Room for Improvement: Freestyle and Terrain Parks
After focusing on groomers as well as bumps and trees in my first two lessons, I decided to try something completely new: the terrain park.
I’m kind of terrified of the terrain park. First of all, I’m not cool enough to hang with the freestyle kids. Second of all, crashing hurts, particularly when there is a metal rail to break your fall. I’ve been skiing through Steamboat’s terrain parks for years while working up the courage to hit one of the features. There’s no time like the present.
I guess instructor Adam Hendry drew the short straw because he got assigned to ski with me for my final lesson. I warned him I was a terrain park beginner with a fear of just about every feature, so we started out by practicing freestyle skiing techniques on trails around the mountain before venturing into the park.
Adam’s top tips:
• Keep a wider stance
Most of us learned to ski in the era of straight skis, and the style was to keep your feet close together. When skiing freestyle or in the terrain park, you’ll want to widen that stance. It felt awkward to me at first, but it helps lower your center of gravity a bit as well as leave you better prepared to recover from an unexpected obstacle or land after going off a jump.
• Keep skis flat rather than being on edges
When you’re carving up the groomers, it’s all about being on your edges. But when you’re skiing freestyle, it’s important to have your weight flat on your skis rather than being on the edges. This helps the skis spin and slide on the snow sideways without catching an edge.
We practiced turning and sideslipping down Moonlight, a trail that has the added benefit of a natural quarter-pipe-like wall along the skier’s right side of the trail. Then we headed over to Rough Rider Basin to practice on-snow 360s, which is basically just a 360 where your skis don’t leave the ground (thank god). The drill is tons of fun when you do it right and a little scary when you’re skiing backward, but it’s a great way to get the feel for shifting your weight and turning your skis without getting on the edges. It’s also a good time to get any crashes out of the way before the consequences get slightly more painful in the terrain park.
Once in the park, I skied over a series of boxes, which are probably the easiest features to hit if you remember to keep your weight flat on your skis. If you hit a box and try to throw on the brakes with a snowplow, you’ll hit the proverbial banana peel, and the results will be just a bruising to your body as your ego.
• Keeps legs softer to absorb landings and bumps in the trail
One of the more obvious things we worked on was how to absorb your landings with your legs rather than having the force reverberate through your body. You want to keep your legs soft (no locked knees) to help absorb any obstacles along the way.
I’ve always recommended a lesson or guided tour for those who are new to the sport or visiting Steamboat for the first time. I’ve been skiing this mountain for years, but each instructor took me to trails or lines that I’d never skied. I’m excited to explore other new areas of the mountain this spring armed with my new skills and ready to practice my technique.
Have fun out there, and enjoy spring in Steamboat!
Nicole Miller, social media specialist
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