so subatomic, that it is truly a wonder
that we all struggle so hard to be so right about so little.
Not knowing is really a good place.
The pre-breakthrough universe is magical.

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Chapter

~ The Plateau Challenge

Finally
to help open the door to the Diamond, consider the following propositions that drive
my worldview.
Y It is really good just to be able to get up in the morning.
Y Learning new stuff is always a good thing, even when it's difficult.
Y Meaningful improvement does not always happen in great, big breakthrough
chunks. In fact, those are more often the results of many smaller, and sometimes barely perceptible, shifts of awareness.
Y Learning includes failing; therefore, all failures teach. Failing is useful.
Y When you get to the point where you really think you've got it, it's time to
start over with the fundamentalsjust at that moment before you realize
that, in fact, you know nothing.
Y Some of it is just magic.
Y Peak performance is not as important as brilliance. And theyre not the
same thing.
Y We are meant to use the energy of gravity to ride various platforms down
mountains on snow, or on waves in the water. On the eighth day, God went
skiing and surfing.
Y If you can get away from your trivial obligations of family, country, and
work and come out to Aspen/Snowmass to ski or ride with us, we will
remix your skiing or riding for you. We'll also show you how to use the
Sports Diamond to coach yourself to the top of your own game in
any sport. (A big promise, but what the hell? You've got nothing to
lose but your plateaus.) Good luck!

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B r i l l i a n t S k i i n g , E v e r y D a y 19

CHAPTER THREE

The Sports Diamond

The Good News


Youve got leverage.

This means that small adjustments or improvements in a weak area can lead to
massive improvements throughout the system. Though the area to be leveraged may only be a small part of the whole package, it is often the key piece.
Little changes lead to great moments. Although this idea is normal in sports
development, students mistrust progress if it is easyas if it were supposed
to be difficult. Oddly enough, they rarely challenge their own observations
about how easy the experts make it look.

You dont have to be a master of the system.

It doesnt matter what resource you shift towhat corner of the Sports
Diamond you try to leverageas long as you move away from where
youre stuck. Although it is better to identify the real leverage area, there
are usually several areas, and working with any one (or two) breaks up the
logjam. This simply requires temporarily giving up your focus for perfection in only one area. You can come back to that area later with greater
ability to master it because you will have developed a wider, more
versatile base by moving within the Diamonds possibilities.

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Chapter

~ The Sports Diamond

When in doubt, shift to another corner. Youll never get stuck.

Seeing the Sports Diamond


If you develop a mind-diagram like the one below to manage the Sports
Diamond you will be able to access it as you need it. Use the little mottos
to sense intuitively the distinctions between the corners. Think of the
corners being like four buckets (or folders, if you like) into which you put
ideas and activities so that you can access them as you need them. Power
means to make the right move. Touch means to feel what you are doing.
Purpose means to see the intention. And Will means to make a commitment.
Brilliance is the bright shiny you!

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Chapter

~ The Sports Diamond

The Sports Diamond itself.


Feel it!

TOUCH

POWER

PURPOSE
See it!

Know the
right move!

WILL
Do it!

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Chapter

~ The Sports Diamond

The Sports Diamond dynamic balance between and among


the corners, or resources.
Feel it!

TOUCH

POWER

PURPOSE
See it!

Know the
right move!

WILL
Do it!

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Chapter

~ The Sports Diamond

The Resources In Detail


PURPOSE

This ultimately addresses my intention relative to what my skis do in the snow. I


may think about line, how I travel through the arc of the turn, terrain choice, and
strategies for descent and for shaping my turns. Purpose is also about ultimate
goals: Why am I doing this? Is today a day for discipline toward improvement, or is it a day to just be mellow and have some fun? What is my vision
for myself and for my skis, right now, this moment, this descent, this day,
this week? How can I be creative on my skis?

POWER

This involves the technical world, where I examine and perform with an eye
toward refining technique. How do I change edges? How should I pressure
my skis? How should I turn my feet? How do I make the right move?
Power also invokes the external physical aspects of the sport, primarily
gravity, momentum, and centrifugal force. Finally, it is about my equipment systemboth gear and body. Do I have the right skis for the task?
Are they safe? Am I physically fit?

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Chapter

~ The Sports Diamond

Small adjustments in a weak area can lead to


massive improvements throughout the system.

TOUCH

This refers to finesse and sensitivity. I feel rather than think. What do I feel in
and on my skis? How does the snow feel? What am I aware of on all levels:
Speed? Cold? Fear? Joy? Fun? Love of skiing? The skiing comes from
rhythm and flow rather than technique. Here, breathing is just as important
as edging is in the Power zone. Touch also includes the fine-tuning of movements: duration, intensity, rate, and timing.

WILL

Its hard to overstate how much good skiing starts or ends here, in the
world of commitment. The Will is me being accountable, saying that I am
going to ski down the hill, manage my anxiety, and center myself. Its me
skiing in bad weather, aligning my boots, being tenacious, and balancing
myself in motion. Its me falling down, learning, getting up, and going
again. The Will is about choosing brillianceeach day.

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~ The Sports Diamond

Two Levels of Each Resource


It may also help you to look at these corners, or resources, on two different levels:
Y Competencies: These are based on relationships and patterns that vary infinitely according to the situation. Competencies are about doing. They are skill
sets developed around each resource.
Y Fundamental Characteristics: These are based on fixed possibilities
created in advance of the game. Characteristics are about being. They are
basic requirements for each resource to be effective.
For example, the equipment I use (including my body) is a fundamental
characteristic; it is who I am on the snow, and what I bring to the game. The
moves I make with that equipment are competencies; they are what I do.
My goal as a skier is to develop both competencies and fundamentals in
all four resources. For example, in the Will resource, I may have the underlying commitment to become a great skier (fundamental characteristic).
But that isnt enough. I must also have the ability to center myself to
make it happen (competency).

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Chapter

~ The Sports Diamond

Finally
the Sports Diamond is not a progression for learning skiing or any other sport.
Rather, it serves as a door to acquiring and managing skills, experience, a
productive state of mind, enjoyment, better execution, and, above all, the ability
to make decisions.
Specifically, the Sports Diamond offers:
Y The ability to make better decisions with speed, accuracy, and agility. You
know where you are in your process, and you know what is next. If you
understand the elements of the corners of the Diamond, then you can
quickly understand where youre stuck, whats missing, and where to go
next at any particular moment. In this way, you can self-coach and take
lessons better, practice better, perform better, or teach better, because
youll never get stuck in a dead end. If youre moving well within the
Diamond, you wont have time to get stuck.
Y A new lens for your perception and a roadmap to guide you.

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Chapter

~ The Sports Diamond

Y Leveragemaking small adjustments in a weaker corner to deliver brilliant results


in all corners.
Y Self-coaching skills. Wont it be nice when you can move through a mistake
rather than subjecting yourself to a self-slugfest?
Y A thorough, global approach. Most so-called plateaus are a direct result of
getting really stuck in one corner, while ignoring the others. The
Sports Diamond contains and empowers the entire spectrum of your
behaviors.
Y Adaptability to every sport. I even use it for playing my guitar or riding
my bicycle.
Y Creation, maintenance, and expansion of your personal brillianceevery
day.

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Chapter

~ The Sports Diamond

Diamond Story: Diamond Kids


Recently, I took my kids on a helicopter/skiing trip in Canada. It was spring and one
of those weeks where the snow up at the top was perfect, but there was a rain line
below which the snow was way funkysoft, hard, wet, heavy, icyyou name
itit was all there. The kids, having been raised on all kinds of snow in all kinds
of terrain, aced it. They skied and rode as if the snow at the top was the same
as at the bottom. How do they do that? exclaimed my adult friends on the
trip. How do they go through that garbage as if it were nothing? Shhhh.
I admonished. Dont tell them. They dont know that its bad.
Why wouldnt they know its bad? Because they have the best bad-ass
diamonds around, and theyre almost as good lookin as their dad. Sure
they know its bad, but thats not the issue. The goodness or badness is not
in their internal discussion. Their internal (non-verbal) discussion is about
what they need to make it happen. And the incredible athletic
body/mind/spirits of young people AUTOMATICALLY find all the pieces.

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Chapter

~ The Sports Diamond

In this case they easily found the Touch (the rhythm and feel for the snow), the Power
(their fitness and technique), the Purpose (great turns and vast joy), and the Will
(they were totally engaged and committed in being there and doing their dance).
The difficulty of the snowwhich was beating up the adultswas irrelevant
to the kids.
You can do this, too. And I guarantee youll have a better day than if you
focus on thinking, The snows too deep, too wet, too heavy, too icy, too
sticky, too bumpy, too white, too whatever. The snow is what it is-each day.
You cant change that. But you can change how you deal with it and still
grow as a skier by shifting around within the Sports Diamond.
Now, I dont guarantee that you will ski as well as the kids did in the tough
snow conditions. I didnt. However, I wasnt any less happy than them,
because I worked my own Diamond. I do know that this approach will
enable you to think past your performance level, because youll be having
so much damn fun getting better on all levels.

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Chapter

~ The Sports Diamond

Diamond Story: Tough Conditions


My friend Squatty, one of the top trainers in the Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen,
also teaches skiing at New Zealands Mount Hutt in the southern winter. Last
season, he skied on a regular basis with a group of locals. On one of those days
the fog had set in, and about 30 centimeters of windblown snow had fallen. At
Mount Hutt there are no trees for visual reference, so Squatty euphemistically
described the skiing as athletic.
While almost everyone else returned to the base lodge, Squatty and his
group did run after delightful run, and each time he found a new type of
snow for them to experience. Did they ski all of the runs well? No. Did they
remain fascinated with what they were doing? Absolutely. Squatty
provided a pathway to brilliance for each of them that was not dependent
on their performance level, but that would inevitably improve their skiing
just the same. When people come off the hill, out of the trickiest visibility
and snow conditions imaginable, and they are smiling and laughing, you
know that somebodys working the Diamond. The only tough part was
scraping the rime frost off their goggles!

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B r i l l i a n t S k i i n g , E v e r y D a y 31

CHAPTER FOUR

Holding Polarity

In Chapters 5 to 10 you will be able to deeply immerse yourself in the resources of the
Sports Diamond through dozens of specific ski pointers. In this chapter well examine the methodology that illuminates the Diamondholding polarity.
My friend and colleague Ahmed Yehia introduced me to the idea of holding
polarity. He defines it as follows: Holding polarity is the art of maintaining
dynamic tension between opposing, interdependent imperatives in order to achieve
the purpose that each pole shares with the other.
This is a mouthful! So read it again. The concept is actually very simple
and elegant. The resources we need to hold in polarity are companions, but
theyre also in a paradoxical relationship, where they appear to be fighting,
or opposing, each other.
In the Sports Diamond , Purpose, Touch, Power, and Will are interdependent imperatives that must be held in polarity to create their shared
purpose: brilliant skiing. Although the use of the word pole usually
implies only two positions, in many structures, such as the Sports
Diamond , there can be three or more poles, or resources, that
contribute to the final purpose.

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Chapter

~ Holding Polarity

These resources are interdependent in that they constantly inform and support each other.
They are also imperative in that the shared purpose cannot be achieved without the
contribution of each of them. For example, the United States Congress (shared purpose)
operates more effectively when made up of both Democrats and Republicans (the
two polesits primary resources). Overall good health (a shared purpose) can be
said to depend on a balance among mind, body, and spirit (in this case, three
resources). Great skiing (shared purpose) cannot be developed unless the skier
knows both carving and skidding (two technical resources, or poles).
If you grasp only one resource as your focus or solution, and consequently
overemphasize it at the expense of the others, youll invariably experience
negative consequences. Should I carve or skid my turns? Should I just go
out and have fun skiing or should I work on my skiing and do the drills?
Should I ski bumps or groomed slopes? The answer is yes. Both carving and
skidding are required techniques for brilliance. Similarly, both fun and
technique are essential to brilliance. And being able to ski both bumps and
groomed terrain is part of being a rounded skier. None of these options is
a solution by itself; all are imperative for brilliant skiing. This both/and
mindset of holding polarity between interdependent options is fundamentally different from problem-solving (which requires either/or choices
between substantially independent options.)

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Chapter

~ Holding Polarity

The simplest example of holding polarity is breathing. Breathing consists of inhaling and
exhaling. These two resources are clearly in opposition to each other, since they require
entirely different and opposing muscles and processes. Yet they are also clearly interdependent. One without the other is not breathing. And they are just as clearly imperative. Without the capacity to both inhale and exhale, we lose our vitality, because
we cannot breathe. The more capacity we have for both, the more vitality we have
in our lungs.

Power

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Say I decide that I believe exclusively in


inhaling. Inhaling is where its at. Inhaling is
beauty, truth, and the American way.
Exhaling sucks. Its germy, takes my air
away, and its just not any fun. From now on
I will inhale exclusively. The moment I make
that decision, I slip into the negative consequences of over-relying on one resource. In
this case, I die, because I dont blow out the
toxic air to make room for the new, life-giving air. Likewise, if I focus entirely on exhaling, Ill meet the same consequences. Only if
I have fully committed to
Rocket science? Maybe on one level.
both inhaling and exhaling
when I hold polarity between the twodo I
PhotoBrianPorter
truly breathe.
Brilliant Skiing, Every Day 34

Chapter

~ Holding Polarity

Each resource, of course, has its benefits. In skiing, carving produces a beautiful, controlled
turn, usually at higher speeds, and uses the ski according to its design. Skidding, on the
other hand, allows you to go slower and feel more in control of your speed. Depending
on the situation, each resource on its own, or combinations of both, will be most appropriate. If I attach myself to one option too fiercely, at the expense of the other, I would
carve or skid to a fault. And then I would invariably experience the negative consequences of over-attachment, such as skiing beyond my skill level because Im
carving too fast, or fighting my equipment because Im skidding too much.

Purpose

In sports, the keys to success are both competing to win and playing to have fun, both
backhand and forehand, both drives and
putts, both taking lessons and solo practice,
both taking a chance and playing it safe, both
learning by watching and learning by doing.
The polarity of both thinking about it and just
doing it is particularly interesting for recreational athletes. We all know the results of
doing either to a fault. If we think about our
sport too much, we
Sometimes its just about flyin and spinnin.
become frozen and
ineffective. If we just do it too much, we
become exhausted, inefficient, and bored.
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Chapter

~ Holding Polarity

Two Key Sports Diamond Polarities


Clarity <> Flexibility

Many athletes look for an absolute, clear set of techniques, ideas, and progressions that work every time in all circumstances. Many experienced skiers, for
instance, say with all sincerity that they only ski one technique in all situations and in all conditions. I myself am one of those.
On the other hand, many skiers are acutely
aware that every day (every mountain, every
trail, every turn) is unique and distinct and,
therefore, requires a flexible, situational set of
patterns to negotiate it. I, myself, am also one
of those.

Convening really closely with nature.

