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Essential reading for skiers

LeMaster's tips aimed at making skiing more enjoyable

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By G.D. Maxwell

Book Review: The Essential Guide to Skiing: 201 Things Every Skier Must Know by Ron LeMaster, Peak Sports press.

Fact: Moguls are caused by skiers. First Derivative: The best skiers make the best moguls. Corollary: The worst skiers make the worst – irregular, deeply chopped – moguls. Conclusion: The best moguls are where the best skiers make them.

And where’s that?

Gem of Wisdom #131: The best moguls tend to be on any mogul run with a chairlift running directly overhead. Bad skiers hate to have people watching them ski moguls badly. Good skiers are, well, show-offs and love an audience. If you want to ski the best moguls try the ones under the chair. As an alternative – and this gem of wisdom also holds true for the best snow on a groomed run – try the extreme sides of the run. Bad skiers want as much wiggle room as possible when they start to lose control; good skiers are in control and can ski a tight, fluid line at the edges of runs.

Fact: Everyone on skis falls eventually. First Derivative: You’ve got to get up before you can fall again. Corollary: If you don’t know how to get up you’re going to look pretty silly when Patrol comes along at the end of the day on their sweep.

Gem of Wisdom #160: The best way to get up from a fall is…. Hey, I’m not going to explain everything to you. If you want to know the best, sure-fire way to get up from a fall, a way you probably never learned in ski school, check out pages 191-193 of Ron LeMaster’s new book, The Essential Guide to Skiing: 201 Things Every Skier Must Know.

Ron’s tackled the absurdly sublime pastime of skiing from a practical, almost by-the-numbers approach and distilled a lifetime of ski bummery wisdom down to 201 must-know tips spread across 260 easily read pages.

The Essential Guide to Skiing is a compendium of things I wish I’d have known when I was still a weekends and two vacations a year skier. If I’d have had the benefit of even half the 201 tips, I’d have made far fewer gear-buying, trip-planning, run-selection, post-trauma medical care type of mistakes I now sagely chalk up to trial-and-terror learning.

Ron’s not trying to teach anyone how to ski. Not exactly, anyway. Oh, he passes along some tips that may well improve your skiing. For example, GoW#168: "A lot of people will tell you to sit back (skiing powder). This is probably the most common piece of misinformation in ski technique, and it’s spouted mostly by people who don’t really now how to ski powder." Truer words were never spoken. Ron’s kind enough to spend another four short paragraphs giving you some tips that might speed along to your own ‘Aha’ powder breakthrough moment, but most of the book is nuts and bolts practical advice to make the whole ski experience more satisfying, not a how to ski book.

The section that immediately follows GoW#168 is a good example. It tells you the most efficient search technique for finding your skis when one or both of them come off in deep powder and, once found, how to get the damn things back on your feet. Now that’s useful information.

Written in an easy, flowing, conversational style, The Essential Guide to Skiing covers gear selection, drilling right down to my pet issues of whether you should buy or rent skis and the best way to warm up a cold boot. It delves into the convoluted world of accessories and soft goods and is worth the price of purchase if just one eastern skier leaves his or her insulated one-piece suit at home instead of bringing it to Whistler and sweltering in down when lightweight layers ‘R’ us. And it’s chock full of tips and hints that’ll make booking and taking ski vacations – including how to end up at home with ski pictures that aren’t a complete embarrassment – far less painful and far more enjoyable.

There were only a few of Ron’s 201 tips that came as news to me. Well into my second decade as a dedicated ski bum, I’m somewhat surprised there were any at all. But if you’re just starting out on your own ski bum career or, more importantly, if skiing for you is all about weekends and vacations, there are gems of wisdom on every page of this book that’ll make your time on the slopes – not to mention time in ski shops – more gratifying and less frustrating.

And, gratefully, Ron explains how to carry your skis without looking like a dork – GoW112 – and when to not carry your skis that way because if you do you’ll probably smack someone upside the head, GoW139.

Now if we could just photocopy those pages and hand them out to the multitudes who carry their skis like so many sacks of groceries.

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