Ski Camp Day Two: The Sun Came Out and the Lights Came On

seiberts aspen mountain colorado

A perfect place to find Nirvana.

brave ski mom logoIn the middle of the afternoon today, the sun came out to stay on Aspen Mountain. After teasing us throughout the morning, a bit of sun here, a lot of cloud there, the skies finally cleared and the sun shone bright and low in the sky.

It’s funny what a blue sky can do. Like flipping a switch, a blue sky can change your attitude. It can literally put a smile on your face. It’s no wonder that sunny is a synonym for optimistic.

beautiful winter morning aspen coloradoThe Lights Came On

Coincidentally (or not?), just about the time the sun came out was when all that we’ve been working on at the Clendenin Method Ski camp clicked in. As we stood above a soft, fluffy set of moguls on Seibert’s, I knew that I owned those bumps. I owned that run, and by golly, I owned my little toe edge.

It Wasn’t Always So

If you read my post yesterday, you know that our first day of ski camp was spent taking apart our old ski turns and learning new ways to turn, primarily by initiating new turns with the release of the ‘big toe’ edge of the downhill ski.

John puts it this way: “Imagine two jets turning to land at the same time. The people in the jet on the outside hope that the other one goes first or they’ll collide. Same with our skis. Releasing the downhill ski first guarantees a parallel entry which is essential for longevity  in the bumps.”

What I didn’t tell you, is that there came a moment late in the day, when I couldn’t make sense of anything. I couldn’t tell downhill ski from uphill ski. I couldn’t distinguish between inside and outside ski. I was befuddled. I was confused. I figured that I was done in and tired. I was wrong.

aspen mountain trees colorado

Finding the Love Spot

This morning, John Clendenin introduced us to the Anatomy of a Clendenin Method Turn. John divides turns into thirds. A touch of the downhill pole initiates the turn and triggers a weight shift in the top third of the turn. But just before the skier enters the fall line, both skis are edgeless. John calls this the Love Spot, because at this moment the skis are gliding effortlessly and the turn is full of possibility. It is also at this point, that a skier is most vulnerable and things can fall apart.

Once the skis are engaged, the skier enters the middle third of the turn and passes through the fall line. In this middle phase, the skier’s weight is fairly even on both skies. Moving beyond the fall line brings the skier into the last phase of the turn, where the weight shifts again, just before the next pole touch and the next turn.

coach lisa heininger aspen mountain

Coach Lisa Heininger about to initiate a turn with a pole touch.

Confusion Be Gone

“I’ve done a lot of research, and what much of it shows, is that when people feel confused, it’s because they’re confronting fear.”

John was trying to help me work through my confusion from yesterday. Although most of what we were working on today was making great sense, he wanted to make sure I owned the technique on groomed runs before taking my turns into moguls.

“When people are asked to do something that makes them uncomfortable, they sometimes register confusion as a way to avoid it,” he continued.

I realized he was right. The first light went on.

ajax express aspen colorado

Get Over It

It’s not always fun to relearn something, to take a few steps back in order to move forward. At some point, even for a ski lesson junkie like me, it may seem like too much effort. Or perhaps the effort triggers something unpleasant from the past.

In my case, that’s exactly what happened. Late yesterday, we were skiing Spring Pitch off of lift 1A. This run is part of the Women’s World Cup course and its fast and steep. John asked our group to try lifting one ski during a turn. While I didn’t realize until today, that drill took me back, way back, to childhood race training. I never felt comfortable turning on one ski then, and I didn’t want to do it yesterday. So I got confused.

Today, learning turn anatomy, I had to get over it. And I did. Once I understood why I was confused, I was no longer confused. Instead, everything began to jell. A second light came on. When we moved as a group from groomers to moguls, the lights began to get brighter.

light on aspen mountain


If sunny is a synonym for optimistic, then confusion is a synonym for fear. Standing on Aspen Mountain, looking down a pitch of possibility, the sun came out and everything came together.

While I may not have achieved unconscious competence, I am pretty sure that I discovered another pair of synonyms: coach can be a synonym for psychologist. At least, for today.

Thanks John.

Operator error yesterday morning caused a draft post to go up before it was complete. If you read BSM via email, you received only the draft. Interested in the real post? Check out Conscious Incompetence: Ski Camp, Day One. 

A Word About the Ski Simulator…

As if skiing all day wasn’t enough, I had a half-hour deck lesson on the Clendenin Ski Method simulator tonight. This was my second time on the simulator and I was curious to see if my turns were more equal. Initially, they weren’t. But with just a little conscious effort, they really evened out.

The beauty of a ski simulator is that a coach can watch a skier, and the skier’s feet, very easily. There is no starting and stopping on snow, no skiing while trying to observe. Instead, the deck puts the skier under a microscope. Even the smallest movements can be seen, analyzed, reinforced or change. It’s really cool.

A deck lesson is included with the Clendenin Ski Method three-day camp. You can also schedule a lesson on the simulator by itself, at any time of year. Even the height of summer.


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  1. Sheila says

    This post is much more than reading about a technique. You made such a personal connection between your fear in early competition and your confusion learning a new technique. I believe many others including myself had an insight – the correlation between fear and confusion in certain circumstances – that will serve us as well as the new technique.


    • says

      Thank you Sheila! I think you are right – that connection, between how our instincts try to keep us from moving forward, by creating fear and confusion shows up in lots of places!

      I appreciate your comment.