Mountain Experts: Sugar Bowl’s Doug Fagel
December 23, 2008
SUGAR BOWL “-Just like the bell curve in your high school math class, a majority of the snowboarders on the slopes these days are of an intermediate skill level.
While there are still beginner riders falling off the chair lift, as there are pro riders whose abilities resemble a video game, most rider’s skills are comfortably in between ” they play confidently in the powder, drop off small rocks, and explore their limitations on the small and mid-size features of the terrain park.
Does this sound like you?
The reason riders typically settle out in the middle of the pack is also analogous to your algebra class. Remember how easy it was to catch on to the basic equations, but how hard it was to answer the trick questions on the exam that would have earned you an “A”?
Your ability to solve a complex equation or qualify to snowboard in the X-games has everything to do with the foundation of your skills. Learning the basic techniques enough to progress to an intermediate level is easy, but in order to progress to the top of the class your understanding of those fundamentals must be of a greater precision than the average person sitting next to you on the chairlift or in the classroom.
Sugar Bowl Snowboard Team Manager and American Association of Snowboard Instructors-western Division Vice President Doug Fagel has seen such progression problems in hundreds of snowboarders. His advice is just like your math teacher’s ” get a tutor.
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“Countless snowboarders reach a plateau at the intermediate level because they have a shaky foundation of riding skills,” said Fagel. “These riders could benefit from a snowboard lesson just as much as a beginner because they need to re-address the skills that are holding them back.”
A specialist in advanced freestyle instruction and a wicked shredder in his own right, Fagel has founded a career based on a passion for teaching aspiring riders how to step up their game on the mountain.
In the process he has helped developed new curriculums specifically designed to raise the ceiling for freestyle progression by focusing on how finite movements effect your overall snowboarding success.
This new holistic approach is what he teaches to guests in private lessons at Sugar Bowl and fellow snowboard instructors as a head staff trainer for both Sugar Bowl and AASI.
“Intermediate and advanced snowboarding lessons focus on breaking down old muscle memories and building new ones so you can interpret sensations the mountain is giving your body in new ways,” said Fagel. “Learning how to react properly to the sensations is how riders get on the path to endless progression.”
Fagel applies this teaching strategy to the slopes by dissecting common snowboarding maneuvers and addressing the parts of the trick one at a time. Taking a clinic on terrain park jumps for example, Fagel’s lesson would discuss the approach, takeoff, maneuver, and landing as separate entities that build upon each other towards either success or failure.
Although the goal is obviously to learn how to step up to more advanced park features or big mountain terrain, Fagel doesn’t take his students straight to the gnarly obstacles. His teaching progression is based around learning what it feels like to master a maneuver at slow speeds, then armed with that confidence and skill, moving on to the bigger features.
“What separates riding small terrain features from large features is the timing window,” said Fagel. ” It’s like catching a baseball versus catching a bullet. You’re moving so much faster approaching the large features that you need to learn to be extremely precise with the timing of your movements.”
Because of every rider’s unique ability to learn new things, Fagel recommends private lessons if you’re serious about improving.
“You can get tips from a group lesson but to actually see a developmental progression the coaching should be individualized,” said Fagel.
Don’t expect to be tossing 720s after the first lesson, however. Just like those differential equations, solving complex issues like the improper alignment of your hips as you approach a jump takes practice and multiple coaching sessions.
“You’ll benefit from advanced snowboarding lessons the most if you have the time and passion to dedicate yourself to a training program,” said Fagel. “Even if your only riding one or two days a week you need to have the self-discipline to stay focused and consistently work on the fundamentals everyday you ride.”
So if you truly yearn to be one of the top riders on the slopes, expect to put in the work, but don’t worry, practicing your halfpipe riding will be a lot more fun than calculus.
Check out http://www.sugarbowl.com for more information.