The key to learning anything is to discover the secret code that unlocks the mystery and reveals the route to success. In the old model, coaches did this by explaining the theory, demonstrating it, and then asking students to repeat it. So with snowboarding, students fall, fall, and fall again until they finally get it right. No pain, no gain. In the new model, you learn by doing. Lennon's corollary is to structure the experience so the rider feels what it's like to succeed. He calls it "assisted success."
Lennon: Of all the things that we do, the most important is we try to make people feel comfortable. The whole point of using gliders and ski poles is to get people feeling mentally secure. The tools do this by helping them succeed. Some people think these tools are a crutch, and a crutch isn't for them. Fair enough. But this 'crutch' is an incredible time saver. It enables your muscles to experience success. So if we show people how quickly we can get them to turning at high speed, then the crutch becomes something else entirely — it's more like extra horsepower under your hood.
Postcard from Vail
Molly Gorsuch, 31, a mother of one.
I live in Vail. I'm more comfortable on this mountain than I am on the street. But today I'm strapped into a Rossingol Throttle, and this beginner run looks like a downhill racecourse. What am I, nuts? I'm five months pregnant, risking the health of my firstborn to learn snowboarding.
My feet are locked into an awkward stance. My legs are fighting it. My thigh muscles are burning. And its time to go down the hill. My husband, Jeff, is pushing me off. The board is picking up speed. How do I turn this thing? How do I stop!
Postscript: On July 27th I gave birth to Brooks Scott Gorsuch. I'm now an intermediate snowboarder — in three years Brooks will be out there, too.
A version of this article appeared in the Dec 1996/Jan 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.