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Interview: SkyTech and Sim.Sports: A New Way to Learn and Improve Through Technology

Simulators, they are not new. Pilots use them for commercial/private planes as well as the military. A whole new generation of race car drivers use them to train without even getting behind the wheel. Then there are golf simulators where we can get deep in the weeds spending upwards of $25,000 on a home setup, and golf shops with multiple simulators for customers to try clubs and see the results of their ball strike on the digital launch monitors. The top PGA instructors use launch monitors like Trackman to help students see their progress. Even golf pros on the tour use Trackman to hone in on their swing speed, ball flight and other stats to improve the game.

Most every sport has some type of practice machine. Tennis and football have ball launchers, baseball has pitching machines. So why not skiing?

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Ski simulators have been around for decades in one form or another. There have been ski decks since the 1970’s that were used for freestyle training and exhibitions, many are still used today at facilities like Virtual Snow in Los Angeles along with Alan Schoenberger’s ski studio in Park City. There, numerous World Class skiers have honed their skills to make it to the World Cup. Even in our home town of Reno, there are a few ski decks to get on. The Skiers Edge machine for general consumers and racers alike has evolved over the years. Heck, you can find three or four for resale on the inter-web’s various markets.

There are a few reasons to work with simulators. One is to hone skills, the other is to get ready for that not-so-inexpensive family ski trip and that goes hand in hand, or turn for turn with some of the other reasons that will be discussed below. So where does that bring us?

Recently, while skiing at Palisades Tahoe, we were approached by Connor Bishop who works for SkyTechSports which produces one of the most advanced simulators in the world. These machines are worldwide and can be custom built for commercial and home use. Connor asked if we were familiar with their simulators and we mentioned that we have had numerous discussions on SkiTalk about them. Connor invited us to their facility in LA, or to set up an appointment at one of their training centers. Since Sim.Sports is also located in Park City, where we were planning on being in a few weeks, we set up some time there.

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Having owned Skiers Edge machines and having spent some time on a ski deck, I am pretty familiar with what the goal of these machines are and I am a believer in these types of devices as a tool to learn and to stay in ski shape. When you are headed out on an expensive trip, you are fit and ski ready for your first turns on the slopes. The other area where these machines are invaluable is in bootfitting, both for the skier and for the fitter to help set up the proper stance.

Sim.Sports is a new facility in Park City Utah where skiers come to train, learn, get back into ski shape, and even rehab after an injury, all in a completely controlled environment. Tricia and I arrived with our own boots and went through the same basic warm ups as the students who were there with their coaches. Ski.Sports currently has two machines to use and are looking to expand with not only additional ski simulators, but also additional sport simulators such as driving and golf, hence the name Sim.Sports and not just Sim.Ski.

We started on the President Lux which is the smaller of their two machines to get a feel. We clicked into the bindings and were provided some basic instruction of what to expect. While the machine looks like a glorified Skiers Edge with a screen in front, it is much more than that. The machine has the ability to create resistance as if you are on snow. It responds to outside edge pressure and you are able to create long turns and short quick ones. While you are locked into a set parallel, you can create some really good edge angles. With my time on the machine, the instructor noticed that I was not matching left and right angles. I commented that I normally cant my boots, and the boots I brought with me were not canted. Just by observing my turns, he was able to accurately assess my canting angles. This is where, as a boot fitter, I see the use for one of these and why we are starting to see these in high end shops.

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I then got on the Olymp Machine, their flagship, which is where it got interesting. On the 30’ wide screen there are not only different options of trails programmed, but race courses like Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey and Kitzbühl’s The Streif. There are also generic courses that have gates and can be controlled with speed or even just an endless trail, that you just make turns until you cannot make any more. What was really interesting was that we were able to control snow type. We were able to set it to ice to groomed to slush. The latter was really quite interesting. On ice, unless I pressured the ski harder, it went skidding further than I expected and required additional attention. As soon as we switched over to slush, I immediately felt a sensation like I had the wrong wax on the skis. I instinctively started rolling down the windows until I got centered on the skis again.

