SI Vault
 
DOWN, UP, OVER EASY
Billy Kidd
March 10, 1975
There comes a time in every skier's life when he stands transfixed atop a slope, looking down a field of moguls and wondering how he is going to make it. Not so much if he is going to make it, but how. This is a condition we used to call the Steel Elbow. It is not exactly a fear—the hill is not going to hurt you and you can't fall off the world—it is more a brief flush of embarrassment, a sense that one is about to do something dumb. So one must have an excuse ready. When your companions say, "What's the matter? Let's go," you merely give them a gentle smile and murmur, "You know, since I stopped racing, I like to ski slower now and enjoy the scenery."
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March 10, 1975

Down, Up, Over Easy

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There comes a time in every skier's life when he stands transfixed atop a slope, looking down a field of moguls and wondering how he is going to make it. Not so much if he is going to make it, but how. This is a condition we used to call the Steel Elbow. It is not exactly a fear—the hill is not going to hurt you and you can't fall off the world—it is more a brief flush of embarrassment, a sense that one is about to do something dumb. So one must have an excuse ready. When your companions say, "What's the matter? Let's go," you merely give them a gentle smile and murmur, "You know, since I stopped racing, I like to ski slower now and enjoy the scenery."

Exactly. That's it. Moguls are there to be enjoyed, beautiful bump after bump after bump. Moguls are made by those who have skied the slope before you, carving turns and kicking up snow. With each passing skier, the troughs formed by the edging of skis in the turns get ever deeper and the mounds created by the snow they kick up grow ever higher. The mounds get nicely packed and—presto—that's how moguls are born.

Since they are there, you should learn to enjoy them. So now is the time to repeat after me: there is no greater bang in skiing. Moguls put bounce in your life, and the greatest sensation in the whole sport is wheeling down a bumpy slope, swirling where one should swirl, occasionally lighter than air and featherlike, then weighted just right while carving the next turn. There is the kick of accomplishment. One need not go fast. Even snake-hipping slowly down a mogully slope sets the blood to churning properly, washes out the mind, possibly opens all eight sinus passages, cures all bodily ailments, stops falling dandruff and prevents cavities. This is why you are there.

There are few secrets in this game, but there are ways to make it easier and more fun. First, relax. Start by holding your ski poles loosely in your hands, arms out in front of you, but not above shoulder level. Then, get your weight in the middle of the skis. And finally, don't plan on bouncing around a lot. All the weighting and unweighting you so carefully mastered on smooth slopes is unnecessary here; the moguls will take care of that.

In my home base at Steamboat Springs, where I work with skiers to the point where they are absolutely nuts about moguls, we do a little starter. I ask each skier to stand on the top of his very own mogul, ski tips and tails hanging out in the air, until they appear to be so many statues on snowy pedestals, knees slightly bent, relaxed. Shoulders facing downhill, the skier then makes a simple pole plant, rolls his knees and swivels his feet. And, just like that, he is sliding down the far side of the mogul. He hits the trough, knees still flexed, delighted to discover that he has made a turn from the standing start. That one move builds confidence, a hunger for more moguls and drives home the key point: always turn from the tops of the bumps, not down in the troughs where tips and tails will get caught.

After that, we work to keep head, shoulders and torso on a level plane and do all the flexing from the hips down, the legs pumping like pistons. My skiers next make little runs at moguls to perfect their timing. They ride up the near sides, knees pumping up. They turn on the tops of the moguls merely by swiveling their feet (no need to unweight) and ride down the far sides, legs straightening a bit. When in doubt atop a bump, always reach ahead and plant the pole. It commits you to the turn; it also keeps you from sitting back, which is a natural reflex but a no-no. He who sits back always ends up sandwiched between troughs, tangled in his equipment and wondering whoever said this was fun in the first place.

While perfecting all this, it is wise to remember two more points. Do not wander all over the mountain on a long traverse, peering ahead hopefully for just the perfect mogul on which to make a turn, the mogul that looks like it might have your name engraved on it. Pick any mogul—the next one you come to—and turn over it. If you've seen one mogul, you've seen them all; just ski them.

The other point is for anybody who has ever despaired of skiing prettily, gracefully, like the instructors do. To put it simply, while skiing moguls, keep your feet comfortably apart to maintain your balance. Don't be slavish about parallel technique in the bumps; this is fun, not a style show. Do it right and you are Franco Harris, not Fred Astaire.

How quickly it all falls (forgive the term) into place. For folks who have mastered the technique, for newly converted mogul freaks, there is no turning back. One plans ski trips and winter lifetimes in search of the perfect hillful of bumps.

Three leap to mind.

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