Crook considered area’s premiere ski instructor |

Crook considered area’s premiere ski instructor

Sam Bauman

Staff Writer

Here’s tip for baby boomers about to enjoy more of the good life: See Rusty Crook at Mt. Rose ski resort on any winter Monday, Wednesday or Friday morning between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m.

He’s be in the bar with a bunch of other baby boomers, getting ready to offer a free ski lesson. Get there early enough and you can wolf down a modest, free breakfast, courtesy of Mt. Rose.

Rusty has been teaching skiing for 40 years and is probably the premier ski instructor in our area. He was a member of the U.S. Ski Team and World Cup racer, and he’s the one who teaches the instructors at Mt. Rose.

So this is a ski lesson from one of the best, even if he has two titanium knees (“Good for another 35 years,” he says). To watch Rusty ski is to watch grace on skis; he makes it all look effortless.

After a brief rundown on the day’s features, he leads the group of seniors to the six-pack lift and then usually back to the Slide Mountain Bowl, a beautiful, wide expanse of trees and carved ski runs, varying in difficulty from an easy blue (intermediate) to a husky black down the bumps or the steeps.

Like most ski instructors (the fashionable word now is “coach,’ deemed more impressive) now Rusty believes in demonstrations preceded by salty talk that flows effortlessly from him.

“I teach contemporary skiing, just what the racers on the World Cup ski,” he says to perhaps 15 students. “That means taking advantage of the modern shaped ski, letting it do your work for you.”

The shaped ski, now perhaps 10 years old, has to a degree reshaped skiing. Thanks to its shape – fatter at the tips and tails – it makes turning easier but requires a change of technique from the days of the “straight” ski.

“With shaped skis you let the ski do most of the work for you,” he says. And then he proceeds to tell his class that extension and retraction (“up and down movements of the body”) is what makes the turns easier. He introduces a game : Midget and Giant. “Say ‘Giant’ when you’re rising at the apex of the turn, the ‘midget’ in the bottom half. That’s one way to get the up-and-down movement.

“You go into a turn with your weight 60-40 on your skis, 60 on the downhill or outside ski. At the apex of the turn you go to 50-50, then back to 60-40 again with 60 on the outside ski (which was the inside ski).

Sounds confusing, but when Rusty moves down the hill in wide, gentle, perfectly controlled turns, students begin to nod. Looks easy, but when the group tries it things happen: Hands go back, outside shoulder leads and the body is out of position.

“If you do the simple things, it all holds together: Leading with your inside hand, up at the apex, down in the last half, skis parallel, body forward,” Crook says.

Rusty stops and points to recreational skiers. “See how they lean away from the hill when they should be leaning down the hill. I know, it’s a protective move to lean uphill; it’s instinctive. But by leaning downhill your body is already in position for the next turn.”

Off the hill, Rusty explains that contemporary skiing makes it possible for seniors to enjoy skiing much more, getting more runs in every day because the new technique requires less effort. He explains further in a conference room, where his video camera is hooked up to the TV set.

One by one, the day’s class comes down the hill on the monitor. As each student passes in review, Rusty comments:

“Not enough up and down there, Sally; I know you can do it, you go to the toilet every day …”

“You’re leading with your outside shoulder, Sid. See how that makes you struggle to get in the next turn? …”

He breaks off to explain to the class his aim in teaching.

“I want to help show you how much better you can be. To help you be as good as you can be.”

He adds that next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, he will be teaching Silver Seminar, which includes videos of each student, lunches, lift tickets and personal video tapes with his comments.

“Price is $180. Don’t know if we will have enough students to warrant the seminar, but if we get at least four, those four will have the best lessons of their lives,” Crook said.

And, oh, yes, he’s taking a group to Portillo next summer. Great skiing, great food. And he’ll be at the Turin Winter Olympics next month, doing what he does best, “sitting on his butt.”

Not really what he does best.