Scot Schmidt Interview
Scot Schmidt
Photo: Larry Prosor
How to, what if, what about...?

Scot Answers Reader's Questions
Updated May 1998

QUESTION: I bought one of your Steep Tech jackets and I love it. I have a few "Q's" about all-mountain skiing. First, I feel like I'm in a rut. How Did you go from being a good skier to one of the best? Did you have an epiphany or did it just come from practice?

In the little booklet that came with my Steep Tech jacket you wrote that when you do a cliff jump, you try to land with your skis at an angle so that you can hip check the mountain if you have to. I ski in the east where we don't have soft powdery landings. Should I still practice that "hip-check" method or would something else work better?

Finally, when I skied with John Egan I saw how easily he could pull off "floating transition turns" all over the place. Is this because his legs are so strong or is it something in the skiing stance? It seemed like he had tons of stored energy in his legs and could just pop at any time. When I tried this, my skis just stayed glued to the snow (may be that's not such a bad thing though).

Long time fan (keep up the good work),
Chris Vozella

Schmidt: You go from being a good skier to the best by putting in the time. Living in a place that isn't limited terrain-wise because you need to always challenge yourself to be good. You're going to have to go to where it's big and ski every day and if you really want to advance you need to take your education into your own hands.

My style and technique came from a lot of visual imagery of World Cup skiers in the 70's like Ingemar Stenmark, Gustavo Thoeni, Piero Gros — Italian World Cup guys with a lot of style.

I also read a book called "Ski Like the Best," by Reudi Bear, with sequential shots of these guys skiing and I visualized the way their hips and knees were angulated. (Styles now are more strongly forward facing with the adoption of rapid gates.) Ingemar had the great style. I visualized it first, then it came naturally. When I was a freshman or sophomore in high school it clicked and my style became unique. I started racing and winning, mostly downhill and giant slalom (I'd crash in slalom because there were too many sticks in the way).

Landing jumps: hip checking varies with the conditions and your approach to the landing. If it's big and soft it's okay to throw in a hip check. Just as you come in, instead of landing square down the hill, my skis hit first, then knees, then hip comes up as a way to deal with the compression of the landing. I started doing this after landing some jumps and having to get stitches because my knees came up and knocked me in the jaw. You don't want to hip check if you don't have to. Never do this on hard snow, better yet, you never want to go big on hard snow period — that's just poor judgement.

The way John Egan pulls off floating transition turns has more to do with speed and using the terrain than it does with strength and stance. You want to put your turns in the holes or depressions in the snow and time it so you finish toward the rise. With enough speed and inertia you'll come off the rise with plenty of float for the transition to the next turn. It's really a matter of learning to judge the terrain. I always put my turns in a depression or hole (but not in a crevasse) and I get a lot of air in between my turns. People think I don't weigh anything because I'm flying, but it's the easiest way to make turns.

Floating transition turns are different than mogul technique, where you turn on top of the bumps. In powder, natural terrain and even on groomed slopes, you can use the terrain to your favor. You have to be agile and accelerating to look like a gazelle when you ski. Most of all, you need to be in control.

QUESTION: Yo Scot, you got any used up, beat up, no good any more skis you wanna get rid of?

SCHMIDT: Thanks, but sorry... I don't keep a big quiver of skis around and most of my gear gets spoken for by my friends and family.

QUESTION: Scot, can you please recommend the best model of K2 ski for all mountain skiing from the 1998 range for a good skier from England who has spent many years learning to carve turns without parabolic skis?

All the best,

SCHMIDT: Ideally, it's nice to have a few pairs of skis to choose from depending on if you're in soft powder conditions or hardpack. I like the K2 Explorer only if it's soft powder or crud. Otherwise you're better off with a more traditional width ski, like the Merlin V or VI for harder resort snow. The Explorers tend to be too fat for real hard pack. Explorers want to float more in powder, but not so much that they stay floating on top of the snow — they let you dip down into it — I like to sink into it a bit.