I want both a reliable system and set of rules


to take me where I choose to go and I want
to be able to apply them flexiblyin such a
way as to manage the nearly infinite variables that come my way

Touch
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Chapter

~ Holding Polarity

Process <> Results

Many athletes are taught that winning, peak performance, and breakthroughs are
everything. Others contend that its all about the journey; the journey itself is the
real destination, and it has to be lots of fun! This is a hard polarity to hold for
many athletes. We are all constantly manipulated by teachers, coaches,
friends, and parents toward one or the other.
I maintain, again, that both are equally
important. Without results, my process lacks
meaning and purpose. Without process, my
results are unreachable. To hold one or the
other is inherently limiting. To hold both is
powerful.

Will

Anxiety and commitment, sprinkled with a touch of stupidity.


PhotoBrianPorter

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Chapter

~ Holding Polarity

Holding Polarity in the Diamond


Power is an umbrella term that describes ski technique,or the moves of skiing
edging, unweighting, steering, etc. Purpose is an umbrella term for tactics, or
the moves of the skis (the vehicle)what you want your skis to do and where
you want them to take you.
Many skiers (and too many ski instructors) find themselves focused in the
Power corner to a fault. Tactics are not only ignored, they often arent even
part of the package. Few skiers have a clear idea of what they want their skis
to do, but most are very precise about what they think their moves should
be. They know that they want to get down the hill, be safe, turn, and look
good. What they usually dont know is exactly how the ski should travel in
the snow to create the most fun, most exciting, and safest turn. These skiers
dont know the line of travel. They dont have an idea of the importance of
line. They dont know the concept of slicing forward with the edges of the
ski in order to create a narrow line, where speed itself is the means of
control. Their skiing really sucks, and I dont want to talk about it anymore, because I just get angry. (Sorry. Am I being hypercritical? Must
hold polarity!)

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Chapter

~ Holding Polarity

Yet such skiers spend a ton of time learning the moves. The problem is that the moves they
are learning are not compatible with the tactics they intuitively use. But if they rearrange
their purpose, then all of a sudden the moves work. Matching tactics (Purpose) to technique (Power) is the process of holding polarity between the two. A skier who holds
polarity will rarely have an off dayeven when he or she is not skiing all that well.

Both Competencies and


Fundamental Characteristics

I must manifest each resource with awareness of both competencies and


fundamental characteristics. It is no good for me to focus on what I do
without also being aware of who I am. I may have all the technique in the
world (Power/Competency), but my body has to be fit enough to use it
(Power/Fundamental Characteristic) One of my sons once received an
interesting evaluation from his ski coach, Casey Puckett, a four-time
Olympian, and incredible master and student of skiing. In a nutshell, he
explained that Patrick couldnt produce the technique he needed until he
developed his core strength to the point where he could support the pressures this technique requires. In other words, he had to hold polarity
between competency and fundamental characteristicwho he is and
what he does. As a result, Patrick did an enormous amount of off-slope
work on his core strength, and the change in his skiing was stunning.

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Chapter

~ Holding Polarity

The secret to holding polarity: opposition is resource.

Diamond Story: Playing Guitar


When I was very young I wanted to play the guitar. So I took a few lessons,
learned a few chords, and sang a bunch of folk songs. Eventually, I stalled.
The guitar fell by the wayside, and I stopped singingmuch to the relief of
all those around me, since my singing voice is only slightly less melodious
than a crashing train. Years later, I took up the guitar again. But this time it
wasn't only to play it. It was to learn it and to study it. Once I shifted from
my locked-in, limiting point of view, I achieved both goals. These days I
have no bad sessions on the guitar-although I often play it badly (like my
skiing). As I child I had wanted to play guitar, as distinct from wanting to
learn it. Later I wanted to both learn it and play it. Now I'm committed for
life as a guitar player/student because I finally drew the balance between
process (learning it) and results (playing it).

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Chapter

~ Holding Polarity

Finally
the most powerful part of holding polarity is the shift in your mind to a
new and broader understanding of what it takes to approach brilliance.
Blaise Pascal, the famous French philosopher and mathematician, once said,
A man does not show his greatness by being at one extremity, but rather
by touching both at once.

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B r i l l i a n t S k i i n g , E v e r y D a y 41

CHAPTER FIVE

Master Pointers

Pointers ~ The Teachers Art

A POINTER (OR TIP OR CUE) IS A STRATEGIC PLAN THAT YOU


ACTIVATE FOR RESULTS. TO WORK WELL, IT SHOULD HAVE THE
FOLLOWING QUALITIES:
Y Its simpleboth in its explanation and the action it calls for.
Y It lives in one or more corners of the Sports Diamond .
Y It is a cue for a single movement that, in turn, triggers a series of
complex movement patterns in a way that bypasses thought.
(A note on word choice: Although there are subtle distinctions, I have chosen to use the terms pointers, cues, and tips as synonyms. Pointers or tips
are more commonly used in sports terminology, but the word cue is
much more accurate. But call it whatever you likeit doesnt matter
to me!)

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Chapter

~ Master Pointers

Most people agree that they can generally retain about three things from any lesson that
they can later articulate. (Interesting, since it is also clear that you cant start any movement
in sports without having at least 600 things to think about at once!) These things that
students take away are pointers, which are mostly considered breakthrough pointers
the kind of stuff that gets me past my so-called plateau.

Thats some SERIOUS


heavy thinking!

IllustrationMichaelErickson

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Chapter

~ Master Pointers

Pointers are short, effective thoughts or patterns that tend to work in most situations.
Theyre little gems that actually shift the way you look at your movements. Above all,
they make you feel great.
However, the cue itself is neither the lesson nor the learning. The Buddha said,
My teaching is like pointing my finger at the moon. Do not mistake the
finger for the moon. A cue is only the spark that ignites the learning. The rest
of the process is the guidance and the practice necessary to anchor and
explore the applications, interactions, and nuances.

The Book of Pointers


Many people who write about skiing lay down a system for performing the
sport, usually in the form of a progression and often in the form of several
thematic movement patterns. Others write about skiing in terms of a
central theory, where one trick solves all problems.

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Chapter

~ Master Pointers

In the real world, people learn better when they receive and perform the right series of
cues at the right timeregardless of the system or the main move. Furthermore, the
sport of skiing changes. Sometimes it changes dramatically and seemingly overnight,
while sometimes the changes are subtle and creep into the picture.
Wouldnt it be useful to have a framework that not only contains all the pointers necessary, but also allows the creation of new ones, and then invites the
user to select from all of the pointers as needed? Ill be that useful. I offer the
frameworkthe Sports Diamond in a way that will allow you to know
what you need and select from the menu of pointers that follows, in any
way you and/or your coach/teacher see fit.
On our website (www.EdgeChange.com), we will regularly update and
upgrade these pointers as skiing changes, so that you can always find what
you need or hear about the latest tips without having to deconstruct yourself. The Sports Diamond has a global, timeless advantage. The same principles will be true years from now, though the pointers and their associated
techniques, attitudes, purposes, and sensations may change dramatically.

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Chapter

~ Master Pointers

So this is the book of pointers. Some Ive made up. Most Ive stolen shamelessly from my
colleagues. All have a primary home in one corner of the Sports Diamond, though all
are supported and informed in some degree by all four resources of the Diamond. In
subsequent chapters, you will learn how to create and select the right one for the
right moment.
The mother of all pointers, given in Chapter One, stands at the entrance to
the Pointer Hall of Fame. (To refresh your memory: Every turn needs an edge
change, so learn to do it perfectly.) Its both current and classic. Although the
specific nature of it has changed, the idea has always been around in one
form or another. It works for every level of skier and, to some degree, in all
skiing environments. Overall, I suspect there is an equivalent mother
pointer in each sport. In the future, as we explore other sports with the
Sports Diamond , well find and identify them.
Pointers, even those enmeshed in the Diamond, dont work unless you
allow them to act like seeds that can become full-grown plants. Theyre not
the answer to good skiing; they just embody the potential. They need
nourishment, through practicing, failing, observing, and making distinctionsbut they drive the learning.

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Chapter

~ Master Pointers

The Master Pointers


These are the big fourthe ideas that connect all the aspects of the Diamond. Each is
drawn primarily from one of the Diamond resources, and each is also leveraged
strongly by, and fully leverages, the other corners. If you pay even just a bit of
attention to these four, you will become a strong, versatile skier. If you fully
grasp these four ideas, and the nuances of how their primary corners interact,
you will have a powerful toolbox to work with, and your skiing will become
outstanding. Have fun with them. And dont panic if it takes you a bit of trial
and error to grasp each one.
Two important notions:
Y All of these pointers will work as well for skiers on their first day as they do
for experts.
Y If you find yourself temporarily stuck in one, forget about it and shift to another.
The leverage gained from the shift will eventually bring you back to success in
the stuck area.

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Chapter

~ Master Pointers

Ski With Your Feet & Legs (POWER)

1
A poor move from the feet is actually more effective than a good move from the torso.
The feet are not a great source of strength, so we dont normally think about using them
when we seek power. Rather, we turn to the larger upper-body muscles for the power
we need. However, rigid ski boots amplify small, weak foot movements and translate
them into powerful results at the ski. So move your feet. In fact, move your whole
damn leg.

Imagine boots and feet disconnected to understand what they are together.

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Chapter

~ Master Pointers

Center Yourself (WILL)

2
Be aware of your center. This refers to your center of gravity, but it also refers to the energetic center or inner core that martial artists use. (If you arent familiar with this idea, try
to imagine it.) Breathe into your center while you ski. Park your mind there. Move with
it. This is how dynamic balance is achieved, and how you can find awareness of the
present moment. This is also how to acquire effortless, fearless commitment.

Centered, Flowing, Flying, Happy.


PhotoBrianPorter

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Chapter

~ Master Pointers

Make Round Turns (PURPOSE)

3
Whatever round turns may mean to you, the term also connotes an arc in which the tail
of the ski more or less follows the tip of the ski (rather than trying to pass by it). A car usually makes round turns, and you feel out of control when the back tries to overtake
the front. However, we routinely put up with that kind of crap on skis in the name of
slowing down.

German ski racer, Martina Ertl getting her skis 'round it.

PhotoRonLeMaster

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Chapter

~ Master Pointers

Feel The Snow (TOUCH)

4
Every moment, on every run, the snow changes, whether from exposure, weather, other
skiers, groomers, or your mood. Notice this stuff. Be aware of all the nuances of the
medium youre working in. Feel it, observe it, listen to it, and just sense it.

Let the snow caress the feet.

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Chapter

~ Master Pointers

How To Ski With Your Feet And Legs


1

Connect the foot to the boot and dont think about the skis. Just move the boot how and
where you want to by moving the foot against the boot shell.
If you want to engage the edge of the ski, plaster the sides of your feet to the sides
of the boots toward the center of the turn. If you want to pivot or rotate, then
rotate the foot within and against the boot shell. If you want to move forward
on the ski, press your shin against the front cuff. Or you can combine all three.
Search for support of the foot movements by using leverage from the muscles and bones of the legs. For example, you can enhance pressure to the feet
by extending the knee and ankle joints. Enhance forward movement of the
shins by moving the hips
forward.
Note how this master
pointer in Power is supported and informed by
the other resources.

Living in the boots.


PhotoBrianPorter

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PURPOSE

I can very powerfully drive my intention to move the foot in the boot by my purpose.
Do I want to pivot suddenly to slow down? Do I want to arc the foot through the turn?
Do I want to pass over the top of this bump or down through the valley of that bump?
One of my important teachers, Jean Mayer of Taos Ski Valley, used to tell me that
skiing is simply eye-foot coordination. When you see a place you want to go, just
move your foot toward it.

TOUCH

The foot is also the critical tactile connection to the snow. Be sensitive to the
snow through your feet, as if your eyes were closed and you needed to feel
your way along the surface. Foot sensitivity is one of the primary differences between life-long skiers and new skiers. Wake up your feet. Notice
every nuance of the snow.

WILL

Balance yourself over different parts of the feet: the front, the back, the
sides, and the center. The connection between your center and the snow
interfaces through the feet and the gear. Ground yourself through the
connection of your feet. You can profit enormously by spending a whole
run, a whole morning, or even a whole day only being aware of the feet.
Think about them, leverage with them, be purposeful with them,
sensitize them, and commit to them.

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How To Center Yourself


2

Stand quietly for a moment and bring your mind to a calm awareness of your body. Then
gently focus that awareness on your balance pointyour center of gravityan internal,
imaginary point about one and a half inches lower than the navel.
Breathe as if you could send your breath to that
place. Remain aware of that balance point for a
moment. Imagine it as a source of energy that
flows down the legs into the skis and then into
the snow. Then push off to start skiing. Since
youve now changed your dynamic relationship to gravity, re-center yourself while moving. Occasionally, and gently, bring your
mind back to center while skiing, as you will
often be distracted from it.

PhotoBrianPorter

Centering is a powerful act of the Will. It is


done with great intention and commitment,
Re-centering on the fly
in order to find the present moment and to
balance dynamically. The wild chaos we
encounter underfoot as we careen down a
mountain on snow is dramatic, fear instilling, and disorienting. Centering helps you find the calm within that
storm. On another level, centering is so important and powerful that
you could just as accurately place it at the center of the Sports
Diamond in place of Brilliance. It is at once a precondition, a
definition, and a goal of great performance. Centering is also
informed and supported by the other resources.
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POWER
Centering almost magically provides mechanical alignment. When I center myself, the

body tends to give up the odd muscular compensations that lock me into contorted and
inefficient positions. The center is also the center of energy in the body. (Trust me on this.
I dont know how it happens, but all the martial arts guys say its so, and they can break
bricks with their hands!) In your minds eye, direct that energy down your legs and
into your skis to load the pressure into them (pressuring the edges makes the skis
turn). As a result, I gain strength without rigiditya prerequisite for real power.

PURPOSE
One of the critical purposes is to move the skis through the arc of the turn and

to move the body, while balancing with the moving skis, through a similar
arc. If I center myself, then I can move my body from center in a very clear
path through the arc. The connection between the center and the skis is
manifested in the way they move together with direction and purpose. The
simple way to look at thisespecially for those with some anxietyis to
think about moving the center down the hill at the moment of edge change.
This brings everything into service of the magic arc, as the skis respond with
comfort and liveliness underneath.

TOUCH
Just as centering is created from awareness, it also creates awareness.
When I calm and align myself through my center, I increase my connection to all that is around me. Specifically, this allows me to feel skiing
the snow, the skis, the speedat a much deeper and more immediate
level. My moves and responses gain a fluidity and naturalness that
entirely bypass technical thought.

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How To Make Round Turns


3

Direct or guide your skis along a descending arc in the snow. This is the simplest of ideas.
It is all about what your skis do on the snow. The most common alternative to moving
forward through the arc is to pivot the skis across the direction of travel in order to
throw on the brakes. Or the skis may go in opposite directions with no direction from
you at all.
When you decide to make your turn roundcreating a curved and relatively
narrow track in the snowyou opt to manage speed, as the skis first curve
down the hill and then progressively move across the hill to slow down.
This round turn, or some semblance
of it, is the centerpiece of tactical skiing. Sometimes the curve will end
earlier and sometimes later, depending on the conditions, the pitch of the
slope, or your need for speed. As a
clear purpose, the round turn cre- Hermann Maier goes full circle.
ates progressive, fluid, connected
movements that are easy, fun, and
under your control.
The round turn is supported and
informed by the other resources
in the following ways.
PhotoRonLeMaster

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POWER
The skis are designed precisely for round turns. They will do other things, but this is at the

heart of their design. Furthermore, 90 percent of instruction and theories are dedicated to
driving the skis through a round turn (including my emphasis on edge change). The goal
is to progressively (not suddenly) steer the skis and/or pressure the edges through the
turn until the skis are pointing back across the hill. Then steer, pressure, and edge in
the new direction.

