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Ask The Experts: January 2002

Evolution
posted: 12/20/2001

Gear

Lease Gear For Young Kids
I love my three little ones, but equipping them for skiing gives me a migraine. Any suggestions?
Larry Gruber
Gary, Ind.

Seasonal lease programs might be the way to go, especially for the youngest skiers. Packages start at as little as $100 per season. And hassle is minimal: Bring the kids in for sizing, then return a few days later to pick up a package of skis, boots, bindings and poles. If a shop near you doesn't offer one, check out skileasing.com, the site of a Burlington, Vt., ski and board shop that offers leases via UPS for as little as $125.

With most lease programs, the equipment is basic. The skis are fine; it's the boots that aren't always the best. But don't let that worry you till your kids are older, say, 8 or 10. At that point, consider buying a decent pair of soft-flexing, overlap boots (buckles on the front). With kids growing like spring corn, don't expect to get two years out of a pair of boots. But you can often recoup half what you paid at a ski swap. High-end skis aren't critical until later, about the time your child begins to care about equipment, maybe 10 or so. Just make sure the skis are soft-flexing and appropriately sized (about nose-high). And don't neglect proper clothing; it may be the best investment you make for your kids. —Gear Geek

Have a question for Gear Geek? Write Joe Cutts at jcutts@skimag.com.

Fitness

Pain, No Gain
My 10-year-old son wants to start a ski fitness program. What can he do safely?
J.P. Amundson
Buffalo, N.Y.

Two words: Think fun! Encourage your son to be active: ski, bike, hike. While studies show that kids as young as 7 can safely do supervised strength-training, the evidence is inconclusive as to whether it boosts performance. Perhaps a greater risk than injury is burnout. The goal of a fitness program for children 12 and younger should be to get kids to see themselves as athletes and embrace a healthy lifestyle, says Tony Nunnikhoven, alpine program director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which has trained 51 Olympians. The SSWSC uses field activities—soccer, ultimate Frisbee—to keep its young athletes in shape. It also uses no-weight resistance training, such as push-ups, which use the body's mass as weight. At ages 13 and 14, kids are taught basic resistance exercises, still using little or no weight (e.g. a squat using a broom handle), with weight-training starting at maybe 15 or 16. Exercises should be supervised by a trainer who has extensive experience with children. —The Trainer

Have a question for The Trainer? Write Kellee Katagi at kkatagi@skimag.com.

Instruction

Up And Down Or Sideways?
I see some skiers go up and down, while others move their legs from side to side. What's the right way to ski?
Erik Thorson
Wyckoff, N.J.

There is no "right way" to ski. The greatest skiers are the most versatile. It's a mistake to confuse up and down movements with flex and extension. Because we ski on an inclined plane (slope), movement straight up causes us to lose our balance backward. Instead, we flex to move our center (located in the hips) closer to the snow, and extend to move farther away from it.

On hard snow, we often flex the legs to apply power to the edge; then we extend to relax the leg muscles as we change edges, beginning the new turn and the next flex. In powder, the reverse happens. We extend to push the skis deeper into the snow to gain the purchase that allows a direction change. We flex the legs to release this pressure and rest briefly before applying pressure to the new edge by extending once more. In both cases, this lengthening and shortening of the legs looks like up and down movement, but it's really not.

Study racers: The skier's center stays quiet—at about the same distance from the snow—while the legs exxtend laterally. This long side-reach places the skis on a high edge. The muscles then flex, the legs retract, pass beneath the skier's body then reach out to the other side. All the best powder, crud, mogul and so-called new-school skiers combine these "looks" to suit the situation, snow and terrain.

Prof's Tip: Instead of thinking about moving "up," move "out," away from the hill. —The Professor

Have a question for The Professor? Write Stu Campbell at stucski@aol.com

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