Wrapped up MLK weekend skiing in Breckenridge

We just finished a busy and pleasant weekend in Breckenridge, CO.  Skiing and riding was reasonably good. I can’t wait for some “horrible” weather to replenish the soft snow on the mountain.  It looks like storms are rolling through.

I have been sampling a few tune shops in town. I have been using  Pup’s Glide Shop.  They have been putting on fine tunes. Although about 3 weeks ago I took my skis to Breckenridge Sports in the Maggie (Village of Breckenridge).  Rafe is the main tuner there. Wow, he has been doing FANTASTIC work on my skis.  The edges are great, and his base structure work is impeccable.  I can’t say enough about how much pride Rafe takes in his work.  I have been been sending my students to both of these locations for ski repair work this season. And heaven knows we need to have our skis repaired from the early season beating they have all taken.
I was fortunate to ski with some very nice people over the past few days.  On Saturday I skied with Vanessa R from Kansas City.  It was her first day back of the year.  Rather than skiing day one with her friends she joined me for a Level 5 lesson.  We skied Peak 7 in the morning and Peak 9 in the afternoon.  
A few focuses were flattening then turning the inside leg throug the transition of the turn. By the end of the day she was comfortably making parallel turns, and even skied a blue/black.
On monday I was fortunate to ski with Tom and Mary from the UK. They had been skiing with us for 6 days prior, and wanted to technique adjustments but also some adventure seeking around the mountain.  We worked on some contemporary technique including an earlier tipping (rather than twisting) of the ski, and allowing a flexion of the inside leg from the ankle, knee, and hip.  Prior to the coaching, they both had a simultaneous flexing and extending of their legs. This was leading their moving back through the shaping and finish of the turn. 
Later in the morning we took this on to the T-bar and North Bowl.  The snow was surprisingly good. Although only 3″ of new snow was reported we found considerably more in spots. The terrain features had softened as well. In the moguls we focused on bringing the feet UP toward the hips rather than the torso down to the feet.  This allowed better ski to snow contact earlier in the turn. In the afternoon we decided to move up into the Imperial Bowl.  We skied Whale’s Tail to Vertigo for our first run, and the Peak 8 Summit and Lake Chutes for our second.  Our third run took us back to the Whale’s Tail and the Boundary Chutes.  My hope for them is the enhanced technique and the exposure to new terrain will make the next 3 days even more enjoyable.
Tom and Mary’s Photo Album
We are also planning a second MySnowPro.com ski trip to Silverton in February.  One day at Silverton Powerdercats, and the second at Silverton Mountain. 

Zones of Comfort and Fear – Performance Skiing

The contents of this post have been incredibly important to my ski and golf teaching.  I have also used the concepts here for other types of athletes and performers. I labelled zones of comfort, performance, and fear in my own sports growing up IMG_1111.JPG(Motorcycle racing 1978-82, Surfing 1981-1992, Track 1986-92, and Cross-Country) I have found that several others have moved in parallel with these ideas.  I first shared this with my students around 1992.  In the mid 90’s I started meshing some of the terminology and ideas of John Phillips from Aspen Mtn. I honestly don’t know where my original ideas end and others began.  And for the learner’s sake, it doesn’t really matter.  What does matter is that these ideas are simple and work well if used during a learning process and the student stretches their personal comfort zones.  When I have the opportunity to have an “Adventure Lesson” with a skier I like to create a syntax in which the skier and teacher can communicate.  I call this the Zones of Comfort and Fear.  

All Zones are relative to the individual.  They are not necessarily Green, Blue, and Black runs.  They are influence by skier/rider ability, experience, and mental state at the time of assessment.  They can also be influenced by terrain conditions (powder, ice, moguls, etc), Traffic on the run,  and Time day (visibility, fatigue).  Furthermore, these zones are not fixed.  For example, a blue mogul run at some point may have been a yellow zone activity, however when the student gets comfortable with blue bumps it eventually turns green. It is also important to note when a participant is standing above a run and looking in, the “fear of the unknown” can be quite strong.  Once the skier/rider “takes action”, there will usually be a 1/2 to 1 zone drop in anxiety.

