Mikaela Shiffrin wins again !
Posted by sibylle in skiing, women, Europe, Colorado (Tuesday January 14, 2014 at 3:28 pm)


Shiffrin demonstrates her winning technique

Photo from Denver Post

Mikaela Shiffrin, 18-year old ski racing phenom from Vail, Colorado, won the Flachau slalom decisively, beating her opponents by almost a second in a race in which hundredths of a second often separate rival skiers.

After her first run, she was ahead by 0.9 seconds, an almost unbeatable advantage. Her second run was not as fast as the first, but she still beat the runner ups, Frida Hansdotter, by 0.83sec, and Maria Pietilae-Holmner by 1.14 seconds.

This leaves Shiffrin, current slalom world champion and winner of last year’s World Cup crystal globe in slalom, in a dominant position for the upcoming Olympics.

Watch the video  of her first run, which the Austrian commentator describes as her skiing with “perfect technique” and ends by saying after her first run, that “the race is really over”.

The Austrian commentator notes her stable upper body,a nd describes her skiing as resembling a “graceful waltz”, but a very fast waltz!

For my ski students, note how her upper body faces downhill and is very calm and stable, while her legs turn under her .. very fast!

Shiffrin has won six of the last 10 slalom races, which gives her the  lead  in the World Cup rankings with 402 points ahead of Hansdotter with 258 points - a nice position to be in just before the Sochi  Olympics.

Ethics of Ambition, 2013
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography, skiing, ice, women, Switzerland, Europe (Tuesday October 29, 2013 at 11:25 am)

Why would a climber speak to a class on the Ethics of Ambition?  Does climbing pose ethical dilemmas? It may - if you’re a sponsored climber and under pressure by sponsors to perform. Or if you have a very ambitious goal.

Mt. Everest

I’ll describe recent scenarios  of climbers around the world that involve decisions made by climbers, guides, and Sherpas.

First, ambition requires a great deal of egotism and selfishness, as I’ve discussed before in previous year’s classes.

Once our ambition drives us to set goals such as climbing the world’s highest mountain, or being the fastest person to climb El Capitan, then these goals require much time spent training, and in the case of Mt. Everest, a very large sum of money - about $65,000 to $100,000 (per person) for a guided climb.

Today, many of the rich and would-be famous sign on with a guide to climb Mt. Everest, some inspired by the book, Seven Summits, by Dick Bass and Frank Wells.  In the book review, it states that, “For their third and final attempt on Mt. Everest, Wells had to choose between the summit try and his family.”

Driven and ambitious climbers, after paying $65,000 or more for their chance at the summit of the world’s tallest mountain, have walked right by dying men and left them on the side of the trail alone, to die.

In 2006,   German climber, Thomas Weber,  collapsed and died, less than 20 yards from the trail. A British climber, David Sharp,  became seriously ill and died. IN 2006, 40 climbers, intent on the summit, refused to help. Climbers often pass dying climbers on the mountain without stopping to help - either, because they lack the strength and skills … or, because they are intent on reaching the summit.

In 2012, the Guardian posted a blog about “the ethical dilemmas facing climbers” as they describe how one climber found many bodies attached to the fixed lines and had to walk around them. In conclusion, they ask, “has human life come to count for less than the fulfillment of a personal ambition?”

In 2013, Sherpas attacked Swiss climber Ueli Steck and two of his friends  and threatened to kill them.  Steck says that after passing the Sherpas on the climb, when they returned to camp they were met by “a mob of 100 people hitting us with rocks and they threatened to kill us.”

Swiss info asked Steck what his sponsors said, and Steck replied, “they understand but on the other hand … we don’t get anything for free. The sponsors want to benefit from me. And now, all three of us have to deal with financial disaster. We spent a lot of money…  the world keeps on spinning and I have to keep going.”  Steck said he would not return to Everest after this threat on their lives.
In Oct. of 2013, Steck returned to the Himalayas to solo climb the south face of Annapurna, and said that, though he’ll not forget what happened on Everest, that “I think I’m beginning to find the fun in life once again!”

Büchel and Deutsche Welle looks at the dark side of extreme sports and sponsorship in “the Dark Side of Red Bull - the Perils of Extreme Sports.”

