As with any group ski lesson there was an assigned area where everyone registered for the camp and all the instructors met at 9 am. Ken, the Team Leader, explained the days schedule and the videotaping. He then asked the assembled group of students to think about what we wanted out of the clinic in relation to our skill level and experience in skiing moguls. Ken explained there would be three groups based on how each group would comfortably approach a bumped up trail, from cautiously to aggressively. Everyone seemed to have a pretty good idea where they fit as to what they hoped to take away from the clinic. Also, to put everyone at ease, Ken explained that we could move up or down in the class level should we feel over or under our intensity or skill level.
I opted for Mogul 101 which would hopefully move me up from reverting to skiing in a self defense mode when moguls get very irregular or icy and fast. There were four other good skiers who basically felt the same way about their mogul experience and joined me in instructor Shawn McCarthy's group. First thing, Shawn explained that by Sunday afternoon we wouldn't be putting duct tape on our knees so we could be judged for competition style points. However, he was sure we would end the clinic with more confidence in skiing moguls in general and with a higher comfort level in the more difficult and steeper moguls.
One of the hardest parts of group lessons is that individual skill levels of the students can be pretty variable. So, the first thing we did was ski some groomed Black trails, so Shawn could see where we should start refreshing and refining skills absolutely necessary for mogul skiing. As it turned out, everyone could use a little refinement in short turns.
Well executed short radius turns need to become the basic tool for mogul skiing and mastered to a point of reflexive "muscle memory." One thing that was certain in the beginning, Shawn was going to bring us to the moguls when he was sure we would present the best handle we each had on short radius turns. All of us knew and demonstrated how to execute the basic short turns and after some pointers and some edging and releasing practice we went in hunt for moguls.
As Shawn explained, we were hunting moguls because Killington's policy is not to seed or artificially build moguls (except for competition) but to let wind and skiers natural turning form the bumps. That way you get to learn on irregular, random moguls forcing you to improve and improvise on ever changing terrain. A case in point was a trail we concentrated on during Saturday's session that looked totally different on Sunday, because it was skied and the snow was pushed around for another hour and a half after we broke up on Saturday.
We found some small recent moguls, well spaced and symmetrical and Shawn did the "effortless float" that we became so familiar watching over the two days. While I think we all felt we did fairly well, it was back to more short turn practice with attention to "committing ourselves" down the hill for the steeper and more irregular trails ahead.
Over the course of the two days we would practice and refine short turns, short linked turns, short hop turns, short turns with crunches, short turns with a little edge, a lot of edge, and no edge, slow short turns and quick short turns. If we didn't know it before, we knew it at the end - don't think moguls until you have mastered short turns.
We added some poling exercises to the short turns since this is necessary for both balance and rhythm to keep moving down the hill. The next trail, interestingly named Dream Maker, was all the moguls we needed - and then some. You could go down this trail all day skiing moguls and if you wanted, never ski the same line twice.
Steep, with ridges and troughs it was easy to forget the skills we just practiced, but Shawn was there to point out where we lapsed into a "collapsed" mode or got in the "backseat." We worked first on turning on the top of the mogul whenever possible, with Shawn watching for poles "out front" and moving with the wrists not elbows.