Mountain Blog

Hot New Nordic Skill Spot
Nancy Story - Thursday, January 31, 2013

Today's blog post author, Greg Babinec, is a Crystal Mountain golf professional and a seasoned veteran on Nordic skis. He swaps teaching swing for teaching skiers how to stride and skate at Crystal's new Cross Country Learning Center.

The new Crystal Mountain XC Learning Center, located across from the tennis courts on Mountain Center Drive, offers a learning environment where students can work on their technique in a private, controlled and peaceful environment.

Located conveniently adjacent to our trail system, the center offers a variety of terrain on which to practice. Flats, hills and off camber slopes are groomed to provide the perfect place for an introduction to striding or skating. With filming analysis of a student's form, we are able to provide immediate feedback to help correct and/or perfect a skier's performance. There is just enough elevation change to work on climbing and descending skills. A track-set for diagonal striding, plus groomed lanes for skating, provide both beginning and experienced skiers with a wonderful venue to work on learning and enhancing their skills.

Our XC Learning Center is available for private lessons or groups. For beginning Nordic skiers, it is important to work on one's balance throughout the stride in both skating and classical disciplines. Working without poles will help speed up the process of balancing on one ski at a time. As balance improves, the poles can be introduced to increase the length of one's stride and glide. It is also important to keep the center of gravity slightly forward to help with maintaining balance. Practicing the fundamentals will shorten the learning curve and increase the enjoyment of XC skiing. Happy Trails!!

For XC Learning Center lesson reservations, contact the Cross Country Center, located in Kinlochen, at 800.968.7686, ext. 4000.

Dialing In our Equipment
Nancy Story - Thursday, January 24, 2013

Today's blog post is written by Luc Blazejewski. Luc started ski instructing at Crystal Mountain at the age of 15 and has continued to instruct at Crystal Mountain for the last 10 years. He is a certified Professional Ski Instructor of America, earning level 2 alpine and level 1 telemark certifications. His favorite aspect of ski instructing is watching students grow in their passion and enthusiasm for skiing over the course of a lesson.

Our ski boots are arguably the most important piece of skiing equipment we own. And why is that? Imagine how successful your trip through Spain would be with a translator who could only translate in German. As skiers, we heavily rely on our boots to translate our movements to our skis. Additionally, properly fit boots provide valuable feedback to skiers regarding how their skis are moving through the snow. Without a properly fit boot, we struggle to manipulate the ski, as well as fail to sense how our skis are performing underneath us.

If you've hit a wall in your personal skiing development, I would highly recommend assessing your boots. Common problems that affect many skiers are overall boot fit, comfort, and alignment. A wide assortment of issues can affect the general performance of our ski boots – from foot width, to being bow legged or knock-kneed, to having structural differences in our feet. I personally have a high arch, an abnormal amount of forward flex in my ankles, and a left leg that's ¼” shorter than my right. Unfortunately, boot manufacturers design boots to fit the “ideal” foot. Most skiers have slight abnormalities which, without some boot customization, means they will never be able to utilize their equipment to its highest potential.

Luckily, guests and resident skiers at Crystal Mountain have access to renowned boot fitter Jim Reilly. Jim can be found in the Mountain Sports Shop in the Lodge. He has been an integral part of many ski instructors' personal skiing development, including my own. If you are interested in purchasing new boots for the season or dialing in the performance of your current boots, I highly recommend scheduling a visit.

Jim Reilly
Jim Reilly

Learning to Ski for the First Time
Brittany Roberts - Thursday, January 17, 2013

I'm 24 years old and have lived in Northern Michigan my entire life. Yet I've never gone skiing or snowboarding. When new friends found out I grew up in northern Michigan, one of the first questions they always asked was, “Are you a skier or a boarder?” I always classified myself in the third category: “indoor girl”. This status changed when I was offered ski lessons this past week. To say I was nervous was an understatement, but behind that nervous energy also came a lot of pent up excitement.

