Riding the tantra

Posted on Friday 27th January, 2012 Times Viewed: 3302
Kieran from Blue Mile Snowsports takes a different approach to snowboard coaching. But it works.

Don't quote me on this, but tantra is all about enlightenment, and an individual ability to
channel your own energies, in order to better yourself with the earth around you. This
week I discovered this can be applied to snowboarding, not just to help you enjoy it more, but to make you a far better rider too.
Tantra uses various methods of understanding your energies, guided by a kind of guru, and this week our guru was Kieran MacDonald Sharp from Blue Mile Snowsports.

Whether or not he'll be pleased or scared by this association, I have no idea, but he did tell us that everyone understands things in their own ways – and this is how I understood this week on snow. And what's more, I not only came out a better rider, but renewed my enjoyment for something I didn't think I could enjoy any more than I already did.

I don't often write reviews in daily chunks, but this week was a journey we all went through in our own ways, and since every day was a journey in itself, this is how it rolled.

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Day 1:
Initially, I wasn't quite so converted. It was my first run of breaking my Chamonix-ginity, and Kieran asked us what we were doing. No matter how any of us answered, it didn't
seem to be the right answer.

We were confused – particularly as we were told to focus on consciousness and logic -
super deep for early on a Monday morning. Friends were texting by lunchtime about how the course was going; I think my replies were initially quite confused. I wasn't sure what was going on, but kept the open mind.

We found ourselves performing some kind of meditation on the slopes, feeling the energy flowing through our fingertips and our toes, becoming 'at one' with our boards, then continuing this strange approach to riding... but then things started to click. I was relaxed, chilled and in a strange state of contentment – not thinking about my riding, just focusing on this energy flow between me and my board. It was nice, really nice. As in, tingling nice.

I was effortlessly enjoying the ride, and once we started to mix in tips on flowing the
energy into different parts of the board, we were all looking like different riders. No one was telling us to change our stance or body position, it was all about the energy – and it was working. The proof was in the video analysis back in Argentiere's Office bar after the ride – we were more comfortable with who we were on the mountain. Fact.

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Day 2:
We went up to Flegere to experience a different view of Chamonix, and started work on switch. All of us had issues with switch but this energy focus from the day before seemed to make a huge difference as we were all completing entire red runs in switch.

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We were forced to face our fears, and ask ourselves what held us back from riding the
same in regular as in switch – and as the main fear was falling, we were all forced to fall
in as many different ways as possible.

It felt strange throwing ourselves onto the floor, and props to one lad for even throwing himself off a roller in switch, but the next run down and we were all comfortable – something I've never done for a whole run before, and an achievement we were all stoked on.

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Lying in the deck chairs at La Chavanne, overlooking the Chamonix valley under crystal
bluebird skies, that's when I really accepted what was happening, and started to just be very content. By the time we'd spent the afternoon doing rhythmic riding techniques and breathing exercises, I was back in the lodge with tingles in my fingers and toes – those same tingles we'd been asked to discover when meditating on the slopes the day before.

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Replies to my friends were far different. Kieran was playing with our minds without even telling us to change our riding styles, and we were enjoying it – our riding was far more controlled, we looked better riders, and we were doing just what snowboarding was all about – feeling the mountain, and enjoying it.

But then at the video analysis Kieran gave us a final warning: “Tonight, I want you to
make four playlists – chilled, aggressive, focussed and funky – because tomorrow I'm
going to truly f*ck with your heads, and you're not going to like it.”

Day 3:
Today's been intense – both physically and mentally. But although I'm now a physical and emotional wreck, it's a good feeling. We started the day with our 'chilled' playlist, getting us relaxed and into 'the zone'.

We went straight into the park, and after a few laps of the rollers and blue kickers, getting our technique and body position together, we graduated to the red kickers, as well as hitting up the boardercross track – slightly cut up due to an earlier casualty on the track!

