-By Josh Fogg
The night before the first day of the PSIA-AASI National Team Selections in Breckenridge, Alpine Team coach, Michael Rogan, addressed the candidates to prepare us for the coming days. He described the event as a series of difficult tasks and events designed to challenge our skiing, knowledge, ability to work as a team, and stamina. This was my third National Selection, and it lived up to Michael’s descriptions as the hardest one I’ve attended. What made it so hard? How do you prepare for a tryout like this? Here are some of the things we did at the National Selections, and how events like the Rocky Mountain Endorsement Trials helped me prepare.
Many of the ski tasks at the National Selections highlighted the skiing that we owned. Something about each task required so much attention to the tasks that it was very difficult to focus intently on your ski technique. On day one, we had a short warm up, and started the day with one-ski lane changes. We started on our right foot and made 5 short turns followed by a medium turn to shift lanes to 5 more short turns. Then another medium turn back to the first lane, switching skis to the left, and another series of 5 shorts, medium lane change, and 5 more short turns to a finish. What a start! It reminded me of the season prior at the Rocky Mountain Regional Endorsements at Aspen Highlands where my group started the two day selection process with one-ski garlands back and forth across the hill, switching feet after every two passes of garlands. Both tasks got to the heart of measuring our skiing mechanics very quickly and very clearly by keeping us focused on line, turn counts, lanes, and speed, instead of technique. All that was left was the skiing you truly owned.
Later in the morning, my group skied a fall line blue bump run across a double fall line, with our poles crossed behind our backs. While the run itself was not particularly difficult, the addition of pole position made the task difficult. Again, I flashed back to a run back at Highlands the year before where we skied medium radius basic parallel turns in the bumps with no poles to a designated spot, changed to short radius basic parallel turns (still without poles), and then changed back again to the medium radius turns to a finish. The number of distractions along the length of the run leaves you either thinking about the tasks or your technique. But, if you were to succeed, according to Mike Porter, you had to do the task. Again, in both instances, our attention had been drawn to the task and away from our technique.
Day one finished with a fall line bump run down one of Breckenridge’s marquee mogul runs – Mach 1. Starting well above the steep part of the run so that we couldn’t see the slope, we headed down into some very large and irregular bumps. Forced to make split second decisions after a long day of 9 other tasks, we had to do our best, sight unseen. Again, I couldn’t help but remember a similar run down Sodbuster at Aspen Highlands and our final Rocky Mountain Endorsement run down Pallavicini at Arapahoe Basin the April before. With the majority of both runs unseeable from our start points, the Rocky Mountain Endorsements did a great job preparing me and testing me in situations like those in the National Selections.
Over the next three days, I lead several short notice impromptu on-snow and indoor teaching scenarios with open ended prompts like, ”The role of the upper body in alpine skiing,” “Upper and lower body separation,” and “Skill Blending and Ski Design.” Over the course of 15 minutes, I used the prompt to create experiential ski lessons and clinics appropriate for my groups. I felt ready for this challenge after the two days at Arapahoe Basin last April, when we worked through similar situations. Both required quick thinking and a sufficient depth of understanding about skiing to lead a lesson, on the spot, with a message that resonated with the other group members.
After the first three days, the selectors made a cut to 25 finalists and I was so happy and proud to see my name and everyone who had gone through the Rocky Mountain Endorsements the year before on the list. The effort put forward by Rocky Mountain to help us prepare for the National Selections, as well as the additional support I received from the Bergie’s Best Scholarship, was exceptional. While the pathway from Regional Endorsements to National Selections was not a perfect one, I feel that it prepared me and my Rocky Mountain teammates to go to the National Selections and show PSIA- AASI why Rocky Mountain is one of the strongest divisions in the country. Thank you to all of the selectors at the Rocky Mountain Endorsements, donors to the “Bergie’s Best Scholarship,” and members of PSIA-RM for helping me along the way. Lastly, I congratulate all of the Rocky Mountain candidates for a great effort, and my fellow National Alpine Team Members from Rocky Mountain: Jennifer Simpson, Jonathan Ballou, Dusty Dyar, and Brian Smith.
You wonder how they do it,
You look to see the knack,
You watch the foot in action,
Or the shoulder or the back.
But when you spot the answer
Where the higher glamours lurk,
You’ll find in moving higher
Up the laurel-covered spire,
That most of it is practice,
And the rest of it is work.
-Grantland Rice, “How to Be a Champion”