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SallyCat

Help Progressing to Ungroomed Skiing

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Idle early-summer thoughts: I have a pass at Magic for next year, as well as a mid-week Okemo pass. I am an intermediate groomer-zoomer who cannot really ski bumps. 

"Why ever did you get a Magic pass then?"  I can hear you thinking.

Well, because I don't want to stay an intermediate groomer-zoomer; I would like to be able to ski more interesting terrain. Not gnar, just interesting. So my question is:

What are a couple of things I should start working on right away next season in order to work toward gradually expanding the terrain that am able to ski at Magic?

And second question:

For those who know Magic well, what do you recommend as a trail progression? I've done Upper and Lower Wizard, Trick, Magic Carpet and Show-off, so basically all the easiest groomers, What should I try to aspire to?

Thanks for indulging some next-season daydreaming. 

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I'm in a very similar situation to you, wanting to learn the fun stuff. Most of the Green lift trails, when ungroomed but covered, are good to practice in, as are the glades right off Red's unload and White Kitten. My advice is get a lesson, you'll progress much faster. Also, Green laps should lead to a faster progression as there won't be any carpet ride or run-out to get to the fun intermediate stuff!

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There should be no spare room in your boots, your feet should not be able to move. Constantly remind yourself to get your weight forward and your hands up. It may sound simple but keep your eyes focused on where you want to ski not things you are trying to avoid. It is a good idea to scout a line when stopped but never look at trees while in motion. 

Most importantly ski as much as possible. Good gear, rest, fitness help but are not even remotely close to actually skiing. At the end of the day when you are exhausted, ski the biggest most erratic bump line for your last run, you may find that your body takes over and leaves your mind out of it. If not, you've lost nothing and burned a few more calories to cover that extra beer.

Just some thoughts I have compiled over the decades, I am not an instructor, indeed I have not taken a lesson since grade school.

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There should be no spare room in your boots, your feet should not be able to move. Constantly remind yourself to get your weight forward and your hands up. It may sound simple but keep your eyes focused on where you want to ski not things you are trying to avoid. It is a good idea to scout a line when stopped but never look at trees while in motion. 
Most importantly ski as much as possible. Good gear, rest, fitness help but are not even remotely close to actually skiing. At the end of the day when you are exhausted, ski the biggest most erratic bump line for your last run, you may find that your body takes over and leaves your mind out of it. If not, you've lost nothing and burned a few more calories to cover that extra beer.
Just some thoughts I have compiled over the decades, I am not an instructor, indeed I have not taken a lesson since grade school.
"I am not an instructor" is the message to take from this post. There is some really bad (and some ok) advice here.

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8 minutes ago, Cannonballer said:
2 hours ago, thebigo said:
There should be no spare room in your boots, your feet should not be able to move. Constantly remind yourself to get your weight forward and your hands up. It may sound simple but keep your eyes focused on where you want to ski not things you are trying to avoid. It is a good idea to scout a line when stopped but never look at trees while in motion. 
Most importantly ski as much as possible. Good gear, rest, fitness help but are not even remotely close to actually skiing. At the end of the day when you are exhausted, ski the biggest most erratic bump line for your last run, you may find that your body takes over and leaves your mind out of it. If not, you've lost nothing and burned a few more calories to cover that extra beer.
Just some thoughts I have compiled over the decades, I am not an instructor, indeed I have not taken a lesson since grade school.

"I am not an instructor" is the message to take from this post. There is some really bad (and some ok) advice here.

Please elaborate, not being confrontational, just curious? After all, we are here to learn.

Edited by thebigo

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Ah Magic.... I really don’t ski there nearly enough living so close. Some truly great skiing there.

I think you bought into magic at the best time for you. With the new green Peak chair going in you should have some nice options over there. Vertigo and Mystery sometimes aren’t groomed but aren’t super steep and would offer a nice next step. On the west side talisman is a nice steeper groomer, though I’m not sure the last time I skied it when it was actually groomed.
Broomstick to heart of the magician might be a nice last step. Broomstick is narrow but negotiable and heart isn’t overly steep. But in reality if you bought a pass at Magic you gotta just go for it.




