The Book . Reviews
"John Clendenin Is the Pied Piper, and Peter Pan," by Peter Shelton
Ouray Watch, November 19, 2008
Former freestyle World Champion John Clendenin is irascible and rrepressible. Even in his fifties he hasn't stopped jiving and effusingand holding forth on the best ways to teach and learn skiing.He sent me an online link to his new book, Clendenin Ski Method, Four Words© For Great Skiing. It's not quite ready for publication; hewanted feedback from a number of compatriots. His email started out: "All-time greats [more jive]... Please enjoy and report back or you
will never write again and [worse]."
In ski teaching, perpetual teenage exuberance can be an asset. So is having a way with words, and Clendenin is blessed there, too.You may have noticed that John copyrighted Four Words©. (They are Drift, Center, Touch, and Tip, and we'll get back to them in a minute.) There are more; the text brims with catchy phrases, some copyrighted and some not: The Most Important Moment©, The MostImportant Move©, The Kingdom of Un-groomed, The Skier's Flu, and my favorite, The Love Spot©. This is the point in a turn when neither set of edges is engaged, when Touch and Tip are about to happen as one turn ends and a new one is born. Clendenin describes it as the edgeless moment, however fleeting, that all great skiers sense. Stemmers and hoppers don't feel the love. Stemmers and hoppers are suffering from Skier's Flu, the root of all evil, the greatest impediment to flow down the mountain.
Skiing is a sensuous sport, for sure, and as an icon of freestyle's golden era in the Swinging Seventies (I think I'm too late for copyright there), Clendenin has earned all the innuendo he wants. The book is fun, it reads playfully and evocatively, and if you know what he's talking about, if you've experienced the drifting, floating Love Spot© moment, the terminology will likely stick with you.
Of course, the author is also trying to reach people who may not know what he is talking about. Yet. Clendenin's students at well-attended clinics in Aspen and Portillo, Chile, are serious about achieving flow. And he is serious about imparting its secrets. With the Four Words©, he has done thoughtful work breaking down the component parts of any good turn.
By Drift, he means the shaping of a turn once you are in it, the edging and pressuring of the skis in order to tighten an arc or open it up,
to carve more or skid more, as needed. To Center, in Clendenin's lexicon, is to manage your balance, fore and aft, side to side, over your four edges, especially where you are setting up for the new turn. Touch is the simplest to explain: it's the timing mechanism of the pole plant, in concert with positioning the upper body. Tip means tilting the skis on or off their edges, but mostly on edge, past or through (or post-caressing) The Love Spot© and into the next Drift phase.
On the hill with John in Utah a couple of winters ago, I got the terms confused. Drifting and The Love Spot© wanted to merge in my mind, and it took me longer than it should have to know what he meant by Bottom Ski, Top Ski. But the book has helped to clear these things up (as it has added to the bedroom analogies). It has also made me realize just how far ahead of the curve John was in
promoting four-edge, two-footed, perpetual-flow skiing.
The real beauty of the book to me is the way the new-school stuff cleaves, seamlessly, with classic truisms. He calls these timeless tips Keys to the Kingdom and invokes some of the greats: Jean-Claude Killy's natural, upright stance; Scotty Brooksbanks' subtle feet; Stein Eriksen's functional, narrow stance. Some are clichés - monitoring hands by pretending to carry a breakfast tray; stacking bones for skeletal efficiency and muscle relaxation; turning up the bump for speed control in the moguls - all of them are fundamental, and beautifully illustrated.
This is a book of passion and wisdom by a guy who communicates his own with gravity and its opposite - wait for it - dancing with gravity. John Clendenin loves the turn, and the words he's found to describe the turn. He even enlisted Neil Young for a quote: "Don't let it bring you down/It's only castles burning/Find someone who's turning/And you will come around."
The Book . Testimonials
Thank goodness for John Clendenin! Finally someone figured out the mystery of teaching skiing so others can learn. I only wish John could unravel the mystery of golf half as well.
In this book he details the simple secrets that unlock the possibility of expert skiing for all. Step by meticulous step he patiently and cleverly covers each part of the process. The illustrations and explanations are focused and first rate.
Obviously he has spent many hours getting each explanation exactly right and that only serves to make the absorption of the information that much easier.
This is the answer for those looking to really ski and be at home on the mountain in any terrain.
John Clendenin's methods have changed my skiing life. I found that after reading and then practicing and then reading and then practicing and practicing and reading again, it all starts to come together. All I can say is that I have taken lessons from a lot of different instructors and really my skiing never improved. After reading the book, getting the DVD and taking a clinic, I actually look good when I ski, can experience the feeling of flying, and feel safe because I can initiate speed control even in the bumps!
