I would like to start this article with something that has been on my mind lately. It has to do with the idea that these articles will make you a better skier or that something in my material printed in the past and/or the future will make you run more buoys. It simply is not the case. My way of skiing is just what it says...mine. All too many times in the past have I tried to get other skiers to do what it is that I am doing at that same moment. Last season for example, it was the power triangle. Instead of looking for the next best TIP, I would like for skiers to start looking at their own skiing with both honesty and an open mind. The journey of your skiing is exactly that...yours. I will tell you part of my story and hopefully you can learn from my experiences and the way I approach my skiing.
I grew up skiing on a public lake in Vermont. My father, Mark, caught the tournament ski buzz back in the early 1980's.We were part of the first group of skiers on our lake that installed the course. Needless to say, no one knew what they were doing. It was as pure as it can possibly be. Go through the gates, turn six consecutive buoys, and exit through the other set of gates. If you made all six, speed the boat up and try again. For a few summers, this was how it was. Pure. The biggest problem was that we wanted to get better and we had no one in our state that was better than we were. So my father picked up the phone and befriended Steve Schnitzer, who openly gave his thoughts and ideas to my father. So my father's knowledge base started growing and thus new ideas and techniques became attainable. This is the most important part of this article. It is up to you to form your own thoughts and ideas about skiing and to do whatever you can to work towards these things. My father still remains the most influential coach I have had over the years. Not because he was so cutting edge, but rather that he taught me how to think for myself. He would call Steve, listen to what he had to say, ask him questions for clarification, and then formulate his own ideas from the information he gathered. Unbeknownst to me, my father gave me this gift. I also learned another great thing from my father and that was don't be afraid to try new things. Put the time into formulating your ideas, and then do whatever you can to help make those ideas materialize in your skiing. Most of the time that means TOW(Time On the Water),but it also requires taking input from other skiers and coaches. The big key with taking information from other skiers is to know where your theories stand and to listen to what others have to say. Just because Chris Rossi tells you he is doing so and so, does not mean that it is absolute and you should abandon your current techniques. Use what I write to grow your knowledge base and to fill in the blanks. You should end up with just as many, if not more questions after reading these articles. Another great point here is to seek out a diverse group to learn from and don't be afraid to ask why. I don't respond well to being told to do something unless I know why I'm doing it. The same goes for my skiing. If a skier or coach wants you to do something, they should be able to give you a very detailed description of why. If not, then they themselves don't have a clear enough theory and thus you are taking a shot in the dark at success.
So my father laid a great foundation for me. When I left home for college, I could run 35 off with some consistency. That was great, but like all skiers, it just wasn't enough. My college years were a struggle for me strictly because I had a hard time juggling school and skiing. I realize now that for those five years, my mind was fairly closed to new ideas. I was skiing a lot, but not getting better. What the heck? If I ski more, I should get better. This is another great learning experience and something you should take from this article. You do not get better JUST because you ski a lot. In retrospect, all I accomplished during this period of my skiing was to refine my inefficiencies. I was not growing as a skier. At the time, I truly thought that all it took to get better was TOW. How wrong I was. After five years of college, I could run 35 only slightly more consistently that when I started. Five years with no growth. This was a source of major frustration in my skiing career. I can honestly say that I came within a moment of quitting competitive skiing. There is nothing more disheartening than to not evolve. In that low point of my skiing, I made a pact with myself. I would recommit myself to skiing; put more effort toward my skiing; and leave all excuses on the dock.
This new recommitment led me to Steve Schnitzer once again. At that time, he was running a ski school in Orlando. Steve again openly invited me in. I took the opportunity and ran with it. He was a tough teacher. I would work around the ski school all day for one to two coaching sets with Steve. To some, eight to 10 hours of hard work in return for one to two coaching sets seems like I was getting ripped off. This could not be further from the truth. The knowledge I learned that year with Steve was worth far more than my time and effort. Honestly, I just felt so privileged to get to hang around Steve that the hours spent scrubbing toilets, wiping down boats, and cutting grass went by in a flash. In 1998 I learned how to run 38. Wow, what a revival I felt in my skiing. I was running more buoys and my knowledge base was growing so rapidly I felt like the sky was the limit. That is a great feeling that I think most skiers can relate to. In 1999, I went from No. 227 on the world rankings list to No. 35.
Skiing with Steve was very beneficial for me and I will always be thankful for the time we spent those summers. He will remain one of my mentors and very good friends. As luck would have it, Steve left the ski school and I was offered his position. Nothing short of overwhelming for a young aspiring skier. Something happened that I did not see coming. With Steve gone, I was all by myself. This allowed me to go in new directions with my skiing. Actually, I was able to go in any direction my mind was able to come up with. The way I see it, skiing is a journey. I follow my theories to the very end and then have to evaluate whether it's time to veer off my current path and start down a new road. By the 2002 season, I was feeling like I had gone to the end of the road I had started down in 1998. I couldn't see how I was going to run more buoys without just getting a lot stronger. This didn't set right with me.
At this point, my childhood friend, Jamie Beauchesne, and I started skiing together on a daily basis. Again I was revitalized. Jamie has been, and in my opinion will always be, at the leading cusp of the slalom world. He is a free thinker and he isn't afraid to be unconventional. This was so fresh, so new. As we spent more and more time together, we started bouncing ideas off one another. This was the beginning of what at the time was called New School Technique. We were not afraid to walk away from the norm and do the unconventional. Here comes another point I want to make. Don't be afraid to change your path. At this point, I could run 39 and get 1 or 2 at 41. As I see it, if I could get around buoy 2 at any pass, then I know that I can eventually run all six buoys. To be stuck and not able to pass at 41 was a sign that I needed to re-evaluate where I was going. Skiing with Jamie helped me to take the big step and to walk away from my current theories. I had plenty of skiers, some of them pros, question what I was doing. They couldn't see where I was going, they could only see that some of my immediate results were not as good as my previous results. Thus, the new techniques I was using must not be right. I would like to differ on this. It takes time to implement new things. Sometimes you must take one step back to go forward two! Check your ego at the door and do whatever it takes to make your theories reality.
In the years since 2002, I have always tried to remember these important topics. I have been lucky enough to ski with the likes of Brandon Bucher, Chris Sullivan, Wade Cox, Rhoni Bischoff, Wade Williams, Andy Mapple, Julien Beaufils, Billy Susi, and countless others. Each has left a lasting impression on my skiing and has a part in why I am the skier that I am. Take time to formulate your theories and seek out others who may be able to help you. Ski every set with purpose. There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you keep an open mind and continually evolve your understanding of the sport.