The Catch-22 of Pushing the Limits

A common theme of mine is staying in control on the ski slopes, in fact, that is one of the cardinal rules of skiing and we see that admonition frequently in ski magazines, at resorts, on blogs, etc. Let us face it though, from time to time we all get out of control. Most of the time it is only for a moment, for instance that edge catch I reported to you, I was out of control, I got back into control and proceeded with my run.

I was skiing at a new resort and the light was seriously flat — I completely missed a fairly serious drop and was out control for a bit. Those moments are frightening because one understands being out of control even for a moment can put you course for a crash.

A lot of you reading this, though, understand the difference from the situations I describe above and being out of control.
Even at that, there is an inherent catch-22 in the admonition. If one does not venture onto runs beyond their ability there is no improvement, and the bunny slopes would be very crowded.

I am not saying never ski on runs above your ability, I am saying ski on those slightly above your ability level. What I am saying is do not go from the bunny run to your slope’s double-black diamond run, that will put your seriously out of control. I like to say “push your limits with a gentle determined firmness”, don’t smash your limits, instead push them out.

As I stated, the best skiers can find themselves out of control, but if they are on runs within their limits they can re-establish control. The goal is to keep those out of control moments from occurring in the first place, keep the time span to a minimum, and to keep the frequency of out of control moments as close to zero as possible. Most of us know usually nothing happens, but isn’t that a matter of chance? What happens if you go out of control while skiing towards a mogul field (one you intend to steer away from)? How about trees? Unfortunately, we hear these stories from time to time, and usually they are not happy.

Warren Withereall in his book How the Racers Ski notes that at recreational speeds (which appears to be 21 mph tops) one second of being out of control means traveling 20 to 30 feet. At 41 mph that second means 60 feet of travel. Where will you go, if you travel straight for 20 to 60 feet?

Push your limits but do so wisely.

Good Stuff!

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