Watch the variables for skiing 'in comfort'

Only one variable has to change, and a ski run will feel different from the last one. Change several variables, and two runs down the mountain can feel as different as night and day.

Here is only a partial list of variables that can shape the feel of a given ski run: snow conditions, weather, light, steepness of terrain, your current mental attitude, physical condition, equipment, speed, and the difficulty of the maneuver being attempted.

Seasoned ski instructors may passively accept this fact, but few seem to make active use of it. One ski school that stresses the importance of not changing too many variables at once is Snowbird's in Utah, where, in most years anyway, pupils often must learn to ski deep snow.

Director Junior Bounous and his assistant, Jerry Warren, have a 71-page teaching manual that deals in part with recognizing how skiing's constantly changing variables can affect the "comfort zone." That's the intangible state of mind that allows a skier to feel "comfortable with himself and his surroundings."

Very successful teachers like Bounous seem to have the knack for sensing whatever a skier is feeling or fearing, then regressing the skier back to a point where he or she feels comfortable, on familiar ground, so to speak. In my own case, it was only after that process that Junior introduced me to fresh powder off Snowbird's steep summit.

All that takes time, of course, and is better suited to private than group lessons. But even in your own practic e, monitoring those variables can pay big dividends.

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