SUMMIT COUNTY - According to international skiiing, mountaineering and climbing guide Peter Krainz, for those who truly want to improve their skiing ability, it's all about the feet."Of course we all learn in school that our center of balance is in the ear, but I beg to differ," Krainz said. "For athletics, it's in your feet."Krainz has been a proffesional guide for 25 years and is the owner and founder of Rocky Mountaineering Guides (RMG), which is based in Summit County. He also has an extensive background as a ski instructor. One of the several services RMG provides is a cross-training program designed to prepare people for ski season.Krainz' cross-training approach is centered around the concept of foot sensitivity."If I'm in a ski boot and I step on a little pebble, I can tell you exactly where it is under my foot even though the boot is totally stiff," Krainz said. "That's foot sensitivity and it's what many people are missing." Krainz places the value of balance and what he calls "surefootedness," well above new equipment.
"New skis and all that don't really make people better," he said. "They might make them feel better, but they should (feel better) after spending like $1,200."Patrick Fagan, a 15-year ski instructor who recently attended one of Krainz's small group sessions, said the experience gave him a heightened awareness of how his actions with his feet and ankles affected the rest of his body."It's hard to feel those effects in a ski boot because the range of motion is so limited," Fagan said. "It's easier to be aware of when you have climbing shoes on."Krainz's recent two-hour tutorial, which Fagan described as being reminiscent of some yoga and meditative walking he had done in the past, began with a simple walk in climbing shoes on top of a boulder with a roughly 20-degree slope."Krainz emphasized that we take small and soft steps," Fagan said. "We were trying not to be heard, so we weren't moving forcefully or brutally."The class then engaged in "follow the leader," "red light/green light" and various other balance-enhancing exercises, during which participants tried to stay on the balls of their feet. Loose rocks were also periodically placed by the instructor to serve as an obstacle to encourage small steps.Fagan spoke to the importance of the hopping maneuvers.
"We practiced jumping and landing with both feet at the same time," he said. "That way you're more balanced and either foot is ready for the next movement."The class then moved to a rock with a steeper pitch to apply the same principals before ending with some basic rock climbing.Keystone Ski and Ride School training manager Bob Barnes, who was along for the session, said Krainz's teachings could provide the missing link for many developing skiers."A lot of skiers tend to be upper-body-focused," Barnes said. "The hands, shoulders, hips, even the head. ... Too many people initiate their turns with their hips instead of their feet. Krainz told me that when he skis, his feet tell him what to do, whereas with most people, it's their head."Although he has designed a training program specifically for ski season, Krainz advocates a well-rounded approach to training one's body."I try to connect for people," he said. "Everyone says, 'I'm a skier,' but there's still six weeks before they can go skiing. Hiking, mountaineering, rock climbing, ice climbing, skiing - it's all the same. I mean, it comes out of the same pool. ... If you're a good ice climber, you'll be a good skier."
A native of Aigen, Austria, Krainz came to Summit 18 years ago after living briefly in New Hampshire and Montana, where he worked as a ski instructor in the winter and a mountaineering and climbing guide in the summer. He is fully certified with the IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guides Association) and is also a member of the American Mountain Guides Association."I've done everything in the book and beyond, from World Cup training to numerous tricks," Krainz said. "I've tried all those things and found that specific cross training seems to be the No. 1 thing that helps people improve their skiing."For more information on the services provided by RMG, visit www.rockymountainguides.com.Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.