Keeping in ‘Shape’ | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Keeping in ‘Shape’

Nancy Oliver Hayden, Tribune Community Editor

Several weeks ago I received a press release announcing a Silver Ski Seminar at Mt. Rose ski resort that seemed to be aimed directly at me.

“Our three-day seminar is designed for active seniors who are at a skill level of intermediate to advanced, and are interested in the new movement patterns used with shaped skis and improving their skiing techniques.”

Since I fit in the active senior with a skill level of intermediate category and had received a new pair of shaped skis for Christmas, I knew this was one seminar I had to check out.



I didn’t have time to attend all three days but instructor Rusty Crook encouraged me to come at least one day to see what it was all about. According to Crook 95 percent of senior skiers are using shaped skis these days because they are easier on the knees and the quads.

As 11 other mature skiers on shaped skis and I were imitating gorillas as demonstrated by Crook, I began to question my sanity. But, low and behold, this exaggerated movement that teaches how much the body can angulate and distort and still be in balance is a great way to get parabolic skis to perform the way they were designed to do. Before long we all began to get more out of our boards.



The group, which included two couples from Hawaii and one from Australia as well as a Carmelite nun from Reno, had all been skiing for years. I learned to ski in the late 1950s, wearing laced leather boots and skis as long as my hand could reach over my head. So, the technique to make the shaped skis perform to their best advantage required a great amount of relearning for most of us.

We were fortunate to have as our instructor a man who has been associated with Mt. Rose for 42 years. Crook was hired by Gordy Wrenn in 1958 to help teach junior ski racers. Before long he took over the program and was instrumental in grooming several Olympic racers during the next 20 years. Among the young skiers were Tamara McKinney; Corey Murdock; Lane Monroe, who became Picaboo Street’s coach; and Smiley Tshopp, manufacturer of the Smiley hat. Tshopp was Crook’s first Junior National Champion.

Crook graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in physical education and health and was a member of the U.S. Domestic Ski Team for two years. When he was invited to Denver this year to be inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame he almost didn’t go because he thought it was just another fund-raiser.

“They called and wanted to know why I hadn’t responded since I was being honored, so my wife and I ended up attending,” Crook said.

In addition to teaching junior ski racers he has taught physical education in the Reno schools for 32 years. He started the high school ski league, was technical director for the Reno Junior Ski Program and resurrected The Falcons, the original Reno-area ski team.

Crook was director of skiing at Mt. Rose for another 20 years until 1999, when he decided to pull back a little and teach special classes, especially for seniors.

At 67 he understands the particular limitations that come with getting older and teaches accordingly. Using his great sense of humor he relates well to the students as he repeats instructions over and over, so they really sink in.

“I want people to understand what is going on and know what is behind the instructions. I want them to be as good as they can be. When I criticize it is only to help them improve their skiing. I am definitely not criticizing the person,” Crook said.

The three-day Silver Ski Seminars include six two-hour seminars, video analysis, photomontage, continental breakfasts and lunches.

Crook takes videos of each student twice a day and shows them during lunch and following the afternoon ski session. He points out what the students are doing right as well as incorrectly and gives them individual tips on how to improve.

His remarks during my first video showing were, “Now, here is a perfect example of how we skied 20 years ago. It’s not wrong – just not the technique needed for the new shaped skis.”

But by practicing the “gorilla” and the “silky wedge christie,” I’m learning what Crook calls “modern skiing” and my technique has improved considerably.

All the ski resorts in the Tahoe area are aware that senior citizens are skiing in increasingly greater numbers and offer 1/2 price discounts for skiers 60 to 69 and greatly reduced rates for anyone 70 and older. In addition to the Silver Ski Seminars Mount Rose offers free skiing for people over 70 as well as a free two-hour clinic for all seniors every Friday. Since the resort plans to close for the season on April 26 there are only two more Fridays to take advantage of the free clinic this season. But they will be waiting for you active seniors when the slopes open next winter.

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