Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Preview of the New Book

To those of you who've expressed interest in my new mogul-skiing book: thank you! The following blog post is the introduction to Everything the Instructors Never Told You About Mogul Skiing. As always, I welcome your comments.

Why are so many fit, expert skiers baffled by the moguls? And why is useful mogul-skiing advice so hard to find?

Most skiers don’t realize that mogul skiing requires a special set of techniques that have nothing to do with groomed-trail skiing. Most skiers try to simply carry their groomed-trail techniques into the moguls. With no knowledge of mogul techniques, these skiers are bound to struggle in the bumps.

Outside of competitive mogul-skiing circles (competitors, former competitors, coaches, judges, devotees, etc.) mogul techniques remain largely unknown and unaddressed. Most ski instructors teach only groomed-trail techniques (techniques derived from alpine racing) and aren’t even familiar with the special techniques used by mogul skiers. Yes, most ski schools do offer mogul-skiing lessons, but many of these lessons are ineffective, because they encourage students to use only groomed-trail techniques in the bumps. From such a lesson, a student can hope to learn no more than a meandering, wide-stance style of skiing that will vastly limit her mogul-skiing potential. Such lessons are more about mogul survival than mogul skiing.

Most of the written mogul-skiing advice one finds in magazines and books, and on Web pages, is just as inadequate as the average on-snow mogul lesson. Most of this advice is produced by ski-instruction writers who, like their on-snow counterparts, don’t know mogul technique. And in the rare instances where good mogul skiers have authored a bit of authentic advice, that advice has been so small a snippet of the whole picture that it has left its readers with only more questions.

With little to no knowledge of mogul technique, many would-be bump enthusiasts have simply thrown up their hands and surrendered. After repeated failures in the bumps, these otherwise capable skiers have told themselves that mogul skiing must lie beyond the reach of the average expert skier, that it must be for daredevils only. And this daredevil myth has grown and pushed the downhill skiing masses even further from the pleasures and thrills of mogul skiing.

Skiing moguls is not about daredevilry. It’s not about taking unreasonable chances. It’s not about closing your eyes, hoping for the best, and just going for it. Skiing moguls well is about physical fitness, practice and proper technique. With the right technique, most fit, expert skiers can become good mogul skiers. And some can become great mogul skiers, and even great competitors.

Under the guidance of freestyle coaches, children on freestyle teams all over the world are learning mogul techniques and skiing moguls well. I’ve successfully taught mogul techniques to skiers as young as 11 and as old as 60. I know, from my own teaching experiences, that most fit, expert skiers who want to ski bumps can learn to ski bumps.

Whether you want to ski gentle moguls with comfort and confidence, turn heads on your local mogul run, or compete in mogul contests, this book will give you the specialized knowledge you need to reach your goal. If you practice the techniques I describe in this book, you’ll gradually gain more and more comfort, confidence and ability in the bumps. You won’t need to take any huge, dangerous leaps. You won’t need to take big chances with your physical safety. You’ll just steadily get better, as you would were you practicing tennis or golf or any other sport. With practice, you’ll be doing things in the moguls that you once thought you could never do.

Some of the techniques I describe in this book are similar to well-known groomed-trail techniques. In some cases, the difference between the mogul technique and the corresponding groomed-trail technique is subtle. But these subtle differences are crucial. All of the techniques I describe in this book are vital to good mogul skiing. They are techniques that have proven their worth in the demanding, put-up-or-shut-up realm
of competitive bump skiing. They are techniques that work well in the bumps, whether you ski bumps at five miles-per-hour or 30 miles-per-hour. They are the techniques you must add to your groomed-trail skills, if you’re going to become a mogul skier or a true all-mountain expert. They are techniques that produce a style of downhill skiing that is appreciably different from the skiing styles of most instructors and racers. And they are techniques of which a surprisingly large number of instructors, ski-instruction writers and racers are remarkably unaware.

-Dan DiPiro
Easton, New Hampshire
Spring, 2005

© 2005 Dan DiPiro. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Something Strange Going On

I have ski instructor friends who rib me about my technique. Yes, rib me, ridicule me. They do it in a good-natured, joking way, but they tell me that I stand too tall, that my feet are too close together, that I slide my tails, that wedeling went out of fashion in the early seventies. And, while these chiding instructors acknowledge that they can’t keep up with me in the bumps, they seem to respect me only as a sort of risk-taking freak who somehow skis moguls well despite a lack of technique.

Of course, the truth is that I don’t lack technique. I just use technique that’s different from the technique of most instructors. I use mogul-skiing technique. And I’ve used that mogul technique, now and again, to do fairly well in mogul competition. Isn’t it strange that instructors don’t recognize mogul technique that’s been proven in competitive bump skiing? And isn’t it strange that instructors see mogul technique as either improper technique or a lack of technique, even while their own mogul skiing lacks efficiency, smoothness and speed?

