Lacking the extra support, they usually tense up and resist leaning into turns. For Lennon, the challenge is to show them that success comes only by giving in to gravity. On the second and final day of class, Lennon weans students off the gliders.
Lennon: One of the reasons that I like skiing and snowboarding is that you've got to learn reactions that run counter to your instinct. Say you're moving 30 mph towards a tree — like I was the first time I tried snowboarding. Your natural reaction would be to shy away from the tree, to pull your body weight directly away from the impact. Thats not going to help you. The way to avoid the tree is to lean slightly towards it, so you get some tip pressure. That enables you to angle a turn. So what you've really got to do is let go of your natural instinct and go with what you've learned. As you do it more often, it becomes more natural. But in essence, its completely unnatural.
So how do you teach people to take control by letting go? You enable them to experience success. They accomplish a little bit, they get a little bit better, and they're ready to take on more. The business people I've coached really respond to this. They're used to working towards short-term goals and stretch goals. They see the goal, they clearly understand what they've got to do, they go for it, and nine times out of ten they succeed. And then they discover that the oldest cliche in sports is true: success really does breed success.
Postcard from Vail
David Gorsuch, 58, former Olympic downhill racer, and founder of Gorsuch Ltd., a $21 million catalog and sporting goods business.
My friends think I'm nuts. Why make a fool of yourself on a snowboard? they say.
Because snowboarding looks so graceful. Because its powerful and its new. If you stop trying new things, you get old. Most middle-aged people stay away from the unknown. But you dont get big returns in life unless you take big risks. I'm stretching, learning, pushing — and I'm getting it!
A version of this article appeared in the Dec 1996/Jan 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.