TOUCH
The feeling of a round turn is exquisite. It is marked by the sense of forward

flow through the arc and by the wonderful sensation of centrifugal force. (I
define centrifugal force as that feeling of pull to the outside of the turn, like
a ball on the end of a twirling string. Power gets transmitted to the skis
when the skier resists that pull. What really happens doesnt matter; what it
feels like is what counts. So, you physics freaks who will say its something
else, or that it doesnt exist, just back off!) The feeling of this turn reinforces
it powerfully, and the sense of making the movements smoothly and progressively is central to performance.

WILL
Underlying every Purpose must be the Will to perform it. So many parts of

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a round turn seem counter-intuitive that you must decide this Purpose
will supersede all others and carry it out with single-minded commitment. The main interference comes from the fact that you must first
drive the skis and body down the hill, a slightly insane maneuver that
can feel a bit like bungee jumping without a chord. However, if the
commitment is 100 percent (99 percent being woefully inadequate), then the joy and control experienced during the round
turn will be instantly delivered.
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How To Feel The Snow

~ Master Pointers

Wake up the feet! Imagine feeling every little bump and


ridge in the snow all the way out to the ends of your skis,
as if your nerve endings extended through them. Lifelong skiers develop a feel for the snow that seems to
put them at a tremendous advantage. Partly its due
to the literally millions of remembered interactions theyve had with the snow from a very
early age. However, much more than just repetition is involved. Awareness, not just lots of
repetition, is crucial to achieving success.

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PhotoBrianPorter

For me, the starting point of each day on skis


is the moment I push off, feeling the snow as
if it were alive. Feel the texture of it, the softMagic immersion!
ness or hardness of it, the way the skis glide
across it, the speed it gives you, and the way
the ski edges penetrate it. Take it all in. Watch
the variations in the surface structure and pitch. Listen to the sound of the
snow brushing against the ski edges. All of this allows you to process and
respond to real stimuli while avoiding thought and language. In this manner, you begin to trust your bodys intelligence and understand that it is
fed as much by awareness as it is by thought. Most important, your feel
for the snow is going to tell you how much of what movement possibility or pattern to apply. If the snow is hard, I need to edge with
much greater care and finesse. If the snow is smooth and strongly
resilient, I can power on the edge with confidence. Feeling the
snow is fiercely supported and informed by its connections to
Purpose, Power, and Will.
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PURPOSE
Awareness of the snow-as it is that day-drives my vision of how I will ski. From awareness

of what I feel, I can decide (often intuitively) how fast to go, what kind of turn to select,
what kinds of movements of the ski in the snow I will make (e.g., braking? carving?), and
what kind of terrain I will seek. All of these are informed by the sensory information that
travels from the snow to the skier through the skis and boots.

POWER
The best technique for increasing sensation is to relax the muscles-especially

those in the legs and the feet-as much as possible. Being relaxed allows you to
stay upright and keep the skis turning on their edges. Rigidity, on the other
hand, blocks sensation. And as the feel of the snow becomes more noticeable, your body/mind system will make great intuitive choices about what
movements suit the situation. If the snow is soft and deep, for example, you
may focus on flexion/extension, while backing off from trying to steer the
skis against the heavy snow resistance. Or if the snow is very hard, your big
gun is going to be working your edges.

WILL
Committing to feeling your way along the snow is challenging and impor-

tant. Youll encounter a lot of interference. For example, we often try to be


active and aggressive in search of yesterdays success. Or the anxiety you
may feel as you accelerate into a turn can overpower you, causing the
body and mind to become paralyzed. To feel the snow-while relaxing
the muscles and making great technical choices-you must choose to
stay loose, ready, and sensitive in the face of powerful, intuitive survival mechanisms and ego investments to the contrary. You must
choose to feel the snow exactly as it is right now, today.

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CHAPTER SIX

Power

Within the Sports Diamond, Power refers to the arena of technical, mechanical, and
biomechanical forces. It includes your movements and your ski gear, and the internal
and external forces they use and create. Your own physical power, as reflected by
your fitness, agility, and coordination, is also an important element.
PhotoRonLeMaster

Hot Finn ski racer, Tanja Poutiainen, making a perfect edge change
under the watchful eyes of seventeen AspenSnowmass Ski Pros she
hired to help her race. It is the definitive answer to the question, How
many ski instructors does it take to analyze a light bulb turning? She
was criticized for not getting close enough to the blue pole.

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Power Pointers
1. Changing Edges

This is the foundation of great technique. Most of your Power/technical work should
focus on how to change edges well. Changing edges (from the left edges of the skis
to the right edges, or vice versa) is the critical move at the critical moment that
determines whether you will make, and connect, smooth, fluid turnsor
whether youll be taken over by alien beings bent on destroying your dignity
(and your body).
What follows are several ways of thinking about edge change. Each serves
as a different cue to evoke a different awareness in the body, and all are
effective. You choose.
Y Change both edges at once. The body wants to walkusing one foot,
then the other. Resist the bipedal urge! Instead, tip both edges from one side
to the other at the same time. This is, after all, the definition of parallel
skiing. Discover which of your edges you normally change last. Then make
it the first one you change, until youre changing both edges simultaneously.

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Y Tip first, then turn. Your boots are naturally tipped uphill at the end of a turn. Before you
try to change direction, tip both of them downhill. Tip them downhill before you try any
other move. Very scary! It can feel like youre falling off the mountain; but its also one
of the best feelings in skiing. Tip your boots progressivelylike youre dialing up the
volumeso you dont over-tip and tip over!
Y Make the edge change quickly. The actual change from uphill edge to downhill edge should happen quickly, minimizing the time your skis are parked in
neutral, where nothing happens. This does not mean you should change
edges suddenly, or with high pressure or a high angle. It just means you
shouldnt loiter in the dead zone. Only when the ski edges are working
the snow can you make effective turns.
Y Tip the downhill ski first. Feel the tip from the toes, foot, ankle, knee,
and/or hip. It doesnt matter which one, only that it feels right. This clears
the way for the uphill ski to follow suit. The uphill ski wont tip unless the
downhill one goes with it or before it.
Y Let the hips float across the skis. They kind of want to anyway, as gravity and centrifugal force pull the center of mass (the hips) to the outside of
the turn. Only your resistance keeps it from happening. So let your hips
move from the old turn into the center of the new one.

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Y Charge the turn with the downhill knee. Aggressively pointing that knee down the hill
will change the edge of the ski and bend that knee relative to the other one. Both pointing
and bending the inside knee are prerequisites to a good edge change. The idea of charging
acts as a trigger to create the new angles.
Y Pedal. Shorten the downhill leg relative to the uphill one by pulling it upward
toward your torso. (Its the same idea as the previous tip, just a different take). This
brings the body from the inside of the old turn (uphill) to the inside of the new turn
(downhill) and makes you change the edges. (While you pedal, keep both skis in
contact with the snow.) Just as in pedaling a bicycle, in good skiing, with few
exceptions, there is only one short moment when both legs are equally flexed.
Spend some time with this pedaling idea on slightly steeper terrain. It is
incredibly powerful and really challenges the paradigm of the old up-anddown method of skiing.

2. General Edge Work


Y Stand wider than you think you should if you really want to carve. If
you dont want to carve, dont bothernobodys forcing you to. However,
if your legs are too close together, the inside leg will often interfere with
your attempt to increase the edge angle of the ski. So spread em, baby!
And keep your legs wide throughout the edge change.
Y Move your hips directly over (or even to the inside of) your
inside knee. This would be the left knee for a left turn, and the
right knee for a right turn. This gives you a point of reference to
feel if youre tipping inside the turn or not.
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Y Slice, dont smear. This is the choice between using the flat blade or the sharp edge of a
knife. Most skiers do a little bit of both. Great skiers dial up one or the other movement
according to the need. For great skiing on intermediate slopes, dialing up the edge of the
knife is a beautiful thing. If you do it, you will be admired and even worshiped.
Y You dont have to carve. But that doesnt mean you have to drift mindlessly through
the turn either. You can still control your arc via the edge and side-cut of the ski by
skiing on the sides and adding some steady torque with the feet and legs. If you
stand on the edges without increasing their angle to the snow, youll be able to
turn at slower speeds than carving requiresbut still not lose the overall sense
of an arc. Know which youre doing primarilycarving or skiddingand
what the trade-offs are of each.

3. Pressure
Skis are meant to bend while tipped on their edges. That bend comes from
pressure, and the pressure comes from the muscles and centrifugal force.
(There are wonderfully complex arguments about the physics of skiing, and
in this arena, I defer to Ron Lemaster (www.ronlemaster.com) because in
the world of physics, I have no idea what Im talking aboutand Ron
does.) On skis, look at centrifugal force as whatever it is that seems to
throw you to the outside of the turn. That force gets transmitted to the
ski as pressure, and it bends the ski and enhances the turn. Great skiers
(like you!) manage this pressure with great effectiveness.

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Hermann Maier, getting loaded.

PhotoRonLeMaster

Y Load the ski. If youre able to build pressure onto the edge of the ski, it
will bend into the turn. So do whatever it takes to load (and then unload)
the skis. There are two power sources for this necessary pressure:
y Your muscles, which straighten the leg against the ski. To understand this,
straighten your arm against something or somebody, and youll feel that
youve applied pressure.
y Your speed. Gravity > Speed > Momentum > Powerapplied against the
skimakes the ski bend into the turn as long as the edge remains
engaged in the snow.
y Use both sources, but use speed first, because youve already bought
significant quantities of gravity through the purchase of a lift ticket.
(Or maybe youve earned it by hiking up the mountain.)

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Y Move forward. Move more than you think you should, more than you think is necessary,
and more than you think is safe. At the start of the turn, move your shins against the front
of the boots. This pressure will transfer to the front of the ski. Your goal is to make the edges
bite into the snow by putting pressure on the shovel of the ski at the moment of edge
change. On modern skis, the front of the ski absolutely drives the turn. Furthermore,
since the skis accelerate at the moment of edge change, you need to accelerate with
them, and in anticipation of them, if you have any intention of maintaining control.
Avoid the tendency for the hips to drop back and down as you press the shins forward by tightening the stomach and pressing the hips forward as well. (For a
reality check, notice whether your big thigh bones are more or less vertical, or
more or less horizontal. If theyre closer to vertical, youre probably moving
forward pretty well.)

Bode Miller: One brilliant diamondThey ought


to give medals just for making turns like this.

PhotoRonLeMaster

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Y Maintain resiliency as you work with the snow. Ski/snow contact is a really good
thing. Only when the skis are touching the snow can you work with it and the terrain to create control and comfort. The changing pitch of the terrain and your
changing angles of approach cause dramatic changes in the resistance presented to the skis. Your body is an intelligent, active suspension system consisting of a whole string of interactive jointsankle, knee, hip, waist (lower
spine), and neck (upper spine). Think of yourself as a spring with consciousness. The legs and torso retract and extend to absorb and apply pressure at
will. Use this ability to maintain your resiliencyextend to keep the pressure up as the terrain drops away and flex to absorb overloads of pressure.
If, however, you get to the very top of the spring (i.e., your full body length),
youve lost its tension, and likewise if you bottom out. The capacity to
maintain resiliency will be doubly useful when the terrain changes radically, as it does in bumps. Finally, the spring works better when the coils are
in alignment; that is, when the body segments are in balance.

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Y Use differential leg bending. The classic skiing mantra is to bend the knees. This was
actually a wonderful piece of wisdom that lost its impact as it became an instructor
clich. The idea behind it is that stiff legs decrease resiliency and readiness. You bend
your knees in all sports; its the athletic stance, and its fundamental. Whats relatively new in skiing (more noticeable in the past 25 years or so) is the understanding that, since skiers use the edges of both skis, they must bend each leg a different amount to keep edge angle and pressure consistent. For example, if I want
to make a left turn, I need to bend my left leg more than the right one in order
to maintain the correct amount of pressure and edge angle on each ski. (This
is also related to pedaling in the Changing Edges section.)
Y Pull back the inside foot relative to the outside foot. There will always
be a natural tendency for the inside foot to advance (relative to the outside
one) during the turn, and this tendency will increase throughout the turn.
Minimize it by bending the ankle of the inside foot fiercely against the front
of the boot. Say youre turning leftincreasing the angles of the left edges
of both skis, inevitably shortening the left leg relative to the right leg, and
moving the hips in (and forward) toward the center of the turn. As this happens, the left foot will want to creep ahead relative to the other one in
order to make room for the right leg. Dont let it creep. Hold it back. The
result will be better focused and more effective turning pressure to the
edges of the skis.

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4. Crank
Crank is the term I use to describe all movementcircular or rotational around an axis.
It is an enormous part of good skiing. Its also the most natural (but not the easiest) of all
the skiing movements, though it is by far the most overly and/or poorly used, too. Most
of the pointers regarding it are designed to diminish the normal crank that occurs from
movement of the big muscles in the body, which results in the dreaded full-body
rotation. Full-body rotation (FBR) is a contagious, but curable, disease not yet
recognized by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. It remains the dirty little secret of the ski world. Dont get it. Dont do it. Its an ugly, horrible thing.
Instead
PhotoBrianPorter

PhotoBrianPorter

Unwinding
Winding up.

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Winding it out.

PhotosBrianPorter

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Y Steer the boots by turning your feet against the boot shells. This is a powerful antidote
to FBR. The body wants to/needs to/is driven to twist in the direction of desired travel.
Therefore, it is natural to use the big torso muscles to rotate the skis. But you dont realize
the power of your feet, since they are encased in stiff plastic boots. You try instead to overcome the apparent resistance of the boots and skis with big torso moves. Instead, twist
the feet against the sidewalls of the boots in the general direction you want to travel.
The boots are so responsive that even a small amount of twist will be enough to make
them turn the skis. The body/mind, being extremely intelligent, will automatically
pick up on the good results and increase the crank of the feet for whatever effect
desired. Does this sound like the ski with the feet pointer from a previous
chapter? It is. Hmmm it must be important.
Y Steer both legs toward the turn. Does it feel like youre already doing this
as you steer the feet? Good. Keep it up.
Y Keep the torso from initiating steering. This is both possible and easy if
you follow the two previous pointers. It is either impossible or very hard to
do if you dont.
Y Squattys move: Twist the inside of the thigh toward the turn at initiation. In other words, twist the left thigh toward the left turn, and the right
thigh toward the right turn. When used with a clean edge release, this
offers a very powerful, confidence-building turn. It also brings the rest of
the body into excellent alignment with the turn and completely cures
the dreaded FBR.