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Please elaborate, not being confrontational, just curious? After all, we are here to learn.
"At the end of the day when you are exhausted, ski the biggest most erratic bump line for your last run"

This is a really good way to get hurt. That's why there is the old skier rule/joke/superstition that you never take 'one last run'. Even if you don't get hurt this isn't going to help your skiing. When your exhausted and in over your head you fall back on bad habits just to survive. Forcing yourself to ski with bad habits only reinforces those bad habits and builds muscle-memory for them. If it's the end of the day and you're exhausted, the best thing to do is call it a day.
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2 hours ago, Cannonballer said:

"At the end of the day when you are exhausted, ski the biggest most erratic bump line for your last run"

This is a really good way to get hurt. That's why there is the old skier rule/joke/superstition that you never take 'one last run'. Even if you don't get hurt this isn't going to help your skiing. When your exhausted and in over your head you fall back on bad habits just to survive. Forcing yourself to ski with bad habits only reinforces those bad habits and builds muscle-memory for them. If it's the end of the day and you're exhausted, the best thing to do is call it a day.

You beat me to it. Really bad advice.

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The best thing I did for ungroomed skiing was take a mogul lesson. The first part of the lesson we were just on groomers and the instructor taught us short jump turns, like "10 turns in 50 feet no wider than 8 feet" short jump turns. After we mastered that we went into the mogul field. 

Once inside the mogul field I would say the process is easier to show than describe, but I will say skiing the front side of the bump is the advanced technique. When starting out, come at the bump from the side and go over the top and turn on the top of the bump. As you get better you start hitting the bump more toward the front, moving to the front more and more as you get better. 

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Find a good instructor would be my advice. People on here may give you tips. But, until you have a toolkit, that advice probably won't make much sense or you'll find it difficult to implement. You need to get to a point that you can self diagnose your own issues before taking advice from an online community and trying to incorporate it into your skiing. Until then, you really don't have the kinetic awareness to incorporate tips, especially if you are in survival mode most of the time. An instructor can observe and provide you feedback and help you to develop your toolkit. Then you can go from there and really begin the mastery process.

One great thing about Magic is that it has SO many great low angle natural snow trails since so much is left natural. You should certainly focus on developing your technique on lower angle slopes. That is basically walking before you run. Heart of Magician is an excellent low angle natural snow trail for working natural snow technique. Or any of the groomers that are left natural after a storm.

One short coming of Magic is there really aren't any quality low angle bump fields... most of the lines that develop bumps are steeper. Twilight Zone might be a good option for developing bump skills at Magic. Though it is listed as a glade... there are hardly any trees remaining (I was stunned at the lack of trees this year... I remember there being so many more of them 10+ years ago).

In any case, developing natural snow and bump skills really unlock the entire mountain for any skier. Then you just need to work on control at steeper pitches and after that you can get into the glades and then you have the whole mountain you can ski. But it all starts with bump technique. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress next season!

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12 hours ago, Cannonballer said:

"At the end of the day when you are exhausted, ski the biggest most erratic bump line for your last run"

This is a really good way to get hurt. That's why there is the old skier rule/joke/superstition that you never take 'one last run'. Even if you don't get hurt this isn't going to help your skiing. When your exhausted and in over your head you fall back on bad habits just to survive. Forcing yourself to ski with bad habits only reinforces those bad habits and builds muscle-memory for them. If it's the end of the day and you're exhausted, the best thing to do is call it a day.

About ten years ago I was skiing with a dude in Tahoe - meadows to be specific. At the end of the day I asked him if he wanted to take one more run, told me he was done. Then proceeded to tell me about his son who took one more run as a teenager at Camelback, went off the trail and ended up paralyzed from the waist down. I think about that story every single time I am on hill and am especially careful with my daughter.

I agree the advice was not properly conveyed.

Unfortunately my days are often time limited due to family activities and I like to go home sore and exhausted. Personally I find if I push through the first wave of tiredness/soreness I tend to get a second wind and do some of my best skiing. The kind of skiing where your legs go where they need to and you feel like you're floating. But it only lasts a few runs and I would never recommend pushing it after your muscles start to tighten up.

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2 hours ago, thesnowway said:

Find a good instructor would be my advice. People on here may give you tips. But, until you have a toolkit, that advice probably won't make much sense or you'll find it difficult to implement. You need to get to a point that you can self diagnose your own issues before taking advice from an online community and trying to incorporate it into your skiing. Until then, you really don't have the kinetic awareness to incorporate tips, especially if you are in survival mode most of the time. An instructor can observe and provide you feedback and help you to develop your toolkit. Then you can go from there and really begin the mastery process.

