On Skiing: Setting goals is key to having a better season

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In many sports, it’s easy to set goals. For golfers, it might be lowering the handicap a few strokes or breaking 80. Runners go for better times, and swimmers for more endurance.

As skiers, most of us don’t keep score. Sure, there are those with fancy watches that measure vertical skied each day and some count their runs.

The last time I counted runs was in a skiathon in which I was raising money at so much a run. Of course, I cheated bit by getting each donor to commit to a given total and made sure I got in the number of runs I needed to get all they were willing to give. As I recall, it was 20 runs, which I had by shortly after noon. I added a couple to be sure and called it a day.

For 20 of my ski years I was a patrolman, so full days were the norm. We were the first up the mountain in the morning and the last down at night. Fifty to sixty days a season was normal, except for the three years I patrolled full-time, bumping the number up to 120.

Now with faster lifts, it’s easy to match the number of runs we used to get in a day by noon. Lift lines that look overly long turn out to be just a few minutes with high speed quads and the time on the lift is much shorter as well. My goal this season will be to ski more days and to add a few runs.

A key to goal setting is to have a plan. From now till the end of March is 15 weeks, so all I need is two days a week to reach my minimum goal of 30 days.

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That takes care of the number of days. What else calls for a goal? One might be to ski more areas, especially the smaller ones. On this list in Maine are Lost Valley, Mt. Abram and Black Mountain.

Learn from the experts

In most sports, improvement is usually a goal and it should be in skiing. At all but the highest levels there is plenty of room for improvement, and if we look at the world’s best skiers (World Cup racers) they are constantly working on improvement. They also have coaches working with them every time on the hill.

Which leads us to this question: when was the last time you took a lesson?

I have to admit that most of my lessons have simply been skiing with instructors or coaches. Tom “Coach” Reynolds comes to mind. I have skied with Coach on many occasions and watched him working with his teams. It has always helped my skiing.

One of most memorable sessions was a ski clinic at Wildcat with Dan Egan. Dan is one of the best known skiers in movies and videos. His clinics take place around the world and you can find the 2017-18 schedule on his website www.skiclinics.com.

On this day, there were eight of us in the group, both males and females with abilities ranging from low-intermediate to advanced. Somehow Dan managed to give each individual attention aimed at their ability level.

Dan’s key advice was to “ski the same trail until you own it.” We spent the entire morning on the Lynx, a narrow run with bumps and a variety of pitches. None of us skied it like Dan, but after a few runs we were all skiing the run comfortably, in control and a little faster. It was a great review for me and a goal for this year might be to take the time to ski a run until I own it.

Books, check them out

As I thought about this, I looked over my ski books and one stood out, “Ski Faster” by Lisa Feinberg Densmore. Over a period of years I always looked forward to checking out Head Skis at the annual On-Snow Demo at Stratton, Vermont. This included skiing with Lisa, and watching her carve turns down the mountain was always inspiring. Those memories inspired me to reach out and locate Lisa, who has moved from New England to Montana and is now Lisa Ballard.

A couple of emails led to a phone call and some interesting insights into goals. Lisa’s ski background includes racing at every level from Dartmouth College to pro racing and Masters racing. When “Ski Faster” came out in 2000, she had already been U.S . Masters Alpine Skier of the year twice and was a four-time National Combined Champion.

We had hardly started our conversation when she gave me some great goals, saying, “The most important are terrain-based. If you want to move from easy Greens to Blue trails, use incremental steps. Go from a little more challenging Green to an easy Blue. Work your way up to more difficult Blues.”

She talked about easing into bumps on novice pitches before heading into steeper bump runs. Instead of sticking to perfectly groomed trails, get into broken snow and powder, always taking everything in small bites.

The last thing we talked about was getting fit: “As we get stronger, with more strength and agility comes more confidence.”

It’s easy to see why Lisa’s clinics draw so many women who want to ski better. And I can say from the experience of skiing with her that there are plenty of men who could benefit from Lisa’s clinics. You can check out her website, www.lisaballardoutdoors.com, for information on events, her books, videos.

I hope you have come up with some ways to set a goal or two and get more out of this season. I already have an example of how “ski faster” can help. My first run of the season was overly cautious, making slow turns and feeling out the snow. On my second run I pointed them down and made higher speed turns. It felt a lot better.

Set your goals. See you on the slopes.

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