QUESTION: Does rollerblading help to get the overall motion of skiing back? I know YEARS ago, skiers used to use blades to go do mountains in the summertime.

Out Of Shape,

SCHMIDT: I don't do much blading myself, but it's good for conditioning the same muscle groups as skiing. Rollerblading is one of the closer, more comparable activities to skiing, and it's also good for timing, judgement and quickening your reflexes by reading the terrain coming at you.

QUESTION: I am currently training with weights and doing leg exercises like squats, leg extensions and leg curls with fairly heavy weights. These exercises strengthen the quads and the hamstrings. What other leg exercises do you recommend? Also, what do you do for cardiovascular training?

SCHMIDT: It's good to build strength in your legs. There's nothing wrong with squats and extensions, but be careful not to overbuild like a bodybuilder because you might get too thick and slow, but good strength is extremely important.

Do other activities for speed, timing and decision making, for example mountain biking. I ride dirt bikes and windsurf. I just got a fitness center from Paramount for strength building and maintenance, but other activities keep my timing keen. When building strength, I focus mainly on my lower body and do an upper body work out about once per week.

QUESTION: Can monoboarding have a negative effect on your skiing performance? And what do you think about monoboarding?

Patrick M

SCHMIDT: Monoboarding could affect your skiing if you spent serious time on one. There's a potential to form bad habits because of the swiveling hip motions involved. I'm personally not a big fan of monoboarding. It's not a good way to get around in the mountains but it could be something fun to play with.

QUESTION: Hey Scot, I just want to say that you are on of the best skiers of all time. I have your Extreme Skiing 3: The Scot Schmidt story. Even though I'm only 15, I want to ski like you (the crazy, awesome extreme stuff), with your grace, when I'm older. What do you think of the K2 Four? I just got a pair. Also, what is your favorite style of ski? GS? SL? Shaped? I would really appreciate a response.

A really big fan,

SCHMIDT: The Merlin IV sounds like good choice for your age and weight. I prefer the Merlin VI for a traditional style of ski, which is the same shape as the Four, but the Merlin 6 is a laminated GS race ski with a metal top layer for dampening and stability at high speeds. The Four is lighter and can be a bit nervous if you get going too fast — I'd probably kill myself on a pair. But with your weight and age, I think it sounds like a good choice.

QUESTION: Scot, a gear question - I am a recreational skier who has spent much time (and money) learning how to carve turns properly. Should I try new carving skis? I am not up to real steep skiing, but like to spend as much time as possible off the piste. What would you suggest?

Second, I have only ever skied European, mostly French resorts and would love to go to US or Canada to find out if the snow is really as different as people say, i.e. real powder instead of porridge? Any recommendations and is it true?

Keep enjoying life,
Love, Tascha

SCHMIDT: Maybe you should try shorter, wider skis if you plan on skiing soft and deep snow. Don't get stuck thinking that one ski will do it all, but wide or semi-wide skis and fatter might be better for the off-piste conditions you like. I use the K2 Explorer for soft conditions and Merlin VI for hard snow, so I'm covered with those two styles.

Whistler, Jackson Hole and Squaw Valley are all big US resorts, and the snow in Canada is amazing too. Canada has some smaller areas like Red Mountain that can't be beat for great snow conditions. Then there's cat and heli skiing in the Canadian Caribous and Monashees that can't be beat.

QUESTION: I am looking to purchase a new pair of skis this spring. I demoed the K2 X-15s and they were awesome! I could handle the thick chunky powder as well as the groomed slope. But for $550, I think that is a little over my budget. I found some K2 Explorers that are selling for $250. What is the MAJOR difference between the two? I am the aggressive-type skier that loves all conditions. I also need some recommendations for bindings to go with my new skis.

