Ask the Experts: March/April 2003

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Ask the Experts

The Professor

I want to book an instructor during my spring ski vacation. What's my strategy?

Mandy Crawford

Silver Spring, Md.

Finding the perfect ski teacher is like finding the right doctor, accountant or attorney. You might want to try more than one. Once you have a great match, however, stick with that instructor, forsaking advice from all others.Some resorts let you book lessons online. Don't use this service unless you have used the ski school before or have the name of a recommended instructor. Instead, go to the ski school desk when you arrive. Folks there are trained to place students with a compatible instructor.Be prepared to answer questions. Would you prefer a man or a woman? Young or mature? Do you want a "drill instructor" to hammer at you or a gentle soul who will coax you into getting better? Be ready to describe your ability, listing your strengths, weaknesses, aspirations and frustrations. Do you learn best by watching and imitating, or do you need verbal explanations? Don't take offense at the questions. They are only an aid to match the right instructor to the right student.A good instructor also will appreciate it if you express your (realistic) expectations up front. In addition, make a few runs before your lesson, and make sure all your equipment checks out. Much of your lesson will be spent on the lift. Most instructors love to have their brains picked on lift rides. Above all, be honest and trust the teacher. It can be the start of a long relationship.
-The Professor
Have a question for The Professor? Write Stu Campbell at stucski@aol.com.

The Gear Geek
I'm an expert skier, and I've been having more foot pain as I get older. Should I switch to the new "soft" boots?
Jim Treader
Utica, N.Y.

Some soft boots rock. But expect trade-offs in performance. If you're used to the full support of a traditional four-buckle overlap, your first run in a soft boot will be weird. The fit is less precise, and the rearward support is lacking. For experts, nothing beats the response of hard-shell boots-especially when it gets rough (bumps, crud, etc.). But if you dial it back, you'll be surprised: Soft boots can do 90 percent of what traditional boots do. And for many, the trade-off is worth it.
-Gear Geek
Have a question for The Gear Geek? Write Joe Cutts at jcutts@skimag.com.

The Trainer
My buddy uses a weight-lifting belt for back support when he skis bumps. Should I?
Drew Mayer
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Not unless your doctor says so. Use a brace only when rehabbing an injury. A brace offers support that your abdominal and lower back muscles otherwise would provide. That allows your core to be lazy, and ultimately weaker. That means if you ever end up in the moguls without your brace, you may not have the core strength you need. At worst, that leads to injury; at best, poor performance. Instead, focus on strengthening your core muscles. To get started, visit skimag.com and search under keywords "ball workout."
—The Trainer
Have a question for The Trainer? Write Kellee Katagi at kkatagi@skimag.com.