Bumps for Boomers Groomed for Balance. Program offers older skiers opportunity to mix with moguls. By John Meyer, DENVER POST
SNOWMASS – If you’re a baby boomer who avoids moguls and powder at all costs, but you’re increasingly intimidated by how fast others are tearing past you on the groomed runs, Joe Nevin has a way out of your dilemma.
Leave your conventional skis in the garage and let him give you a “Bumps for Boomers” lesson using ski boards, those funny-looking mini-skis that are just over 3 feet long.
He just might have you skiing double black diamond bump runs on them before you know it. Then you can take the techniques you’ve acquired and go back into the bumps with your conventional skis, confident and in control.
“Bumps for Boomers is a program that is specifically targeted to boomers – people in their 50s and 60s and early 70s – and it is targeted toward giving them the skills to get off groomed runs, to ski in moguls and powder and do it comfortably,” Nevin said.
An instructor for the Aspen-Snowmass ski school who used to be an executive at Apple Computer, Nevin discovered skiboards are exceptional tools for sharpening balance, a critical issue in challenging terrain. Bumps for Boomers is believed to be the only teaching program in the country utilizing skiboards.
“We start with a basic premise that says if you start a turn in balance, and you don’t do anything to throw yourself out of balance, then you will end the turn in balance,” Nevin said. “When you are over your feet, you are in balance.”
Nevin knows most boomers aren’t interested in ripping down the mountain. They are at a point in their lives when their athletic skills are diminishing and they may be increasingly risk-averse.
“They’re concerned about the speeds that are happening on the groomed runs, they wish they could get into safer terrain, but they don’t know how to do it,” Nevin said.
It might seem counterintuitive, but the moguls can be safer than groomed intermediate runs because they are significantly less crowded. The key is staying balanced – staying out of the “back seat” – in the three-dimensional space moguls represent. Skiboards teach you to stay centered over your feet.
The 95-centimeter (37.4-inch) skiboards have a shorter turning radius that reduces anxiety, allowing students to concentrate on the movement patterns they need to stay balanced. Students might feel a little shaky their first run on skiboards, but they soon feel their balance improving.
“Skiboards are truth serum in the sense that they are very short and you need to maintain a centered stance in order to be balanced on them,” Nevin said. “There is no back seat in these skis. If you get in the back seat, your feet will wiggle.”
One student told Nevin she liked ski boards because learning on them was no longer a matter of the brain telling the feet what to do.
“When she put the ski boards on, the information flow was completely reversed,” Nevin said. “She was feeling things in her feet, the information was coming up to her brain and she was processing it.”
Nevin has another philosophy that might not endear him to the Professional Ski Instructors of America: Carving, he says, is overrated. Nevin advocates a “drifting” technique in the bumps which uses the friction of a flat ski to control speed.
“Carving skills work great on groomed runs, but if you’re a boomer with boomer reflexes, declining strength and potentially aching knees, carving is the polar opposite technique you should be using to ski off of groomed runs,” Nevin said. “Since our goal is to get aging baby boomers to ski comfortably, slowly and under control in the bumps, we’re emphasizing a flatter ski, a softer edge, which gives them immense control.”
For boomers learning to ski bumps, Nevin suggests sliding through the troughs because the snow there is hard, and if your reflexes aren’t fast enough you could end up in the back seat. Nevin teaches his pupils to make a slow- motion turn on the top of the bump and then drift or slide down the backside to the top of the next bump.
Nevin teaches the same principles of drifting, rather than carving, for skiing powder.
“If you are carving in the powder and you hit a thick patch of snow, your skis and feet will stop, but your torso will keep moving, and that means you will be upside down shortly,” Nevin said. “By drifting through powder, we can moderate our speeds by subtly changing edge angles, keep a constant speed and be very smooth and fluid and upright.”
Nevin begins lessons by having students get the hang of the skiboards on easy slopes. After going over the drifting technique on a steeper groomed slope, he takes them to bump runs to put it all together.
Katy Yager of Orlando, Fla., hated moguls until she took a one-day lesson with Nevin last weekend. The next day she was skiing double black diamond runs and 10 to 12 inches of powder on Ajax.
“Being able to tackle any terrain and any pitch, that was a breakthrough, I loved it,” said Yager, 52. “We had a great trip. This whole new breakthrough for me made the trip phenomenal.”
Nevin sees skiboards as learning tools, but some students like them so much they never go back to their conventional skis. They’re fun, and they’re easier on boomer knees.
Liz Flanagan, a former “terminal intermediate” from Snowmass Village, said skiboards have opened up the entire mountain to her – from double black diamond mogul runs to halfpipes.
“I have so much fun on these, I prefer to ski on these,” said Flanagan, 60. “I ski with friends who are not on them, and I don’t have any trouble keeping up with them. As long as you’re in balance, you can do it.”