Monday, January 27, 2014

3 Favorite Winter Olympic Moments Contest

# 1. Improbably after stumbling in two previous Olympiads and touching his hand to the ice in the 500m in the 1994 Lillehammer Games Dan Jensen came up with Gold in his non-signature event the 1000 meters. I like this as my number one moment because he found a way to win when he was on the verge of going down as one of the all time choke performances in the Olympic games-this despite being understanably shaken in his first Olympiad shadowed by his sister's death. Instead he came up with one of the all time clutch performances on his last skate. # 2. still get goosebumps... #3. After over a decade drought for the US in the Men's Alpine Ski Team Champion on the Podium Ted Ligety took Gold in the combined at Lillehammer at 21 in what was supposed to be Bode's Games.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What Makes an Epic Ski Lesson Part ll

I had a chance to ski with Damien Oliphant yesterday and continue our conversation on what he does to facilitate his student's development and make his lessons special. One thing we discussed was his take on what a skier needs to be successful. "You have to have two basic big box items. I call them your 'Skier Toolbox', all the things you know how to do on and with your skis, and your 'Skier's Sense', knowing the places and situations to use the different things in your toolbox. Together those things things keep you safe, help you be as efficient as possible and have the most fun. My goal as an instructor is to help you hone your skills with the tools you already have, add the tools I see you are lacking and train you to recognize which of your tools are best suited for different situations you may face." Doc for Jocks: Do you use the thousand steps drill in your lessons? I've been a big fan of it and I know it is one of Bill Deitrich's (Adaptive Ski School Director at Whitetail) go to drills. Damien: I have used Thousand Steps. My focus though is always on skill development vs drill execution. Most important for me are the specific movements or actions I'm trying to foster with any given drill. If I don't see movements I'm looking for, how can I help the student take small steps, toward proficiency? With that discussion on the lift, we took it to the snow. During our run, Damien noticed I was rushing through my leg steering. I was using up all my available movement at once at the top of each turn which caused skidding through the bottom half. Damien: Ben, when you're skiing the tree line, hunting the best kept snow, you have to trust that moving with your very well designed skis. Progressively steering your legs through a smooth arc will keep you in the zone and is the most efficient way to go. Let the skis do what they are designed to do . If you rush through the movements, you end up doing a LOT more work, talking a much more bumpy, skiddy ride AND missing out on the most fun part of each turn. Some situations require you be more tactical. In some of those cases, throwing your boards sideways to get out of trouble is totally acceptable. I just want my default to be moving as silky smoothly as possible. I want to be skiing when I'm 90. My legs and joints probably won't make it that long if i'm throwing them sideways and jamming the brakes in every turn for the next 50 years. With that I took a shadow run with Damien so I could follow his tracks. He cued me by telling me to enjoy the falling sensation in the fall line that makes skiing fun. He also had me focus on more progressive, continuous motion. Damien: Think about when you take a clover leaf to exit a highway. If you spun your steering wheel to the side all at once, you would roll your car. Instead you steer the wheel a little at a time progressively around the turn. Use the same thinking when steering your legs though each turn. Within the run on Limelight I actually had a couple of turns that felt just right and I thought in that moment "So this is what it must be like to be Damien" -if only for a couple of turns! In between turns Damien shared with me his thoughts on lesson groups and clinics. Damien: I like to deliver the highest quality learning and recreation experience I can for my guests. For me that is most successfully achieved in private lessons, 1 on 1 and small group settings(3-5 students max). I feel much the same about my own skiing and teaching development. I learn best in 1 on 1 or small group settings. I seek out learning environments that best suit my needs and make the most of my invested time. When I need information, I reach out to a small circle of people I trust for input and feedback. I take every opportunity to ski and spend time with PSIA National Team members. Small things I have picked up from Eric Lipton, Matt and Jeb Boyd have been great for me as a skier and teacher. My friend, Stan Wilkes (PSIA Eastern Dev. Team) has always offered good insights . My first ski teaching mentor, Tom Riford (PSIA Eastern Examiner), who took a chance and hired me at Whitetail 19 seasons ago, has been very gracious to allow me to shadow some of his PSIA event and ITC groups. His mentorship, encouragement and willingness to share his vast knowledge base have been invaluable to me throughout my time as a ski pro . The road from 18 year old fresh faced hack to seasoned professional skier has been long. The spirit, passion and hard work that started in 1994, shadowing my mentors , watching video, absorbing technical information, training all night after teaching 4 and 5 year olds in SkiWee all day, inline skating to cross train in the summer, is still a big part of what drives me today. I think sharing that with my students is what has made the Ski with D experience success

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What Makes an Epic Ski Lesson