My ski lesson began with meeting my instructor, Jodi. She started with some basic skills to get me comfortable and acquainted with the snow and my skis.  Jodi taught me how to get to the carpet lift and how to ease my way down my very first bunny hill. Some of these basic skills felt very silly at first, but I quickly realized how these basic skills were the fundamentals of skiing. My biggest discovery was learning how to turn. I was shocked that all I had to do was move my left or right toes to turn either left or right. I felt like Luke Skywalker who just mastered the Jedi-Mind trick. Soon after, Jodi thought I was ready for my first chairlift ride.

As we neared the top of the ski hill, Jodi explained how to get off the lift, but I still managed to fall on my tush-a-roo. Luckily there wasn't anybody behind me, so I   laughed it off and got back up again. My confidence grew after taking a couple of runs down Emmy and JT's Trail. Now, after my lesson, I can finally de-classify myself as an “indoor girl” and safely say I'll make a better effort to be an “outdoor girl”.

The Art of Building a Park
Nancy Story - Thursday, January 10, 2013

In today's blog post, RJ Raines, our Terrain Park Builder Extraordinaire, talks about the art of building a terrain park.

It takes a bit of imagination and experience in riding to build a terrain park. The features are normally determined by the run, but in some cases we like to switch things up - it keeps the parks interesting. At Crystal, we have three parks, each with its own signature.

Giggles Terrain Park is our beginner park, so we usually try to stick with smaller features that are great for learning and growing as a rider. Tuck's Terrain Park, located on a steeper run, is normally reserved for jumps, as it's great for maintaining and building speed in between hits. And finally, our Basin Street Terrain Park, located just below the Crystal Clipper, is our rail garden. We typically try to put in two rail lines, stuffing as many fun features as we can into the run.

It's hard to say what features are most well-received. It really comes down to a matter of personal taste. A lot of people love hitting jumps, and at the same time, there are many people who enjoy jibs. When building our park features, we collaborate amongst ourselves to try and figure out the best place, and way, to set the features. I also enjoy getting feedback from riders on what they would like to see. I feel as though this is one of the most important things I can do, as the local riders are the ones who hit park the most. The key is trying to find a happy medium from everyone's input. Sometimes we get it, sometimes we don't - but that's the beauty of snow. It can always be changed. Overall, in terrain park construction, we aim to create a feature that's fun, unique, and challenging to a variety of riders.

Skiing for Show and Tell
Nancy Story - Thursday, January 03, 2013



  Six year-old twins Danny and Luke were on the slopes last week, along with thousands of others who visited us over the holidays.  They’ll be reliving their slope adventures with their first-grade classmates this week.  

“We have show and tell at our school,” Luke explained. “But you’re not supposed to just tell them stuff. You’re supposed to show them. My dad said he would take a video of me when I’m skiing. Then, I’ll be able to show them. And I would tell them it’s really fun! I like going down mountains.  But you have to dress warm.”

Back at show & tell, the twins will no doubt regale their friends with tales of taming treacherous terrain, schussing at eye-watering speeds, dodging trees and looking for jumps. When you’re six, each run has the potential for wild adventure.   “I always find the jumps,” Danny said. “I like to go really fast. The scariest part is going down backwards. Sometimes you fall. But I know how to fall. If you land in a hole you just climb out.”

With the confidence of a seasoned professional, Danny laid out downhill instructions. “First, you point your skis down the hill. And you can move them so they’re sideways, to make them slow down. Or you can make a piece of pizza with your skis to stop. The first time I tried to stop, it was perfect.” He grinned. “I actually sprayed someone with snow when I stopped.”  The hardest part, for Danny, is “putting my skis side-by-side.  But my dad coached me.”  

 Mastering the sport requires chairlift agility, too. “First, you stand in the line, and then you walk up to the red line,” Luke said.  Then the chairlift comes and you just sit down. Your mom can help you. Then you lift your skis up, and you go up really high. Then you put your skis down on the ground and stand up – just like that!”  Danny warned of the dangers of being a “dangler”, when you miss sitting down on the chair and slide forward  off the chair. “Then you have to duck your head so you don’t get hit by the chairs behind you”, he said.

Their older brother Zach, age 12, is an avid snowboarder who likes the camaraderie out on the slopes. “There are some really good people out there,” he observed. “If you fall, they help you back up.” But his favorite part, he claims, is “the thrill and the rush of the hills.”  The twins, listening in,  nodded solemnly in agreement. “That’s it,” Danny said.