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5. Terrain-Specific Work
FOR BUMPS
Y Drop the tips down the backside of the bump. Skis dont turn unless theyre in contact with the snow. (In the air, they can change their aim, but not their direction of
travel.) As you crest a bump, the front of the ski juts into the air. When you get the
ski to make contact with the snow again, you can
work it. If you delay, youll travel quite a ways
without being in the drivers seat. Therefore,
immediately following the edge change, life
will get really good if you slap the ski tips
down the bumps downhill side. This is
essentially the same move as dropping in
in surfing or half pipe riding.

Mogul Dancing.

PhotoBrianPorter

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Y Reach for the pole plant. The toughest (read, scariest) thing for many skiers to do is to
move the torso down the hill into the next turn. Yet the fluid linking of turns that results
from this move is what makes good bump skiing happen. A great tool for moving
your torso downhill is to reach, with the pole hand, straight down the hill towards
the next turns pole plant while youre still in the previous turn. If you reach early
enough, the sensation will be like youre hand-walking down the hill, and
you will be totally ready for each successive turn.
Y Extend into the valleys between bumps, then retract as the pressure
builds. This draws on the resiliency skill suggested in the section on pressure. In the undulating terrain of a mogul field, its quite a challenge to
extend and retract, as the bumps create massive variations in angle and
speed. The bumps seem to have minds of their own, and skiing them can be
like riding a wild horse. (Ive actually seen moguls move from place to place
as I approach, and Ive heard them laugh hysterically as they launched me,
unsuspecting, into the air.) In every set of bumps are places in which the
world just seems to drop out from underneath you, and other places where
the bumps seem to rush up to smack you in the face. Use your resiliency
in a massive, exaggerated way.

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For example, as you approach the steep lip of a bump (and your skis are actually going
upward), pull your knees up toward your chest, while keeping your hands forward. This
retraction movement allows you to absorb the shock of the impact. As you pass over
the crest of the bump and into the gaping canyon below, straighten your legs and
move your hips and hands forward. This extension movement keeps the skis in
contact with the snow and prepares the body for the next impact.
Y There are two critical points to making the system work:
y Keep your head up. This blocks the absorption at the right place, so you
dont get whiplash and you can stabilize the torso to prepare for the next
bump.
y Go through the whole range of movement smoothly and with the terrain,
feeling the resiliency of the body and the change in pitch of the surface.
Practice on very small undulations of terrain, without turningeither
straight down a shallow hill or traversing across a shallow mogul field. This
way you can feel how you should pull up the knees as the terrain rises, and
how the feet drop away as you pass over the crest. Then try it with a turn,
making the edge change at the moment of maximum retraction (when the
ankle, knee, and hip joints are all flexing deeply) and then extending the
legs into the valley.

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Y The big crank. To really dump a lot of speed in a hurry, quickly pivot the feet underneath
the legs. This classic move brings the skis quickly across the hill and throws on the brakes
nicely. You can do this progressively or suddenly, depending on the nature of the emergency. In bumps, skiers often throw the big crank very suddenly at the moment of edge
change, which is actually way too early to be effective. Their intention is to slow down
the turn before it really gets moving. Yet at turn initiation, there is really no room to
move the skis that way. The skis just end up getting caught in the valley and bouncing around like a pinball. The best place to throw the big crank is at the end of the
turn, as the skis exit the valley and come out underneath the previous bump.
Now there is lots of room to crank and dump speed. But the more speed you
dump, the more aggressively youll have to start the next turn.
Y The big stop. This is the same as the big crank, except that you dump all
your speed. This is an emergency stop!
y Do it at the end of the turn.
y Do it suddenly.
y Plant the pole for the imaginary next turn, to stabilize your torso.
y Dont count on it looking good. Its a nasty, ugly thing, but it works.
FOR POWDER
Y Use the new skis. Its the 21st century. The all-mountain fats, mid-fats,
and obese fat powder skis currently available are spectacular in soft,
deep, loose snow. You no longer have to have the touch of a goddess
to ski it. With these skis, you can even ski powder really badly and
still have a wonderful time.
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Y Ski it like the big bumps, with lots of retraction (or flexion) and extension. The pressure requirements are the same for bumps and powder: As the skis come across the hill, the
snow offers huge resistance; as the skis go downhill, the resistance is small. Absorb the
resistance by pulling up the knees (retraction) and make contact with the snow again
after the edge change by extending the legs into the turn.
Y Porpoise. This is just another way of looking at flexion/extension. Pull up the
skis to the surface of the snow at the edge change, then let them dive back into
the snow while going down the fall line. Think of this movement in terms of
the ankles and feet: As the skis come to the surface, advance the feet. As they
dive, catch up to (but dont pass) the feet.
Y Pressure both skis. The skis dont have to be weighted evenly, but if one
ski has little to no pressure on it, the snow will deflect it while the other ski
stays on task. This is not a pretty sight. The skis begin to flee in opposite
directions.
Y Always keep the hands moving forward. Because of the extra turning
power made available by the more resistant snow, the body often tends to
turn too far, torquing you back up the hill and into the inevitable over-thehandlebars shoulder roll (admittedly, an excellent maneuver and lots of
fun to watch). But if you keep driving the hands forwardespecially the
inside, or uphill, handyou will correct an imbalance that causes 72
percent of falls in powder (based on a famous study that shows that
83 percent of all statistics are made up).

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Y Stand tall. Skiers have a tendency to crouch in powder, as they search for muscles to
crank with. But doing so will wear you out after one run, and you will be forced to spend
the rest of the day skulking about the hot tub, waiting for your friends to come back and
tell heroic stories of their exploits. Instead of crouching, just pull up the knees at the finish of the turn for a brief moment, before you re-acquire a tall, elegant stance. (There
is an exception for very long-legged skiers. If you get too tall, you may interfere
with migratory birds or let those long legs get reeled out too far. Instead, keep the
hips slightly flexed.)
FOR STEEPS
Y Reach down the hill for the pole plant. You must be ready to make a 100percent-committed move with the torso in order to keep up with and control the accelerating skis. If you plant the pole down the hill early, then your
torso will be ready. (This is the same principle as for bumps, since each
bump has a small steep on the downhill side.)
Y Make the perfect edge release. The tendency is to hesitate at turn initiation. If you let go of the edge at only 80 percent, you will accelerate, and
because youre not fully in the turn, the acceleration will be uncontrollable. Even 99.9 percent edge release is too damn little.

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ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS
Y Buy good gearand trust it. This stuff is really expensive, but it also really works. And
good gear will even do most of the work for you. You can certainly find deals out there,
but dont shortchange quality for price. Good gear can do a lot to overcome bad technique. This stuff has been designed and redesigned, tested and retested. Very little out
there is not good. Youd have to be a moron to build bad stuff with the technology
that we now have. But make sure to find the gear that is right for you. Read the
annual ski magazine tests and demo gear to find out what you like, then find a
pro to show you how to use it.
Y And while were talkin gear Buy Vlkl skis, Tecnica boots, and Marker
bindings. And tell em Weems sent yaIm jonesin for a new setup this
year!
Y Trust the forces that are out there. Gravity, momentum, and centrifugal
forces are fine friends, and they can pretty much take the place of 80 percent
of your muscle power. Great skiers make skiing look effortless. And it is
effortless for them because they let external forces do the work.
Y Get fit. Cmon, its time to realize that this is a sport and your body is
your biggest investment. It doesnt matter how you do it or how fit you
become. Just a little bit helps. Do anything you want: walk, run, bike,
swim, do pilates, spin, surf, windsurf, play ping-pong, play soccer,
skateboard, ride horses do anything that makes you happy. But get
up off your butt, put the video controls down, and be somebody!
And its really time to give up the most widespread of all
American pastimes: eating stupidly.
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Leons Diamond Story


Read and memorize this exquisite creation of Leon Joseph Littlebird. He is a very fine
ski instructor and trainer in Summit County, Colorado, who uses this example to
show ski instructors what we sometimes sound like when were stuck in the
Power corner. Other than that it has no earthly use and, therefore, is truly a
work of art.
A state of flux in the angular valving of gravity is achieved by counter-roticipational polarity on a reverse lateral base minimizing outward torsional
thrust, while anticipating compound peripheral extrusion and avoiding the
counter-intuitive occurrence of socassic resonance, while enhancing articulated, forced, dynamic struts with alta-gyrometric, balance-articulated,
solid unobtanium parameter enhancers.
(By the way, do you know how hard it is to find unobtanium?)

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DIAMOND TALK ON POWER


Power is a big part of the brilliance of your day. The Power corner is where most ski
instructors (and sports teachers) hang out professionally.
Power is not only about technique, but also about natural forces, your body, and
your equipment. It contains your menu of moves, and the muscles and body structures that create and allow them. Power also includes the environment beyond
the body: momentum, gravity, centrifugal force, inertia, and the snow.
Furthermore, it involves your gear: skis, boots, poles, bindings, clothes, goggles, helmets (wear one!), and sunblock (put it on!)all those amazing
designs that interface between skier and snow, allowing us to truly transcend ourselves.
FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS
The Forces
The natural, external forces, or principles, described by physics are fundamental to all sports. The most important ones in skiing are gravity, friction,
momentum, and centrifugal force. You dont have to be a physics major to
understand their importance.
Just realize that the energy of skiing that does not come from you comes
from these external forces. And because of this, skiing is often a free
lunch.

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Y Gravity is the big motor that runs the show. Most of the other external forces result from
the speed and momentum that gravity enhances as friction between the skis and the snow
decreases.
Y The other big player is centrifugal force or centripetal force or cencuealoozal force
or whatever it is that wants to throw your coffee all over your passengers when you
try to turn the car with one hand and drink it with the other. In skiing, we turn. In
turns, we must manage centrifugal force. Ignore this stuff at your peril!
Heres the sequence again: Gravity > Speed > Momentum > Energy. Energy
that is applied to steer, bend, or edge the skis is what lets you master control.
Theres an interesting paradox that all skiers know, either intuitively or consciously: It is precisely the speed attained from the pull of gravity that allows us to
turn the skis and, thus, stay in control of our speed.
The Gear
This refers to the platform and/or the tools we use, the interface between
the player and the playing field. In skiing, you dont ski. You operate your
boots. And your boots are connected to the skis through the bindings. The
skis are designed to make some pretty energetic moves in relation to the
snow and the physical forces, as a result of the energy you transmit through
the boots and bindings. You gotta live with those results, so you better pay
attention to what you tell your boots. Furthermore, are they the right
boots? Are they custom-adjusted for not only your fit, but also for your
structure? Are your skis up (or down) to the tasks you set for them
with your moves? Are the skis wide/narrow, long/short, or
light/heavy enough? Are they good looking? Do they match your
outfit?
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It is astonishing how many wonderful athletes cant realize their potential because of their
refusal to be at least semi-gear freaks. Buy the stuff. Its really cheap relative to what it is
and does. This is the best time ever to buy new boots, bindings, and skis, as well as all sorts
of cool accessories. The fit and interface capacities of boots, the shape and dynamics of
skis, and the function, protection, and fashion of ski clothing are all fabulous.
The Body. This is about youthe driver, the skier, the player, or the pilot. It includes
your biomechanical abilities, your structure, and your health and fitness. We can
get so caught up in the gear, the mountain, or the snow that we forget that we
ourselves are the finest piece of equipment of allalthough often poorly maintained. So many people whine about how counter-intuitive skiing is.
Ridiculous! Skiing is perfect for us. Were built for it, or rather we built the
sport to suit us: our structure of skin, bone, ligament and muscle; our sensory capacity; our decision-making skills, learning ability, and awareness;
our energy producing and nervous systemsskiing perfectly complements
all of these. Youre one hell of a piece of integrated pilot and equipment. So
act like one.
COMPETENCIES
Technique. The world of technique is where too many athletes and sports
pros live too exclusively. But it shouldnt be ignored altogether, because it
is an excellent, and critical, part of the mix. Technique is about the moves:
edging, pressuring, and torque. Its about bending the knees, and keeping the hands forward, and twisting or counter-twisting.

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Its about the pointers that drive you crazyput all of your weight on your outside ski
while moving your inside hand forward and pointing it at a 20-degree angle to the body,
and dropping the outside shoulder one inch and sliding the foot back while moving the
hips forward. Yet technique also relates to the pointers that help you achieve enlightenmentthe magic move that leverages everything else and gets happily mistaken for a
breakthrough. Technique is how you ski.
Although many regard tech talk as nothing more than babble, it is actually quite an
amazing human capacity to take movement patterns, break them down, via language, into their component parts, and then put them back together. This
capacity for analysis and synthesis is unique to our species. Yeah, we overdo
it. Nevertheless its a magical skill, and just because we can make it complex
doesnt mean that we cant make it simple.
Good technique has one great result: the use of ones body/equipment in
harmony with the natural forces to apply power efficiently and effectively.
The best of the best use natural forces and equipment when they can and
muscle power when they have to.
And Yet More on Gear
Boots: Feet are weak, with relatively little muscle. Ski boots are strong and
amplify the feet. Therefore, a small movement within the foot can be transferred quite powerfully to the ski through the boots leverage. The boot is
an amazing piece of equipment; great at transmitting power to the ski
while providing increasing comfort and warmth for the skier. Boots
are also incredibly expensive, yet worth every dime. However, boot
fit is fairly generic, while peoples body and foot structures are not.
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Most people just want to put on their boots and go skiing. But well-performing boots must
be customized, through footbeds, flex adjustment, ramp adjustment, and alignment. If
youre going to invest all that money in buying boots, make sure to spend that extra bit to
make sure that they work well for you.
I spend hours getting my new boots worked on, and the result is that they are perfect
on the hill. In fact, they are so perfect (and therefore hard to replace), that when I
travel by plane, I buy a seat for my boots but ship my kids with the luggage.
Choosing skis requires little brain power. Buy what feels good. Match them to
your outfit. Nobody makes bad skis these days. They all apply power to the
snow in such a smooth and fluid way that they make skiing totally easy. One
caveat: Make sure your skis are tuned well. A bad ski with a good tune will
ski better than a good ski with a bad tune.
There are basically two types of skis to consider: all-mountain (go-anywhere, do-anything models that favor loose, soft snow but also ski well on
packed surfaces) and carving (go-anywhere, do-anything models that favor
packed slopes but are pretty good on loose snow, too). There are, of course,
higher and lower performance levels within these basic types as well as specialized versions, such as big-mountain skis, skis for very deep snow, or
race skis.
(And this section is kindly brought to you by Vlkl skis, Tecnica boots,
and Marker bindingsmy beloved sponsors who see to my safety,
effectiveness, and efficiency every day as I go out to risk life and
limb. I am such a whore.)
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SOME PHILOSOPHIZING ON POWER


Power is highly technical and often verges on the scientific (and the pseudo-scientific). It is
the resource corner in which most people (teachers and students alike) think teaching and
learning to ski takes place. It is also the corner in which most people flounder.
Simplicity and accessibility are key. On the one hand, the more simply something is
stated, the more it becomes metaphor and cue, rather than actual description. It can
easily become too simple to be useful. On the other hand, if technical information
is too complex, it can be paralyzing. Teachers, learners, and performers have a
huge responsibility to simplify effectively. To make a complex pattern simple,
but not simplistic (or trivial), is not an easy chore. Furthermore, developing
a cue to launch the correct movement pattern is a daunting task.
So in this sense, one of the goals of the Power domain is to achieve technical awareness in such a clever way that we can go smoothly through the
development levels of knowing it, understanding it, using it, taking it apart,
putting it together, and making choices about it. (This is taken from Blooms
taxonomy of the cognitive domain: knowledge/comprehension/application/analysis/synthesis/evaluation) (This is also the limitation of Power: it
can be too complex to translate the thinking to the doing if the skier is overloaded with information.
Nevertheless, beautiful techniquesmovement patterns and
sequencesare the central themes of the Power resource. They are
worthy of attention. They are critical and useful when held in polarity with the other resources. Theyre like skiing with chains around
your body, when you really arent.

