CHICAGO – A ballroom in a four-star Windy City hotel – or any place in Illinois for that matter – hardly seems like the spot for a lesson on skiing moguls.
But when the man who coached the world’s best mogul skier is offering free tips, any place works.
Pat Deneen drops his backpack on the floor and declares it to be a mogul. He then pulls the monopod from his camera, shortens it and says to imagine it’s a ski pole.
“Most skiers put their poll here,” Deneen said, placing the poll on top of the bag. “You don’t want to do that because look what happens.”
As Deneen, 60, circles the bag the pole forces his hands from in front of him to behind him. This, in turn, moves his shoulders from pointing down hill – or across the ballroom in this case – to facing to the right. On the slopes, he’d be sacrificing control at this point and would have trouble with the bumps.
Not that that would be abnormal. Mogul skiing is intimidating for many skiers.
But not the Deneen family. Deneen lives in Cle Elum, owns the base area at Summit East and raised his kids on the slopes. One of those kids, 21-year-old Patrick, is the reigning moguls world champion and a favorite to win gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“Here’s what you do,” Deneen said once again reaching for the mogul with the pole. This time he places the end of the pole on what would be the downhill side of the mogul. This time as he comes around the bag his shoulders remain facing downhill.
Looks easy enough in a hotel ballroom, but Pat and Patrick say it can be easy on the slope too.
Here are six more tips for taking the mystery out of moguls:
START ON THE FLATS
Not even the world champ goes straight from the car to the moguls.
“Warm up on the flats,” Patrick said.
GO “TWO AND OUT”
Once you are warm and have picked your line through the bumps don’t feel like you should go top to bottom on your first run.
In fact, try going just two moguls and stopping.
This is less intimidating and a good way to start building confidence and rhythm.
“Go two and out a couple times, then three and out, then four and so on,” Pat said.
MAKE YOUR FIRST RUN ON THE SIDE
Almost everybody skis down the middle which means the moguls are deeper, and they’ll keep getting deeper until the next snow. But on the sides of the runs the less traveled bumps are almost always smaller and easier to navigate.
When you watch Patrick in the Olympics you’ll notice his knees moving up and down like a jackhammer. It might look like he’s dipping, lowering his upper body, on every mogul, but a closer looks shows that is not the case.
“You are not actively absorbing the moguls,” Patrick said.
What’s actually happening is his knees are coming up to absorb the bump.
Bad mogul skiers look down at the mogul they’re skiing, Pat said. Good mogul skiers are always looking three or four moguls down the hill, he added, so they are always ready for what’s next.
“The world champ is looking way down there,” Pat said, pointing across the ballroom.
SKI WITH STYLE
Patrick built his reputation by skiing bumps faster than anybody in the world, but twice on every run he also hucks himself off a kicker for some aerial acrobatics. Usually this involves twisting and/or flipping.
“Don’t be afraid to throw in a twister,” Deneen said.
On second thought, maybe we better leave that one to the pros.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497