Basch: Skiing is a ‘dance with gravity’

  • Terry Barbour is the director of ski and ride at Sugarbush in Warren, Vt. Barbour first began teaching skiing in 1978. MARTY BASCH / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Monday, January 29, 2018

On a foggy day in the Mad River Valley, the blue-jacketed skier linked graceful arcing turns as he faded behind Mother Nature’s cloak.

Skiing on intermediate trails off the Super Bravo Express Quad like Birdland, Downspout and Snowball at Sugarbush in Warren, Vt., Terry Barbour grooved down the mountain, swaying, bopping and rocking.

“Skiing is a dance with gravity, with the mountain, with snow conditions,” Barbour said. “When you think of dancing, dancing is movement and power comes from movement. When you can move and flow, power is the result.”

Barbour’s a powerful, supple skier. With more than a generation of teaching experience, he’s in his second year as director of ski and ride at Sugarbush. Previously he served as ski school director at nearby Mad River Glen for 15 years.

He won the PSIA’s Einar Aas Award in 1984 which recognizes dynamic leadership and high standards.

Since 1987, he’s been Eastern Division Examiner for the Professional Ski Instructors of America. Barbour’s resume also includes Skiing Magazine equipment tester and ski school director at Greek Peak Ski Resort in Cortland, N.Y., where he first started teaching in 1978.

Barbour also goes by the nickname “T-Bar,” the first letter of his first name and first three letters of his last name, given to him by a Rossignol represetnative years ago.

According to Barbour, If you want to be a good recreational skier, start by being in decent shape, getting a good boot fit and take lessons to get a solid foundation to carry you through your skiing career.

Both adults and children are taught fundamentals and Barbour admits that sometimes it’s easier to teach children instead of adults.

“Kids don’t have the same psychological issues as adults do,” he says. “Adults carry a lot more fear than kids do so you’re dealing with that tentativeness, that fear of sliding. Kids love sliding. It’s more playtime for them.”

Kids tend to learn quickly; adults hold back and tend to overthink things.

Then there are those skiers – good skiers who’ve been skiing for years – but are stuck at a certain level unable or not willing to advance.

For those people, Barbour wants to know if they are skiing efficiently. Is skiing hurting their joints? He’ll look at their fundamentals and will help them use advances in equipment to help them get better on their feet.

“Very simply, if you can take advantage of the technology on your feet, skiing is going to be more enjoyable to you,” he said.

He can show tactics to have skiers plying the whole mountain, including nerve-wracking terrain for some like ice and bumps.

New England skiing is ripe with changing conditions and terrain. Powder, boilerplate, moguls, mashed potatoes, steeps and glades are all part of the mountain experience. To get through it all, Barbour preaches it’s about technique.

“You need to pay attention to both feet and you need to be guiding the ski,” he said. “It’s curved up front for a reason. A lot of people forget that and try to push their skis which is very inefficient in a lot of snow conditions.”

Relaxing also helps. Breathe. Hum a song. Have a mantra. Ski more to gain confidence.

Barbour loves the sensation, freedom, and flight of being on snow. Teaching people is the reward that comes with job. He watches skiers from various walks of life and abilities achieve something that perhaps they didn’t think they were capable of. He turns newbies on to sliding on snow.

He gets a rush from seeing people break through where a technique is finally understood.

Even for someone who made his first turns as a teenager more than 40 years ago on a rope tow hill called Powder Mill Park in Rochester, N.Y., Barbour’s skiing is still evolving.

“The only thing holding you back as a better skier or rider is just not trying anymore and not searching out new sensations,” he says. “Challenge yourself in every snow condition, every pitch, everything that is out there. Woods, crud, powder, you have to ski it all. There’s no such thing as a bad ski day. There’s good ski days and then there’s ski days that are good for your skiing.”

Barbour said he’s addicted to it.

“I still feel that my skiing is growing,” he says. “Better skiing is a lifelong journey.”

And a dance with a mountain that can last a lifetime.