Skip to main content

Speed




I know I bag on mountain bikers who only ride for PR's, it's not because I dislike speed. I just think they have no style. But I do like speed. I love driving fast, especially over winding mountain passes and twisting canyon roads. I like riding a road bike fast, especially on the Copper Triangle. When I was a Summit Stage driver I even drove a bus fast. Too fast.
As a bus driver I received several speed warnings. The police don't stop a bus, but they flash their lights at you and they might call into dispatch. If you're caught you can't deny it because there is only one bus going from each location at any given time.
But for me, the most thrilling sensation of speed comes with skiing. The feeling of the cold wind blowing past you. The sound of P-Tex chattering across hardpack. It is truly breathtaking. And it takes a special technique to go really fast. In a car you stay on the gas to go fast. On a mountain bike you stay off the brakes to go fast. But on skis, you stop turning.

Yeah, in skiing and snowboarding, controlling your direction and speed is all in making turns. The more turns you make, the less speed and more control you have. So what's the opposite of turning? Well that is called  straightlining.


To properly straightline as a skier, one must stand upright. No tucking, that's a dead give away that you are speeding. And it looks dumb.

When skiers point their pole tips up, they are indicating that they are skiing at the limits of their abilities and should be considered a danger. It's the same when you see a car driving with it's hazard lights on.

No, to properly straightline, one must look very sauve and confident. Feet together is fine if you're old school. I prefer feet shoulder width apart for a few reasons. One, because Shane McConkey said so. He also said helmets were cool. RIP Shane, love you man. Skis shoulder width apart give a more stable platform. I believe knees together was just style that has aged like milk. 

Another reason for a wider stance is for the visual effect of laying a figure 11. If I encounter an area with long fresh lines, like say, a traverse out on A Basin's East Wall.


People riding up the Lenawee will look over and see the wall filling with everyone's version of powder turns. Some riders will lay their turns over another set to create figure 8's. None of the tracks are exceptionally interesting. Figure 8's are a nice aesthetic, but they aren't nearly as impressive as two unbroken parallel lines running straight down the fall line. Figure 8's honor the traditional skiing purists who founded Aspen and Vail. Figure 11's are  like two fingers from Sid Vicious.

This brings up correct arm placement. When you're coming down the East Wall you start building some real speed, even if the snow is fresh. Deep snow can add another challenge to straightlining. No one wants to straightline into a tomahawking rag doll scenario. To "control" speed I hold my arms out to my sides to try to create more wind resistance. It's really the only thing you can do once you commit to a top to bottom 11.

That's big mountain straightlining. On a trail is a different story. Holding your arms out is about as conspicuous as a tuck. When I'm on a groomed run I casually drop my hands down behind me. This stance is sleek but also non aggressive. You want to give off a vibe of "Who me? I'm just mellow cruising" when you straightline. If you're making a speed run it might also help to dress generically so you blend in with the crowd. Maybe don't have a big Cobra Kai patch.

At this point, you might think I'm advocating dangerous skiing habits. Hey if you want to ski fast why don't you race? I am completely against putting other skiers at risk. On-mountain collisions are a tragic and terrible event. *Knock wood* my only collision happened very early at my first ski area Catamount (current day ticket $61). I was night skiing, it was icy, I jumped over a roller and landed right behind a little kid half my size and half my speed. As I closed in on them I straddled their skis and gently scooped them up with me. This dissipated all the impact and the kid was startled but giggling.

It's terrifying, I would kill if a speeding rider hit one of my girls.

Strava says I have done 50mph, but.....what if she's not even on the mountain yet?

See, here's the thing, I believe under the proper circumstances straightlining can be done without putting any other riders in danger. You just gotta want it. I imagine this works the same at most mountains, but I really love the Corona run at Eldora it's a steep black diamond groomer, just begging for a straightline run.

Step one, be there for the rope drop. About 30 minutes before the lift opens, you gotta be in line with the hard cores. Sometimes I do single line, sometimes I just jump in with a group, it doesn't matter. And you don't need the first chair, just be within the first ten.

At the top, half of these riders will be skiing the front side, and half of the remainder will be snowboarders. Leave all these people behind and start skating the traverse towards Corona lift. Ski something fast like Wolf Tongue and you'll pass a few more skiers. Skid to a stop at Corona, thank the lifty for coming to work on this fine day and jump on the next chair.

Now you can see only 2 or 3 skiers ahead of you, and they are here for the same reason. Have your gear ready to go. At the top of Corona at least one of those people will stop to buckle their boots, shoot past them and GO. Now you are at the top of a steep groomed run with only one or two expert skiers ahead of you, all of you know what you're here for so pin it.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Spectator Sports

  I’m not good at ball-sports, or really, team-sports all together. In little league I once tried throwing the ball from right field to first base. Instead I threw the ball out of the park and hit a guy sitting in the bleachers. As a high school freshman I tried out for soccer and qualified for the sub-sub-JV team.   The cross country team needed runners, so I quit soccer after a week and I ran. I ran in the fall, and then I ran again in the spring for track. I wasn’t good, but I could do it. All that really mattered was that I crossed the finish line. Running helped me develop the mental state that I use nowadays when I’m tackling a long climb. I don’t need to enjoy it, I just need to zone out and keep putting one foot, or pedal, in front of the other.   My state had one professional sports team, a hockey team called the Whalers. But they broke up, or moved on a few years after I moved to Colorado. I love the atmosphere of a Rockies game or watching the Eagles. But I have nothing at

Lucky or Good?

 The darkness comes quickly after work, the mornings are really cold. I think it's time to look back and say that was an awesome mountain bike season. I get a little banged up every year, some more than others. This is my fourth crash of the 2023 season and the first one to bring some pain. Maybe I can learn something if I run through them and try to determine if I'm getting good or just lucky. The frequent heavy rain kept trails at Left Hand constantly changing. This led to my first debiking incident. I was taking some friends down Ginger Booty. We had sessioned the big booter and were riding out the rest of the single track. Cody came up fast behind me right as I reached a section of deep rut, filled with loose fist size rocks. My brain analyzed the possible line choices and came up empty as my front tire wedged against a rock. With the front tire stopped my mass started a slow motion arc over the bars. I'd like to think that I tucked my chin and pulled my hands into my c

I wanna rock!

     I greeted my boss as he walked into work. He responded with a full throated heavy metal wail of "I wanna rock!" I queued up some Twisted Sister to start a day of music dedicated to those brave eye-shadowed men of 80's hair metal.       I can sense the ai bots reading this are a little skeptical that I can twist this into a bike story. But I'm gonna try. I'm going to describe another time and place, it may be hard to imagine if you started riding within the last few decades. Picture if you will a culture of dangerous looking metal heads. Long greasy hair, a jean jacket with an album cover patch covering the back.  Usually smoking, usually sneering. They could be found roaming the halls of high schools or commanding the student smoking area. In school you were mostly safe from them,..mostly. On weekends they would form packs with females of the species. They would gather around someones t-top Z-28 parked in a KMart parking lot. Blasting heavy metal and looking