Tuesday, March 8, 2016

you're not ready for prime time, player!

The "ski industry" has spent the past 5 years telling "skiers"** that they should be doing "sidecountry" if not "backcountry" skiing.  Their reason for doing this isn't because "the sport will die" if it doesn't happen.  Their reason for doing this is simple:  it sells gear.

The question of whether the gear sales are appropriate?  Please.  Let's not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.  And sales always are good!


You don't have to be anything in order to venture outside in the winter.  Go where you like do what you like be what you like.  All fine.  Yes, all fine.  As long as you are dressed adequately, stay dry, don't dehydrate and don't bonk because you failed to eat, or eat properly.


If you played pickup basketball with neighborhood friends in 7th grade after-school activities, do you think that equips you to play with or against any present-day collegiate basketball team that is within the last 24 teams in the NCAA finals?

Do you think getting your driver's license from your state's bureaucratic entity has prepared you for racing Formula One or Grand Prix cars?


Just now I read an entry at EpicSki, a/k/a "GapicSki" in the lingo of TGR and newschoolers, asking what AT boot should one choose.  Here it is:
I'm trying to decide between the Maestrale or the Maestrale RS. Both feel comfortable when I try them on. Here is a bit about me:

5'6, 150# male

Never backcountry skied before. This will be my first foray into it.

Regarding resort skiing, I have been an intermediate, recently transitioning into advanced skier, finally starting to ski black diamond runs, but not doing amazing at it yet.

I imagine myself using the boots in both resorts and backcountry, maybe 70/30

The Maestrale has a stiffness rating of 100, and the Maestrale RS has a stiffness rating of 120.

In sum, I need to decide to go with the stiffer RS boot, or the softer Maestrale.

Any tips? Let me know if more specific info would be helpful in this decision, cheers.

I don't have the temerity to wade into Epic's terrain and offer my experience on the Qs, given the gruel that passes for discussion at that locale. Humor is nearly forbidden and criticism isn't allowed unless you have a PSIA Lv III Alpine, and/or Examiner, and/or Demo Team qualification.

Also, the general theme is "grow the sport," so you can't talk candidly to anyone whose self-image is far too grandiose for the manner of questions and statements he or she has presented.

So I'll respond here as a general observation of skier cluelessness-hubris-arrogance.


Our friend "treejay" says he's an intermediate who is "just starting" on the more difficult terrain at his chosen regular alpine ski area.

If you intend to go ski ungroomed terrain, "intermediate" is not the skill level you should possess.

"Intermediate" skiers still struggle with perfectly (sic) groomed runs of mediocre pitch, with almost no variation in fall line (shifting fall line bias, and/or multiple fall lines).

Groomed ski runs on commercial ski hills are nothing like what you ski in/on when you venture into any terrain that wasn't logged and terraformed for commercial skiing. 

What the "ski industry" has persuaded via marketing is this:  "backcountry" and "sidecountry" offer virgin "pow" for the meek and undeveloped skier to "slay" like a sponsored skier who competes in Extreme Skiing comps.

What the "ski industry" has glossed over is the level of skiing skill development needed to ski ungroomed irregular unpredictable snow conditions. 


A common joke among experienced MTB riders relates to the "roadie," or road bicyclist, who is extremely fit from road training/racing, but who cannot manage bike handling on a mountain bike cross-country course.  All that fitness and saddle time, but still looks awkward and afraid when the bike is on soil rather than pavement, roots rather than asphalt, ruts instead of level concrete.

This is a perfect analogy for lift-served skiing on groomed runs that were logged and terraformed particularly to provide a regulated, smooth surface of snow.  Predictable, in other words.

Ungroomed snow is the opposite of predictable.

The skier who is a groomer bandit at Mt Trashmore is like the roadie who hasn't spent enough time handling off-road situations to be comfortable there.  The roadie's fundamentals are limited to bike dynamics in a mostly static situation -- on pavement.

So it helps to have a pretty well established set of skiing skills (fundamental movements) before you venture into ungroomed snow.  You can venture off the groomed run at any point in your skiing, on your first day even, on your first run even.

Whether you do it with grace and stability, and are able to keep yourself safe -- that's entirely down to your skills, your fundamental movements.

If you're an intermediate who is only now able to muster the courage to try black diamond runs, I'd say take that $$ you have saved for your AT gear, and invest it in your skiing abilities.

When you are happy on any black diamond run, icy or perfect 8" new snow, moguls or trees or multiple fall lines, then go do some off-piste skiing at a commercial ski hill where there is plentiful off-piste skiing.  If that goes well, then get that AT setup.  At that point, your questions have merit.

If you go off-piste as an unsteady intermediate, your skiing movements are going to be defensive, which will take you backward in development as a skier.  It will take that much longer to improve as a skier, because the regressions will have caused habits that are extremely hard to break.

So, "treejay," shelve that idea for a couple of seasons.  Get yourself a good set of lessons, coaching, etc.  Go to a race camp, a freestyle camp, an off-piste clinic.  Double down on the groomer mileage until you ski almost automatically.  Then go backcountry.

Meanwhile, nordic gear is pretty good for solitude in the snow.  As are snowshoes.


** Here, a "skier" is anyone inclined to buy a piece of ski gear, regardless of their background, abilities, or intentions regarding actual use of the gear bought.  You might just be someone who has long harbored the fantasy of doing the exotic, luxurious thing of having "a ski vacation."  It might be you imagine yourself Papa Hemingway (Kanye West, whomever) in Sun Valley, hobnobbing with the wealthy and celebrated clientele.  Whether you ever have skied before, will ski at least on one occasion, or will ski a second time or more, that's completely irrelevant.  Can we close the deal, or not?  We take all major credit cards and are working on bitcoin!


snarkasaurus rex said...

What an arrogant dick. You are trying to ruin someone's fun! There's no rule on who can go ski backcountry. I just started skiing this year and bought a full AT setup which got used for 4 lift-served days, and I plan to do lots of skinning this spring. I've made some killer runs, skied some lines that would make you jealous. You probably can't even ski yourself, and just want to stop others from doing what you can't do yourself.

Chet Redweld said...

That's one way of seeing things, I guess.

To hell with fundamentals, it's all about fun. No way can someone have more fun by improving their fundamentals. Not in any activity. Automatic mastery is within reach -- just buy the right gear!

Absolutely. You're like Neo, you'll just download the program and be Hoji.

Harold Caidagh said...

Ess Wrecks has memorized the lingo. "Killer runs" and "lines that would make you jealous." Every beginner has those! If I have DPS skis, Plum Guide bindings and Dynafit Khion boots, I'm sure to own that pillow line! Looks easy when Hoji does it, definitely he makes it look easy because the gear does all the work. He never came up through a race program and dialed in his technique through annoying drills, gate-bashing to futility, and coaches constantly pestering him about position, timing, force, feel, glisse, etc. It's all in the gear, no doubt about it.

Chet Redweld said...

Sounds like Hal is aiming for a job at blister.

Chet Redweld said...

What's this I see at #2 here?


I think if I were Treejay or S. Rex, I'd write off Jordan as someone whose humility impels him to downplay his prodigious genetic gifts and attribute them to practice. It's definitely down to the Air Jordans.