Wanderlust, a certified B Corp company specializing in wellness festivals and yoga-centric summer activities at mountain resorts, brought its namaste vibes to Phoenix in the Taos Ski Valley this past weekend for those who seek the savasana and ski mentorship of professional skier Amie Engerbretson.
It was their first foray into the winter elements, the three-day program was mainly dominated by yoga and meditation classes. One such yoga class comes as a contemporary infusion of live beats produced by Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza, the yogi’s voice amplified through headphones, and sacred geometry hit by ambient lighting. In another, the musical accompaniment is Garth Stevenson’s electric double bass.
One of the takeaways from the retreat is the potential use of yoga as a restorative element of skiing instruction in general. Skiing or snowboarding movements are not gentle on the body. When your joints act like brake pads, tools prolonging your mountain mortality, they wear out as such. For those skiing or snowboarding for the first time, cramping around the quadriceps, or around the shins and calves, is often a painful problem.
One of the yoga teachers, Gina Caputo, appreciated the format: “Skiing is interspersed between classes, the morning yoga class serves as a warm-up. Its objective is mobility. And it kind of creates warmth for your heart. In the afternoon, classes are slower and deeper.
Amie’s lesson is called “Finding balance and grace on skis”. The class is designed for beginner and intermediate trails only. Amie is very careful with her verbiage: “What I do is much more like coaching. I am a professional skier. I’ve done Warren Miller movies and stuff like that. I am not a PSIA certified ski instructor and I am not a certified guide. I am very careful about the words I use. I am a coach. I will coach you.
She offers another form of pedagogy than the lessons sometimes taught by heart, like what you could get from a certified ski instructor: “It’s this idea of skiing with people who are a little better than you, who makes you ski a little better. It’s more than specific mechanics… If you have someone on the bunny slopes. I’m not really your girlfriend. But then let’s take intermediate skiers and kind of talk about the mental component of what we do. The philosophy of skiing is more than just ‘hands forward’, ‘lean forward’, ‘as we know it’. “
She continued jokingly, “’Why else don’t I feel confident when I’m skiing?’ And that’s a little more what I can offer than like, yeah, pizza [pointing your tips toward each other creating a wedge shape], fries [pointing your tips downhill in a parallel fashion]. I’m going to eat pizza and fries! I like these things.
On the last day of class, her class descended some black diamonds, difficult runs for advanced skiers, with a gradient of 40% or more. Reforma and Blitz aren’t necessarily the toughest trails on the mountain, but the fall line of the slope leads to a grove of potentially deadly trees. These races are not without serious consequences if you don’t know what you are doing.
While riding Lift 2, Amie lays out a game plan for her students: “See this nice smooth snow here on the right side, we’re going to enter from the left to avoid those rocks, and we’re going to head right on that step lower…when you ski it, you will face to the left of your skiers. Do you see that nice smooth snow you want to aim for over there blown by the wind between the bumps? »
One of the students did not hesitate to joke: “I see it, but I also saw this rocky outcrop. After that joke, Amie noted how the skier’s helmet, which had lots of small dents, was pretty much useless because it might no longer be safety rated after all that damage.
To help smooth out the disparity in the skills of different students, a few “shredder-skier yogis” were used as part of a trade to take less able skiers to easier terrain.
Amie points out that engagement is a necessary step in becoming a better skier, as it leads to feeling more secure and stable. Some people use the lingo “hesitation leads to devastation”. Technically, there is some truth to this, as you have more control leaning your weight forward in downhill corners rather than leaning back against gravity.
However, fear is natural. Mike Tyson is famous for saying “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Encountering narrow, steep drops, cliff drops, narrow openings between many trees, and unforgiving icy bumps, is tantamount to an angry Mike Tyson in front of you going into an uppercut. With enough technique and bravery, the dangers may not even be considered, but there is a psychological chasm to consider, for those who have not yet mastered these treacherous obstacles.
Those who lost Reforma and Blitz managed to qualify without injury. And survival is a lesson in itself.
Amie sometimes stayed behind the group to offer advice. Some of the students had to take a break and tackle the tracks like a puzzle, but once the group got down safely, she navigated the bumps as if they were traffic cones on a plane flat.