The Mountain Times

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Mogul mania, enjoy the spring bumps like a pro

Olympic gold medalist and world champion mogul skier, Donna Weinbrecht, shares tips

It may seem a far stretch for an Olympic champ who pinballs zipper lines down Outer Limits, break down mogul skiing in terms non-experts can understand. But Donna Weinbrecht, who leads clinics at Killington throughout the year, yet again impresses us with her skill to teach.

Weinbrecht answers questions about how improve your spring bumps skiing.


Ski & Ride: How do you control your speed? Especially on bumps as steep as Outer Limits at Killington?
Donna Weinbrecht: It depends on your level, but if you're skiing Outer Limits, I assume you're an intermediate to expert skier. For intermediate levels, I recommend practicing a fuller turn to control speed. You can hockey stop on the front side of a bump with your skis facing the trees, and hold that position until you're ready to rise up and complete the turn on the back side of the mogul. This is the breakdown of movement for absorption, which is the key to skiing moguls. You can do this progression very very slowly.
Experts skiers will be able to take a more direct line with their tips pointed down the fall line. In competitions we use moguls to generate speed carving on the front and back side of the bumps.

S&R: What terrain is best for practicing mogul technique?
DW: When I teach clinics at Killington we practice a lot on the flats. This is where we try to fix bad habits, like pole-planting into the body or way off to the sides. We practice a lot of quick turns and temp changing. In moguls you have to be somewhat aggressive.
Upper and lower body separation is key to skiing moguls, your upper body needs to face down the hill while your lower body remains loose turning from side to side and absorbing the terrain (rather than letting the terrain through you.)

After we practice good technique in the flats, we move to an intermediate bump run, something not too steep and where the moguls are a bit looser and we practice our techniques there. It's a build up to process.

S&R: How do you visualize your run when you stand at the top of a bump run?
DW: I always look for a rhythmic decent. We call it a 'line.' I visualize the first six good turns before I even move; I call it my game plan. Then I keep my eyes up. I am always looking at least one to three bumps ahead. For experts you are never physically where you are, you learn trust and efficiency always making a plan down the line. Sometimes when nothing is there and I need a new line, I go over the top and just hit it, I make a couple of turns down the spine until I am able to find another sweet line. Again, this requires looking ahead and really understanding the anatomy of moguls.

S&R: When you look down a mogul field do you focus on the troughs or the peaks?
DW: At first I look at the troughs to see the line, but then I look up and over them. The game plan comes from the trough but when I'm moving I am looking at the peaks.

S&R: How do you find a rhythm that you can sustain without blowing out of your line?
DW: A good rhythm is only possible with good technique. Once the technique breaks and you get thrown into the backseat you're going to blow out of your line. This often happens when people get stiff, stop looking up, stop reaching forward or when the absorption is in the back.

Remember your upper and lower body separation. Keep your shoulders back and your stomach tight always looking down the hill. Resist collapsing, like when you get punched in the stomach. There should be tension in your upper body while your lower body stays supple.

S&R: How do you "absorb" a mogul with your legs so you don't catch unintended air?
DW: The key is ski to snow contact. Experts use their tips to drive into the bump, when I feel the ski flex, I am pulling up with my legs. Use your hips and tips to rise up the crest. Use your extensions, we do not ski in a squat or straight legged. When an expert is skiing bumps you won't see the base of their ski.

People most often get air when they get in the backseat, when this happens think about pushing your hips up and through and using your full extensions.

S&R: What role does pole-planting/pole positioning have in mogul skiing?
DW: Pole-planting is quite important for rhythm. You should be planting mid-girth to the top of a mogul, not in the trough, that's too late. Your pole should not break into the body or to the side, this will put you in the backseat. Rather your poles should be comfortable out in front and slightly to the side of your body. Swing your shaft out, punch and release. It is good to practice pole-planing in the flat area too, as many approach bumps with bad habits that will make them more difficult to ski.

S&R: What is the most common difficulty people tend to have when learning bumps?
DW: They get stiff or otherwise loose the good technique they had when skiing the flats.

S&R: How do you help them overcome that difficulty?
DW: We practice the breakdown of movement for absorption very slowly, hockey stop down and release. People are often very shocked at how slowly I can ski moguls with good position. When they get comfortable with this, we practice fluidity stepping on the front side [of the mogul] and rising up with hips forward.

Sometimes we go back to the flat trail and practice keeping the lower body loose and the upper body down the hill, not facing the trees like most are used to in a hockey stop.

S&R: If you had one tip folks to practice while spring skiing bumps, what would it be?
DW: Have fun it's just mogul skiing. Remember your sunscreen and smile!