In 2009,  three athletes died while doing (paid) stunts for Red Bull: skier Shane McConkey, parachuter Eli Thompson and basejumper Ueli Gegenschatz - who was  filmed when he was killed.

The press asked “who is responsible for deadly maneuvers?”

Büchel said that McConkey was under tremendous pressure: “In order to stay in business, McConkey perceived himself as challenged to perform ever-more reckless acts - like combining extreme skiing and base-jumping.”

Robb Gaffney, a medical doctor,  described Red Bull marketing as unethical.

And last, but not least,  what about kids climbing? In July 2013, 12-year old Tito Traversa was killed in a fall to the ground when his incorrectly-assembled equipment failed. The Italian prosecutors filed manslaughter charges against five people - the gear manufacturer, the store selling the gear, and the manager and instructor of the club the organized the trip on which Tito was killed.

But who’s really responsible? In my opinion, not the store or manufacturer, if the quick draws are sold unassembled, but whoever put the draws together incorrectly. And whoever checked (or failed to) check them.

Want to learn to ski?
Posted by sibylle in skiing (Tuesday October 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm)

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Ted Ligety in a GS race

Often, in the many years I’ve taught skiing,  a man brings in his children (and sometimes, his wife and children) to a lesson and tells me,

“I’ve booked a lesson for the family with you. Tomorrow, I want to ski the mountain with them.”

On one occasion, the paterfamilias  brought in his family for a half day morning lesson, and informed me he planned to ski down the mountain with them that afternoon.

Usually, when I get the family for a day, I reply that some people learn more quickly, and others not as fast, but that the speed at which they pick up learning will depend on their previous athletic experience.  After teaching former competitive ice skaters, and competitive ice hockey players, I’ve seen that professional athletes  can pick up skiing very quickly. They already know how to balance against a moving edge, and they know how to turn their legs independently of their body.

But not all people learn that quickly.   The paterfamilias who wanted to ski the mountain with his family, I cautioned,

“They may need more than three hours before they are ready to descend the mountain with you. We’ll  progress at the speed of the slowest member of your family, and even if the strongest kids would be ready, I can’t take them on more challenging terrain until they can all go there.”

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Learning to ski well is a little like learning to play a musical instrument   — practice, practice, practice.

Learning to play an instrument is like learning a foreign language“, says Babbage in the blog “Instruments of Mass Delight”.  And continues, “it is easier to learn to play an instrument when a child—while the brain is still plastic enough for extra connections to be built between the auditory, visual and motor regions.”

As in skiing, where we build connections between  visual and motor regions, and build muscle memory.

“Musicians who learned music at an early age reveal accumulations of white matter in the corpus callosum …such people are way above average at synchronising their limbs with cues from their eyes and ears.”

I remind my students - both parents and  their children - that learning to ski is like learning to play an instrument - the more they practice, the more they’ll improve.

Babbage concludes:

“Ultimately .. playing an instrument is more than just tapping, plucking, bowing or blowing the correct sequence of notes.   No amount of … videos  can embed such intimate appreciation into the muscles and memory. Only an insightful teacher with a lifetime’s experience can do that … get on with practicing scales. Tedious as they may seem, they are the key to mastering music.”

Often, in my lessons we do drills, such as skiing without poles. These drills, especially at the beginning of the season, will help us progress as the season unfolds. Even world cup skiers begin their season with drills.

Here are some recommended drills:

USSA programs  - base training, core training

US ski team updates  - stance, progressions, drills

Finding time for drills  - includes Shlopy’s
Right now, I’m doing core training (plus rock climbing, of course!) This winter, we’ll start our ski time with a few drills, and then enjoy the rest of the mountain.

Penny Lane, Smoke Bluffs, Squamish, Canada
Posted by sibylle in Spain, women, Canada and PNW (Wednesday August 21, 2013 at 5:49 pm)

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Basque climber Saioa starts up Penny Lane

This summer in Squamish started with hot, sunny days that sent us to hide in the shady cliffs at Cheakamus, followed by days of showers that made us retreat to the sunny crags of the Smoke Bluffs.

I headed to the Penny Lane cliff with Niko from Germany,  the Basque climbers Joaquin and Saioa, and Quebec native Lucie, amidst a mish-mash of languages - some of us spoke German, others Spanish and Basque , some French - but we had no one language in common.

