Ski like a
make the difference
Express Staff Writer
Let me just
start with this pronouncement. Jeannie Thoren is my guru.
Thoren, skiing on Baldy, shows how equipment adjustments have
worked for her. Express photo by Willy Cook.
explored the guru option a few times in the past in my search for harmony
and balance in my life, never—until I met Thoren, who literally changed
an aspect of my life—did I feel satisfied. And it was so simple.
specializes in ski clinics for women that seek to change they way they
approach both their skiing and their equipment.
begin with a very amusing and anecdote filled lecture. Ours took place at
Thoren’s host ski shop, Sturtevants, at the base of Bald Mountain. She
proceeded to inform me and several other hopeful women that we were right
side up pears and men were upside down pears. And that ski shops had been
selling and tuning our skis for us all these years based on men’s
inverted pear shape.
That is to
say, that women carry weight lower and further back in our wider pelvic
structure, but ski equipment has been made and tuned for someone with
weight that is carried higher in the body, across the upper torso.
always been wrong for us, and Thoren has spent decades not only proving
this point to the ski industry at large but fine tuning changes that help
women to ski to their potential instead of struggling to make it down the
hill without looking either like a fool or falling and hurting ourselves.
her husband Tom Haas, who live in Duluth, Minn., travel up to 22 weeks of
the year to various ski resorts around the country. She runs a three-day
clinic in which she attempts to turn wary, worn out women into empowered
alpiners. Her theories also work with skate and classic skiing.
Theory is this: women’s pelvises are wider than men’s; their feet are
smaller, and their weight in centered lower and further back. Equipment
must be adjusted for each of these conditions.
bindings forward just 2 centimeters alleviates the problem of
over-rotation. When a woman is standing in the proper position on the ski,
less raw strength is needed to make the ski turn. Fewer exaggerated body
movements—swinging the hips, or steering the turn with the arms—are
needed. Instead, a woman should be able to flow into a turn instead of
binding settings also help women be "on top of her skis" rather
than "in the back seat," thus creating smoother, quicker, and
more controlled turns. Thoren also places cants under the bindings to help
with leg alignment problems.
after her lecture, Thoren continues testing her theory on each client
while on the mountain. She demonstrates this by having each client us her
own equipment, which have certain aspects that can work against us.
instance, skis clatter together and cross when there is too much ski ahead
of the boot. Shorter skis and moving the bindings forward help with this
prevalent problem for women skiers is bending too much at the waist. Heel
lifts—basically wedges put under the boot liner—tips the pelvis
forward and establishes a natural stance with greater stability, and more
connection with the bottom of the ski, since heels don’t lift out. Since
the heel is higher, a greater amount of forward torque can be generated by
the woman with less forced ankle and knee flex. This helps the woman skier
keep pressure on the forward part of the ski much more efficiently,
especially on steeper slopes, without having to bend at the waist.
also help by lifting the ankle out of the restrictive top of the boot,
which can pinch off the blood circulation in the feet. It is a common
cause for the oft heard—and poo pooed—cold feet complaint.
not a rad feminist argument here," she claimed, but a matter of
seats, ice skates, soccer cleats and basket balls are all examples of
sports equipment that has been altered to deal with the difference in men’s
and women’s physiques. So why not skiing?
developed many of her theories and solutions while living here in Sun
Valley, has become highly regarded for the changes she’s instigated in
the ski world. She was named one of the 25 most influential people in the
industry by Ski magazine, and Skiing magazine ranked her as one the Top
100 North American ski instructors, She’s also an inductee of Skiing for
Women Hall of Fame, and a long time ski and boot tester for both Ski and
And it all
works. During the lecture, Thoren talked about how each time she
discovered how her ski control improved while utilizing these adjustments,
she’d go into the woods, sit on a log and cry.
As for me,
I skied on a pair of K2s that have not even debuted in this country,
called the Spire. It belongs in their K2 T-Nine Series (Title 9). "It
is going to kick butt!!" said Thoren.
broadly as I zipped down Baldy, realizing that it was indeed possible for
me to ski far better than I have since I was a fearless and agile
teenager, with much more confidence, not to mention grace.
As a Sun
Valley skiing institution, Thoren was voted all around women’s skier Sun
Valley in 1979, well before she had orthotics, heel lifts or cants to
improve the equipment. Also before heel lifts were developed she duct
taped match books under her boot liners to lift her up.
calls her clinic "a clinic in know thyself. You must address that in
skiing." For instance she has extreme knock knees and one leg is
longer than the other. Cants have changed it so much for her that X-rays
showing her legs with and without them make the concept dramatically
visible. Without the cants her knees point at each other, with them they
emphasizes points with an exaggerated Minnesota accent, as in "you
betcha," comes from Scandinavian stock and hurls jokes almost as fast
as she skies.
28-foot trailer with them on their yearly ski clinic tours, Haas and
Thoren have 105 pairs of demo skies, and 90 pairs of boots, a full service
tuning shop, cross country skis, demo helmets and goggles.
fun to see what kind of effect you can change through the equipment,"
she said during the evening lecture. A woman in the attentive audience
smiled. Her name was Carol and in a video from a previous clinic we could
see that she was out of control in her own equipment and totally in
control in Thoren’s equipment with the heel lifts and orthotics added.
Her husband patted her knee and smiled. He was one of the few men in the
room at Sturdevants who weren’t there as instructors looking to help
them with their class techniques.
handles all the equipment adjustments, tuning, and demos, calls his wife a
"marriage counselor on skis," because so many women, who had all
but given up the sport, were inspired to try again and loved it, after
working with Thoren.
glowed the day she gave her clinic, corduroy snow, blue skies, and
brilliant warm sunshine. Rob Santa and his crew at Sturtevants-Greyhawk
bent over backward in all regards, from helping with equipment to allowing
the occasional occupation of the store by the whole group.
distance and the years, Thoren still has a soft spot for the area. She
calls "Sun Valley my spiritual ski home in the Universe. I always
miss it so."
she returns, we’ll miss her, too.