Thanks for your help!
Frank Horn

SCHMIDT: The X-15 is a great ski. It's marketed between the Merlin V-VI and the Explorer as an all-mountain ski. It's an extra pair in the line that has sort of gotten lost between the Merlins and Explorers. If you're just looking to buy one pair of skis, and not go with two pairs for soft and hard conditions or if you regularly ski resort conditions, it's a good compromise.

Bindings are personal depending on your competence and convenience requirements. I use Salomon 900 Equipes on most of my skis, or the competition model which is loaded with heavier springs and the body is heavier in construction. Preference and ability have a lot to do with which binding you choose. It's a good idea to ask your local shop what might best be geared for you.

QUESTION: In recent advertisments I have noticed that you have switched from more conventional skis to the K2 Explorer. I was curious as to what benefits you feel the Explorer has over conventional skis and if they can handle the steeps as well. I would think that the wider ski would give you more lateral rotation and cause the ski to lose an edge on steep pitches.

I was also wondering if you knew anything about Powder Eight competitions and where they are held? I know that the world championships are in Blue River, B.C. but I was hoping to enter something a little cheaper just to see how we did.

Brent Molsberry

SCHMIDT: I use the Explorer for powder and crud conditions, but I still prefer a traditional GS ski like the Merlin 6 for hard snow.

For Powder Eight information, Mike Wiegele's Heli Skiing organizes the competition in B.C., Canada. They might be able to point you in the right direction for other competitions. You can contact them at 1-800-661-9170 (N America only) or email at The Powder Eight Nationals are in Jackson Hole, WY each year.

QUESTION: I have been skiing for 35 years and have been looking for a boot that really works for me. I have been experimenting with a number of boots but I haven't found one that is flexible enough fore and aft and yet stiff enough laterally. I tried a pair of Technica Explosion 8's which were comfortable but I am no longer strong enough to muscle that type of boot. I really would like to find a responsive expert boot that isn't made of concrete. Any suggestions?

I also currently use custom insoles. Do these adequately address alignment? If not, is there a way that I can check my own alignment to get an idea if things need to be changed.

Vince Walker

SCHMIDT: Comfortable boots are extremely important to a positive ski experience. I've been in Salomon boots exclusively for a long time. You really need to go and talk to a good boot shop about what will best fit you and address your needs. Raichle seem to be a good fit for people with shin problems. They're great for gliding, easy on the shins and have different tongues for different flexes. Look into orthotics — they are mandatory for a good fit.

QUESTION: When should one try extreme skiing like you do?

SCHMIDT: When you've mastered advanced techniques. Making mistakes in the wrong places can be hazardous to your health. The idea is not to go on the steep stuff until you have complete confidence in your ability, which comes with time, experience, practice and living it.

QUESTION: If you are in a resort, do you like moguls or do you like to ski the groomed runs?

SCHMIDT: I avoid moguls, but I enjoy cruising on the groomed if it's a nice, long, smooth and steep run.

QUESTION: While my friend and I were skiing in Vermont at Okemo we decided to rent a skiing movie that you were in and some of the jumps you did were amazing. That whole night we got inspired and tried "techinal jumping" off rooftops and diving onto huge snow piles.

Later and good luck in future jumps,

SCHMIDT: Keep having fun!

QUESTION: You and Greg Stump worked together on several films which set the standard for ski films in the 90s. Will you and Greg get back together to do another movie in the future?

All the best,
Thomas Kablau

SCHMIDT: As of right now I don't really have any plans. The ski industry went sort of flat when snowboarding hit the scene, and it became difficult for filmmakers to get the same sort of sponsorship. If somebody came along with a good production budget, Greg Stump would be the first person I'd call.

QUESTION: Hi, How does the slope help the person to ski? Is there any incline form when skiing?

SCHMIDT: In powder, the steeper the slope, the easier it is to turn and get off your skis. Your technique will change a bit, but once you've got it down it gets easier to make moves when the slope is steeper.

QUESTION: What do you think is the best way to approach and land moderate (20'-30') cliffs? If you have a well angled landing do you think it is best to go off with lots of speed and then just straight the landing as best you can, or do you prefer to go over more slowly and then check yourself on the landing? I know it obviously has a lot to do with the conditions, but the most effective way to approach one as I described would be helpful.

