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Hard Snow vs. Soft

Hard Snow vs. Soft

posted: 10/16/2002

Skiing on ice gives you
a technical foundation for life.

By Chan Morgan

Cold weather rants from my very Western wife generally begin with something like, "It's so awful in the East. No wonder Eastern ski academies are POW camps and you guys don't know how to enjoy yourselves." Perhaps, but I remember the beating Westerners took at my first Junior Nationals at Stratton in Vermont, especially the ones from the Far West, where the weather is extra warm and the snow extra soft.

Even as a proud Easterner, I have to admit I wish I'd had the opportunity to spend several weeks freeskiing on a big Western mountain every season instead of hacking slalom turns all winter on a frozen waterfall at home in Vermont. The exposure would have done me some good.

But the real nuts and bolts of finding a balance point, pulling the ski back under your hips at the beginning of a turn, feeling the tension in your foot and ankle and, bang, executing a clean arc on boilerplate ice is learned at home. These are the skills that give a person total confidence on any pitch and in all conditions for the rest of his or her life. If you can make a pair of skis react on ice as they would on hero snow, you have attained true enlightenment and the ability to treat all snow as good snow.

The curse of an Eastern education is not that it's too intense, which is generally the point of contention for a Westerner, but that the turn we learn feels so good we sometimes lose sight of the fact that not all conditions require that much turn. I still get asked what the mountain did to me to deserve such heavy-footed treatment. But I maintain that the best way to learn technique is on ice. It's up to you how you choose to use that technique.

Chan, a graduate of the Stratton Mountain School and a three-time All-American at Dartmouth, lives with his wife, Edie, and two children outside Hanover, N.H.

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