In the short time we got to spend on the machines, I felt that the learning curve is pretty quick but I also realized that I want to get back on them. As with any simulator, you want to improve your numbers and I know I left a lot out there for improvement since I only had maybe 10 minutes total (Tricia had about half of that). We could definitely feel the burn in that short period of time, so expect a workout.

Many of the aspects of the machine are geared towards established skiers but the SkyTech machine is also a great tool not only for novices to learn and improve but also for ski athletes coming back from injuries to get comfortable in skis in a controlled environment without worrying about getting hit or even having to deal with adverse weather conditions. The SkyTech simulator also easily accommodates snowboards and also adaptive skiers/athletes who are preparing to get back on snow after debilitating injuries.

So, if you are in Park City, check out Sim.Sports, or if you are in the Mid Atlantic, Doylestown PA's 4SeasonAlpine. There is a discussion about 4SeasonAlpine HERE. You can check out the full list of locations for SkyTech's simulators in North America HERE.
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

Replies

Ran into one of these outfits just casually checking routes to visit kid in Milwaukee area

not promoting but might give it a try, or more so, get my kids to try it out


in fact, now pinging kids to go this weekend and try it out on my bill .... love to get their report!
 
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Ran into one of these outfits just casually checking routes to visit kid in Milwaukee area

not promoting but might give it a try, or more so, get my kids to try it out


in fact, now pinging kids to go this weekend and try it out on my bill .... love to get their report!
This looks great, and at a very reasonable price. Wish it was closer to me!
 
So two of my kids hit the Simulator in Pewaukee (west of Milwaukee) which uses Skytech (as Phil experienced) and said they had a great time.

My eldest stated she'd definitely do it again as it's not too far off her path. They picked up an hour on the machine and could split the time, so each spent 15min 2 times, alternating. They both noted it took 5-10 min to get used to the machine. The machine has a ~20foot track that allows you to migrate across the machine as you lean or place your center of gravity one left or right. They noted that the machine provides feedback that does a good job giving one a feel of technique.

The noted that while it isn't 100% like the real thing, they thought for practice and technique, it's worth the try and as noted, the eldest and even youngest said they'd do it again. They had fun getting a feel of balance as the courses can change that change the feedback.

For feel/technique, my eldest felt it upwards of 80% the feel for feedback though different as it was more "smooth". They noted the ice setting wasn't quite the same and lacked the fear factor, much smoother and predictable but overall, the settings and courses the tried, worth the try.

I'm gonna give it a try on the next visit .... hey, one can have a beer there too.
 
I did a session at Ski Cosmos in Vancouver, BC. What a great family team who owns the facility. The simulator was very responsive and you really get the feeling of starting with the feet. Tip your ankles and you change direction. The more you tip, the faster you change direction and shoot back across the track to the other side. The first time they cautioned you to start slow because if for some reason you lose your balance, it's not a pretty picture if you fall. It took me a while to get a feeling for it. I will definitely go again.
 
I did a session at Ski Cosmos in Vancouver, BC. What a great family team who owns the facility. The simulator was very responsive and you really get the feeling of starting with the feet. Tip your ankles and you change direction. The more you tip, the faster you change direction and shoot back across the track to the other side. The first time they cautioned you to start slow because if for some reason you lose your balance, it's not a pretty picture if you fall. It took me a while to get a feeling for it. I will definitely go again.
yes, much better description in ankle tip, angle, edge.
 
Thank you for this article, insights & comments.

When my balance, coordination improves further, get fitted for a new knee brace & doctor clears I am going to book a session at Simtopia here in Calgary. I think its the same machine that Phil & Tricia tried.

Still cant do more than hands free 3-4 reps on a borrowed ski machine but improving. The big active ski machine in this article is intriguing.
 
I would like to try one if these simulator styles someday!
During the winter when our kids received the Winter Sports games for Christmas to use with their Nintendo Wii I hogged the Ski game for myself a lot of the time!
That January I ran two NASTAR runs and my second run felt pretty smooth and I think I have to credit my practice on the Wii Ski slalom gates! My second run earned me a medal and a rank & later an invitation to the NASCAR Nationals in Colorado!
 

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