Carrie and Bob Cruise decided to take Hilary Lindh's ski clinic because they wanted to learn from an Olympic medallist.
"I've taken classes at Eaglecrest, but this was definitely different," Carrie Cruise said. "For one thing, watching her ski, there's definitely a curiosity there. I've heard about her in the media, but I've never watched her ski myself - other than racing in an event. She's very fluid, very graceful. It didn't really matter what she was skiing down, she made it look so easy."
Lindh, winner of the 1992 Winter Olympic silver medal and gold medal at the World Championships in 1997, was at Eaglecrest ski area last weekend coaching a ski tactics workshop for adults. Lindh grew up in Juneau and returns annually to visit family and friends during the holidays, and occasionally teach a ski clinic.
The clinic took place on all parts of the mountain and offered helpful hints, drills and constructive criticism for intermediate to advanced skiers.
Chris Kent participated in the workshop to learn from a world-class skier.
"Watching how she moves on her skis tells me how I should be moving on my skis," Kent said. "Hilary is on the next plateau and I can see what the next level of skiing is and what I'm working toward."
Jack Kreinheder was impressed with "the way she was able to soak up the bumps and carve beautiful turns in difficult snow conditions."
"She made people realize you can learn to enjoy snow that is not perfect, and if you can ski it and ski it smoothly with more control, you can have fun regardless of the conditions," he said.
"Hilary's teaching style was very enjoyable," Shelly Deering said. "She gave pointers to each person and was very good about when we needed to review something. She would ski down first to show us how to do it and every time she skied it was a good example of 'right.' "
Lindh drilled the skiers in bending and straightening their legs for developing flexibility and agility. They balanced on one ski and did a "1,000-step" traverse and turn, lifting their skis up and down as if stepping across the hill. She stressed the importance of staying centered over the tops of the skis and making sure the body is leaning downhill, suggesting that dropping a shoulder helps keep the body that way.
"We did a lot of balance drills where they had to pick up one of their skis," said Lindh. "It really shows them when they're in the back seat, because they can't balance. It's to get the people more active, get them moving. It's real easy to get static when it's intimidating snow, people's first reaction is to like 'whoa' and kind of back off and get tense. So you get them moving, get their feet moving, get their hips moving and all of a sudden they're saying 'oh it's really not that bad.' "
Carrie Cruise said skiing on one ski was hard and challenging, but it helped her get more in tune with where her balance is.
"I didn't realize how off-balance I was skiing. I'll remember what I learned and I'll work on it," she said.
Chris Kent said skiing on one ski "shows our weakness, because people favor one ski over another."
"If you're more balanced, you're more aggressive and it's easier to step from one ski to another," Kent said. "If you're off-balance you'll be in the back, harder to move from one ski to the other ski, and it's more likely the terrain will push you around."
The snow conditions for Sunday's clinic were hard and bumpy and Lindh tailored her instruction to the conditions.
"If we had had heavy, wet, deep snow it would have been a little different, but I knew that it was going to be hard snow and that can be fairly rattling. People tend to get a little stiff and back off, when in reality they should be moving forward and be a little more active," she said.
Lindh encouraged the participants to be less passive on the mountain.
"If you're a passive skier you're going to get thrown around and you're going to have a lot more problems with all the hard stuff and the bumps and whatever comes your way. If you're active, you're searching out those things and you see them coming before you get to them; you can react and it's a lot more enjoyable.
"It's looking ahead, it's looking at the terrain that you're skiing on and when you see you're going to go over a bump or through some soft snow or whatever, that you're anticipating it and you know what you're going to do to deal with it; you're going to suck up your knees and absorb the roll or you're going to be strong (and) plow through the snow instead of waiting to run into it.
"It's just taking an active role in getting yourself down the mountain. Being aware of where you are and where you're headed," Lindh said.
The instruction helped Carrie Cruise see the need to be ready for whatever was ahead.
"In Juneau we have overcast weather, the light is flat and it's hard to see. If you're unaware of a patch or ... big mounds of spring-like snow, it can throw you. Leaning forward and staying on top of your skis when you hit those areas shouldn't throw you for a loop, because you'll be ready for them. With the things she gave us to work on I hit a few of those spots and I stayed right on top of my skis and rode right on threw them," Cruise said.
"We finished up the clinic skiing down the fall line normally with her evaluating our technique and leaving each of us with a couple of points to work on," Kreinheder said. "She had some suggestions for my upper body technique which were real helpful."
"It was fun skiing with her," Cruise said, "and then we went down to the lodge and had snacks that her mom had prepared and it was like a family affair. Very enjoyable."
Teri Tibbett is a Juneau free-lance writer.
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