So what makes an epic ski lesson? After an great evening of twilight skiing I sat down with Damien Oliphant, The "D" of Ski with D, and talked about what he does to make his ski lessons special. Dock for Jocks (DFJ): What features do you think think make your lessons unique? Damien: I first try to establish a comfort zone for my students. I have to understand their concerns, fears, physical strengths and limitations. likes/dislikes, etc. People have to feel good about your interaction and trust you to take good care of them before they will really follow you. If a student trusts you, they invest in your opinion and value your confidence in them. A trusted expert's confidence in their capacity and ability is often the first step to greater personal trust and self confidence. The confidence to experiment and take small risks that push the edge of our comfort zone is a big difference between a skier who makes progress and one who doesn't. Most decent ski teachers understand the mechanics of teaching feet to turn left and right. The great instructors understand how to mitigate the situational and mental speed bumps or road blocks that keep a skier from performing and mastering those mechanics. Beyond that I fully believe in providing the highest level of service and attention to my guests needs possible. I anticipate my guest's needs and do all I can to fill any void before they are aware it exists. Skiing at it's best is a luxurious experience. People come to us to escape the the detail management that fills their regular days. I take on all those things so they can focus on enjoying their experience and making the most of a fantastic day on the mountain. DFJ: What is your favorite breakthrough moment with a student? Damien: I skied with a lovely woman one day a couple seasons ago. Before we headed out she described herself as a 'VERY nervous skier" making wedge turns on easy green terrain. On our first chair ride. She explained she skied to pass the time while her son skied in his classes every week. I asked about what made her nervous. She mentioned injury to herself and others, etc. I reassured her all that was natural and not to beat herself up for the good instincts that were working hard to keep her safe. I explained my job was to give her tools to ski in control so she could minimize her fears. We skied one assessment run on a short green trail. She was in pretty good balance and her steering was good but the fear and tension was all over her body. The muscle tension was impeding her ability to move the ways she needed to. Classic case of fearful brain getting in the way of a capable body. We took another chair ride and talked about anything other than skiing. At the top of the run I asked her to take her skis off. "Just take it all in and enjoy the view." Right away a smile washed over her face and I watched her tense body begin to relax. She said "I've never seen this before." I told her I knew she hadn't because she had only been looking at her feet. I told her views like this are a huge part of why I love to ski so much and to take a moment before each run to take it in. We stood for a minute or two in silence appreciating the freshly fallen snow covering the valley. Then it was time to make some turns. We clicked back in to our skis and were off. Right away she was a completely different skier. Renewed energy and relaxed fluid movements made for some really beautiful turns. She was skiing well and really enjoying herself. We took a few more runs over the course of our hour together and tweaked a few things but our greatest break through came about 15 minutes into the lesson when we stood to enjoy the view and found her enough joy to offset her fears. At the end of the lesson she gave me a big hug and thanked me. She told me before coming to ski that day she had decided it would be her last day on skis. She just wasn't enjoying it. She was going to continue to bring her son for his classes but would just bring her laptop and work while he skied. By the end of our time together she'd not only changed her mind but was so excited she wanted to go buy her own equipment! I have a lotta great success stories but this one is my favorite. I always smile when I think of her. DFJ: What is your favorite go to drill for your students? Damien: I really like combining two drills (patience turns and J turns) to make one that's been really successful for me. I call them Patience Js. When I choose an exercise I make sure it has a direct connection to skill development. I've found one big obstacle to effective skill development is skier's not understanding the relationship between turn shape and speed control. If we can't manage speed consistently we are always on the edge of control. That's not a good place to be if you want to learn anything new. Students on the edge of their control envelope spend they're time on skis hanging on for life. You can't learn new skills when all you're energy is focused on survival. I have had great success with the Patience J. It really gets students in tune with what good turn shape feels like and how it allows them to control speed. Once we build that platform the sky is the limit. DFJ: Do you practice yoga and meditation? Damien: Yes I do both from time to time. Not enough of either. I'm also experimenting with movements from ballet. The flexibility and leg rotation in the basic ballet positions are great for skiing.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cueing it up for 2014

Cueing can take the form of coaching or instruction and professional advice. It can make all the difference. The reason people don't learn a movement pattern like skiing ,golf or even a yoga pose as well from a video is that you don't have the feedback from a professional instructor. The same holds true when you are recover from a complicated injury. The level of injury needs to be assessed whether it be with an X-ray, an ultrasound or an MRI so that you have a reference point of where you are and where you are going. The successful outcomes are attained by those that stick to the protocols and safe training methods. This coupled with tenacity to stick to a training schedule that builds in progressive movement patterns will develop your goals into reality for 2014!