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Switch Tele2019-11-16

I'd never been to a ski hill on opening day, so when I saw that Blue Mountain was opening 2 weeks before Thanksgiving after an unseasonable cold snap, I started waxing my skis.

I arrived a little before 11am to two double chairs spinning, 3 trails open and a whole lot of people, but there was "snow". There was also ice, moguls and chunks of frozen death, so pretty much a typical 'ice coast" day! I needed to work on my tele bump skiing, and I'd done virtually no pre-season training, so there were thigh muscles to abuse.

Near the top, there was also a wide, relatively flat beginner slope, which would be a good place to practice my biggest goal for the day - skiing backwards on tele skis. I'd seen "switch tele" videos online, and it looks so elegantly wrong - like someone was running the video backwards of someone skiing up hill.

Studying it carefully, your lead leg (which is now behind you facing downhill, knee bent and heel raised) indicates the direction of the turn. Repeat after me: you turn toward the back leg. That's a lot easier than saying right leg means turn to the right, which is really left since you're facing backwards... confusing). At the same time, you look over the OPPOSITE shoulder. This was actually harder for me do consistently, but the twist it creates in your body makes a much more stable stance. Looking over the same shoulder puts your body all on a single plane which less stable and requires more careful balance.

I fell quite a few times, and it was almost always because I got switched up and either put the wrong leg back or looked over the wrong shoulder. The latter isn't a fatal flaw - you can look over only one shoulder, but it's asking for trouble. Like all things tele, I have a weaker side (right leg back), and I tend to favor looking over the dominant right shoulder the whole time. If I fell, it was always on my right side with my right leg back, as evidenced by the large pirate curse looking black bruise I'm now sporting on my right hip.

By the end of the day though, I could ski the whole section to the upper lodge with some degree of precision, and it became to feel a lot more natural. I put the GoPro on my ski pole and recorded one of the runs I completed without doing anything embarrassing. At this point, I'm still inconsistent about looking over my left shoulder, but I'm turning without falling. Later, I got better about looking over my left.

You do have quite a blind spot doing this, and beginner skiers are utterly unpredictable, so be sure you have a wide area to yourself, because there's really no excuse for mowing someone down while going backwards down the hill. I did have one of the young kids yell a big "F#@& YEAH!" as he passed me (also skiing backwards, but on short twin tip DH skis), which was a highlight of the day.