I remember a few times I’ve told myself, “Mind you can tell me how scared I was when we get to the bottom of this run.  I will listen to you.  Until then, body… do what I have trained you to do”.

Green Zone – Comfort/familiar  This is the point to add to the participants knowledge base.
An instructor can share and develop new movements, and exercises/drill in this zone.  Learned and Activity knowledge can be co-developed in this range. This can be considered to shallow end of the pool.  Remember that “a sailing ship is safe in a harbor, but that is not where sailing ships were meant to be sailed.”
Optimal Performance Zone – OP Zone- Knowledge and developed skill in conjunction with stress/arousal creates an optimal performance zone for the athlete/performer. I monitor this zone in my golf game with an optimal heart beat. (My golf Zone Hb is 85-98).  It is higher with skiing.  I enjoy spending time with my student in this area.  If I can pace the lesson properly we can stay here for an extended period of time.  I will also try to “Anchor” feelings, emotional states, and performance queues while we are in the OP Zone.  “What are you seeing?”  “What muscles are firing?”  “What thoughts do you have?”, etc.

Yellow/Thrill Zone- High State of arousal.  Some of my students talk about this zone as the “Yellow – wanna pee my pants” zone. Depending on the performer this range may see an elevated “fight” performance throughout the thrill zone. They perform well. They thrive in this zone.  Others may encounter a “flight” response as they move through this zone.  These “flight” skiers would prefer to finish the lesson segment and go back to their green zone.  A skilled instructor may be able to keep their student performing in this zone by encouragement, focus on the activity, and/or anchoring of the experience.
An important part about this zone is to realize that either response should be noted, as well as performance.  All results should be applauded NOT criticized at that moment. Some feedback can be given and should be given as an observation. i.e. There is an up-unweighting/extension movement at the beginning of the turn, rather than the absorption/flexion movement we have been developing.  The instructor can move back to the “green” or OP zone to work on skills that need enhancing/correcting.
In a learning environment the student/instructor would be best served not to spend an extended length of time in the Thrill zone.  Much like the driver who keeps their car in 2nd gear at High RPM for extended period time, excessive wear can be created.  Balance learning among Green-OP-Yellow-Orange zones.
Orange Zone – Think of this as the beginning of the Red Line in a car, or anaerobic in workout.  An instructor or coach can help manage the anxiety which is inherent within this level. An instructor/coach’s presence, words of encouragement, tactical advice, and reminder of goals/incentives can all be beneficial to the learner. In fact, this is an important reason top athletes hire coaches. They help the athlete focus when their world is “spinning”.
A skier can play here for a little time, but extended exposure to this mental state will start to see significant performance deterioration. A skilled coach can move the skier between the OP Zone-Yellow-Orange which will expand these zones outward.  The terrain or situation which was once orange, can become yellow, or even green with a few journey’s into that environment. This can also be viewed as the peak of an Adventure lesson.  Celebrate the effort and the experience rather than just the performance.  Most of our skiers are not peaking for the olympics or a major performance. They wish to move beyond what they have previously accomplished. Instructors and coaches can help a skier rapidly expand their skier’s vision and ability by venturing into the OrangeZone.  However, skill must be taken to select environments in which the skier may decompress back to a “safer” zone quickly if necessary. In most cases it is best to celebrate it without critique, but exposure to this zone is important for the skier to grow.  This zone also provides fantastic stories for student to share with friends and family during apres-ski!
Red Zone –  If a person steps beyond the optimum performance and thrill zones they enter a “danger zone”. 
Performance will decline rapidly as higher levels of anxiety or discomfort occur.  Sometimes lessons go here without the intent of student or instructor.  We sometimes call this “TF’ing” the student.  If at all possible, it is to be avoided.
After a Red Zone experience, it is often advised to go to a “GreenZone” run to decompress. Then you can build back toward the OP Zone.
I like to introduce these concepts to my students.  If I am planning an adventure lesson with a student either today or in an upcoming lesson
The reasons are three-fold:
1) Allow them to experience what is going on and identify these states
2) Allow us to have common language to describe the mental state of the skier/rider
3) Set a gameplan for understanding my feedback, and the reasons we are moving from zone to zone.

