The Right Stuff

This might work, but why bother?

I really enjoy teaching and coaching cross country skiing. There's the new people I get to meet, the kids I get to hang out with, and the satisfaction of being outside sharing a sport I love. And I can't deny that it's a real ego boost when I light up somebody's day by showing them something as simple as how to wedge turn around a downhill corner that previously had them frozen in terror. Simple techniques that many of us take for granted are like speaking Arabic for beginning skiers and I feel privileged to be their translator.

Most of my beginning students catch on to the basics fairly quickly. However, there is one common denominator that causes some of them to flail in futility no matter how athletic they are, what kind of shape they're in or how patiently and repetitively I break the process down. And that one simple thing is they are not on the right gear. They borrowed their friends equipment because they are the same shoe size. Only problem is they may be able to swap boots, but their friend is 5'10", 175lbs. and they're 5'4", 120lbs. Or they got a good deal on a package at a big box, all purpose sporting goods store. Or their mom bought them stuff they'll "grow into". They thought they could skate on their classic gear or classic on their skate gear. I've heard and seen it all.

These people are doomed to frustration until they get properly fitted gear that is designed specifically for either skate or classic skiing.

Last Saturday is an excellent case in point and served as my inspiration for this post. I was working with a really enjoyable couple from Missoula who had downhill and touring experience but wanted to try skate skiing. I could tell Shannon's skis were too long for her, but hoped to make the best of the situation. That was a wasted hope. Despite her CrossFit training and obvious athleticism, she couldn't overcome the fact that her skis, purchased at a large, local sporting goods store, were way too long for her. The tails of her skis were crossing nonstop, killing her momentum and causing her to fall repeatedly. She was trying to be a good sport about it but her frustration was building and I could see the tension growing in her. What had started as a good time was going south in a big way.

As we approached her emotional breaking point, Shaun Radley skied by pulling two of his (adorable) kids in a plastic sled.

"Hey, Mike!"