One great thing about Magic is that it has SO many great low angle natural snow trails since so much is left natural. You should certainly focus on developing your technique on lower angle slopes. That is basically walking before you run. Heart of Magician is an excellent low angle natural snow trail for working natural snow technique. Or any of the groomers that are left natural after a storm.

One short coming of Magic is there really aren't any quality low angle bump fields... most of the lines that develop bumps are steeper. Twilight Zone might be a good option for developing bump skills at Magic. Though it is listed as a glade... there are hardly any trees remaining (I was stunned at the lack of trees this year... I remember there being so many more of them 10+ years ago).

In any case, developing natural snow and bump skills really unlock the entire mountain for any skier. Then you just need to work on control at steeper pitches and after that you can get into the glades and then you have the whole mountain you can ski. But it all starts with bump technique. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress next season!

Thank you; I do indeed plan to take lessons. I find they are a bit of a crapshoot, though. I've paid good money only to be told vague things like "let the skis do the work," which is singularly unhelpful. What I'd really like is a coach. Someone I could see once a week for a few hours and really give me honest criticism and feedback and drills, etc. I'm not sure where to begin looking for an arrangement like that, though. 

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3 hours ago, thesnowway said:

One short coming of Magic is there really aren't any quality low angle bump fields... most of the lines that develop bumps are steeper. Twilight Zone might be a good option for developing bump skills at Magic. Though it is listed as a glade... there are hardly any trees remaining (I was stunned at the lack of trees this year... I remember there being so many more of them 10+ years ago).

Did a hurricane take out trees in the last decade?  There is a "glade" marked on the trail map at the top of Jiminy but there are only 2-3 trees in the middle of a groomer.  I wondered whether that area used to be quite different.

Finding mellow bumps for practice is a challenge most places.  When I had a private bump lesson at Jackson Hole with a couple friends, our instructor noted that there weren't really any "blue bumps" at JH.  Turns out I have more intermediate bumps to practice on at Massanutten in Virginia.  Of course, the bump sections are very short.  But I learned a lot taking lessons with a L3 instructor there about how to practice fundamental skills related to skiing bumps or uneven terrain off-piste that was useful for trips to big mountains.  Took a few seasons to develop solid skills though.

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57 minutes ago, SallyCat said:

Thank you; I do indeed plan to take lessons. I find they are a bit of a crapshoot, though. I've paid good money only to be told vague things like "let the skis do the work," which is singularly unhelpful. What I'd really like is a coach. Someone I could see once a week for a few hours and really give me honest criticism and feedback and drills, etc. I'm not sure where to begin looking for an arrangement like that, though. 

Have you had lessons with a L3 instructor?  After the first time I did a solo lesson with a very experienced L3 instructor (20+ years experience), I figured out that they tend to have had a lot more training on how to teach.  Note that a L2 instructor who has been teaching 10+ years can be as effective if the chemistry is good.  But I've also had lessons with L2 instructors who weren't flexible enough in their thinking.  They had one way of teaching and if that didn't work for me, then the lesson wasn't as helpful.  Depends somewhat on the reason a L2 has not taken L3 exams.  The amount of time and commitment it takes to pass L3 exams (teaching, skiing) is significantly more than for L2.  Having worked with over a dozen L3 instructors at big and small mountains in the last 5-6 years, I can say that all have been very helpful.

Could you do a multiday or multi-week lesson program next season?  Can be a very good deal.  The ladies I met at Jiminy Peak in Jan originally started skiing together when they took a multi-week program.  I think a few were intermediates when they started the lessons.  Now all various levels of advanced skiers who liked the challenge of 20 inches of fresh snow that became big soft bumps pretty quickly.

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2 hours ago, SallyCat said:

Thank you; I do indeed plan to take lessons. I find they are a bit of a crapshoot, though. I've paid good money only to be told vague things like "let the skis do the work," which is singularly unhelpful. What I'd really like is a coach. Someone I could see once a week for a few hours and really give me honest criticism and feedback and drills, etc. I'm not sure where to begin looking for an arrangement like that, though. 

Yea, I completely see and agree with this point. The model of teaching skiing is definitely flawed (IMO) and there are major differences between run of the mill instructors that aren't very helpful even after a season of lessons and those that can transform your skiing overnight with a single lesson and a few drills.

I was fortunate to have found good instruction on a race team in college after not receiving good instruction on a high school race program nor in any previous lessons that got me to successfully parallel groomers but little else. That instruction didn't transform me overnight but it gave me a toolkit to work with and from there I was able to get off the groomers and enjoy natural snow by applying the fundamentals in the toolkit and adapting through trial and error to various conditions.

