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Olympic skiers use shoulders

Watching the ski events at the Turin Olympics was a good way to see great contemporary skiing as practiced by the experts. At every turn in the downhill, for instance, it was clear that the racers were going into a bend with the inside shoulder and hand leading the way. That’s the way we ski these days, or at least that’s the way we are supposed to.

“Contemporary” is a mantra for ski instruction these days. It was just coming into vogue when I quit teaching (I had better things to do than stand in a lineup waiting for students, I felt) a few years ago. The shaped ski revolution was well under way after Elan had popularized it with its parabolic designs. Surprisingly, many instructors had already been using the “inside shoulder” technique without calling it contemporary or anything else. It was just a faster way to ski with less effort. Stein Erickson had called it “reverse shoulder” 30 years ago.

The concept of contemporary skiing is aimed at reducing the amount of energy required to make turns by doing away with the outside-shoulder lead, which requires the skiers to rotate the body for the next turn. Leading with the inside shoulder and leaning the body across the skis and downhill makes turns smoother and faster.



If you’re interested in becoming “contemporary,” try to catch some of the clips from the Olympic ski racing. Watch how the hands lead the way. And catch the way the skis undulate in tight turns. They look like waves!

Meanwhile, the women’s downhill was an example of not giving up. Not only did Austrian Michaela Dorfmeister finally get her Olympic Gold, but Leslie Kidow, who tied for eighth in the downhill, made it down the run after her disastrous crash two days before.




Just watching the replays of Kidow’s accident was painful. Crashes like hers, where she flew perhaps 15 feet in midair before landing squarely on her butt, can be shattering, even for those of use moving at much less than 50 mph. Despite wearing a helmet, when her head snapped back against the icy run, she had to see stars. That’s probably when she hurt her neck.

Kidow’s courage and skills are obviously mammoth. To place as highly as she did when she got out of her tuck at the point where she had crashed shows just how good she is. She’ll be back, happily.

While the Olympics have been fun (despite less than stellar placings from Bode Miller and Daren Rahlves), the opening ceremonies were an exercise in kitsch, equaling the absurd halftime show at the Super Bowl, where the Rolling Stones offered censored versions of old songs ” to protect the innocent teens who knew the lyrics by heart already.

Although the 2006 Winter Olympics are now overseas in Italy, the spirit of the Games is alive and well in Squaw Valley as a series of celebrations, competitions, and exhibitions will be going on in recognition of Olympics past and present. As host to the 1960 Winter Games, Squaw has a rich Olympic heritage.

On Saturday, the Olympic torch made its way down the mountain from the Gold Coast along the mountain run and to the Sun Deck at the base of the mountain.

The torch and flags were carried by former Olympians Tamara McKinney, Jeff Hamilton, Jimbo Morgan, Bob Ormsby, Melissa Dimino, Sandra and Eric Poulsen and Bill Hudson, all skiers who grew up on the slopes of Squaw and made their marks. Also joining in the parade were hundreds of Squaw Mighty Mite team members, their coaches, ski patrol and general public.

This weekend, Squaw hosts a J3 Future Olympians Super-G Race on the Exhibition course.

Skied SAT last Sunday and the snow was fine even if the crowds were thick. Didn’t matter all that much as the West Bowl was in good shape, with that first steep from the chair icy but fun. Usually Sunday is busy at SAT, with all the Bay Area folk heading home, but this Sunday should be fine as the holiday will mean Bay Area snowsporters will be heading home Monday.

On Saturday, there’s a President’s Day Treasure Hunt. Families are invited to form teams of four and search for Washington and Lincoln buried treasure hidden on the mountain. Those who can answer historical trivia questions about the two presidents will receive a clue on the location of the treasure.

On this Sunday and next, the American Jibber Rail Jam Series continues. In a setting that includes challenging rails, signature fire drums, a live DJ and MC, riders can showcase their talent for the chance to become the next American Jibber. The Best Trick format allows riders to win cash prizes. Winners of the finale will be entered into the Vans Tahoe Cup at Northstar.

A USASA-sanctioned event will be held, with a Superpipe competition on Saturday and a Boardercross competition on Sunday is for amateurs of all ages. Registration is from 8 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. in the Aspen Cafe. Competition begins at 11 a.m. There is a one-time USASA membership fee of $50 required and a $25 competition fee required at each event.

The NASTC Active Adults Clinic is Monday and Tuesday. Adults over 60 are invited to join the North American Ski Training Center Active Adults clinic. This masters program will not only refine skills and techniques but also allow guests to relax and enjoy wine and dinner after a day on the mountain. The Active Adults clinic is suited for those skiers of an intermediate to advanced skill. Cost for the program is $764 and includes lodging, lift tickets, lessons and meals.

For the holiday, expedition: Kirkwood has programs, including a Ridgeline Snowshoe Tour on Saturday and a Steeps Clinic on Sunday, as well as Daily Expeditions that focus on the current snow conditions and private guides for exploring the mountain’s most technical terrain. Sign up by calling (209) 258-7360; space is limited.

Junior Expeditions are available for the holidays; these all-mountain camps are for adventurous teens, strong intermediate and up, who want to explore the off-piste terrain of Kirkwood with other kids their own age and ability. Space is extremely limited; sign up by calling (209) 258-7360.

The Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe Center is open, with 80K of groomed double track with skating and snowshoe lanes to the top of the trail system. Sign up for a weekend skate clinic package; trail pass, lesson and rental gear included for $48. Call (209) 258-7248.


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