"Charlie falled!" a kid screams. Ski coach Hugh Sawyer is unruffled at the harm to both syntax and limb. "Stay with it," he replies, "and show good posture." Ski Life: Rolling Education
It's summer in Telluride, Colo., and members of the Telluride Ski & Snowboard Club, a.k.a. The Bump Club, are practicing their mogul technique¿on unicycles.
It's summer in Telluride, Colo., and members of the Telluride Ski & Snowboard Club, a.k.a. The Bump Club, are practicing their mogul technique¿on unicycles. The training session, held in a parking lot, is a circus of motion: waving arms, wobbly loops and gravity-based mishaps.
An integral part of Telluride's Bump Club's summer training, unicycling improves young racers' back strength, balance andcoordination¿and also quickly removes any fear of falling.
(Photo by Doug Berry)
"Balance," says Sawyer, 43, head coach and program director of The Bump Club, "is the first thing you learn." Of the 60 club members, at least 20 are unicycle regulars. Among them are U.S. Ski Team freestylers Justine Van Houte and Caleb Martin, who nailed sixth place in moguls in his first World Championships in 1999 and was later voted Rookie of the Year. "It's a good tool," Martin says of unicycling. "You have to keep your upper body tall and square as you do in mogul skiing. Everything happens from the hips down, with your feet underneath you."
The pairing of unicycles and skiing is hardly new: Racing legends Franz Klammer, Franz Weber and Ingemar Stenmark are one-wheel enthusiasts. So "unying" isn't a form of clowning around for The Bump Club, but rather part of its dryland ski training workout.
According to Pancho Winter, Telluride ski school instructor and bump skier, unicycling skills parallel those needed for strong freestyle skiing. The unicycle teaches balance, counter-rotation, line selection and good hand position, and also helps with the alignment between feet, hips and center of mass. "The pedaling motion of unicycling is similar to the retraction and extension motions of successful mogul skiing," says Winter, who is often seen one-wheeling through the downtown streets of Telluride. "But the benefits are applicable to all forms of skiing."
Telluride's one-wheelers start out by supporting themselves with cross-country ski poles for balance. "We used to just huck ourselves off the side of a car, but that was dangerous," Sawyer explains. Like skiing, unicycling takes perseverance. The sport's learning curve varies from a few hours (for the athletically gifted) to several weeks. "It's like skiing," says 15-year-old Jarrett Arguelles. "When it's time to fall, you just gotta fall."