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Purpose

Purpose encompasses strategy, tactics, goals, and results. It is also about intention, which
precedes and supercedes the use of Power. In skiing, Purpose has a lot to do with line
(where to go, where to turn, and shape of the turn) as well as conditions and terrain
(what do they require? How shall I approach them?) The Purpose resource is about
small and large, short-term and long-term, practical and philosophical purposes.

Different strokes

for different folks.


PhotosBrianPorter

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Purpose Pointers
1. Tactics (Line)
FOR TURNS
Y Focus exclusively on your line. Line is so important that a good one alone
often creates great skiing. Mostly people focus on line only in bumps and
steeps. Do it everywhere. This enables you to bypass technique (and thought)
and create clarity about what you want your skis to do in the snow. You can
read the history of your line by looking at the tracks youve left in the snow,
but focusing on line is like seeing those tracks before you make them.
Y Move the skis through and along a curved line. Its that simple. Move
your feet and skis along the snow just as you would move your hand when
making a curved path along a flat surface. You dont need technical instructions for this! Just let the heels follow the toes through the arc of a turn, tracing as closely as possible the same arc. Old-time instructors call these foot
arcs, and you can even do them in the snow without your skis on. Stand
with weight on one foot, supporting yourself with your poles, while you
trace a forward arc through the snow with the light foot. Now do it on
skis, downhill, with both feet.

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Y Squattys foot arcs. (Remember Squatty? Hes one of my great teachersan awesome
pro with the Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen/Snowmass). Once more, standing on
one foot (with skis off) and supporting yourself with your poles, trace an arc through
the snow with the light foot. This time, however, flex the leg youre standing on as
you create the arc with the other foot. Flexing aligns the body with the arcing foot
and allows the hips to move through this virtual turn effectively. This movement is a very
powerful simulation of a great turn on skis.
Y Feed the tips to the fall line. Direct the skis
into the turn by turning the toes down the hill
rather than brushing the heels uphill. Most
skiers improve dramatically with this simple
change in perception.

Squattys arc tracks.


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Y Trace a thin line through the snow with your edges. Line is your signature. Is yours a
precise, sinuous, graceful slice into the snow? That is skiing. Or is your line a wide,
smeared sideways swath? That is brakingor not skiing.

Smearing.
Slicing.

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FOR DESCENTS
Y Ski nonstop runs, at least four every day, or eight if your ski area is small. If youre fit,
there is no reason to ever stop skiing until you get to the bottom of a liftunless, maybe,
youre waiting for your boyfriend. Most people, however, ski trails in sections demarcated by changes of pitch or turns in the trail. This kills the rhythm and character of the
mountain and blocks you from really understanding it. As the saying goes, shut up
and ski! Nonstops are a great example of how changing your idea in one corner
(e.g., Purpose) leverages results in the other three: Touch (developing a real feel
for the mountain), Will (the courage to push through a little fatigue and take on
the whole hill), and Power (through uninterrupted skiing, your technique
always improves). So, yeah nonstops.
Y Ski nonstop runs making short turns on groomed blue slopes at least
once a day. Adding the element of a complex, busy turn will give you a reliable short turn for steeps as well as develops great technique and rhythm.
It doesnt matter if they are great short turns or not. They will improve with
practice because the body is smart enough to figure it out. Let the body
dance. Get your mind out of its way.
Y Change the size of your turns and change the part of the run you ski on
(another great one from Squatty). Usually, if people make several runs on
the same trail, they wont vary more than two or three yards from where
they skied at any other time, and theyll make exactly the same type of
turn all the way down. Instead, offer yourself variety within a familiar
landscape, and the benefits of developing different tactics wont be
overwhelmed by adjusting to a new location. (This big rule actually applies to many situations: Develop new stuff in a familiar
location.)
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5. Terrain-Specific Work
FOR BUMPS
Y Make the edge change at the crest. For my money where the edge change takes place
is the number-one issue that throws off bump skiers. And like all great cues, its as
much about Touch, Purpose, and Will as it is about Power. For most skiers, the place
to begin a turn (or make the edge change) should be right at the crest of the bump,
the high point where the skis begin to jut out into the air. At this point, however,
most new bump skiers start their turns too early (starting too late is rarely a
problem) and either catch their tails on the preceding bump or have to hop
their tails to clear it. They start so early because of abject fear that they wont
be able to get those unwieldy skis around in time to keep from slamming
into the bump below. But this is the time to wait. Wait until the skis travel
farther out over the crest. Wait until the crest is directly underneath the arch
of the foot. You will feel the tips want to drop down the back side. At that
very momentnot an inch earlier or latermake your edge change. If you
do it at precisely that moment, nothing in skiing, including green terrain,
will be easier mechanically. Your skis will seem no longer than your boots
and can be edge changed and steered effortlessly. Remember, one inch too
early is way too early!
Y Ski most bumps by going over the crest at the exit of one valley
(like a waterfall) and into the trough, or outside wall, of the next. This
line closely matches the feel and rhythm of the terrain as well as the
design of the ski, creating beautiful, dancing skiing. And its easy
and really fun!
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Y Learn how to improvise your line. Whichever line you choose, I guarantee you will not
be able to stick to it more than 50 percent of the time. So dont panic when the line doesnt
work. Instead, pull moves out of your back pocket that you thought you didnt have. Trust
them, while realizing that some will be truly masterful and some will be very funny. The
following drills will help you improvise:
y Turn on every other bump for ten turns (traversing across the hill at the end of each
turn), then turn on every bump for ten turns.
y Turn the skis through half a left turn (straight down the hill), then back to the
right. This will bring you diagonally across the hill, instead of straight down the
fall line.
y Widen your stance, face your torso down the hill, and attempt uniform radii
of turns no matter what the shape of each bump. This will force you to turn
in many other places than at the crest and, therefore, widen your repertoire
enormously. Some turns will be rough, some edgy, some skidded, some
carved, and some will be monuments to futility. It doesnt matter. Just keep
turning. In this drill, it is the intention that teaches.
Y Never stopuntil you run out of bumps or oxygen. If you stop, you rust.
FOR POWDER
Y Go faster. Loose, soft powder snow offers more friction than packed
snow. If you dont carry enough speed to overcome that, your skis will bog
down and your muscles will end up doing the work that momentum
could have done (for free).

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Y Drop in. The unpredictability of loose snow combined with its friction causes many skiers
to turn much too quickly, staying in the fall line for only a split second. Shape your turn so
that you descend down the fall line a bit longer than usualso that you actually lose some
altitudeand you will manage your speed beautifully. Drop in to the turn like a surfer
does to catch the wave. Drop in deep.
FOR STEEPS
Y Drop in, dive deep. Let the skis run down the hill before you turn them back
across it. You can probably drop in less than you would in powder, because you
dont need that kind of speed to overcome friction. However, you will need a
little momentum to bend the ski enough to drive you out of the turn.
Y Control the turn finish. For speed control, bring the skis back up the hill
and even skid them a bit if you want; the speed control is at the end of the
turn, not at the edge change. Just like anywhere else, the edge change is a
moment of acceleration.
Y Fling the body down the hill at the edge change. On steep terrain, the
edge angles required are far more dramatic than those on shallower terrain,
in order to counteract the downhill pull of gravity. Likewise, the distance
the body must travel across the skis to apply such an edge must also
increase dramatically. At turn initiation your center of mass must travel
in an instant from way up the hill (relative to the skis) to way down the
hill. You may feel as if youre truly falling off the edge of the world.
Though this movement mainly belongs in the Purpose resource, if
youre afraid of it, engage the Will. But do it! (Youll note that this
pointer is repeated nearly verbatim in the Will description.)
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MORE FUN STUFF ON PURPOSE


Y Dont work on technique while playing the game. Technique awareness is for practice.
Purpose awareness is for playing the game. When you ski for skiing, be aware of your line
while letting your technique support the Purpose. When you ski for improvement, be
aware of your technique. Obviously, there is overlap but dont mix them up. Technique
and Purpose are different.
Y Direct your skis through the snow. Make choices about how the ski stirs the
snowchoices that give you clear, desirable results. I can choose to make the
skis drift, smear, slice, and even retreat. They can go uphill, downhill, forward,
and backward. Choose clearly.
Y Choose your goals. Be clear about your desired turn type and shape: Short
turn? Long turn? Fast? Slow? Steep? Flat? Round? Pivoted? If Im searching
to achieve disciplined technique, I will ski differently than if I were searching for adrenaline.
Y Choose your motivation. Why are you skiing? Be clear about your goals.
Is it work or fun? (Either or both are all right). Am I here to improve? What
do I want from skiing? What are my technical goals? What are my social
goals (chicks dig guys that can ski!)? Am I here for the scenery? Or the
action? Or the exercise?
Y Lower your criteria for success. One of the most powerful strategies for
creating brilliance every day is to not expect very much. You can be very
sure of what you want, but be prepared to achieve it in very small
increments. That way, youll always be available to move toward
your Purpose without ever getting thrown off track.
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Diamond Story:
TransformationMy Real Purpose
Extend. Amplify. Get stronger. Go farther. The difference between a skier hurtling
down a mountain and a lesser human walking is the difference between perhaps a
fish and a crab. One is fluid and graceful and flies, while the other just sort of scuttles about along the bottompresumably shopping.
When you ski, you step out and become more than you were. In a literal
sense, you harness all the power available to you, and it creates a new you.
When you put on the skis and boots, you are amplified and transformed
into something elsea different realm of relationship with your universe.
An empty-handed person on a tennis court becomes a different creature
altogether when the hand acquires a racquet. That person becomes a
player.
Id be comfortable defining an athlete as someone who has acquired the
means to extend or amplify him- or herself through the combination of
gear, physical skill, awareness, attitude, and fitness in order to excel in a
game, sport, or physical activity. As a skier you transmute into a master of
controlled free-fall, a turning machine, a terrain dancertotally at home
and in control of your destiny. With your technique you become unrecognizably distinct from your previous self, since youve harnessed
the wild forces of nature to do your bidding. Dude, you are such a
stud-muffin!
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DIAMOND TALK ON PURPOSE


FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS
Y The turn. This is the indispensable unit of performance for skiing, comparable to the
shot in golf or basketball. What are the basic elements of all turns? What is different
for different types of turns? Are we doing short turns, long turns, shmediums,
or mixing it up? The type and direction of the power I bring to a turn depends
exclusively on what kind of turn Im making. We can all agree that the arc is
fun. Even extreme, big-mountain skiers are almost always in an arc while on
the snow. Thats where the magic iswithout exception. In slope-style and
big air comps, too, the skiers body turns and twists throughout its flight.
(Am I stretching it here? Perhaps. But not as much as those crazy people
are.)
Y Terrain. We tend to look at and describe skiing in terms of what we like
the mostbumps, powder, groomed, whatever. But terrain choice must
change continually if Im going to grow my skiing. Sure, I have a basic turn
that is my Purpose, but in what ways must I tweak it on the steeps, for
example, or in the bumps?
Y Goals and motivation. If Im not too clear on why Im skiing in the first
place, its going to be awfully tough to improve. Improve what? For
what? I dont have to have a great or noble purpose. Just goofin
around is plenty. But without any goals or motivation, Im outta
here. They are what keep me in the game. And, the motivation
must ultimately come from the self.
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COMPETENCIES
Y Line and tactics. This area first led me to discover the Diamond. When talking to race
coaches, I noticed that they would often remark how racers need to forget about technique
on race day and just concentrate on course tactics. You presume technique, and you focus
on tactics. About twenty years ago, I decided to experiment and stop teaching technique first. Instead, I went backward and started with tactics and strategy. For example, Id ask what a student wanted the ski to do in the snow. Should it skid, slip,
slide, carve, cut, drift, hop, or flipin general, what line should the ski trace
down the mountainside? I started with the idea of connected round turns and
told people that I didnt care how they did it, but that we would all make the
skis scribe arcs in either direction. We did it with our feet (out of the skis) on
the snow, with our hands, in our imaginations, and with our skis on. Guess
what? The technique appeared on its own to support the tactic. And not
only that, but a damn good technique appeared. These people taught themselves to carve. The lesson here is that if you are clear about what you want
your skis to do on the snow, your body, which is smart, will invent what
you need to do the task. (This relates to the classic form versus function
argument: Technique (Power) should often serve the tactical needs
(Purpose) just as much as Purpose is influenced by available Power considerations. I have since evolved to believe that one must focus on both technique and tactics, both Power and Purpose.)
Y Strategy. This is the big brother of tacticsthe overall plan of descent.
Should I ski bumps all day? Work on nonstop runs in the bumps? Ski
one bump run and one groomed? Should I just go straight into the
bumps, or should I work on my short turns on groomers for an
hour before I hit the bumps?
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Should I work on my short turns on blues before I try them out on blacks? If I just launch
into skiing with no strategy for the run, the day, or the segment, achieving fun performance
will be a crapshoot. If I decide to not think and let the skis take me where they may, that
can actually be a pretty good strategy; however, its a strategy for learning to react and
cope. If thats my goal, thats cool, because it means Im willing to accept some difficulties without surprise and work through them.
Y Achievement. This is always underneath the surface of Purpose. I want to excel.
I want to ski well. I want to ski faster, better, longer, deeper, and quicker. I want
to keep score: number of runs, number of vertical feet, number of hours, and
amount of time in a racecourse. The achievement drive can be as vicious a
place to get stuck in as tech-head world. I must be ready to downplay the
tendency toward overachievement because it can really get in the way of
other viable Purposes.
Y Gear interface. How do I want my skis to move in the snow? What
should I do to keep my windsurfer from skipping through the chop? What
do I want my racquet to do when it touches the ball? How much energy do
I want to get out of my skateboard as I transition up the vert? Contrary to
the dangers of overachievement, the benefits of really understanding the
gear interface are often underestimated. (And, much of this understanding
comes from Touch.)

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Diamond Story: Squattys Chest Hurl


A wonderful example of an excessive focus on Power, or technique, comes from my friend
Squatty. He once had a student who was totally convinced, through all of his reading
and all of his ski lessons, that the secret to skiing was a move in which you drive your
chest downhill. Moreover, this was the only move you needed.
Squatty, in his inimitable bedside manner said, Wow! Id like to see that. Would
you show me that?

