Dec 3 and 4, 2015 – flatten the ski, lose the buckles, and don’t stop!

In May 2016, at the end of a wonderful and intense ski season, I had a bad fall at A Basin. I ruptured my ACL and damaged my meniscus. It’s now 6 months later, and I’ll be allowed to ski this season, but only “gingerly” – my doctor used that word several times – and on very gentle, groomed runs. Nothing like my usual playground of steeps, bowls, and trees. The graft takes over a year to reach full strength. This season is going to be tough.

So, as part of my coping strategy, I’m re-publishing the lesson write-ups I did for The Ski Diva last season, 2015/16.

You can see the full list of ski lesson write-ups here: Ski School Experiences

Dec 3 and 4: Matt

Thursday and Friday, the first lesson days of the season! The previous week, I had skied all four days of Thanksgiving weekend, but they were short days – Copper was just two hours. I headed back early on Sunday to get what turned out to be some extensive boot work done, then “rested” at work Monday through Wednesday. So there I was back at Breck on Thursday, still a little sore from the previous weekend, excited to see all my ski buddies from last season at the Vista House, and curious to see what exactly might happen at a Matt lesson with no terrain open.

I hadn’t planned to be writing anything up this weekend, so I don’t have full notes on what we did. Matt’s goal for us – his ongoing goal, really – is to feel the neutral part of the turn. To let the skis go completely flat before initiating the turn, rather than rushing from edge to edge. (This is what instructor Kevin calls the “oh ####” zone in the steeps.) We did several runs just thinking about allowing the flat ski to happen on mellow terrain at low speeds. After a bunch of groomers, we skied Peerless (a previous blue/black bump run that with the signage changes is now marked black) and then many laps of High Anxiety, a natural snow black bump run that tilts to the right for the top half and doesn’t typically have much traffic. At this point in the season it has lots of baby trees poking out, which keeps a lot of people out of it, preserving the snow. On Thursday and Friday, High A was still skiing very nicely. You had to watch out for some rocks, but they weren’t omnipresent, and easily avoided by skiing the walls and tops rather than dragging your skis through the troughs. Friday was a very similar day with a slightly different group composition. I have skied with all but one of the people across these two lessons previously; fun group. It skews older than you might think. I guess that’s not surprising, though, since it’s weekdays.


  • Ski with boots unbuckled on a very mellow blue groomer (and then some of the students took that into bumps and steeper sections – I wasn’t ready for that yet).
  • “Shuffle” while turning with boots unbuckled. Shuffling means that you are pushing forward your left, then right, then left, then right foot as you ski. This is easy to do in the more horizontal part of the turn, but the trick is to be able to do it as you tip the skis down the hill and back across. And of course the unbuckled boots make it especially exciting.
  • Ski top to bottom. This is a great drill because it doesn’t feel like a drill. It also feels horribly unfair and impossible when it’s suggested, at least to me, since I usually stop here and there. I find that when I know I can’t stop for breathers, I round my turns more and don’t get going so hot that I need to brake to regain control.

One of the students – an incredibly good skier who’s a good bit older than me – started playing with on the snow 360s (whatever those are called) – full spins – with boots undone. Matt suggested we all try it. I thought he was nuts, because I can’t do those even with my boots buckled! I always catch an edge. But I gave it an honest try, and I was shocked when I had that feeling of continuing smoothly all the way around (there was a very slight pole assist; just a touch). It makes sense, of course – it’s harder to have a little inadvertent edge bite when your feet aren’t communicating so closely with your boots.

I think there was at least one more drill with buckles undone and some other stuff, but I can’t remember exactly. On Thursday, I left the group at 2:30. I got almost 19k vertical that day, and still had plenty of time to take the dogs to the dog park. On Friday, I was extremely sore and kind of freaked out about that. I wasn’t sure if it was related to the changes in my boots, and that worried me. In retrospect, I think it was more related to skiing with buckles undone (engaging a wider range of motion and not being able to rely on the boot for structural support) and then also to the fact that I skied 18+k vertical after having skied pretty short days so far this season.

On Friday, I left one lift ride after lunch – they were heading over to Peak 8 for more laps of High A, and I was too sore to work up enthusiasm for “one more run” – rare for me. The current route to Peak 9 was my deciding factor – it starts with a long green with lots of moving obstacles. Then there’s a steep and scraped drop with lots of “SLOW” signs, but you have to tuck it and blaze through a hairpin turn at Mach Schnell because next is a flat called Sawmill where I always need to pole, no matter how fast I come through the turn (also, there are always people in the way, so that’s harrowing, too). I can’t wait for Frosty’s and E Chair to open. I think it will be soon. So Friday, I “only” got just over 13k feet.


  • Allow the ski to go completely flat before tipping onto that next edge
  • Skiing with buckles undone is awesome, but scary. (Also as Matt was quick to say, it’s a suggestion, not a requirement – it will definitely reduce your control, so use your own judgment about whether it’s a good idea for you.)
  • If you usually stop a couple of times on the way down, use peer pressure to force yourself to ski top to bottom without stopping, and see what that does to/for your skiing.

Next up: Saturday Dec 5 with Randy!

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