From printed and video educational material of Professional Snowsports Instructors of America/ American Association of Snowboard instructors
I have often talked about “rhythm and flow” in our skiing. Well, this is a fun drill to enhance that skill.
The toughest part of this drill is the weather— for shadows, you need sunlight. Luckily, as we head into March, we tend to have more of this. Now you need the right lift, and Cindy’s is the perfect lift for this exercise.
If you take a look at Cindy’s at about 1 p.m. on a sunny day, you will notice the shadows of the chairs on the snow. Each is perfectly uniform in spacing from one another, each moving up the hill at exactly the same speed. Take a moment at the top of the lift, and stand and listen to the rhythm of the cable and sheaves wheels. Watch the chairs go through the bull wheel— there is constant motion and rhythm.
Now slide down to the first/last tower, just before the turn-around, and watch the shadows of the uphill chairs approach you. Get a feel for the speed at which they are approaching and the timing between each shadow as it passes over you. Get yourself set and take off skiing in between each shadow like painless slalom poles.
The trick is to look several shadows ahead. You will see the passing shadow peripherally as you ski around it, but by looking ahead, you are focused where you are going, not where you are. You need to ski “into the future” and be able to react to terrain changes, traffic, and any number of variables.
Now just relax and allow your body and motion to establish syncopation. Finish each turn strongly to control your speed. Keep looking ahead and keep facing the direction you are going.
Concentrate on eliminating a lot of upper body movement, and just turn your feet and skis. You should fall into a comfortable pace of “turn, turn, turn, turn.”
Make several runs and note that with each run, you get smoother and more precise in your turns.
Feel good with these short, controlled turns? Then now is the time to switch it up. If the lift is going the same speed and the chairs have the same spacing, how do we change the speed and timing of our turns?
Start chasing the downhill shadows! The uphill chairs are coming at you, basically shortening the distance between them. But the downhill chairs are moving away from you. You will need to let your skis run a bit and your turns will be longer. Think of the uphill chairs’ shadows as slalom gates, and the downhill chairs’ shadows as GS gates – still painless, though. Even though they have a different tempo from the uphills, the downhills also have a constant speed and spacing. You will make longer turns with more speed, but you will still develop a consistent cadence.
Again, look a shadow or two ahead. You are skiing faster now and need to be more aware of changes in terrain, conditions or traffic.
Once you get comfortable with the increase in speed and change in cadence, you will soon develop an internal metronome that will make each turn come more naturally for you. This is a great way to develop muscle memory and confidence.
A couple of cautions you need to always keep in mind:
• Cindy’s is a popular slope. Be sure you are courteous and mindful of others on the slope.
• Be aware of people entering from Maple Leaf at mid-slope or closer to the bottom.
• NASTAR may be running, which pushes more traffic to your side of the lift.
• You are responsible for all traffic below you, so as you overtake others, be cautious and observant.
• Perhaps the most important: do not do this at noon! The shadows are running right up the tower line and while the shadows are painless, a tower hit at 30+ mph will leave a mark!
Have fun with this sunny day exercise, work on your rhythm and flow on the snow, and work on your “goggle tan” riding the chair on the way up!
As always, consider taking an advanced group or private lesson to enhance your skills and add tactics to your arsenal.