Having been a lifelong skier, I’m pretty confident of my abilities, ski most anywhere and figured I looked pretty good on the slopes. But when I saw myself on video, I saw another skier…I thought I outgrew my long appendages, kind of after middle school? My hands would open up, flail, and then retract. I know how to compensate for shooting myself off things and going fast. But looking good, correct technique…well, not so much. Controlling a 5’8″ frame that’s all legs and arms isn’t easy!
Recently, I had the privilege of taking part in Alison Gannett’s Rippin Chix camp at the Butte (the one and only Crested Butte, which is a fitting place to hold this camp). While Alison Gannett obviously is a rippin’ chic, the instruction and the transformation process is what this camp is about. My goal was to become a better skier in two days, but I also worried I’d get my ass kicked. I hadn’t skied in a month, had been hanging at sea level and I was envisioning panting like a rabbit, trying to keep up.
So when Alison and her co-ripper, Carrie Jo Chernoff, rounded up a collective group of 11 women attendees on a clear Saturday morning, we sized each other up, in a friendly way. Many of the women were both excited and apprehensive. We talked about our goals for the camp. Some had specific ones (I want to huck this) while others were more general (like myself, I want to see what I look like, ski more fluidly). Riding up the lift we chattered about this and that, until we gathered at the top of a run. Our orders were to pretend we were in a couloir, sliding down the slope. We were to use a pole plant and swivel to the opposite side, coming to a full stop.
I didn’t do so well. Taking small steps and then incorporating them into the actual thing was what we were after, but for me, this was oddly difficult; the people I ride with just go, there is rarely any stopping and, definitely, no one analyzes technique. After this exercise, we split into smaller groups, taking our practice points to a different playground and broke it down. What were/are we doing? I had no idea I had the bad dancer moving-their-hands-in-and-out-on-the dance-floor look as I negotiated bumps! I also found out that I tend to swivel my hips a lot, shakin’ it too much. I’ve been relying on my legs and butt muscles, when I should be turning my hips first. Alison observed, smiled and talked about these habits on the hill, but then gave us the tools necessary to improve our form and technique. We worked through repetition, nailing the technique down.
Throughout the day riding the lifts and on the snow, Alison covered the little stuff–what is rocker, a damp ski, how to properly hold your poles, and other small, but useful trinkets of information. We learned different types of air and hucking techniques—and along with them where to focus our eyes, pole plants if necessary—all to tackle all sorts of terrain and look for the mountain’s obstacles as play objects. I now know where to hold my “martini tray”, making sure not to serve the floor, the wrong customers and so forth. I know that I need to have my fist shoot back, out of the stratosphere right after my pole plant or I’ll have “velcro butt”—my hands sticking to my sides. I know how to “make wine”, keeping those shins engaged and forward. Alison and Carrie-Jo were working us into a reduction, breaking and slowing all these points down.
By the end of the two days we were like Gumby, but our sense of accomplishment was immense. Everyone came away with several points they learned and had begun incorporating it into their skiing. As Alison says, “You’ve got one bag of tricks, but you need others for different situations.”
Kerry McCarthy is a new member of the “Rippin Chix”. Her day job is the Marketing Coordinator for Osprey Packs. Alison Gannett is a World Champion Extreme Skier, Osprey athlete, Founder of The Save Our Snow Foundation, and an award-winning global cooling consultant. Join Alison Gannett for her other Rippin Chix camps, but be quick–they fill up fast! Her next offerings are the Rippin Chix Mountain bike Skills Camps held in Crested Butte in June http://www.alisongannett.com/Alison_Gannett/Rippin_Chix_Bike.html