by Paul Maraschiello
You see them coming down expert runs covered with huge moguls. They ski right down the fall line, absorbing the bumps, knees going up and down like pistons. They perform "Helicopters", "Spread Eagles" or other aerial maneuvers, just to spice things up as the fly through man-eating moguls, the size of Volkswagens. Who are these mad men and female daredevils who seem to go straight down the mountain, bouncing from mogul to mogul, eating up terrain that humbles all but the best skiers at every major ski area in the world. These mogul maniacs can be seen on Outer Limits at Killington, Exhibition at Sun Valley, Sun Set at Aspen, Kant-Mak-M at Telluride, Chute at Mad River, Jaws of Death at Stratton , Mach I at Breckenridge and anyplace that's really steep and covered with bumps. Were they born on skis? How did they get so good. What's their secret?
Killington, the largest ski area in the East, has long been the home of a cadre of really great bump skiers. They could be seen doing their stuff on runs like Outer Limits, Ovation and Superstar. Outstanding athletes like Donna Weinbrecht, winner of the first mogul competition in the Olympics at Albertville in 1992, got her start at Killington. Other great freestylers from Killington include Steve Desovich, former World Champion mogul skier and Canadian World Cup mogul coach; Chuck Martin, 1992 Olympian and 1993 Pro Mogul Champion; and Bob Aldighieri, veteran of the 1992 Olympics. Other freeddoggers who were regulars, flying through the bumps include Bobby Huntoon, extreme skier who appeared in the movie "Hot Dog", James Bond and Warren Miller films and on the pages of "Skiing" magazine; Tony Sgro, former pro freestyler and director of the Ski School at Squaw Valley; and many, many others with names like "Crazy Ernie", "Carpet Head", and "Mortomer Mogul".
These "hot dog" skiers worked in ski shops, waited tables, tended bar or washed dishes to earn enough money to ski every day and compete. Donna Weinbrecht served sumptuous Italian meals at the Pasta Pot along with ski bum Tall Tex, the year she won the women's division of the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge, beginning her victories that led to Olympic gold. That was an excellent year for the Pasta Pot, their dishwasher also placed first for the men at the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge, you could say it was a clean sweep, with Pasta Pete (the owner) inadvertently becoming a major benefactor of the sport of freestyle at Killington.
Today, you can watch the newest batch of incredible skiers do their stuff, as you ride up the Superstar or Outer Limits chairlift at Killington or other difficult terrain at other ski areas. You might fantasize about how you could look that good ... if you just practiced your technique a little more.
For most of us, making a great run through the bumps is the ultimate skiing thrill. One incredible spring day, I was skiing with John Lamb and a few other "hot" skiers at Killington. I had just completed one of the best runs I have ever made on Lower Cascade, a difficult bump run with a double fall line. When I stopped, I turned and looked up the mountain and watched a beautiful blond girl float down the fall line of this bumped-up expert trail. It was Donna Weinbrecht doing the thing she does best, the sun was glistening off the snow on this fabulous, warm, sunny, spring day. At that moment, it occurred to me that skiing the bumps was better than sex ... I could do this ALL DAY LONG. When you watch an awesome skier like Donna "boogie" in the bumps, it can be a mystical experience.
You may wonder how these skiers developed their incredible talent. These super "hot" skiers aren't just talented kids with incredible knees, with no fear or brains. They're dedicated athletes who have worked hard, often for years, to develop the talent they display on the slopes and in competition. Many of these really "hot" skiers are the product of sophisticated freestyle programs like the one at Killington.
Killington has run an excellent Freestyle Program for many years. The Killington Freestyle Team, under the supervision of Dee Williams, Director and Head Coach (U.S. Freestyle Ski Team Member 1981-1986 and National Aerial Champion in 1983) had many tremendous seasons, with many the athletes qualifying for the Senior Nationals. The team started with 12 skiers and has produced many top freestyle competitors.
Killington has a Freestyle Program that concentrates on mogul skiing and upright aerials. They run full-time and part-time programs for competitors licensed by the U.S. Ski Association, that run from the beginning of November until the beginning of April. The athletes work 4-7 hours per day and the training sessions incorporate weight lifting, aerobics, circuit training, gymnastics, as well as training on the snow.
There is a "Hopeful" program for kids between the ages of 8 and 11 that emphasizes learning proper technique on the flats and transferring those skills to the moguls, as well as introducing these young future Olympians to upright aerial maneuvers. The Killington Freestyle Program also offers a Christmas Camp that includes six days of training from 9:00 am to 3:00 PM that covers everything from mogul skiing and upright aerials to competitive performance. The camp is geared to high school and college students who can't commit to a full-time program or those who just want to improve their freestyle skiing. If you want to register for this camp, sign up early, because space is limited to no more than 24 skiers.
The Killington Ski School also runs mogul clinics for those of us who want to improve our skills in the bumps. Classes are conducted by instructors and like ski bum John Lamb, one of the best mogul skiers on the Killington Ski School. He teaches Mogul Clinic Weekends that are usually on the last weekend in January and February and first and last weekend in March. These three day clinics include video taping and are limited to only five students per class. John teaches lessons on a regular basis at Killington and is available for private lessons, as well.
If you want to see some outstanding head-to-head style mogul competition, plan on attending the Annual Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge in early April at Killington. Some of the top amateurs will be competing on Outer Limits, the steepest mogul slope in New England.
You don't have to go to Killington to become better in the bumps. Most large ski areas have programs like the one at Killington. When I was a ski instructor, there were always a lot of people signed up for beginner lessons, but very few for advanced lessons. In fact, there usually wasn't anyone signed up for the highest level of lessons (PSIA Level 8). At many areas, you can sign up for an upper level group ski lessons and it may actually turn into a private lesson, where you can work on the areas you want to improve, like your bump technique. Even small ski areas have excellent instruction in mogul skiing.
Once, I went on a bus trip to Seven Springs, a ski area in Pennsylvania. The package deal included free group lessons, along with lift ticket, lodging and transportation. Because I was an upper-level skier, I wound up with two days of private ski lessons. One of the lessons was conducted by a PSIA examiner. I learned a lot.
Maybe some day, if I keep at it, I'll look as good as the really "hot" skiers I've seen from the chairlift on Outer Limits. Maybe, some day, you can too.