SCHMIDT: All jumps are different — it's a judgement call. Do you have a run out? How will you land? When I'm in the air, I make the decision if I can stick it. If I'm coming in too hard and fast I'll check it. If not, I'll stick it and land more squarely.

QUESTION: Do you find yourself a better skier than Glen Plake?

SCHMIDT: Well, that's not really a fair question. We are extremely different in styles. Would you compare apples to oranges?

QUESTION: I'm a 20-year-old guy from Sunshine Village, AB, Canada. I'm a great skier, not pro, but really good. I follow my idols like yourself and Dean Cummings, with a sense of skiing with calculation and caution. "Safety first" — that's what I always say.

I love enticing my pals by catching sweet air off a nice 30 footer and landing on my ass in about 4 feet of pillowy powder, not only landing it, but holding my form and looking good doing it.

My question is: When there is no new snow, nothing but crud and hard pack, is there any way I can go big and land without breaking my legs, my bindings, and even my neck?

SCHMIDT: No. The first thing to consider is adjusting your air time to be conducive with your landing. If the landing is stiff and hard, only catch as much air as the strength in your legs can handle. You can't afford to compress your body into the hill.

Get a feel for the snowpack and know where the rocks are. Look at whether the snow is bony in one aspect, or fat in another. By bony, I mean look for undulations in the snow caused by rocks or boulders under the snowpack.

At Squaw, for example, I knew where all the rocks were in the landings and I watched the layers, so I could jump without hitting a stump or a rock. Powder landings are ultimately what you're looking for. It's wise to know what's under that pillow.

QUESTION: Having admired your amazing jump and smear turns in movies over the years, can you offer some advice on what exercises I can practice to be able to do these turns?
— Eddie Doyle, England

SCHMIDT: I've never had a training program because I've climbed and skied enough to stay in shape. Lately I've been travelling quite a bit though, and I find I need to build and work to stay in shape. For cardiovascular exercise, I do a lot of hiking and mountain biking. I also have a home fitness center, with a real weight stack, which is a home version of a health club style machine.

QUESTION: Hi Scot. I used to be a pretty good powder skier but got out of the sport for a while and got rusty. I can ski flatter grade runs in trees well but have a harder time on the steeper grades.

I seem to lose control of my skis more easily. I don't know if it is the fear of speed factor or what. I try to keep my weight against my shins over the skis but end up always falling back and losing control. Any tips would be much appreciated. Thanks and keep up the good work! — Rob Klen, San Ramon, CA

SCHMIDT How do you check your speed? Through experience and mileage. You should NEVER be in an out of control situation. If you're losing control, you're lacking technique and experience. You should go back to a more moderate, intermediate slope, and move to steeper terrain when you feel more comfortable.

You can't afford to lose control on anything — period. Don't get into a situation where you need to dump speed. Speed isn't always your friend on steeper terrain.

QUESTIONS: I agree with your comment about using a moderate sidecut ski in the steeps. So, which sidecut skis do you recommend? I want something that is a quick turner but stable enough to bomb down groomers. Since I haven't bought a new pair of skis in over 4 years, I need some advice. — David Malachowski

I am curious, what are some of the new models you have skied on and like? — Steve DuComb

Do you feel that with shaped skis it's necessary to reduce length by such a large margin (170 down to 150)? — MH

SCHMIDT: My main advice is try before you buy. You can consult the annual buying guides that come out each fall, and there are plenty of demo shops where you can try out different kinds of skis. Depending on the type of skiing you're doing, you should see what works best for you.

K2 and ski manufacturers in general say that you can downsize 10cm or so in sidecut skis, but most of it is personal preference. Take a look at this ski tip for more about sidecuts. See also: Mountain Zone '98 Ski Review, Mountain Zone Ski Discussion Groups.

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