January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard month, but rather than detailing a specific how-to do a specific skill, I wanted to try something different. I crowdsourced a simple one-question, one-answer on social media about how people learned the one skill or overcame that one fear that was holding them back from progressing faster on the slopes. Specifically:
What was the one skill or fear that took you the longest to learn? How did you overcome or finally conquer it?
I asked everyday skiers and riders and one pro skier.
Most people concentrated on the fear aspect, but I think the advice can also be related to learning a skill too. Anyways, let’s get to it!
Everyday skier, Shay Skinner, responded:
“When I attempted to not hit any trees during my era of learning tree runs and keeping up with the dudes I rode with, I learned to jump my back foot in and out of the curves around the trees rather than trying to continually edge my board.”
New skier & my friend, Tamer said:
“I grew up snowboarding, but I learned to ski last year. My “ah ha” moment was when someone told me to shift my weight back and forth between each foot to turn, like ice skating. Having a hockey background, that was all I needed to get really comfortable on skis.”
Jordan Katter has some advice on self-talk and inspiration:
“I struggled with the kickers when I was younger. I would either get all tensed up in the air or flail like a duck. The height would scare me at times, and it made it difficult to clear gaps and such. I wouldn’t allow myself to keep a consistent flow because I would anticipate my fall 9 times out of 10. I trained myself to ‘let go’. My way of overcoming this fear in flying off tabletops (kickers) I would tell myself, ‘Just kick off that damn thing as if the clouds were going to catch you! Figure the rest out during ‘air’ time!’” Then, repeat.”
Rob Aseltine, pro skier for Zeal Optics, had a slightly different take on the Q&A:
“The skill that took me the longest to learn would be a skill I am still learning and that is backcountry safety. Fully assessing terrain, snowpack, and my own conscious decision-making in the present. You can always learn more by signing up with your local avalanche center for email updates and attending clinics. It’s a daily routine for me, and I’ve been backcountry skiing for 8 years now.”
Casey Jillson, Jackson, WY native and Freeride World Qualifer Tour (FWQ) athlete is still learning about anticipation.
“The one skill that took me the longest to learn is paying attention to and anticipating what’s next. I can’t believe I went so long without looking ahead for my turns. I am still conquering that challenge almost everyday. I couldn’t give any advice to achieve it except, just do it. Force yourself to look at least 2-3 turns ahead of where you currently stand. Be prepared!”
Rachel Reich from SheJumps.org says it’s all about patience:
“I guess skill that took me the longest to learn still is patience. Patience with myself when I’m having a down day, patience with conditions when they aren’t cooperating, patience with conquering the line I want and being able to wait for the right conditions and the right day. I learned to have more patience after getting shut down, frustrated, or ending up in a treed ravine that I would then have to skin out of. Essentially, from making mistakes and seeing the ease of each journey when I was patient versus when I was not.”
And for me?
Well, I briefly hinted at my original breakthrough in one of my first posts, and that was simply linking my S-turns. Because if you can’t do that, how can you progress to hopping around in the trees or hucking cliffs in the backcountry?
I took a page from Jordan Katter (mentioned above), and it was a lot of self-speak and visualization. I’d watch other riders and see how effortlessly they’d carve turns. And as I’d start to initiate my turns, I’d say out loud, “left toes, right toes; left toes, right toes.” Of course, pressing down on my toes first if I was turning to the right, and then lifting them to link the turn back left.
And if none of these tips seem to help you, there was one other suggestion that was mentioned more than a couple of times:
“A shot of Fireball or your favorite beer.”
But only if you’re over 21, and just enough to take the edge off, of course. Stay safe out there!