John's book takes you step by step through the Four Words that create the basis of his Clendenin Ski Method. The use of graphics, photos, and progressive illustrations provides visual reinforcement to the written meaning of the Four Words. The application of the Four Words will allow any skier to progress to levels of skiing that they would not have achieved without following them. I have been following John's Four Words and have been able to advance my skiing to levels that I could not have achieved without them. I would highly recommend John's book to anyone that has an intrest in improving their skiing and overall experience on the mountain.
...but a great manual is worth more than its weight in gold. Especially when it's from John Clendenin, one of the fathers and former World Champion (twice) of modern freestyle skiing. In my teens, I dreamt of mastering moguls and enrolled in lessons with traditional ski schools. But this dream would soon be shattered by one instructor who advised me that unless I skied 90 days a year or more, I would never be able to get it. I finally gave up skiing in my thirties after losing interest, as I had reached a seemingly inescapable plateau which had kept me locked out of the greater kingdom... the vaster realm of terrain enjoyed by only a handful of adepts on any given day. Yet destiny had not turned its back on me. One day in my forties, it would introduce me to the master who would eventually prepare me to earn the keys to that kingdom, as he has done with so many others of similar predicament before and since. If there is an unknown conspiracy in the skiing profession to keep the masses in the dark, then John truly is the Luther of the sport. This book is his "testament" and our "bible" for greater learning and enjoyment. It is a jewel to be revelled before, during and after exercising the concepts described. It is a companion that grows with the evolving practitioner, revealing new levels of understanding after each step is progressively mastered. Thank you, John, for sharing your passion with the rest of us. (Don't forget the video which complements this book with examples in motion --- "Clendenin Ski Method: Finding the Love Spot")
Diane and I very much enjoyed meeting you. Thank you for being so generous of your time and spirit. You were a highlight to an already great trip by you just being yourself. Soooooo, after being inspired by your book “Four Words For Great Skiing” this wannabe and wannamoreblack-and-blue sloper is ready for more, to take on something more challenging. The book is good, really good. I loved it. Thank you. Most of all, perhaps naively and innocently on my part, it filled me with a can-do belief that, “hey, this isn’t beyond me, it is not rocket science and maybe I too can do this.” The book left me feeling positive about myself and what I may be capable of doing. Also, I enjoyed your anecdotal story about your slope-time with Franz Klammer. I loved the story and appreciated your humility, especially from someone who is as accomplished as you are. Until our paths cross again, Be safe and remember, Drift and Center, then Touch and Tip. Enjoy the Kingdom.
We got back from a week at Whistler where I referenced your book and then practiced some of the corresponding exercises every day -by the end of the week, the cumulative improvements added up to a breakthrough of skiing profound enough that I now have your book placed on my coffee table at the office so I can tell everyone about it!
I have just finished reading The Clendenin Ski Method book for the first time, in preparation for the forthcoming ski season in Australia.
Although I have yet to put skis on this year I know I am already a better skier – I also know that I will be starting on the green and blue slopes, to unlearn poor techniques, and to develop skills that I can utilise in all snow terrains. I am keen to discover continuous flow, develop the feel of continuous drift and centering and develop the feel and timing of pole touching and ski tipping. Your explanations have made explicit so many details (moves, sequences of events, points of balance, use of feet, edging technique, pole technique, summed up by Drift, Centering, Touch, Tip and the Keys of the Kingdom) that are alluded to in other books but never fully explained, and which happen too quickly and are too obscure to be picked up through observation, unless you are a skilled coach.
Thank you for a highly readable book with wonderful, coherent, complete, and easy to comprehend descriptions of skiing technique that will serve the skier well in all situations.
Book, DVD, and Camp – Bobbi
For anyone who is serious about improving their skiing, the first steps are to read the book “Four Words for Great Skiing” and watch the video “Finding the Love Spot”. These provide the foundation on which one can build to see significant improvement in their ability to ski bumps and in off-piste conditions. The next step is to do a clinic in one of John Clendenin’s camps where you can practice the drills and receive instruction from experts in the Clendenin method. It will take some time and effort, but when it all comes together, it’s magical.
I can personally attest to the effectiveness of this method. My skiing has improved dramatically since taking CSM clinics. I am now totally comfortable on steep bump runs. It’s such a joy to be able to ski all over any mountain in all kind of conditions. I use the DVD and the book to keep me “on my game” and not go back to old habits learned by taking traditional ski lessons for about 30 years The Clendenin method is unique in that it is just that – a method that can be built upon as you progress.