By The Jaded Local1
You’ve got the biggest, most rockered skis. You’ve got the bling-ass boots, the high-DIN binders, the Avalung, the GoPro, the sick outerwear. You read the gear reviews, go on the forums and find out from the experts on the Internet that you need to remount your bindings, or change your bevels, or detune your tips back two feet.
High-flouro wax, razor-sharp edges polished to a mirror-like sheen… but you’re still flailing, beating it into the ground on every run. Waving your arms around like a drowning victim, hacking big chunks out of your topsheets, bloodying your toes when you slam bumps in the backseat.
Getting your gear dialed, especially boots that fit, does matter—and modern skis allow expert skiers to do things in soft snow that were impossible 10 or 15 years ago. But at the same time they allow beaters to pizza/french-fry their way just about anywhere on the mountain, no matter how deep the snow—traversing through the runouts, leaving grotesque sitzmarks3 in the landings, and generally stinking up the joint.
You could consult my revolutionary new learn-to-ski manual, Stop Sucking Now, but maybe what you really need is something from Skiing’s ancient past: a lesson. From, like, a ski instructor.4
There, I said it. I feel better already. I know we’re not supposed to talk about it, but take a lesson. Please. You’re willing to drop how much on gear, a pass, gas to the mountain… but a lesson? Some kind of attempt at technique? Heaven’s no, I can ski fine.
I have a circa-1968 copy of Ski Magazine’s Encyclopedia of Skiing, my go-to reference for ski-related questions.5 It covers the Canadian, American, Austrian, and French systems, with no less than nine types of turns listed as basic techniques of advanced skiing. The idea was that you mastered those, and then moved on to powder, moguls, cornices, and what the editors of Ski Magazine called “Acrobatic Skiing,” which includes everything from ballet moves to backflips.6
I guess we’ve progressed the sport so much that we can all just skip right to the backflips now, and then figure out the on-snow bit on the way to the next hit. Sweet.
Yes, I know there’s no steez in a lesson, and that you can’t call working on your stance on the groom a “ski descent,” or drop an edit about learning how to turn left properly. And there’s nothing wrong with beating it or being a beater—even the best skiers in the world flail from time to time. But still, I promise, if you learn how to make a turn, it’s going to be a lot more fun for you in the long run… or at least a lot more fun in the runout for me.
1 Hans Ludwig is The Jaded Local.
2 Take A Lesson. If you see “T.A.L.” written on your paperwork in the ski shop, it means an employee is warning other employees who may deal with you that equipment is not your issue, that you don’t need sharper edges or a new footbed. It also means you should take a lesson.
3 Sitzmark (noun): A depression made in the snow by a fallen skier. Filling in your sitzmark used to be a crucial part of Ski Etiquette; before grooming caught on it was actually part of the Skier’s Code, like yielding to the downhill skier or skiing in control. I think we should bring it back. In fact, people who ruin the sweet pow with hackery should be forced to fill in every unsightly rut they leave behind.
4 This is a person from Australia or New Zealand who has been trained to observe your “technique” and then offer valuable pointers in a silly accent.
5 Pretty much the best thing that Ski Magazine ever produced. Includes everything from how to build your own skis to winter driving and backies. The extensive glossary notes that only two words in the Ski Lexicon that are exactly the same in English, French, German, and Italian: après-ski and schuss. Apparently drinking after skiing and hauling ass transcend language, culture, and hundreds of years of bloody warfare.
6 And the tip roll, which is all you really need in the end (see pg. 164, below).