PhotosBrianPorter

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And the guy did. From a traverse, he hurled his chest down the hill, falling flat on his
face and torso. Squatty, being the consummate pro (and chewing blood from his lip
to keep from giggling) said, Well, maybe thats not your best side. Show it to me
in the other direction.
The guy took off traversing the other way and hurled himself onto the snow
again. And this is where Squattys genius in using the Sports Diamond
really stood out. Instead of giving the guy another technical piece to screw
up, he shiftedto Purpose: Lets direct the chest a little more toward the
arc of the turn, toward the front of the skis, so we dont have such a hard
landing.
In this way, rather than having to develop a whole new move, the guy was
able to take what he had and redirect it tactically for great and instant success. He had had an okay move but a bad tactic, a reasonable application of
Power, but cluelessness about Purpose.

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Diamond Story: Skiing On Ice


Years ago, during a thin snow year, small surface springs in the mountains would
bubble up over the snow and sometimes form gnarly ice blisters. These could reach
as long as fifty or more feet down the hill, but were often only about five to ten
feet wide. One year we had an ice patch like that at Taos Ski Valley, and as we
approached it I stopped my group and told them we were going to ski it. I reveled in the sudden increase in rebellious tension. I said, I guarantee that you
will do this just fine, and if Im wrong, I will refund your entire ski week
package out of my own pocket. But you must stay right behind me.
They all agreed, so we started with trepidation (and me giggling) toward
the ice patch. I reached the patch and traversed across all five or so feet of it
to the snow on the other side. The group did exactly the same, everyones
skis clattering loudly. When we were all safely and easily across, I said,
Thats great. Thats all for today. No more ice. Disappointment showed on
some of their faces, but I insisted. To shorten the story, the next day I
allowed one turn on the patch, and then we quit. The third day, we did
two. By the fourth day, I had totally lost control of the group, and they
insisted on really skiing the damn thing.

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Touch

Touch is about the subtle responses to the question, how? Its more about applying
finesse than it is about mechanics. Touch relates to me personally as a player and as
an artist on the snow. How do I manage my moves to achieve beautiful, fluid, joyful, creative skiing? The answers to that question relate more to awareness and
presence than to concrete solutions.
Touch is also about the medium and ones connection with it. Our medium as skiers is the
snow on the mountain. It could just as well be
the ocean or the golf course. Its where we
live. Its what we are immersed in. Its both
the playing field and the Power-filled interface between the player and the game.
(Power in skiing comes from the way we
work the snowthe way we squeeze the
juice out of itand the way it talks back.)

More touch than I need.


PhotoBrianPorter

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Touch Pointers
1. Awareness

Y Breathe while you ski. Rhythmical breathing creates awareness beyond thought.
Y Look ahead and down the hill, especially in challenging situations (bumps,
steeps, ice, etc.) The eyes really direct the path your body takes. Let your gaze
bounce down the hill ahead of you, drawing you with it.
Y Put rhythm into your skiing. Sing a song, count the turns, trigger the
rhythm with the polesit doesnt matter how you do it. Rhythm will carry
you smoothly from turn to turn, through all the pitfalls, mistakes, and selfcritiques that often derail nonrhythmical skiing. Let skiing be an elegant,
artistic dance with the snow and the mountain. The rhythm will create it.
Y Smile while you ski. Its hard to frown inside when youre smiling outside. And if youre frowning inside, your body shuts down. Remember,
there are a lot worse things you could be doing right now.

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Y When you move, move like a river. When you are still, be still like a mountain. This is
my favorite tip from one of my favorite teachers, Tom Crum. It implies the fluid nature of
skiing, the flowing down the hill. At the same time it evokes the living stillness of the
mountains, the act of being quiet and calm without being rigid. This is one of those wonderful pointers where if you dont know what it means just pretend like you do, and
youll figure it out.
Y Listen to the snow. Many different sounds are created by your skis touching
the snow. They vary according to technique, tactics, and snow and terrain conditions. Ski whole runs, just listening. Youll soon be able to identify the
sounds that show up when youre skiing well and those that occur when
youre not. Your body/mind will then help you find the right sounds more
of the time. (Hint: Quieter, softer sounds indicate more efficient, effective
skiing!)

2. Timing
Y Learn to sequence correctly. This means putting together the parts in the
right order at the right time. It takes a lot of experimentation and feel to
develop, but it is huge. For example, change edges before you turn. Touch
the pole during the edge change. In high-performance skiing, the maximum edge angle should occur in the fall line. In slower turns, and on
steeper slopes, engage the maximum edge angle a touch later. Moving
forward too long after the edge change creates havoc. When you
know your moves, play with the sequences. Experiment.

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Y Make your movements progressive. Sudden, as opposed to quick, movements always


disrupt the harmony of skiing. If youre going to make a specific move, dont do it like
youre flicking an on-off switch. Dial it up; dial it down.
Y Look ahead, but ski one turn at a time. I gleaned this wonderful idea from an article on the great Austrian ski racer of the 1950s, Tony Sailer. The idea is to be in the
present and the future at the same time. Yes, look ahead to develop awareness of
whats coming, but, for sure, youve gotta love the turn youre in.
Y Touch, dont plant, the pole. A jamming pole disrupts rhythm. Allow the
pole to swing forward with the centrifugal force at the end of the turn. Touch
it to the snow, then hang on to its handle so that it doesnt drag back. And
dont load the pole. It is not there as a pivot point, a handle, a brake, or a
safety bar; its there to help balance and time your turns.

3. Terrain and Soft Snow


FOR BUMPS
Y Look downhill (again!). Even when we get good at looking downhill in
most terrain, we tend to lose that ability in bumps. Enlist Will to keep the
eyes trained downhill so you can develop the awareness of your possibilities in the bumps. Look directly downhill, developing tunnel vision
and banishing peripheral vision. Your line will then appear as if by
magic.
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Y Breathe. Breathe consciously. Exhale loudly at the end of every turn. Dont even worry
about the inhale. If you exhale effectively, the inhalation takes care of itself (thanks to
instructor March Henley, at Aspen Highlands, for this tip).
Y Accept and enjoy that bumps are a chaotic, fun, and funny playground. You
will never ski them without mistakes. Watch carefully, and you will see them
whispering to each other, planning traps and surprises for you. They are the
mountain rascals.
FOR POWDER
Y Move smoothly and efficiently. Powder requires the ultimate economy
of motion. Small, smooth moves in soft snow are amplified to create big
results. Big, jerky moves are amplified to create very amusing results.
Y Connect the turns rhythmically. Do not allow yourself to ski across the
hill for any distance. If you do, the rhythm dies, and each turn becomes
more difficult. In powder, more than anywhere else, the feeling of
rebounding rhythmically from one turn to the next is the most critical
yet also the easiest piece to develop. If you develop a rhythm, it will
carry you through, even after a few falls.

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Y Short count the turn finish. This is also related to rhythm. The deceleration at the end of
the turn is exaggerated in powder; therefore, the end of the turn should be of shorter duration. You need to feed the skis quickly into the next turn so they dont bog down. My
rhythm is a short count coming out of the fall line and a long count going in, with
almost a pause in the fall line itself. The rhythm is like one-twoooo, one-twoooo, with
the one coinciding with the finish of the turn and the twoooo with the initiation
from the edge change on. For those of you into classical music, the first movement of Brahmss Fourth Symphony was clearly written for powder skiing. The
only question is, how did Johannes know?
Y Float through the snow. Powder is not the kind of snow for digging into,
grinding into, or hanging on. Be soft and delicate and light on your feet
even when it feels like youre taking a risk. Its really not that much of a risk
when you aim for the feel of the skis floating.
STEEPS
Y Free-fall into the turn. On steeps youre literally falling off the side of the
mountain, so you have to develop the faith that your edges will catch you
as the skis come around. You will experience a little bit of extra comfort if
you just enjoy the elevator ride. Its like the feeling you get when you
jump of a small stool or a stair stepeverything is committed to the
drop.

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Y Enjoy the intensity of the adventure. It is unique. Its the big wow. Sure steeps are scary,
but that doesnt mean theyre dangerous (if you choose them carefully, that is). Look down
the hill and allow yourself to be amazed at the angle of the pitch (even if youre a beginner,
you can feel this). Realize youre skiing down it and feel the delight of that. Enjoy the thrill
of adrenaline. Its one of those rare moments when you seem to be more alive than ever.
(Thanks, Packy Westfeldt!)
Y Feel like youre a falling leaf. A leaf falls for a moment, and then, because of its
angle to the cushion of air beneath, it stalls, flattens out, and slows. Its the same
for your skis: They accelerate, and then, as the edges begin to grip, they stall
the fall and bring you across the hill. Then you must make the effort to start
the fall again.
MISCELLANEOUS TOUCH POINTERS
Y Keep the legs in motion to manage the pressure to the edges of the skis
Continually flex and extend the knees, hips, and ankles, as well as tip them
inward and outward. And dont lock up your legs. . Only through such continuous, fluid movement can you really keep your skis moving the way
they should, anticipating, responding, and connecting to the forces generated by gravity, momentum, and centrifugal force. My old mentor, Jean
Mayer of Taos Ski Valley, talked about applying pressure, then releasing
the pressure. In this way he would caress the mountain as he skied.
Y Move fluidly through the turn transition. When we dont perceive of a turn finish at the transition, the movement through it
is seamless, and turns flow together effortlessly.
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Y Balance while in motion. Think of balance as a verb, not as a thing to be in. You
move to balance, always staying active and never holding one position.
Y Think link. Always link your turns. A single turn is the analyzable unit of
skiing, but its not actual skiing.
Y Be creative. Fred Iselin, one of my great heroes from the early (early!)
Aspen days, insisted that skiing is a symphony. He got tired of watching
all the itsy bitsy turns of the early 1960s. A run should consist, for example, of a few short turns followed by a long, swooping turn with a nice hop
over a bump, then a dive into a gulley, finished off with a foray into the
bumps. Mix up your skiing. Make it interesting. Make it a dance. Conduct
your own symphony.
Y Glide. Skis are not meant to burrow, dig, or grind in the snow. Theyre
designed to glide over and in it. You dont even have to think of technique.
Just make your skis fly over the snow.

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Diamond Story: On A Motorcycle


I once rode my motorcycle from Aspen to Arapahoe Basina distance of about 150
miles over a couple of beautiful Colorado mountain passes.
The first leg, up Independence Pass outside of Aspen, was in the predawn, and
I had just the spread of my headlight to identify deer, marmots, raccoons, and
all the other varmints who often inadvertently commit suicide (and take
down the bike riders with them), as they scurry into your light. The usual
search for the right line, proper speed at turn entrance, inward tip of the
machine, tire grip on the road, acceleration to exit the turnall that was
meaningless compared to shutting down speed and searching the roadsides
through my peripheral vision.
The cold, a relatively balmy 35F wasnt too bad, at first. I was dressed very
well, and the Aspen side of Independence Pass is sort of tropical. My
descent down the east side into the arctic temperatures near Leadville was
another story. The concern for deer gave way to the understanding that, as
my speed increased on the straight road across this freezer of a high mountain valley, I was clearly going to die from cold.

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I dont know the math of this, but I do know that when you add 70 mph to 35F, the chill
factor is brutal. As my core heat began to plummet, and I realized that the bikes heated
grips were not keeping my fingers loose and warm, it was clearly time to pull over to a gas
station, go inside, and raise my body temperature to a survivable level.
After thawing out a bit, I continued on over Fremont Pass, where I ran into a thin glaze
of ice on the smoother portions of highway. Once again, I had to dump speed, float my
feet close to the pavement, and stay loose. After awhile the road seemed drier, and I
plunged into the dark, cold valley leading to Frisco and Lake Dillon.
I finally broke into the sunshine at Frisco. The heat from the sun as it began to
warm my fingers, arms, and legs was like bathing in the warm water of the
tropics. My God! I thought, the temperature is almost up to 40F. Maybe Ill
even take off my shirt and relax for the rest of the trip. But, no! The early sun
shone directly in my eyes as I rode the along the lake toward Arapahoe
Basin.
There would be no mercy on this ride!
This was clearly one of my most brilliant rides everone I will remember
with pride, humor, and humility. Yet technically I didnt ride very well
just well enough to make it to the ski area. So how could an event so dangerous and cold end up so excellent? Its because I deeply touched the road,
the weather, the mountains, and the motorcycle. My journey was well supported and informed by Power, Purpose, and considerable Will. But the
sense of Touch, in particular, was transformative, and the memory of it
will remain with me for life.
And, if I ever try a stunt like that again, somebody stop me!
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DIAMOND TALK ON TOUCH


FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS
Y Sensitivity and awareness. All the parts of Touch are available to you through
awareness and sensitivity. You must feel, and truly experience, all the elements
of this sport while rejecting the notion of judging any of them. This rejection
extends to you, too. Approach skiing as if it isnt just about you. Approach it
with wonder and fascination. Whats that sound? How cold is it? What does
the snow feel like underfoot? After fairly intense technical sessions, many of
our instructor-trainers at AspenSnowmass will say, Okay, time to dial down
the think meters and go get some wind in our faces. What they mean is that
its time to go take a run, but they purposely shift their language from the
technical to the elementalspeed, cold, wind, etc.
Y Presence and poise. When youre connected to everything around you at
the momentthe mountain, the snow, the air, the people, the gear, and,
above all, yourselfyou can find the confidence that you belong there, that
youre a part of it, even that youve earned it. If you dont know how this
feels, just imagine what it would feel like if you did. Youll understand.
Y Emotion. Joy, fear, elation, delight, anger, frustration, love, hate, angst,
humor (and maybe more humor). All of that is out there and a part of
this game. Let the bad stuff just pass through and appreciate and
acknowledge the good stuff. Its all good.

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COMPETENCIES
Y DIRT (duration, intensity, rate, timing). To make a move is not enoughit has to be
made in a certain way. In skiing, the snow and the pitch are rarely uniform, so the move
has to be made in an infinite variety of certain ways. Every move takes place over a different time span, with a different intensity, is repeated at a certain variable rate, and
begins and ends at a unique moment relative to other movements. This is indeed
Touch. So much of skiing is repetition and practice, yet so much is also instinct. I not
only own the move, I own the ability to improvise its application to suit the
Purpose. Sometimes I practice a specific and appropriate dose of DIRT for a certain situation. Other times, I just make it up. Of course, making it up might
technically be called a recovery. (Thanks to renowned skiing biomechanics
professor George Twardokens and Aspen instructor Megan Harvey for this
idea).
Y Rhythm. Boomalackaboomalackaboomalackaboom carries me through
times of bad technique better than good technique carries me through times
of bad rhythm. You gotta pretend like you can dance!
Y Expression. I recall (sort of) a drunken friend exhorting a crowd of rowdies by saying, Hey, lets all take off our clothes and jump up on the table
and BE SOMEBODY. Now thats expression! Expression is also my writing my signature in the snow with the edges of my skis. Its play and joy
and fun and imagination. Its creating my personal relationship to the
mountainand it is very beautiful within each skier. I will never forget
how when my son Ben was quite small he would be skiing along, and
suddenly he would stop, seemingly going into some strange, concentrated state. Overhearing him one time, I realized that he was imagining himself at the start gate of a racecourse and giving himself a
countdown. The kid was about to win the World Cup! He was
gonna BE SOMEBODY.