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But after lunch, that's when things started getting really tough, and even the use of
the 'aggressive' playlist didn't ease the pain more than slightly. We were putting all the
techniques together we'd learnt over the past few days, and were forced to make it
bigger, stronger and more 'aggressive' than we'd ever ridden before.

My legs were burning, and still I was not doing it right – the floaty, hippy, meditation
from before was nowhere to be seen. This energy was all channelled into the aggression, but the force made us put all our strength into every turn. It's just not easy to tune your muscles out of how you've ridden for years – but this sort of training is exactly what we needed to improve.

The 'funky' playlist on the home run helped remind us why we are pushing our riding –
because we enjoy it, and by doing these exercises, we'll be much stronger, better riders – physically and mentally.

Back at the Yeti Lodge we were treated to an hour of yoga which was pleasurably painful at stretching out our limbs – and something I'd love to do more of after the slope. Straight after the yoga, we went back to school with a qualified sports psychologist, who was leading us through our mental state when entering competitions and combating fears when riding. Although not much can be covered in just an hour, it's important to think about, since you can be physically ready for the mountain, but sometimes your mind can hold you back – whether it's winning a comp or just building the balls to hit a kicker.

Needless to say, dinner went down well, and bedtime was a sweet spot for all of us.

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Day 4:
I was ready to give in this morning. I was in a viscous circle of physical pain, alongside
mental pain at not being able to do what I was trying to do, no matter how hard I tried to push through it. But after an unintentional combination of multiple pain killers, caffeine and dextrose, I seemed to come into a different world, and things started clicking in my head.

The techniques Kieran had told us to work on over the past few days were finally coming together, and even though they weren't perfect, we could see from the video analysis the huge difference between day 1 and day 4.

It felt good too – riding felt far more natural, in control, and more enjoyable, through
combining this new stance, new energy flow and new mental focus. They're techniques we can take with us in the future, as well as the mentality that we can do it, we just need to actually apply it to our riding.

We all came off the mountain far happier riders, and even with just one more day to go, we already can't thank Kieran enough.

The guys at Yeti Lodge topped off an already sweet day with an immense 3-course dinner in one of their other beautiful chalets, as the snow started falling outside in time for our last day's riding.

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Day 5:
What a day, and what an epic end to what has been an immense week. The neige
gods just blanketed us overnight, and it just didn't stop coming down. We got some
sweet powder lines through the trees before they started shutting off the mountain,
and as we tried to hike another powder ridge, the ski patrol chased after us in skidoos
to get us down. But as the snow kept dumping, we lapped the home run, bounding off the edges and loving every second. I was like a child on e-numbers and that's not an understatement.

Eventually they closed the mountain but I couldn't get enough of the stuff, and it'd be
offensive to the snow gods if I didn't make a cheeky pre-flight powder ride tomorrow
before the transfer home.

It's been my first taste of proper powder this winter, and that crunchy sound as you walk through the streets, through to that sweet taste of falling snowflakes, has just topped off what has already been an amazing week for us all.

Putting together everything Kieran had taught us this week in some amazing snow
conditions just instigated giggling, and reminded me why we love riding – not because
anyone else want us to ride, or because it's 'cool' to do, or because we're forced to... but because we love it – we're free to play how we want to play, enjoy it how we want to, and as long as we finish the run smiling, then that's what it's all about.

Conclusion
This whole week has been a journey for us, and one which we'll definitely not turn back on. It's been full of challenges, both mentally and physically, but it's so rewarding to have been able to overcome these obstacles. We've changed our stance, pressure points, setup and riding mentality, which in turn has changed us as riders – and the evidence is in our video footage as well as how we feel inside.

Kieran managed to drill these changes into us without us realising, and whenever we said we're 'trying' to change, we had to remind ourselves not just to 'try' but actually 'do it'. At first I thought the whole energy flow was an interesting approach, but wasn't sure how it would benefit us as riders, but it warmed on me throughout the week.

In the end I realised how this approach was working – by focusing on us as individuals
and our own individual strengths and weaknesses, rather than saying what we 'should' be doing. Combining the breathing and energy flows alongside the technical riding techniques has helped me relax while I'm riding as well as become far more controlled, stable and content on the mountain.

