of the most common questions that I am requested to answer is simply,
"What technique do I need to work on to improve my ride?" The
answer is easy really: practice and refine your skills and put
yourself in more extreme terrain.
and more as I teach riding skills, I am finding that many sledders
are applying the technique that is portrayed in the Schooled
video series. And with a few tips they can engage themselves in
backcountry riding the way it is meant to be.
how did they get to this point? Was it the video or was it passed
down from someone who attended a riding clinic? At any rate, if the
rider is willing to lose a few bad habits and commit to the technique
the way it is intended, then it is just a matter of practice, right?
Well, almost. Practice is good to a point. If a rider isn't willing
to push himself he will not advance. The rider will advance by riding
in progressively steeper and more intimidating terrain and by simply
committing to the technique and applying himself to the task at hand.
was on tour in Norway last spring conducting a series of riding
clinics. Fredrick, whom I have ridden with in Colorado, was in
attendance. He was hell bent on learning some new tricks. He kept
asking me to watch him ride so I could coach him into being a better
rider. He was applying the technique properly, although he was a
little rough on the edges and a bit aggressive and he had the basics.
He just needed to hone his skills. He might have even lured me into a
tree once-wait a minute, that's my role. As we worked into the
trees and steeper slopes it was evident that Fredrick could apply
himself, he just needed a riding companion who could challenge him.
another ride I remember some very skilled riders who wanted to
improve. The thing is they didn't make any mistakes. They were good
and had been practicing a lot. This all was in the absence of
hazards. When challenged by trees and other obstacles they were
completely shaken up and could not concentrate on using the
you want to advance your skills it is a matter of pushing yourself
out of your comfort zone. Get stuck. Run over a tree. When you find
your riding limit, ride outside the boundary of your limits. Soon you
will find there are no boundaries and no dead ends.
friends and I came up with this idea once of marketing an energy
drink called "Talent." The thought is that when I rode upon the
likes of Sanchez-or better yet-Burandt in a tree well or
something a little more severe, I could whip out a can of Talent and
say, "Ran out of talent didn't you?" So if anyone likes this
idea I will expect to see Talent on the shelves of C-stores across
the snowbelt. It's too bad we can't just take something that
would help us develop better skills. Guess I'll just have to go
the old-fashioned way with hard work and a lot of practice.
practice is the part that is difficult if you have a 40-hour a week
job. Now I have always said that a job is a bad habit and there
should be a support group for recovering job addicts. So this is
where the practice part works really well because it helps to get
your mind off of that job addiction.
like Chris Burandt who normally rides seven days a week all winter
long and halfway through the summer. He is completely over having a
job and while I'm not sure he still needs any practice, he is still
improving. And I have plateaued. I don't know what's up with
that, but I suppose now he will be able to catch up to my skill
level. (Just kidding, Burandt.)
what's the deal with this practice thing? I see that participants
in my clinics gain a tremendous amount of ability in two to three
days of training. Then they go back to the daily routine and it might
be two weeks before they are able to get back out in the snow. By now
the training is not fresh on their mind and it takes the best part of
a day to catch up to where they left off. Then it's back to the
routine and two weeks later it takes most of the day again to catch
seems like if a sledder doesn't stay with the program he won't
improve. Perhaps. So let's not lose perspective on why we like to
ride sleds-besides the competitive nature. It's the out that we
get from our normal everyday routine. It's the pleasure of being in
the outdoors. It's about being close to nature and sharing it with
your riding buddies.
you are a pro rider and can get out several times a week, you may not
improve rapidly. Just remember it's about the experience. Get out
and enjoy our great outdoors. And practice. You never know when you
might run into me somewhere in the backcountry. This will be your
opportunity to lose me in the trees somewhere.