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CHAPTER NINE

Will

Will is about commitment, sustained action, balance, and growth. It addresses your
determination to achieve, to transcend, to survive, to thrive, or merely to stay upright.
It is the base platform for the Sports Diamond and draws deeply on your courage
to create changeto transform yourself. The Will corner also addresses choice: You
use your will to make choices and then carry them out with accountability for
both the process and the results

PhotoRonLeMaster

Hermann Maier, less than two years out of a motorcycle


crash that nearly took his leg off. They said hed never ski
again. This is not about technique. This is about Will.

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Will Pointers
1. Anxiety

Y Experience it. Choose to look it squarely in the face. Greet it. And take the following steps to cut your anxiety down to size rather than allowing it to expand into a
paralyzing agent.
y Pinpoint the source of your anxiety. Is it fear of failure, fear of injury, fear of
the unknown, fear of ridicule, fear of success, or even fear of fear? Is it fear
of the whole mogul field, or fear of a particular section or even a single
bump?
y Rate your anxietys size or power on a 1 to10 scale.
y Note the difference in feeling fear at, say, a level 3 and a level 10.
Y Be aware of the present moment. According to Tom Crum, aikido master and life coach (see www.aikiworks.com), fear operates through oscillation between past and future. You may be concerned about something that
might happen in the future based on a story or experience in your past.
In some ways fear only exists in the past and future. The more you are
in the present, the less you suffer from fear.

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Y Advance your level of terrain or speed in tiny increments. Push your envelope a small
bit, then go back to where you are comfortable. For instance, ski one bump that gives you
anxiety at a level 3. Then stop, acknowledge your achievement, and give yourself the
instructors handshake (Thats where you reach out to shake hands with a friend, and
as he goes for your hand, you instead reach over and pat yourself on the back). Ski
another similar bump, then find one at a level 4. The search itself is a fear reducer.
Y Enjoy your fear by separating it from risk. In this way you can tap into
adrenaline that fear generates while eliminating your anxiety about potential
injury. I learned how to do this while bungee jumping. I discovered that I like
to scare myself, but I dont like to take risks. Bungee jumping, with a reputable company, has a high risk perception and virtually no risk reality. In
skiing, too, the perception of risk is higher than the reality. Snow is usually
soft, and, therefore, very few falls will actually hurt you. There are certain
sports I dont do, because the perception of risk is low while the reality of it
is high. (No, I wont tell you what they are, because my own perception may
be flawed by my lack of experience!) So take steps to diminish risk.
If you like to ski fast, for example, choose an empty trail, ski in the middle
of it, check your bindings before you start out, and wear a helmet. Your
risk reduction will be enormous, and you can still enjoy the abject fear
(read adrenaline rush) of skiing at high speed. How simple is that!?

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Y Reduce your fear through sequenced procedures. My brother-in-law, Chuck Appleton,


was an officer in the Massachusetts State Police. I asked him how people in his profession
deal with the fear of confronting dangerous situations. He answered that they drilled their
procedures so effectively that in each situation the responses were automatic. In his wonderful autobiography, Chuck Yeager, the test pilot, describes the same process. In skiing,
I have learned that the presence of anxiety is a cue for me to drop off my edges into the
turn. At that moment the skis are committed and turning and in control, and my fear
disappears entirely. Let the presence of fear cue a drilled response.

2. Balance
Balance, as an act of Will, is so critical that I originally located it as an entire
resource in the Sports Diamond. Furthermore, astonishingly little attention
gets paid to the act of balancing by snowsports teachers (or teachers of any
sport, for that matter).
Its time you paid attention to balance. You cant get very far if you fall
down, right? Balancing yourself is also the secret to efficiency, and efficiency is the secret to answering that age-old question, How do they make
it look so easy?!
Normally, a lack of balance comes from being either too strong or too
defensiveunder the false belief that you can muscle your way down
the mountain or that youll encounter real danger. In general, women
are beautifully free of the first belief but often succumb to the second. We men, of course, are totally hardwired to try to muscle our
way through damn near anything!
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Note that balance is not a position. My rule of thumb is that once youve been in a position
long enough to recognize it as such, youve been there way too long!
Balance is an act of Will because to stay upright, or to be efficient and effective, is something you must continually commit to, or youll suffer the consequences of your neglect.
Many of the pointers that follow can just as easily go into the Power resource; I have
placed them here to underline their critical relevance to balance as opposed to their
use in making turns. Long-time skiers will find much in this section that seems
heretical, and even painful. Get over it! This is new-school ski technique, and it
is so much better, easier, more functional, and accurate that youll be delighted
if you just give it up. Im 160 years old, and the change has been exquisite.
Y Keep moving and stay loose. Balance is a verb. It is something you are
doing in motion. In skiing, it involves realizing that you are on a surface
that seems to be moving and changing rapidly, and so you must move and
adjust with it, or it will leave you behind. The changes in pitch, snow consistency, and angles to the surface all create challenges that you feel as speed
and pressure changes of varying degrees. The joints and muscles are perfectly designed to adjust to these changes if you are willing to allow them
to function smoothly and efficiently.
Staying loose and fluid in the jointsespecially the ankles, knees, hips,
waist, neck, shoulders, and elbows (did I miss any?)allows you to
make the tiny adjustments that are consistent with balancing.

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Y Work on your hand jive.


y Position the hands and arms forward, outward, and at waist height for balance. Lift
and spread the arms using the shoulder joint, with elbows bent, palms facing and tipped
slightly upward, and poles held loosely. Imagine youre carrying a giant beach ball.
Having your hands lower than waist height is okay as long as you dont let them drop
back significantly. Holding them at higher than waist level, however, is a de-balancing move.
y Move the hands with the turn. Push the inside hand/arm ahead to keep the
inside half of the body strong and aligned. The outside hand/arm should
rotate through the turn arc at the same speed as the legs.
y Let the hands and arms float. If you hold them rigidly, the whole balancing system will fall apart.
Y Angulate. Hold your torso vertically while edging. The angle will be
formed at the hip and knee joints when the torso is more or less vertical and
the legs are more or less tipped to the inside of the turn. Most skiers balance
beautifully relative to their edging skis if they maintain a vertical torso and
level shoulders. I recommend that long-time skiers lose the habit of angulating by leaning the torso to the outside of the turn (with the exception of
turn initiation on very steep terrain).
And, long-time instructors, I recommend you lose the habit of teaching this movement. I havent taught the old approach of balancing
on the edges by leaning downhill in more than twenty years. Yes,
it works, but its just extra stuff.
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And todays shaped skis are so effective on their edges and so quick into the turn initiation
that its no longer necessary to heave the torso to the outside of the turn for balance. In fact,
as your performance level rises, you may find that a little inward tip of the torso is not such
a bad thing.
Y Flex and extend the legs. The knees and anklesalong with the waistare the master joints for skiing. Keep them looseable to extend and flex constantly and smoothly
while skiing. More often than not, the angle of flex in each of these at any one time
is equal to the angle of flex in the others. They work together to manage the pressure changes that challenge balance. Keep them working for you.
Y Keep the hips quietin all three planes. The hips act as a sort of universal jointwhere the major power transfer takes placebetween the torso
and the legs, and, therefore, must move only minimally. The nearly irresistible tendency is to rotate, tip, or drop the hips down and back. You can
really help your balancing by keeping the hips forward, more or less square
to the ski tips, and level.
Y Anticipate and preadjust. The balance-upsetting changes in speed and
pressure are predictable. When the slope gets steeper, the skis go faster.
When I start a turn, the pressure builds. When the slope gets flatter, the skis
go slower. When I begin an edge change, the platform Im riding on gets
steeper, so I go faster. When I collide with another skier, much pressure
builds and I stopbadly.
If you keep looking ahead, you can anticipate these and other situations,
and preadjust for the balancing mechanisms that each requires. If the
skis are going to accelerate when I release the edges from the old
turn, then driving the hips forward will balance me on the sweet
spot of the accelerating skis.
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Y Pressure both skis. Both skis turn well on both edges. Although the outside ski should
still be dominant throughout the turn, pressuring both skis (rarely as much as 50% on each
ski) creates great turns in great balance.
Y Be aware of your center. (See Chapter 5, too.) Awareness of the bodys center creates a
nearly magical feel for balancing and is one of the primary commitments in all motion.
Y Ground yourself. Though this concept is related to centering, its not quite the
same. Grounding refers more to the location of your commitment to the snow
through your feet (and is deeply informed and supported by Touch). Imagine
that you can sink roots into the snow through your feet. Just the intention to
do so will connect you in a very direct and comfortable way to the changes
in the snow, creating powerful balancing skills. Experiment with different
parts of the footforefoot, arch, heelto find the best connection for each
part of the turn. Doing so will also connect you to the sweet spot of the ski.
Focus especially on the forefoot during the edge change (and generally
avoid the heel at this time).
Y Balance your gear. Your boots are an essential component of balancing on
snow. Even if you are a fairly new skier, find a good boot fitter and spend
some money and time on getting your boots dialed in.
I cant overstate the importance of alignment, fit, and stability relative to
your boots. Would you buy a fancy new Porsche and take it out on the
road without getting the wheels balanced and aligned? No, you just
wouldnt do that. You wouldnt even do that with your MiniCooper!
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3. Surrender! And Attack!


Oddly, these two ideas are the same, depending on how you look at them. Both attack
and surrender must happen at the edge change. The surrender is the passive part, of
course, where you give in completely to the pull of gravity that wants to take you
down the hill from the relatively safe perch of your edges. Attack, likewise, is the
active part, where you not only give up the
safety of standing on your edges, but also
launch into the gravity stream with full commitment. Only by using these two components in concert will you be able to drive the
skis into the turn. Both are monster commitments that produce instant and perfect
results. All of these tips are different ways of
accomplishing the same ideaboth attacking
and releasing.
Will is more than making the face. You gotta make the move.

PhotoBrianPorter

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Y Extend your energy down the hill. Imagine that your center is more than just your balance point but also a source of energy that can move your body. Direct it or let it flow
over the skis and down the fall line. This will bring the hips across the skis and to the
inside of the turn, allowing you to line up against your turning skis so that you can
work them.
Y Stand up and out. At the end of the turn, youre usually slightly crouched
from edging effectively. Standing up (and away from the hill) will release the
edges. Once theyve released, youre knocking on the door to the new turn.
Y Free-fall toward the valley. Similar to standing up and out, this idea is
about more out and less up. Move the center of the body quite far down the
hill, as if you were falling off the mountain and leaving the feet behind.
There is a point of diminishing returns where you will lose contact with the
skis and fall downhillgo just less than that. But, ultimately, skiing is controlled free-falling. The control comes from doing it with enough commitment to re-engage pressure to the edges on the downhill side of the old
turn, as you initiate the next turn.

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Y Charge with the downhill knee. To start a left turn, for example, the left knee must
first drive downhill as you come out of the right turn. This directly tips the skis toward
the new turn and opens the door for the rest of the body and gear to follow. My friend
Squatty achieves the same thing by twisting the femur (left for left turn, right, for
right turn) toward the turn. If you ever hear an instructor talk about an active
inside ski, this is what he or she is referring to.
Y Collapse the downhill knee. This is the passive version of the preceding
tip. If the downhill knee collapses, its resistance to gravity ceases, and the
center of mass will readily move into the next turn.
Y Move the hips aggressively forward and downhill. Not only will you get
the skis onto the new edges, but you will also connect the edges to the snow
at the tips, which is where the excitement of the turn really starts. Youll
know it works when you feel the downhill edge of the tip of the downhill
ski start to bite into the snow early in the turn. Its magic!

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4. Terrain and Soft Snow


FOR BUMPS
Y When in doubt, turn the skis down the hill. If youre scared, going too fast, out of
balance, or just plain discombobulated (which may be the perfect word!), turn the skis.
Only then can you follow the rhythm of the bumps and, paradoxically, regain control of your balance and line.
Y Regain balance and speed in a series of turns. Dont insist on the ability to
have both at any moment in one turn. Balance and speed control are not
achieved at the same point in the turn. You achieve balance during the acceleration into the new turn. You achieve control by turning the skis back up
the hill at the end of the turn.
Y Control is not necessarily the ability to stop quickly at any moment. If
that were so, we would always be out of control in our cars on the freeways.
Control is the ability to keep moving, to change direction and manage
upcoming events and obstacles.
Y Dont stop. When you stop, the turn you make will always suck. Why
even bother caring about it? The show is over by then.
Y Always start straight down the hill, never in a traverse. Do this, and
you will attain the life-giving speed that turns difficult skiing into
easy skiing. Think about the use of Power (speed and momentum)
to apply turning energy to the skis.
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FOR POWDER
Y Balance on the middle of your skis. Sitting back is a major dumb human trick, as well
as the major myth of powder skiing. I dont even want to talk about it.
Y Be a speed merchant. Going too slow is just as bad as going too fast. The friction from
this kind of snow is very tricky so be intensely aware of your speeddrive the skis
around before you pick up too much and start them back down the hill before you
lose it all. The idea is to maintain the same speed all the time.
Y Keep driving the inside hand forward. That hand wants to drop back and
down, as the snows resistance tends to overturn the skis and the body goes
with it. If you keep your inside hand ahead of your hips, you will recover
from 90 percent of potential falls (no exaggeration!).
FOR STEEPS
Y Fling your body down the hill at the edge change. The edge angles
required on steep terrain are far more dramatic than those on shallower terrain, in order to counteract the downhill pull of gravity. Likewise, the distance the body must travel across the skis in order to apply such an edge
increases dramatically. At turn initiation, your center of mass must travel
in an instant from way up the hill (relative to the skis) to way down the
hill. It truly feels like youre falling off the edge of the worldhorrifying at first and then very beautiful. If youre afraid of it, this movement belongs primarily in the Will resource. Otherwise, its a simple statement of Purpose. Whichever just do it!
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Y Look down the hill. In order to fling the body down the hill, you must absolutely, with
no hesitation or flinching, look down it. To some this seems obvious, but to others (and you
know who you are!) this seems insane.
MISCELLANEOUS WILL POINTERS
Y Go skiing in all weather and all conditions. This will have an amazing effect on
your versatility and self-respect. There are no bad conditions. Each has its challenges, and each has its rewards. Time and again, those who go out often and
whenever become great. Mentally, this is not so easy; it is an act of pure Will.
Y Practice. Focusing on practice is entirely different from going out for fun
(although it doesnt preclude fun). Instead of connecting Will to Touch, it
connects Will to Purpose. Look at practice in the way you would look at,
say, practicing yoga. You would do it with attention, presence, and powerful intention. So instead of just taking a run, work on one specific idea, such
as clean edge release, for the entire run. Youll have to accept the good, the
bad, and the uglygiving time for the body/mind to find what works.
Doing so requires that you trust the future, knowing that improvements
will come with repetition and precision.
Y Recover. Great skiers make great recoveries. This does not mean that
you should struggle hopelessly on a turn that is doomed to end in a fall
(thats the kind of stuff injuries are made of). Just dont give up too easily. Enlist your agility to regain your balance, and you will be amazed
at how good you are at doing it.