This strangeness is due, at least in part, to the instructing establishment’s infatuation with racing-derived technique (carving, arcing). There are a few instructors out there who understand that the bumps (and powder, and trees, and steeps, etc.) require special techniques that have nothing to do with alpine racing. But even these instructors don’t seem to agree upon just what those special, non-racing techniques are. And the average instructor talks about carving and all of the techniques that surround carving as if they’re the only legitimate skiing techniques in existence. But let me dramatize all of this for you.

Let’s say that, while skiing, I come upon a group of instructors on a mogul field, instructors in the midst of a high-level certification exam. And let’s say that I stand and watch the examiner and a few examinees ski the moguls in that meandering, wide-stance style of mogul skiing that is not really mogul skiing at all, but just a form of mogul survival. And let’s say that I then hop into a nearby zipper line and fly by this group of certified professional skiers. Let’s say that I ramp it up to 25 or so miles per hour, hit a big air right next to the group, and then rip the rest of my line, making clean, fast turns all the way down the trail. What do you suppose that examiner would say about my skiing?

Well, knowing what I know about instructors, I can tell you. It’s likely that the examiner would tell his examinees that, despite my athleticism, I don’t exhibit the techniques the examiner hopes to see from his examinees, the techniques that will allow those examinees to pass the mogul-skiing section of their exam. And isn’t this, too, a little strange?

The reality, of course, is that I’ve just out-skied these instructors and their examiner. The reality is that I use techniques of which many mogul competition judges have approved, techniques that allow me to ski even hard and icy bumps with smoothness, efficiency and control. According to the ski instructor, however, I don’t exhibit the correct techniques. Like I said, strange. But let me shift gears here.

The season before last, an instructor association magazine ran a mogul instruction article in which the author claimed that female World Cup bump skiers pivot and slide their skis all the way down the course, while male World Cup bump skiers set their edges firmly at each bump. This just isn’t true. All bump skiers, men and women, make a firm edge set at the bump. Any skier capable of steering his or her skis will make a firm edge set at the bump when those turned skis meet the uphill face of the bump. The firm edge set happens automatically, naturally. You can hardly avoid it. And the women on the World Cup bump tour have been doing it since they were small children. But this instructor-author says that female World Cuppers pivot and slide all the way down the hill. And the magazine editors printed this and distributed it to instructors all across the country.

The main point of the article was that the author had had an epiphany when he realized that racer-like carving is inappropriate in bumps. It’s true: mogul skiers don’t carve like alpine racers. But why is this a huge revelation for instructors? Among mogul skiers, it's fundamental knowledge. Why, for the instructor, is it cutting-edge news to be published in a professional association magazine? Why hasn’t the instructing establishment simply asked us mogul skiers about our technique? We could’ve told them, years ago, that we don’t carve like racers!

Unfortunately, that whole magazine article dwelt on turns, which is typical of the mogul instruction you get from groomed-trail devotees. The average instructor doesn’t understand that, when it comes to bump skiing, the key answers are not to be found in the turn. Yes, to the alpine racer and other groomed-trail devotees, the turn means almost everything. To the mogul skier, however, the turn is only about half of the picture. The other half is the absorption and extension that help the skier to maintain balance and control speed. But let’s move on.

At times, I’ve offered to teach my instructor friends a bit of authentic mogul technique. And how have they responded? A couple of them have been eager to learn. They now ski with me often, and they’ve developed their bump skiing skills. The rest of them have acted as if I were trying to push heroin on them. We’ll be standing on the side of the trail and I’ll ask them to try something and they’ll first look around to make sure none of the ski school’s clinic leaders are nearby. Or one will warn the other, “this might be fun to try, but it’ll hurt your chances of passing your level-two exam.”

Let me get this straight: learning to ski moguls with control, smoothness, efficiency, comfort, confidence and speed will hurt an instructor’s chances of passing an instructor exam? Is it me, or is there something strange going on here?

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Birth of a Bump Skier's Blog

Mogul skiers and the downhill skiing masses don't really speak the same ski language. While bump skiers are all talking about absorbing and extending, hitting airs and skiing straight lines, the expert skiing masses are all talking about carving and arcing. Bump skiers and mainstreamers will sometimes even use the same word to mean two different things. Among bump skiers, the word "separation" means you maintain a quiet upper body while your legs pump up and down, absorbing and extending. Among the skiing masses, however, "separation"relates to counter / twisting movements, not absorption movements.

All of which leaves the bump skier, no matter how skilled a skier she or he may be, outside the mainstream discussion of downhill skiing. That's the reason I've started this mogul skiing blog: to give myself and other bump skiers, as well as aspiring bump skiers, a place to talk our talk and read about our sport.

I'll also use this blog to let you know where and when you can get ahold of my other mogul-skiing writing. For example, this summer, my new how-to mogul-skiing book will be released (NOW AVAILABLE AT / 1-888-280-7715 / AND AT BOOK STORES EVERYWHERE). And I'll let you know when and where to find my published mogul tips and articles, too.