Select Page

Fairfax, VA Mountain Bike Skills Camp Refresher

Refresh your core skills from earlier BetterRide Camp/s, learn to apply them on trail, learn a few subtle skills that pay off massively, learn how to look at the trail and see the faster and more efficient pro lines, and how to work with the trail! Plus, how to pump, pump corners and bump jump! (returning students only)

May  29-30 Fairfax, VA Skills Refresh, Skills Application, Subtleties, Trail Strategy Mountain Bike Camp

Sometimes it isn’t just about how well you can execute a skill but how well you can subconsciously apply it based on need and trail conditions. This is what I mean by mountain bike skill subtleties, being smooth and flowing, even when the trail has no flow. Using the right amount of the right skill at the right time!

An assumption I made years ago has held me back as a coach and more importantly held my students back. I thought, “as they master the core skills I have taught them they will start noticing all the not so obvious places they can use these skills and how they execute each skill a little differently each time (less power, more power, slower, faster, etc.) depending on trail conditions”. While this may be somewhat true, it sure is a slow, painful way to go about it! This camp will greatly speed up that process (but like all coaching requires a lot of practice from you after the camp).

The easiest way for me to explain this is to explain the difference between how “Ski Instructors” (the ones a recreational skier learns from) ski and how “Ski Coaches” (the ones who coach racers) ski. Funny as I used to think one was way better than the other but I have recently realized that they both are very, very good at helping their students reach very different goals. Someone from the flatlands who skis at most 14 days a winter likely just wants to be a bit safer, a bit more in control and most of all have more fun! A skier from the flatlands also has much less time for instruction. A racer, on the other hand, wants to win races (or in other words, be the best possible skier they can be) and has a lot more time to devote to instruction.

With this in mind, a ski instructor’s goal is is to get their student/s to do some very important core skills reasonably well (as a 14 day a year skier doesn’t have the time to “master” those skills). Doing the core skills reasonably well in any sport will usually equal a fun time for the participant. With this in mind, the ski instructor executes each skill with robot-like precision so the student can obviously see the skill in the 2-6 hour “lesson”. When ski instructors ski they often ski with this mechanical precision because that is what they teach every day and it has become ingrained in them. In my experience, most ski instructors come from a recreational skier background too, they are the product of ski instruction and probably didn’t spend more than 14 days a year skiing until their late teens/early twenties (when they moved to a ski town).

A ski coach’s goal is to get someone who dedicates 50+ days a year to the sport to ski at their absolute best. With this in mind, a coach starts with the same important fundamentals and actually spends much more time on those fundamentals with their athletes. However, once those athletes have the fundamentals wired he adds in the subtleties, how to use each skill in every situation (on slush, on ice, in powder, on lumpy snow, on super steep pitches, on really mellow pitches, etc.). Part of this situational use is teaching the student how to “read the trail”, how to spot the subtle differences in the trail and use them to your advantage (or minimize the energy/time loss when there is no “good line”). This means when a ski coach is out skiing on their own time they are often looking at the trail differently and are more fluid (than an instructor) as they apply the same skills that the ski instructor uses. Most ski coaches have a ski racing background so they the product of ski coaching, they had a much younger start at getting coaching and a much greater time spent both practicing and skiing than an instructor (they grew up in or moved to a ski area when they were young).

In other words, an instructor performs a skill exactly the same way every time while a coach performs a skill slightly differently depending on conditions. This makes the coach look more graceful and economical, they are using the exact amount of force, effort, and timing needed as they execute a skill or transition from one skill to another! The instructor is using the same amount of force, effort, and timing no matter what the trail conditions. (This a huge generalization used to explain the differences between two distinctly different goals, many ski instructions can flow quite well.)

So neither a coach nor an instructor is better, they just have students with different goals and the instructor has way less time to do their job than a coach does! My goal is to get you using your core skills as gracefully as a ski coach skis!

The best example of this is watching a master mountain biker versus an up and coming pro racer. If you have ever watched Greg Minnaar race a world cup downhill he looks effortless, like he isn’t even trying. He often looks slow too, as everything he does just flows together. Then, if you watch a younger pro on the same trail he looks like he is going faster than Greg and working twice as hard yet his run’s time is often considerably slower!

In short, my first goal for the subtleties is to get you to understand how I apply the same core skill differently depending on the trail conditions (loose vs. hard-packed, fast vs. slow, tight vs. wide open, slick vs. good traction) and/or situation.

My second goal of the subtleties is getting you to look at the trail differently! Having taught you all about vision, how our eyes work and how to use your vision on trail in my regular camp now, I want to teach you how to look at the trail like a pro. Teach you to quickly see the best options and how this creates subconscious decisions on the fly (shifting, braking, subtle changes in body position, etc) so can you can use your newly improved skills to the best of your ability.

There are three new skills that I will teach you that allow you to take advantage of your newfound vision, trail reading and core skills base, the bump jump, pumping and pumping corners. All of these are subtle skills that pay off big when done correctly. They must be done at exactly the right time and in proportion with the trail and speed that you are going, a little too much and they can hinder you more than help you.

The structured of each day will be quite different. We will start with coaching and drills like before but this time the off-trail coaching and drills will be shorter and we spent a lot more time on trail! The on trail time will be a mix of me coaching and explaining then you applying while I help make sure you are doing it right. It should be a little more fun than the first camp and allow you to get the most out of the skills from the first camp.

The person who got me into mountain bike racing was a woman named Marla Streb. At the time she was simply a fast, expert class racer. The next year she was on her way to making it big! Her background interestingly enough included being a concert-trained pianist, not something you think of when you think, “professional downhill mountain bike racer”.

Well, I learned a lot about mountain bike racing from Marla that summer 26 years ago. One thing she said more than a few times, “mountain biking feels like a Symphony to me”, finally clicked for me the other night while watching/listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony 2nd Movement with an accompanying visual guide.

Which is interesting because I had been working on an article about how to apply and link mountain bike skills together and realized it like a freeform symphony or as Miles Davis put it, “Music is the space between the notes. It’s not the notes you play; it’s the notes you don’t play.”

Looking forward to coaching you again.