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Y Link turns. Dont stop until youve made at least ten turns
even if theyre terrible.
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DIAMOND TALK ON WILL


FUNDAMENTAL CHARACTERISTICS
Y Centering. There is another kind of centering that is fundamental to who you
are. This is the you that is prealigned and preconnected with the pull of gravity
into the Earth. In skiing it has two components: one that pulls you into the
mountain and one that pulls you down the mountain. In this manner, you are
always in some sort of relationship with gravity. The trick is to be aware and
appreciative of it.
Y Holding polarity. This is much more natural to do than people believe.
Its about the refusal to be limited in scope. Holding polarity between and
among the corners of the Diamond is a bright path to brilliance. Its the key
to never getting stuck on the plateau. To move with agility to a new place,
without getting overly hung up on having invested your identity in just one
corner (great technique, having fun, being brave, feeling the snow), is an
amazingly graceful and elegant way of being. It requires abandoning the
egos need to hold position, but it relieves you of the wasted energy of too
many false distinctions. The reward is being a master of all positions.

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Y Managing anxiety. Anxiety and fear are not the biggest deals out there on skis, but they
feel like they are. First, understand that anxiety is not a bad thing, and, second, remember
that everybody has it. The goal of the Will is to manage it, not eliminate it. If it does disappear in the process, thats fine, but negative self-judgments about having something so
normal as anxiety are a waste of time. The good news is that everyone can manage anxiety, and, to do so, you are not required to be or act braver than you actually are. (In my
entire career, Ive met only one student who couldnt manage anxiety at some level.
I think she actually had a toxic chemical response to adrenaline. Shes a wonderful
woman who just found excitement to be painful. She still skied, and quite nicely,
but I dont think she ever fully enjoyed it.)
Y Transcendence. The Will to be more than you thought you were is very
strong, but it can be obscured by competitiveness and ego issues in skiing.
Take a moment to appreciate what youre doing: controlling a free-fall while
balancing on a plastic/metal/wood platform down a frozen, tilted surface.
And then you go up and do it again. Even if youre not great at it, youre
awesome for even doing it. Youve become an amazing, magical mountain
dancer. Youve transcended your old self.
Y Integration of mind/body/spirit. Any separation between the mental,
physical, and emotional parts of you is false. All three parts are available to
you all of the time. When they work together, you become a better athlete
and a better learner. The trap is in thinking too much or too little; in being
too emotional or too disconnected; in being too physical or too unfit.
You may initially prefer to work from one or the other of these capacities, and that is fine. However, dont allow yourself to become fixed
on one at the expense of the others. You should be holding polarity between and among the three poles of mind, body, and spirit.
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Y Positive reinforcement. We all need positive reinforcement (which is not the same, by the
way, as lying about how good we are). Think of positive reinforcement as marking and
rewarding the movements that approximate the behavior you desireeven when they
dont fell great, yet. Traditionally, learning to ski or to ski better has been about the sorts
of movements you do wrong. (What would you like to learn in your lesson today? I
just want to find out what Im doing wrong.) Where do people get that stuff?
Imagine what it means. I am presenting myself before an instructor, at enormous
expense, just so that he can list my failings. I already know that I have them; I just
want to be accurate with my list. How ridiculous! Years ago, I used to play this
game in ski lessons: When somebody asked me to tell them what they were
doing wrong, Id say no. What do you mean, no? the student would
respond. Id say, No. Knowing what you do wrong is not going to help.
Knowing it is the same thing as rehearsing it. If you want to ski better, lets
focus on what to do right. Hell, I dont know what you do wrong. I dont
even watch you ski. If I watched, you would just give me bad habits.
Any dog trainer worth her salt knows that positive reinforcement is what
makes behavior both predictable and fun for the dog. Negative, corrective
stuff sometimes works, but too often it takes away from other performance
aspects, instilling such things as fear of failure and rigidity. Negative reinforcement is more about the instructor/trainer and our insatiable appetite
for power and control. Positive reinforcement is more about the student/dog and the utter joy of learning new stuff. Find instructors who
know how to give it. Ignore friends who dont. And, for sure, give it
to yourself!

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COMPETENCIES
Y Balance: the verb. This is the story of anticipation and recovery. It is the sustained initiative to stay upright and at ease through making constant, small and large movements designed to reaffirm our commitment to being a skier instead of a collapsed
heap in the snow. It is the commitment to embrace change and move with it.
Anticipation and adjustments. As I look ahead, I can see how the surface
changes and intuitively plan my own changes to match. If the snow goes
from packed to deep and loose, the skis will slow down. So I shift my weight
slightly to the back in anticipation of the sudden slowing, which will naturally shift my weight forward again. This way, I end up in the balanced middle.
Agility and recovery. I need to move quickly and with courage. I need to
move in odd directions and move often. Balance is often mistaken for holding position. The agile movements of balance are really about rejecting position and staying in motion with the moving environment. Most often, I
require agility to recover when I havent anticipated well, or enough.
When the shift in environment is dramatic, my agile recoveries are the
epic achievements of my Will to balance.

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Y Balance: the place. In spite of balance being primarily about movement, my general
stance and posture go a long way toward determining how agile and adjustable I can be.
I seek effective starting placespositions to move from and throughin order to gain
the best use of my body/mind system within the snow. To achieve this, you should
usually have all the joints slightly flexed, with the torso slightly rounded but mostly
upright. In other words, bend your knees, or get ready.
Y Centering. I view this wonderful practice through the elegant work of Tom
Crum. If you havent attended one of his Magic of Skiing courses in Aspen or
elsewhere, youre really missing out. Consider your wrist to have been
soundly slappeda really uncentered thing to do! Centering is about all of
the above, and more. Its about simultaneously connecting to your physical,
spiritual, and energetic centers. Its about putting you into a relationship
with all thats around you and beyond, as well as being completely and
fully in the present moment. It allows you to really perform at your best and
highest. All the stories that have prevented you from reaching your finest
brilliance evaporate and become irrelevant. I advocate centering before you
start any movement. Then I advocate re-centering at least once after youve
started so that you reconnect with the new dynamic state. This creates an
ongoing balancing that is peaceful, elegant, and joyfulall at once.
Y Commitment. You launch, you hurtle, you careen, and you fly. You
make your move. You dive down the hill, off of the old edges onto the
new ones. You bungee jump. You commit.

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Diamond Story: Rail Riding


In the southern winter of 2004, while skiing in New Zealand, I had had enough of watching all these magic kids in the terrain parks as they hopped onto the metal rails and slid
sideways to the end, then landed in the snow and skied or rode away as if nothing very
weird had just happened. It was clear that I had to try it myself.
It didnt really look that hard, so I skied up to a very small rail on a gentle slope
and hopped on. For some reason I hadnt even imagined that this surface
would be, like, about a hundred times as slick as snow. My skis accelerated
sideways so fast that in an instant my feet were above my head and my body
slammed ignominiously across the metal rail. I felt the pain in the way that
only a 60-year-old can!
A new approach was in order. The Will to ride was not enough. The Will to
learn, maybe, was a better idea. After a few technical pointers from one of
my sons about staying low and forward, with a wide stance, I began my
practice.
First I stood on the rail sideways in the stance he advised, and then I
released myself to slide to the end. Once off the end, I walked up again
and repeated thisat least twenty-five times. The Purpose was to get
adjusted to the sliding before I tried to leap onto the rail.
Next I stepped from the snow to the rail with one foot and slid. This
was followed by a quicker, more aggressive hopping step that
ensured the ski was in motion as it contacted the rail.
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The second ski hopped up behind. I did this another twenty-five or so times. Each time I
tried to access my sense of Touch, feeling what the rails were telling my skis about how
to move on them. Each time I became more sure of myself and available to use the Power
pointers I had been given by my son.
Next I approached the rail in a slow wedge and smoothly (well, sort of smoothly)
stepped up and slid. Another mass of repetition followed.
Each time in this progression I ended up having a different experiencesometimes balanced, sometimes not, but always comfortable and secure in the fact
that I was making progress. The mistakes were goodinteresting and useful.
And as long as I kept to my Purposeto slide, to grow slowly, to not fall
everything moved along fine. My sense for the rail increased, I figured out
new techniques, and , of course, I destroyed the edges of the skis. (Rail riding is not about edge change; its about edge obliteration. No matter. I had
already decided to sacrifice this old pair to the ravages of the rails.)
With the help of the Sports Diamond I was able to coach myself to a reasonable level without injury in a short amount of time. With the help of a
wizard coach using the Sports Diamond, I could have made three times
the progress in the same time. Either way, it was a brilliant day. And the
weather really sucked.
There were some very weird side effects. I noticed that the crotch on my
pants lowered considerably, and they became baggier as I progressed.
Girls with jewelry in their tongues started speaking to me. And now
I wear goggles and a crocheted hat even while driving my car.
Brilliant!

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CHAPTER TEN

Advanced Brilliance

(sort of )

After reigniting my ski teaching career in AspenSnowmass in the winter of 2005,


I have made a few discoveries that I keep returning to in all of my lessons, and in my
own skiing.
In sum, these are my new, but perhaps older (in other forms), beliefs:
Y The most essential principle of Touch is flow.
Y The most essential principle of Will is attack.
Y The most essential principle of Power is alignment.
Y The most essential principle of Purpose is interface.
Lets examine each statement more thoroughly.
Flow, as a function of Touch, is that part of you that stays aware as the present unfolds and moves constantly and consistently within those moments.
Y It is normal for most athletes to hold position, or create a stance that
seems safe and technically proper. In skiing, we talk about bending the
knees. However, its not just that the knees are bent. Rather they are
bending and unbending with the ankles. Its not that you are in balance, but that you are balancing. Balance implies action.

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Y It is an interesting paradox that great skiers appear to be so quiet. If you look at them
carefully, however, they are anything but quiet. They are in constant motion, but the movement is hidden because it is in harmony with the movement of the skis across the snow
and down the hill. While the skis dont stop moving, if the skier does, rigidity will set in
instantly. Furthermore, if the skier stops the body, even for an instant, the inch more
that the skis travel will leave the entire skier system behind.
Attack results from Will supporting movement and, therefore, energy in a very
specific, narrow direction. In physics, we speak of a vector, or a force in a particular direction. Therefore, attack seems to drive the vector.
Y The flow described earlier is not random, and there is not much room for
error within it, especially at the magic moment of the edge change. The skier
has to be entirely committed to channeling a precise, determined, and artful flow of energy through the turn.
Y The flow of energy (Power) toward Purpose is absolutely directed by Will.
It is all right (and normal) to make small errors in the exact vector, but it is
not all right to decide not to attack. The ski racer who wont take it down
the hill, the tennis player who wont swing through the ball, the windsurfer
who wont drive forward into the jibe, and the mountain biker who keeps
the brakes on through the corner these athletes must ultimately summon the Will to attack.

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Alignment is critical to Power. When the parts of the body move to maintain skeletal alignment when challenged by the angles of turning, the energy to the skis is greater, and skiing
becomes effortless.
Y In order to effortlessly manage and benefit from a skis designits edges, side geometry, flex pattern, and torsional strengththe body needs to behave like the intelligent suspension system it is. Imagine the body as a spring, able to build and
release pressure while its coils compress and expand. If one part is bent out of
alignment, the spring wont operate smoothly. Similarly, if the major joints of
the body, from the ankles through the neck, dont flex and unflex in harmony,
the bodys suspension system will get kinked, unable to move smoothly and
effectively. For example, if the knees bend but the ankles dont, then the hips
will move behind the feet and the spring is useless. Add the variables of
forward speed, sideways speed, and edge angle, and alignment and the
flexion/extension (spring) capacity of the body becomes even more critical.
Y Many classic ski pointers are designed to align the body, through an efficient, coordinated functioning of the joints, to effectively apply energy from
momentum and centrifugal force to the ski while minimizing muscular
effort. This is why (in addition to balancing) we flex and unflex at our
ankles, knees, hips, waist (lower spine), and neck (upper spine). It is why
an instructor may ask you to adjust your inside ski position, ski with the
legs bending differently from each other, or move your arms one way or
another. All of these movements are meant to get your body to align
over the skis.

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Y The most critical alignment takes place at foot level, within the boots. Boots are generic,
and feet arent. Youve got to get your wheels balanced and aligned in order to perform.
Many of the best intentions to create alignment are foiled by boots that have not been
adjusted to the body that wears them.
Managing the interface, as a principle of Purpose, means to discover and use the
skis ability to create a running surface in the snow.
Y At some point every platform or tool in sports connects with and alters the
medium of the playing field, whether its a fluid, a ball, or a surface. For
example, how the ski moves in the snow, what kind of surface it creates, and
how it nurtures that surface underlie the ultimate purpose of all movement
patterns.
Y Normally the ski moves forward through the arc of the turn, riding on a
surface that the ski cuts out of the slope. This surface can be quite thin (one
edge width or less), quite deep (in soft snow), steeply angled to the slope,
or so shallowly angled that the skis drift away from the point where the
edges bit into the snow and skid through the arc.
Y Most technique results in some sort of behavior of the ski and the snow.
My Purpose is to know what I want the ski to do and to cut an appropriate running surface to allow that.

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Diamond Story: Skiing with Harold


One of my favorite people and students is a gentleman named Harold Grinspoon.
Harold is the diamond. He really works on his technique (Power), and always asks
for the next piece of the puzzle, while developing a keen sense of what he needs
to change or tweak as the day develops. He essentially coaches me, the instructor, about what he needs.
The beauty of Harolds approach is that now he naturally shifts to the different resources. He engages the Will to go out and ski in both blizzards and
sunshine, flat light and bright light. And he uses his Will to step it upoften
risking a touch more speed, a deeper dive into the fall line, or a slight
increase in terrain difficulty.
After awhile, he will stop and say, Im done with these dumb ski instructor turns. I want to do short turns (Purpose) because I like the sense of
rhythm (Touch).

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One day he pulled the ultimate Touch move on me. He said that, having watched the childrens theater productions of Aspens Kathy Crum, he wanted to bring a sense of playful innocence to the skiinglike that of a child. So we started to play on the hilla
journey back through time to the moments of wide-eyed discovery where everything was new and fascinating and fun. Well, we didnt actually make it back that
far. In fact, we only got to college, because right away we started talking about
women and telling jokes.
These days, he carves his turns with rhythm and grace, laughs when he falls,
is thrilled to just be out in the snow among friends, and skis whenever he
can. He knows that some days it works great, and some days its more difficult. And none of that bothers him, because he knows, as Klaus
Obermayer of Aspen is fond of saying, the great question of each day is
whether the skiing will be fantasticor just terrific. This is brilliant skiing,
every day."
And Harold is only 75. Just think how much fun hes gonna have when he
grows up.

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So thats my story
and Im stickin to it!
I hope you enjoy the possibilities that open when you approach sports with the
Sports Diamond . It has the capacity to help you lift you to new levels of joy
in any sport that you do, and to create a brilliant day for yourselfevery
single day.
Please stay in touch with us through the website, www.edgechange.com
From time to time, well be offering new products and opportunities for
sports and leadership and we hope to keep you on our list of friends.
In the meantime, come on out and take a Diamond Session on the dry,
beautiful snow of AspenSnowmass.

Weems Westfeldt
weems@edgechange.com

w w w.edgechange.com

B r i l l i a n t S k i i n g , E v e r y D a y 141