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Is There a Right Way to Ski?

In answer to the question posed on the cover and addressed in contributing editor Michel Beaudry’s story that begins on page 36: No, there isn’t a right way to ski. Having spent three days putting some of the world’s best through their paces at Blackcomb last spring, Michel has found that there are many right ways to ski. While it was once generally accepted that race technique was the best technique, now anything goes, and the best skier on the hill might be a bumper, a mountaineer, or—imagine—just a free skier.

Frankly, I’m relieved. It’s enough worrying about getting a pass yanked for skiing too fast without having always to be looking over your shoulder for the style police.

“Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?”

“Uh, ’cause I was speeding?”

“No, I pulled you over because you dropped your left hand after each pole plant. That violates Statute 37-8934 of the PSIA Centerline Code. I’m afraid I’m gonna have to write you up. But you do have the option of attending ski school with a certified instructor, and no points will appear on your record.”

Although I like order, I tend to be a libertarian (or maybe it’s anarchist) when it comes to issues of style and technique, and I bristle at the notion of someone dictating the “proper” way to ski. I’m not knocking professional ski instructors—you have to create standards in developing a national teaching system—but the very idea of establishing a “perfect” technique to strive for seems…I don’t know…silly, I guess. (The phrase “get a life” comes to mind.)

I was pretty jazzed seeing Beaudry’s story come together. We don’t cover technique very often, and it was fun doing something different. There were some selfish reasons, too: I thought I might pick up a few tips to make my own seriously deficient skiing stronger. I’m a spaz in the bumps, I’m not much better in the air, and I really do have a tendency to drop the left hand. Maybe, I figured, I’ll learn something.

Although the seven great skiers offered tips I’m eager to apply, what I learned most is what I already knew: Miles, miles, and more miles are what make you a great skier. (That, some natural ability, and a passion for the sport.) Every time I talked to Michel as we edited the piece, he’d say, “It’s miles, man.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m always critical of my skiing. Despite my belief that there’s no right way to ski, I do believe there are generally accepted principles of strong, dynamic skiing. And, style, of course, is always an issue. So I’m always working to correct what I’m doing wrong, to get better, ski stronger, and to try to keep up with all those bastards who’ve been skiing since they could walk. This winter, though, I’m taking it a little easier on myself. This winter, I just keep repeating: “Miles, man.”

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 23.6, February 1995. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

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