Skiing on a Monday in Breckenridge

I greeted Monday morning to sunshine and comfortable temperatures.  But here in Breckenridge we love Mondays.  There is more room to ski and you can just about ski right onto the lifts. 

Midweek days are usually fun to teach on because the folk who ski often have taken their vacation to ski.  January 11th was just such a ski lesson with Dave A. from the Highlands Ranch area. Dave took advantage of the new Adventure Session product with Ski School.  This session is offered for between 1-5 guests, and starts at 9:15.  It is not designed as a lesson but rather a guide around the mountain. A buyer of this product usually isn’t able to request an instructor for this product.  
I met Dave about 9am, and he had a few terrain goals.  Being that he was a Level 7 skier, I had a few ideas. When I saw that he was up for being an “All-Terrain” 7, we were off!  
We warmed up on upper 4 O’clock from 6-Chair on Peak 8 (P8).  We slipped around to the Front Bowl (Horseshoe Bowl) so that I could determine his comfort level.  We used a Green, Yellow, Red model to help me determine his level of “mental” comfort on certain terrain.  When we dropped in the snow was very good.  From there we skied the “Swamp”, then headed over to the T-bar.  Dave did well across Front Bowl area.  He told me that he had thought of skiing from the top of Imperial Bowl “12,900” and he wondered if he was able.  After seeing him ski and knowing a few things about skiing people from the top, we loaded the chair. In 4 minutes we were on top of the world.  Pike’s Peak was in clear view (90+mi away).  We skied the ridge, then reloaded the chair. Now it was time for the Imperial Bowl itself.  We entered and took bite size chunks of the bowl  By the time we were half way down the comfort level was high and we skied all the way down.  We skied a few runs on Peak 7, including Ore Bucket.  We took one more run off the T-bar, then had a few more runs before lunch at Spencer’s on Peak 9.
After a short but tasty lunch we headed back out to enjoy the bluebird day.  It was gorgeous on the hill.  We headed over to Peak 10 for a few runs.  We took a look out on the “southside”, then skied Cimarron and DoubleJack.  Great times.  With a few pointers Dave was skiing very well.  As our legs began to tire, we headed back to P8 for another Imperial lap.  
It was a great day to play on the mountain with temps in the 20-30s, and nearly cloudless skies.  We skied about 19,000 vertical feet by the end of the day.  That was a good Adventure Session. Thanks Dave.

1st Silverton, CO trip

Arrived home after a quick ski trip to Silverton, CO. I expected a big mountain, a slow 2 person chairlift, a quiet mining town, and plenty of hike-to-terrain.  All of which we found.

Silverton, CO is about 5hrs from Breckenridge, CO. Chang W., Lucy W, and I left Breckenridge about 1pm and arrived about 6pm in Silverton on Wednesday. 