It took a few years after I committed to getting off the groomers before I become a true "ski anything" type skier. But once you get that toolkit and the desire to develop, you are only limited by how much you want to apply yourself to developing. Getting that toolkit from the right instructor can be challenging, I was pretty fortunate to stumble upon it at the right time and place. After that, I just watched and followed other skiers and adapted my fundamental toolkit to new terrain and conditions. 

The day that changed my trajectory as a skier is forever etched in my memories... I was a groomer only skier and I skied down Lower Lynx at Wildcat when I came to the intersection with Lower Catenary (which is a short but steepish pitch that was very well moguled). I was about to swing back around via the groomer when I saw a ripping skier come down through the bumps. It looked fun. I said if she can do that, I can do that. So I went for it. I watched how she moved and I tried to copy. I sucked pretty bad to start but you get there if you keep trying. Find someone to imitate, study their movements, and copy. But I think starting with that fundamental toolkit is essential.

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On 5/30/2018 at 8:22 PM, thebigo said:

Good gear, rest, fitness help but are not even remotely close to actually skiing.

Agree that mileage is necessary to get more and more comfortable with ungroomed terrain, regardless of snow conditions.  What do you mean by "fitness"?  Strength, balance, cardio, or ?  

There's quite a bit that can be done during the off season in terms of ski conditioning.  Doesn't require that much time either.  A fair amount can be done at home with minimal equipment.  When I had to do knee rehab, I started building core strength in a way I hadn't done before.  Learning 1-leg balance exercises during physical therapy for the injured leg meant I also did them on the uninjured leg.  Did help to get a BOSU.  Made a big difference even the first season after the knee injury (not a skiing injury).

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8 hours ago, thesnowway said:

The day that changed my trajectory as a skier is forever etched in my memories... I was a groomer only skier and I skied down Lower Lynx at Wildcat when I came to the intersection with Lower Catenary (which is a short but steepish pitch that was very well moguled). I was about to swing back around via the groomer when I saw a ripping skier come down through the bumps. It looked fun. I said if she can do that, I can do that. So I went for it. I watched how she moved and I tried to copy. I sucked pretty bad to start but you get there if you keep trying. Find someone to imitate, study their movements, and copy. But I think starting with that fundamental toolkit is essential.

Finding a ski buddy who was a much better skier than I was, but was willing to sweep for me on challenging ungroomed terrain made a huge difference.  When we started skiing together at a school alumni gathering at Alta in April, I spent 90% of the time on groomers.  Later started doing trips out west together, usually with other friends too.  Once I worked enough with instructors on fundamentals, I could get in much more mileage off-piste because he would ski with me for at least part of the day.  He was an advanced skier skiing Aspen every weekend during high school, had surgery to fix up messed up meniscus in a knee in high school, and is in his 60s now.  

The irony is that I eventually talked him into taking high level semi-private lessons.  Partially to save a little money for 2-hr or 3-hr private lessons at destination resorts, and partially because I learn a lot when a good instructor is teaching someone else.  The second semi-private lesson we took together was at Alta with a random L3 instructor with 25+ years experience.  Bottom line is that after that lesson, he starting learning how to take advantage of the design of his all-mountain skis.  Fair to say that his technique after the 1990s evolved from what worked best for straight skis.  He's done two Taos Ski Weeks in the last two seasons (group lessons 6 mornings in a row for $220, same instructor).  He became much smoother on any terrain, including bumps of any size and snow condition.  Since I'm a visual learner, following him has become just as helpful for me as following L3 instructors.

Edited by MarzNC

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Magic is a great choice for ungroomed skiing.   There is plenty of low-angle stuff on the east side - glades and trails alike.  As far as diy advice goes, try “challenging” terrain (this being a relative term) a day after a powder day so that the snow is skied in, but still soft and easy to ski.  

Also you might try finding a skilled and friendly skier at Magic with whom you could work out an advice for beer barter situation ?

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In terms of progressing at Magic, Up Your Sleeve and Vertigo are intermediate trails that are a fun time. These are intermediate trails but the thin cover make them a bit more challenging. When they have snow, these two trails are not groomed as often (as compared to Medium) and become fantastic low-angle, and small, bump trails. There are several low-angle and open glades such as White Kitten, Pixie Dust, and Disappearing Act that will give you confidence in the woods. 

 

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