Jean-Claude Killy Skis the Trees

You can learn a lot about skiing by following SkiMadWorld. And on Friday nights, you can learn while watching great video.

Recently MadPat posted a piece on Jean-Claude Killy and his legendary accomplishments, in the late sixties and the 1968 Olympics. When I finished reading, I got drawn further into YouTube, and I found this silent video of Jean Claude in the trees — it’s really beautiful skiing.

“Killy came to a ski camp I was at in 1970 — Lange International Racing Camp at Mammoth Mountain. He could ski so well. He ran a course and we all went over to look at his perfect carved turns in the salted snow. I have never seen anyone with such body control and quickness in my life. It was otherworldly.”

-YouTube Comment

8 comments on “Jean-Claude Killy Skis the Trees

  1. Nice link. What always cracks me up about watching people in the old days is that they were on planks the width of toothpicks, hideous boots, laughable bindings, etc. and good skiers still managed to look smooth. Granted, the conditions/terrain in this particular video are what terminal intermediates (like yours truly) dream about, but regardless — at what point did so much of the conversation begin to revolve around the equipment you’re on? Or were people back then obsessive gear whores like today?

  2. This must be the western US version of “the trees.” Wide open spaces, champagne powder, etc. Whenever I go out west, people wonder why I’m skiing what, to them, are super tight tree lines. I just know that even the “tightest” lines out there are a lot wider than Birch Bark Alley (which I consider to be a pretty wide Gore stash).

    Although, Killy inexplicably takes a couple of trees to the face. What is the most impressive part of the video, though, is the subtle adjustments he makes to get back into balance, regardless of the gear he was on (and yes, I think there were gear whores back then, too).

  3. This is what we all aspired to look like when I was learning to ski in the 1970s. Skis were thin (though not as long as they were a decade earlier), and you were taught the “wedeln” style of Killy and Stein Erikson: boots touching, tips straight ahead, the backs of your skis doing quick, tight hops.

    I still ski this way (not as good as Killy, of course, but with my legs together). Yes, it makes me look old, but it is how I was taught at Gore in 1977. So there.

    By the way, Gear was almost as important then as now. Rossi Stratos were the ski to aspire to. K2s and Olins, Heads, and Fishers were the skis of the masses. Plate bindings became a have-to-have-it in the late 70s. And if you had money to throw around, you bought Burt bindings, with retractable cords.

    When Hanson (the boots, not the boy band) came out, they were a must have. In the 80s, Solomons one buckle boot was all the rage. And don’t forget Bogner, the North Face and Spyder of the 60s and 70s.

  4. I would have loved to be present when Glen Plake and him shared a drink and compliments one time. Plake told the story one time in Powder. I can see the evolution.

  5. Thanks for the link. Graceful by definition.

    As a kid watching Killy racing, we did not notice turns. Thus when we (self taught) went skiing, there were no turns! Bomb the hill like Jean-Claude…straight and fast. NOTE: There were obviously turns but we (as kids) did not notice them. Not sure if it was the skis or lense but notice how much bending occurs in some of the turns. Now picture a 14 yr old buying his first set of “real” skis. I didn’t know squat except that I wanted the stiffest ski made…and vividly remember bending them, pretending I knew what I was doing. IDIOT–me. Yep, from 7 until 14 I was on 6-7 foot hickory planks with innertube bindings. We went straight–and fast. Jean was and still is, my hero.

  6. 1. Great stuff, but nothing that 1000s aren’t capable of now. Of course it’s all relative and he was a supernova in a different time/place.

    2. I’ve heard that as of 2011 Killy hasn’t skied in years, so sad. He was the hero of my earliest days of skiing as a youth.

    3. Skiing even widely spaced trees without even eye protection, much less a helmet – the stuff of old time movie stars:-)

  7. In the early 70s the racing gear was starting to radically change along with skiing technique. I bought my first Lange Comps with Jet Sticks (remember those!) so I could carve turns using the backs of my Rossignol Stratos. The Dynamic VR-17 was another hot racing ski. You did not “wedel” these skis, you aggressively carved them into a turn using the front of the ski and rolled your weight back through the tail of the ski and down unweighted along with an aggressive pole plant. Kelly did not “wedel” on hard pack or when he was racing.

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