On my morning skin and ski today, I had a breakthrough. Well, really, the inspiration came last night, watching a ski movie clip about the early skiers in the Altai Mountains in China, and how they invented the sport and how even today they use gigantic wooden skis with a single pole to slow themselves down. It looked like a winter wonderland and it's no surprise that these people were the true inventors of our sport.
I thought about their style, and how we, in modern skiing, place so much darned emphasis on the turn. When we go skiing we say, "we made some turns today." I come from a racing background and when I think about it, all the video analysis, the coaching, etc., focused on the turn. And then I look at the guys in the Altai mountains. They don't really turn. They just manuever to avoid things.
Granted, there are some places where turning is necessary. Steep couloirs for example. If you go straight down these, in the spring time, you'll likely die. But the amount of emphasis we place on it seems very European, very Germanic if you will…societies that desire control. It seems to me skiing morphed into this sport where we control gravity by turning.
I wondered the other day why the sport of sledding brings so much joy? Get on a tobaggon and go straight down a mellow slope and you can't help but smile. You feel a thrill, and I think part of that thrill is from the lack of control. Yet the same slope on a pair of skis…probably boring. I've been skiing since I was three, and my most memorable run of my life was when I was three – before I knew how to turn. It was on the beginner slope at Sugarbush in Vermont…somehow I got out of my parents grasp and was nuking down the trail, basically out of control. My dad yelled, "Daniel, snowplow," but I didn't know how to do this, let alone turn. I think I crashed at the bottom, but it didn't matter. That run was pure freedom, pure joy, and that joy came from the lack of control.
On my ski down the hill today I decided to emulate the Altai Mountain skiers. Weight far back. Wide stance. React, don't turn. The slope was mellow but it was thrilling, and had me grinning from ear to ear. Less turning, more fun.