Warren Smith Ski Academy - Sep 2004

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As I mentioned last week, we've just got back from a week in Saas-Fee with Warren Smith. We've did this course last year as well, but due to the way the course is structured this didn't really matter much; for us this year's course built on last year's. The aim of the course is to develop the skills required to ski the whole mountain, regardless of conditions and terrain...

There were around 20 of us on the course and instruction was done in one large group. This year Warren had two other instructors working with him, Jamie and Phil; and this led to much more feedback and teaching time than last year. Most of the work we were doing was based on exercises and Warren would explain what we were supposed to do then we'd get on with it and the guys would all ski around giving feedback, advising and chastising. In a nut shell, most of the work we were doing was helping us work towards being able to pivot our skis through 180 degrees without engaging edges or twisting/moving our upper body; most of us were fine when we were on our edges but edges don't necessarily help you when you're in moguls or on steeps. The exercises focused on ankle flex, weight distribution and being able to work both legs equally well - the aim being that we'd banish the "bad turn" and turn equally well on either leg. We had video analysis on day's 2 and 4, which was amusing and useful - once again we managed to prove that we could all do it wrong in different ways...

Something new for this year was the Warren Smith Ski Boot clinic... After, once again, telling us all that our boots were too stiff and that we needed more ankle flex, Warren told us that he could "fix" our boots at dinner... A queue formed at Warren's table and the brave amongst us had bolts removed (my XWave 10's have canting locks that also increase the stiffness of the boots), and shells cut with a hacksaw... The first evening only a few brave souls faced the hacksaw, once they reported greatly improved flex and control (and no bad experiences) more followed on subsequent evenings... You had to be there...

Unfortunately the weather meant that we only had three days of instruction on snow but, for me at least, I felt I'd gained a lot from the exercises and this showed when we took our pivot turns to the steeps on what was to be our last day on snow. Had the weather been better, I think the plan had been to take us into the moguls with these new skills, as it was we spent one day doing 'dry land' training, which was tougher than the on ski work we'd done...

The dry-land training, which even its own video analysis, involved us jumping from side to side down a hill towards the camera - imagine energetic short swings without skis or snow... This quite clearly showed us the control and balance differences that we had between one side of the body and the other. We then did leg rotation exercises (face down the hill and don't move your hips or upper body and, in small steps, turn both feet from facing 90 degrees left to facing 90 degrees right, repeat until the "Thriller" music stops...), again coming down hill, towards the camera. This clearly illustrated that we'll never be in a Michael Jackson video as all of us were uneven and had some element of restricted movement in the hips in one or both directions...

All video analysis was, once again, shot by Melody Sky.

Saas-Fee is lovely at this time of year and, although we were all a bit sad that the wind kept us from the slopes for 3 days the course was good stuff and well worth doing. We were all ever so slightly jealous as we left on Saturday morning; it had snowed the day before but the winds and visibility had kept us off the mountain. Saturday was clear and fresh and there was powder up there :( Some of the guys stayed on having rearranged their flights on the Friday evening - we don't talk about them any more ;)

The coaching was better than last year, and that's going some. Warren's an excellent and inspired teacher who's enthusiasm to learn new ways to inflict pain and embarrassment (I mean, new ways to teach useful skills, obviously ;) ) is obvious. He wants you to improve and he won't let you make excuses to get out of putting in the hard work that's required. The feedback from all three instructors was great and the different approaches that each took meant that if one of them didn't quite explain things the way that worked, one of the others would.

We're off to Verbier in December for more of the same - hopefully with better ski weather; but in the meantime we have to go to XScape at Milton Keynes to do our "homework" as Warren said he didn't want to see us again until we'd mastered these exercises and stopped all that messy hip rotation. XScape's OK for the exercises that we need to do, but althouh the slope is indoor and real snow it's not really very long, or steep...

4 TrackBacks

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1 Comment

Hey, sounds great Len. I wish I could have been there. Wait a minute - I was!

Hope you're both well. Have a great time in the winter - I'm not jealous at all.


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