Thursday, February 15, 2018

Learning to Monoski on Valentine's Day

I was a beginner yesterday. And it was a blast!
I took my first step in learning how to Monoski. Monoskiing is making its comeback. It's where you stand on a single board with your feet together facing forward. It is only like snowboarding in that you have only one board. That’s where the similarity ends.

I have been "two plank" skiing with my mono friends for several years now. And I've been skiing for over 50 years. I finally took the opportunity to teach myself monoskiing when I realized I was uninspired to ski this week with the miserable conditions we’re having in the Tahoe Basin this year. I had been planning on having a friend teach me but didn’t want to impose so I kept putting it off. Then someone posted a “how to monoski” on Facebook and I decided to teach myself.

It turned out to be a great day to learn with no crowds and a recent inch of snow to keep things relatively fresh. It was firm though and I worried that I’d be sore from falling.
I was a little nervous as I drove the 20 minutes up to Mt.Rose but chose to interpret that as excitement. I was alone and would have to rely on myself for encouragement, focus and persistence. Being alone would have its perks. I could progress at my pace, gain confidence on my timeline and not feel pressure from anyone but myself. It's been a very long time since I learned something so complex so this would definitely be a test of my ability to focus and learn.

I walked to the base of the Magic Carpet at Mt. Rose where I have a season pass and have skied many days there already this season. I found a flat section and locked into the bindings on the monoboard. That was wierd. Gotta move my legs as one. I squeezed my knees together and felt how angling them back and forth turned the ski on its edge. I pushed forward to feel how my weight over my feet affected how the board slid. I clicked out of the ski and walked a few feet up the slight incline and stepped in again, letting myself slide down the hill after finding stability. The urge to split my knees and desire to use my legs separately was strong! But I persisted. I focused. Squeeze your knees together, I told myself. Stay aligned over the ski. Focus. If you fall it's not a big deal. Keep your hands in front of you. 

I walked higher up the hill and slid down. I walked almost to the top of the Magic Carpet and carefully started initiating turns weighting on the uphill edge and allowing the ski to turn. After 5 or 6 hikes up the hill I felt comfortable enough to stand on the moving carpet to take me up the hill. And I got off the carpet at the top without falling. Yay! A milestone.

The Magic Carpet at Rose
I spent two hours on the Magic Carpet run. I fell a couple of times and managed to get up successfully without clicking out of my bindings. The slope didn’t allow me many turns and I soon got bored and realized I needed to challenge myself with a steeper incline.  My sources had told me that turning would be easier on a steeper slope. That meant I’d have to get on the chair lift.

On the Wizard Chair!!

I got on the lift – no problem. Got off the lift – no problem.  Another milestone. Skied down the steeper pitch off “Easy Street” and sure enough was able to turn the ski more effectively. My experience as an accomplished two plank skier gave me the confidence to feel how the ski wanted to turn and I let it. Ok, this is kinda fun!

I realized I could do that this far into my learning because I had focused on the basics and was beginning to get the hang of this weird feeling of having my feet stuck together. I spent another hour on the lift before I quit for the day.

As a ChiRunning Instructor I tell my students that learning a new movement takes time and focus and patience. New movement feels weird. It’s like brushing your teeth with your left hand (if you’re right handed). Yesterday I set myself up for success by allowing myself the time to learn and being patient with the process. I tell my ChiRunning students the same stuff. Practice what you preach, I thought.
I re-read the “how to monoski” before I left for Mt Rose. I memorized the key points that would be my focuses as I taught myself: Squeeze the knees together, weight on the uphill ski, press the shins into the boot, hands forward, use poles for balance and steering. The key focus, just as the tutorial had stated, was KEEP YOUR KNEES TOGETHER. I learned that when I was not sure what to do I'd focus on squeezing my knees together! Suddenly, the ski would do what I wanted (sorta) and I felt more in control. 

Yes, learning something new is tough and I’m far from mastering this monoboard thing, but the process of learning was wonderful and satisfying. For me, learning to monoski was and will continue to be a reinforcement in how we learn a new movement. And how I teach ChiRunning. 

It’s all about focus. When we focus our mind on the body doing JUST ONE THING at a time the body learns what it feels like and can repeat the movement easier with each attempt. This mindfulness is what learning and progress in movement is all about.

Learning and teaching ChiRunning is where I learned about focusing and the body mind connection. Learning to ChiMonoski reinforced those principles and reminded me what it’s like to learn a new movement.

A website in progress and built by my friend and awesome Monoskier, Greg Spanel is Monopalooza, the annual get together of all folks mono, will be the first weekend in March. The events are listed on If you want to learn to monoski, they will have a demo day to do it.