In all, Kieran has made a change in us and we've come away with so much more than we started with. He's got such a passion for living the dream that he is a natural tutor who wants to share this passion with others. In life you can always learn, and Kieran has not only helped us develop our snowboarding both mentally and physically, but given us the tools to help us develop even further in the future.

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Kieran MacDonald Sharp/Blue Mile Snowsports

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Name:
Kieran MacDonald Sharp

Age:
29

Current location:
Chamonix Mont-Blanc

Years riding:
12

Riding setup:
Regular 15, -15, wide

Park/pow?
Yes

Snowboard training courses completed:
Many.

What got you into snowboarding?
I used to ski, but got on the board after a few weeks as I was feeling frustrated at my
progress during my first season.

I picked up the basics and I was about to get back on to the skis when all of a sudden
the most perfect powder run presented itself to me and a few other in-experienced riders, so we took the opportunity and literally rode the best pow of our lives. My friend went down first, and it looked perfect so I was up next. The angle was perfect, the snow deep and fresh everywhere, I was so stoked to be riding this wonderful stuff, and I never had an idea at how amazing it could feel till that moment where I decided, that was it, snowboarding was my thing!

While I was descending I noticed my friend bellow in a panic and riding rapidly out to the side of the run, so I completed a large turn round on to my toes and noticed the entire gulley filled with snow. I pointed the board straight and turned harshly on to my toes, pointed it up at the rocks and proceeded to scramble up as high as I could get, to avoid the, what would have been, deathly avalanche.

It was a very irresponsible moment and could have resulted in all our deaths as we were in-experienced and riding without any knowledge of avalanches or the appropriate kit.
However it was that moment that motivated the change to riding a board, riding safely, and moving from a career break in the mountains to a career in the mountains.

Where have you ridden?
Chamonix mostly, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and of course Milton Keynes!

What brought you to Chamonix?
The vibe, you know it if you’ve been here.

Who do you usually ride with?
Music, always a transceiver, probe and shovel.

What makes Blue Mile Snowsports different from other snowboard training
courses?
It’s about you, your riding, and where you want to go with it. We don’t tell you how to ride, you find out how you ride, and how you want to change.

What kind of training courses do you offer?
All mountain, all terrain, intermediate and above snowboard camps.

Where can we find out more info?
www.bluemilesnowsports.com

Yeti Lodge Chalets Chamonix
The cherry on the cake of an already immense week was staying at the Yeti Lodge,
Chamonix. Based in Argentiere, the lodge not only provided everything you could possibly need for an awesome stay in the mountains, but also the perfect location for accessing the many resorts in the Chamonix Valley.

Not only were we a short walk from the ‘Grands Montets’ ski lift, but were central enough to access all the bars and shops in Argentiere, as well as the buses to other resorts.

Yeti Lodge itself was fantastic – and that’s before we found the sauna and hot tub! We stayed in the Brevent apartment, which can house up to eight people. It had its own massive deck, usually overlooking the mountains, but we were treated to a view of far more snow than you can comprehend! The massive lounge was super comfortable, and it was amazingly cosy at all times – meaning you and all your kit is toasty for the next day’s riding!

Yeti Lodges can be run as individual self-catered apartments, or as catered chalets, and
we were lucky enough to be treated to their beautiful food, with the added benefit of the kitchen for regular tea and coffee fixes!

What’s more, Glenn, Cheri and Bob were brilliant hosts (and chefs!), who made us feel
welcome from the minute we arrived, fed us like kings, and even were out super early
clearing the 150cm deep overnight snowfall, just so we could get to the slopes!

They’re super flexible with their different chalets/apartments for different group sizes
– whether you want catered, self-catered, summer, winter, all at great prices – not to
mention their links to local shops for equipment hire/servicing. And then comes the sauna and hottub! What more could you want??
http://www.yetilodgechaletschamonix.com/
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