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Saioa near the crux of Penny Lane

I’d lead the eponymous climb, Penny Lane, a few days earlier and chose to act as team photographer while Joaquin and Saioa climbed the route.

The climb starts with a few delicate face moves off the ground - on small, smooth holds. Getting off the ground  here has always gotten my attention. Right after the tiny face holds come a few layback moves on tiny  edges and smooth friction for the feet. One more layback move gets you around the corner and onto a good foot hold.

From here, I’ve seen some climbers try to layback the following corner, or like Saioa above, use fingerlocks and toe jams. I generally stem the corner while trying to get  my fingers  into the crack when I can.

After the crux start, the remaining climb consists of great hand jams that easily make up for any struggles lower down.

Penny Lane’s a great warm up for the harder climbs  on both sides, such as Crime of the Century, to the left,  or Climb and Punishment further to the right.
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Crime of the Century (5.11c), with Penny Lane visible at right

Squamish - Chekeamus - Sacrilege
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Saturday August 17, 2013 at 5:52 pm)

On my first day back at Squamish, we headed to Chek, at Chekeamus - a little out of character for me, since it’s a steep, pumpy, sport climbing area - all things I’m not very good at. But on  a hot day, Chek provides shade, and it was time to work on my weaknesses.


Here, I’m leading pitch one of Sacrilege

Photos by Andy Cairns
We found a great climb: the three pitch long Sacrilege. The first pitch of Sacrilege comprises a left-tending steep ramp that begins with off -balance moves. After the first two clips, the available footholds  are bigger, and a nice crack lends itself to jamming - of which I took full advantage!

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Pitch two of Sacrilege. Photo by Andy Cairns

On pitch two, Andy continued up the corner, on good holds to another bolted belay.  On pitch three we find the meat of the climb: lay-backing around a small bulge, and then continuing up and around flakes.

The climb is well worth  all four stars, and a great addition to the limited availability of easier warm ups.

We descended with two rappels, using a 70-meter rope.
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Rappeling from Sacrilege

Photo by Andy Cairns

At the Chek , or main, crag of the Cheakamus  Canyon area.

From the parking area, turn right and pass the Foundation Wall , shoot to Kill Wall, Negative Wall, and Toxic Lichen Wall. Just before the the Circus, look for a ramp that trends up and left to bolted anchors. If continuing on to the second pitch,  pass the first bolted anchor and head left to belay at the second anchor.

Lisa Hechtel, R.I.P.
Posted by sibylle in women, Germany, Eulogies, Europe (Thursday June 20, 2013 at 12:39 pm)

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With my mother in the European Alps

This will be the hardest eulogy I’ve ever had to write: that of my mother, Lisa Berta Hechtel.

My mother lived a great life, a full one, and enjoyed  a long life, but she still left us too soon. I cry, as I write this, and wish I had spent more time with my parents while I still had the opportunity.

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Lisa Hechtel as a young woman

I knew Lisa Hechtel only as my mother, and we take our parents for granted — until we no longer have them. Since her passing, countless people have written to me to share how much they loved my mother, and how much they will miss her presence in their lives.

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An early climb with my parents

My mother always put her family first - she followed my father on his climbs, belayed him, and then seconded the route. She never took credit for her many accomplishments - climbing big mountains in a time before most women climbed.

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My parents on a climbing trip long ago

After I was born, she usually accompanied my father on his trips, cooked for every one while camping, and often hiked to the base of the climbs to bring food for my father, while taking care of me.

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Lisa feeding her family in the Schwaebische Alp

I still use the little tin tea kettle
She once told me: “When you were little, Richard needed a climbing partner,  so we tied a rope around you , and tied you to a tree while we were climbing.”

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Early climbing trip in Germany

None of the photos in their albums show me tied to a tree — most show my mother carrying me, holding me, and feeding myself and my father.

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Lisa getting me a  drink

She taught me to ski, and helped my father take me climbing, while still helping to take care of her own mother, and her niece, and her many friends.

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Another early climbing trip - as I got bigger, the mountains got bigger, and harder.

As I look through the early photos, I have so many questions  that I never had a chance to ask  - so many things I never knew about.

