Vail Daily column: Overlook the latest trend |

Vail Daily column: Overlook the latest trend

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

Oh, why must you consider the shiny new trend that promises overwhelming splendor and guaranteed happiness with six-pack abs? I live my life in continuums and analogies, so bear with me as I shed light on a subject that’s not unrelated to fitness. Skiing culture parallels fitness — from the technical nuances to the diverging concepts, myths and propaganda. No wonder so many skiers never make it past the terminal intermediate phase. There are equipment manufacturers taking your money promising skiing bliss and effortlessness with trends: rockered skis, fat skis, AT gear and boots that closely resemble a hybrid between snowboard boots and slippers. You’re sliding down a sheet of ice, with hard plastic boots wrapped around a delicate piece of anatomy, strapped to a pair of two-by-fours. It’s cold, and sometimes you can’t see very well.

Review the mountainside. How many truly great skiers do you see under the chairlift on a given day? One, maybe two? Instructors, professional patrollers and other industry experts included. How many boys in blue coming down the face inspire beauty, confidence and awe? Not many. This isn’t a harsh criticism. This is the reality of any complicated industry.


There are no shortcuts to technically great skiing. There aren’t complex systems and fancy magic tricks. The Professional Ski Instructors of America use elaborate language to describe skiing, yet most ski students can’t link 10 turns down a moderate pitch without problems, let alone understand the terminology. Consider the dialect they use — stemming, angulation, inclination, retraction, extension, hopping, stivoting, carving, smearing, rotating, driving the bus, a-framing and shredding like Ted. Every great skier knows the fundamentals and exemplifies these basics in every turn regardless of snow, terrain and pitch. Here they are: Tipping the skis on edge, flexing or bending the hips and knees, staying centered over the skis and counter balancing and acting; this is the balancing of your body over the downhill foot, and the counter acting of your upper body to keep you facing the next turn. That’s all there is to it.

Here’s a parting thought as I end this convoluted parallel to fitness — I endorse the professionals who are passionate about ski instruction who continue to make a difference in the lives of aspiring skiers. Vail and Beaver Creek maintain the utmost in quality ski instruction. I’m not disappointed in the evolution of the game; the gear advances have made the sport more inclusive for those who otherwise might turn the cheek for an alternative adventure. Nonetheless, I feel we’ve gotten distracted ever so slightly.


What does any of this have to do with fitness? There’s an undercurrent of thinking in the minds of aspiring fitness devotees who, despite evidence to the contrary, think, “If I join that fancy new club,” all of my wellness dreams will come to fruition. There’s a stray of consciousness that lies to you; finally a program that will fix my problems. There is hope — a ski that is wide enough to mask my technical inadequacies. Fat skis may threaten your knee health and promote bad habits, but at least they will allow you to ski fast and out of control. Barre classes will promise to sculpt your thighs, but the large elephant in the room is that you eat a pint of ice cream every night to comfort your emotions as you consider the stressors of life.

Nothing will replace the basic fundamentals to success. It requires being good at simple tasks before moving onto fancy, complex solutions. It requires consistent hard work hammering the fundamentals of skiing on easy terrain. Successful fitness development consists of basic fundamental human movements trained consistently over and over again. The squat, bend, push, and pull; locomotion such as walking, jumping, climbing and running delivers every time.

Consider the idea that nothing is as complicated as you think. What if we’ve made opportunities like expert skiing and robust fitness development complicated because our lives have become complicated? Overlook the new trend in skiing this year. Drive past the new studio in town that promises something different for you. As they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Have a great week!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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