  The drive from Ouray to Silverton is pretty incredible.  Have the best driver in your car handle this winding mountain road. It is a spectacular drive to say the least.  The drive from Durango is much easier, although the last 15 mi of that drive is pretty thrilling as well. The drive was relatively easy, although significant storm activity could create a much longer drive.  
We stayed at Villa Dalla Valle, an est.1901 historic home and now Bed and Breakfast.  We arrived to wine and cheese offered to us by our host Pam W.  We will look to stay there again on our next trip.  We will also bring our guitars as they is an extra room to get a little rowdy and play some music.  Summer is the busy time for Silverton, as the Durango-Silverton railroad makes 4 daily stops and brings 2000 visitors a day to the sleepy town.  After dinner at The Pickle Barrel, I used the hot tub at Villa Dalla Valle and stretched by legs out.  I wanted to be ready for the mountain.
In the morning after a nice breakfast with Pam, we headed to Silverton Mountain which is about 15 minutes from the town of Silverton.  It is suggested that you arrive at 8:15am to check in.  I would suggest to be their by 8am if you need to rent any ski/ride equipment or avalanche gear.  You can leave your skis, boots, and remainder of your equipment in the parking lot prior to check in.  The walk way from the lot to the “base tent” can be very slick.  Less to carry the better.  When you get to the base tent you can rent any additional gear that you require. Then go into the “equipment bus” located out the door and another slick walkway.
Checking in early will serve you in a number of ways, and is not due to delays or slow service, but rather it takes time to get your way around this “base area”.  Arrival prior to 8:10 will most likely get you a parking space right in the small primary parking lot.  The rest of the parking is on the main road.  (TIP) And since you usually get a ride back to the base area via bus/shuttle/or pickup truck and they drop you in the parking lot you can use your vehicle as storage each time you loop through the parking lot.  This came in handy at lunchtime. We chose not to reserve a lunch and bring our own. The base tent will have your lunch there if you pre-order it.  Otherwise, there are some snacks and basic bar in the tent.
Required gear:
Avalanche Beacon
Avalanche Probe
“Required” Gear:
Wide skis 100+mm underfoot
Backpack with the ability to carry your skis/snowboard
Water (only bottled water for purchase available at Silverton Mtn.)
And a good night’s sleep
Photo Album
There is a guided and unguided season for Silverton Mountain. We were there on the final unguided weekend. They offer a maximum of 450 unguided skiers/riders, and 80 guided
 visitors.  Those meeting for guided tours meet in the parking lot (at the base of the 2 seat chairlift).  Arron Brill (owner) did a quick sort of Fast and Medium hiking speeds.  
The 80 guided visitor limit was filled.  2 moved into the fast group, and 78 classified themselves as Medium/moderate.  Our group was originally 7, although 2 moved to a faster walking group on the second hike.  
Kim G was our guide for the day.  She asked about our shovels and probes in our packs.  We went through a brief safety check of our avalanche beacons. After which we went up for our first run (9:05).  Our first run didn’t require a hike. We skied a bowl on an east facing slope.  The snow was decent, but only a few inches of Powder.
 It was still a good one to get out of the way.   Our second was a 25 min hike about 25 minutes below the “Billboard”.  It was tough for some members of the group as we were hiking above 13,000ft at this point.  I don’t usually hike with a backpack, but I would say that a good pack to hold your skis or board, snacks and water is all but a necessity.
On the second run, Kim found some very good thigh deep snow in the “Witch’s Tit”.  I jumped in first and triggered a little sluff slide, but it was very minor and provided some nice fresh track opportunity.
After a brief 20 min lunch we went back up and skied over to “Coloradoian” and looked into the “Stooges” on one side, and the “100 acre woods” on the other.   Our fourth run was in “Sunset” below the Billboard area.  There is much more to explore, but it will have to wait until next time.  Most likely the next time will be March 3-5th.  
If you plan on skiing Silverton Mountain, be 
prepared to hike above 13,000 all day.  The mountain is open from 9-3:00 and 4-6 hikes is about average. We had a great time, but one of our party had a very bad afternoon reaction to the altitude.  Bring your water and drink often. Although the only “facilities” are located in the white outhouse behind the base tent.
Call in advance for guided skiing.  With Silverton Mountain becoming more popular the spaces are filling quickly. The bulk of the season is guide only.  And although the unguided season is popular for the value shopper ($49), the $129 price tag for a guide and lift is very fair.  
When I spoke with Kim she let me know how they guided and skied the mountain during guided only season.  The mountain has a number of zones which are progressively opened Thursday through Sunday.  Each zone is then “Farmed” to get max usage over the course of the week.  Assuming there has been recent snow, this should provide fresh tracks for those who make the trek to Silverton, and the hike up Silverton Mountain.
We also recommend having a little cash on the side for the guide, especially if they help you find the goods on the hill.    And if possible, ask for Kim.  She is also a guide in Alaska Mid-March to early May.