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Ski Tips: The loss of a skiing legend

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Winter sports icon Ron LeMaster passed on Nov. 30 at the age of 72. PHOTO BY LINDA GUERETT

By Dan Egan EBS Contributor

Ron LeMaster, author, coach, ski teacher, photographer and winter sports icon died on Nov. 30 in a collision with a snowboarder at Colorado’s Eldora Mountain. He was 72 years old. The news of his passing shook the winter
sports world.

LeMaster left a major imprint on skiing with his photography and analysis of ski technique. He was a frequent keynote speaker and presenter for the annual United States Coaching Academy run by U.S. Ski & Snowboard, Professional Ski Instructors of America and international ski conventions such as the 6th International Congress on Science and Skiing, as well as countless ski schools and ski teams throughout the world. 

His topics ranged from Rethinking Movement Analyses, Mechanics and Techniques for Minimum Radius Carved Turns, Lateral Balance, Seeing Skiing: Developing a Good Eye, to Trends in Modern Alpine Ski Racing and beyond.

LeMaster was a master observer of movement and always related back to conditions and body type. His use of multiple-frame photography was groundbreaking in the sport. By taking 10-12 frames a second, LeMaster could break down the position of skiers rounding a race gate or making a mogul turn and look at the movement patterns, as he did in his book “The Skier’s Edge” published by Human Kinetics in 1999.

In his first chapter in the book, “Skiing from the Snow Up,” LeMaster brings to light a core observation: “Skiing is a sport of forces and momentum. When skiing feels good, it is the forces that feel good.” He then illustrated that by drawing comparisons between world champion ski racer Hermann Maier and Olympic mogul skier Sara Kjellin. He broke down their movements, momentum and the forces between their skis and the icy race slope and the bumpy mogul run to illustrate center of mass and like movements between two different disciplines.

Nick Herrin, CEO of PSIA said, “One of the biggest impacts Ron had was understanding different phases and how skiing was broken down, on a large perspective for a lot of people he was on the forefront of understanding
skiing movement.”

LeMaster’s use of multiple frame photography was groundbreaking in movement analysis of skiers. PHOTO COURTESY OF USSCA

LeMaster’s last article he wrote for PSIA was titled “Rethinking Movement Analysis,”  with subsections including: “There is No One, Best Type of Turn – There are Many,” “There is No One, Best Ski Type of Ski Performance – There Are Many,” and “There is No One, Best Combination of Body Movements – There are Many.”

“It’s one of the best technical articles I’ve ever read in a very long time,” Herrin said. “He was an icon for his contribution to snowsports.”

One of LeMaster’s key traits was curiosity. With him it was always about how one skier makes a turn using hip angle but another skier with a different body type might make the same turn using more knee. He was never locked into one method of skiing versus another; his mind was open, and he loved to observe how many ways one thing could be accomplished.

“He was a software engineer, a computer programmer, that was his main job, everything he did in skiing was his side gig, he was one of the most intellectual curious people I have ever known,” said former editor of Ski Area Management magazine and close friend of LeMaster Rick Kahl. “He could engage a 10-year-old in a conversation about how skateboards work and then switch gears, enter into a conversation with a philosopher about the meaning of life and be equally engaged in both conversations. He never had an ax to grind, rather he was driven by what he could learn.”

He authored three books, the first one “The Skier’s Edge” is a technical book about movement, skiing forces, and equipment. LeMaster’s second book “The Essential Guide to Skiing” (2004) is an encyclopedia of information that addressed everything you need to know about the sport of skiing, a treasure-trove of advice for every level of skiers. “Ultimate Skiing,” (2009) his third book, examined the new shape of skis and “examines real-world skiing in specific types of terrain and snow.” 

He filled a void in ski teaching and coaching that is often left empty by the self-proclaimed “Experts” and “Gurus” of the sport. 

“I loved his calm yet confident demeanor, deep knowledge of our sport and his dedication to providing the very best imagery, telling the story of good skiing,” said PSIA-AASI National Team Coach Jeb Boyd. “He embraced the idea of fundamentals and how they can be uniquely executed from athlete to athlete, which became easy to understand through his imagery. He also had an easy way about him when he talked about skiing. That was the basis to his last book ‘Ultimate Skiing,’ which helped me immensely throughout my career.”

LeMaster skis through the trees. PHOTO COURTESY OF PSIA

There is little doubt that LeMaster’s impact will be long-lasting and sorely missed by the international ski community. His legacy should encourage all of us to be curious learners free of judgement on as many levels as possible. 

AJ Oliver, training supervisor at Big Sky Resort, summed up his impact saying, “I only had the opportunity to meet him once, I never had the chance to ski with him, but I’ll always remember [his] ear-to-ear grin.”

Read more on Ron’s passing from PSIA here.

Extreme Skiing Pioneer, Dan Egan coaches and teaches at Big Sky Resort during the winter. His 2022 steeps camps at Big Sky Resort run Feb. 24-26, March 10-12 and March 17-19. His newest book, “Thirty Years in a White Haze” was released in March 2021 and is available at www.White-Haze.com.

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