After I grew up, and left home, my parents trekked in Nepal - but I’m not sure when, or where. They climbed Kilimanjaro , climbed in New Zealand, and numerous other places around the world. I wish they’d told me more about their trips - but I was far away, in Colorado, living my life and raising my own son.

My parents trekking in Nepal
And I  hope that my mother’s many friends will read this, and  share their memories of their times together.

Ted Ligety’s training tips
Posted by sibylle in utah, skiing, Europe (Saturday February 16, 2013 at 8:38 am)

Now that Ted’s won Three gold medals in the 2013 Ski world championships, I’m certainly interested in his summer training program.

Here’s his training, at Park City Utah:

Squat jumps -Ted jumps, with weighted squat bar - I struggle in static squats!

Box jumps - jump onto a box

Glute side band walks   - put an exercise band around your legs, and walk sideways. This is  also a stabilizer exercise.

2 sets of 20 yards

Split squats  - get both strength and a stretch with this exercise

4 sets of 10 reps, with or without weights

Glute- hamstring raises - helps prevent ACL injuries by strengthening the hamstrings. Or do Swiss Ball hamstring curls.

3 sets of five

Back extension holds- for endurance of the back muscles

Overhead medicine ball throws

So, if you’re  serious about skiing better this winter or next, try some of these exercises!

Ligety wins third gold medal
Posted by sibylle in skiing, Europe (Friday February 15, 2013 at 8:25 pm)

Ted Ligety won the GS by a huge margin - a 1.31 second lead in the first run - in a race more usually won by tenths, or even hundredths, of a second.

Ligety, who skied a near-perfect run,  is the first man in 45 years to win three golds in a world championships  since Killy in 1968.

His competitors were impressed with his form and technique - so far, he’s been close to unbeatable in his best event, the giant slalom (GS).
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Ligety’s amazing form, that allowed him to win 3 golds

file photo from mail.com

Ligety wins World Championship golds
Posted by sibylle in skiing, Europe (Monday February 11, 2013 at 3:46 pm)

Ted Ligety has already won two gold medals in the skiing world championships - and that’s before competing in his best event, the Giant Slalom.


Ted Ligety - file photo

First he won the SuperG in Schladming, Austria, - his first win in any super-G.  France’s De Tessieres  placed second, and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, who won three of the four World Cup super-Gs this season, was in third place.


Ligety in super-G

Next, he won the super combined - an event in which the racer’s times in the downhill and a slalom race (two widely disparate events) are added. Croatia’s  Kostelic  finished second, 1.15 seconds behind, and Austrian Baumann placed third.

Ligety, who won four of the five World Cup races in Giant Slalom s this season, is the  favorite for a third gold medal in Friday’s GS.

Posted by sibylle in skiing, Colorado (Saturday December 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm)

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View of the Beaver Creek finish area

We sat in the first row of bleachers, which gave us a good view of the bottom section of the race course, and of the large-screen video of the races.

The first racer,  Stephan Keppler, crashed and slid  a long distance into the B-net - not the most auspicious  start.

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Keppler’s crash on the screen

Keppler limped away from his crash. The next few racers completed the course, with last year’s overall WC champion, Marcel Hirscher, skiing conservatively after seeing Keppler’s crash.

Then, skiing 10th, Max Franz crashed — and was knocked unconscious, and brought down by ski patrol.

Depsite the two wipeouts, Matteo Marsaglia, skiing 12th, only two runs after Franz’s crash, went all out. He said that “I tried to push  … I had nothing to lose.”

Hirscher, reigning World champion,  whose best event is the GS (to come Sunday) did not ski as aggressively- risking all– and came in over 2 seconds behind Marsaglia.

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close-up of crash - does not look fun

Video of the crash on YouTube - he’s trying to slow down, after he falls, while sliding down the course.
One of my colleagues at Beaver Creek, a race coach, commented that 17 racers out is almost 25% of the field and indicates that something might have been wrong. 

I’m curious to hear if they conclude that there was a problem with the course. Other conditions were ideal –  blue sky, sunshine, good visibility, good surface.

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2012/12/01/4300206/marsaglia-of-italy-captures-1st.html#storylink=cpy
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