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The physics behind the dance

How I Ski: Expert Alpine Skiing Demystified



How I Ski: Expert Alpine Skiing Demystified!

by Ken Chaddock

Warren Miller once said to me, "Imagine what the world would be like if Osama bin Laden's parents had taken him skiing." Well, I'm not sure I can; but I do know this whacky pursuit speaks to our better angels and anything that makes it easier or more skilful can't be all bad.

Skiing is a sport/pastime/obsession best savoured at an increasingly sophisticated level of skill and there's a predictable feedback loop: the better you ski, the more you ski; the more you ski, the better you get. There's no short-circuiting the 10,000 reps to muscle memory but there are ways to make the intervening 9,999 less painful. They include ski lessons, skiing with friends who are better than you and, if you're so inclined, reading How to Ski books.

I'm not convinced the world needs more How to Ski books, but local skier and ski instructor Ken Chaddock figured it did. So he wrote and published one. It's a pretty slim volume, 96 pages, and like most - all - self-published books, it would have benefited from the judicious touch of an editor, a couple of more rewrites or maybe a ghost.

But it has one characteristic that saves it from obscurity and speaks to my personal biases.

I came to skiing late in life, a full-grown adult with absolutely no ski experience. I envy - hate - anyone who started skiing at age 3. On the other hand, many of them have lost the passion that still burns so hot within me.

Being a late skier, I took full advantage of free ski lessons offered to Whistler Blackcomb employees, taking well over 100. Not all of them were great. The ones I didn't care for weren't bad lessons, they just didn't speak to me in the language I need to learn. The fact is, CSIA pedagogy is built around a monkey-see, monkey-do style of learning. Can't count the number of times an instructor said and demonstrated, "Roll your downhill ankle into the hill," to illustrate how to carve a turn. My reply was always, "Why?"

I don't learn through mimicry. I need to understand. I want to know the physics behind making skis do what I want them to do in the same way I want to know more about what makes a car go and stop than just right pedal, left pedal.

Ken explains that.

Coming from an engineering background and, perhaps, being of an age where he's comfortable straying from the gospel according to CSIA, Ken explains the physics of dynamic balance, edge control, momentum, the graceful dance of rhythm and flow and the interrelationship of body position, centre of gravity and fore-aft pressuring through the arc of interconnected turns.

While his barbell and magic carpet metaphors may not speak to me, his science does and that alone made it worth the time to read his book and take some of his tips up the hill. If you're still struggling to dance the dance and you think the reason may be too shallow an understanding of the, admittedly, bizarre forces at work while skiing, Ken may just make it all a little clearer for you as well.

How I Ski is available locally at Armchair Books, CanSki and Snosciety among others. $25. www.skiwellsimply.com.



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