|Article: Inclined to Ski Return To Article Contents|
gives enthusiasts an 'endless' practice slope
Alicia Roca -- Bee Staff Writer
Published Thursday, July 4, 2002 Sacramento Bee
Morishima, foreground, owner of SnoZone Ski and Snowboard
School in Sacramento,
works with King Smith on a ski deck, a
carpet-covered device that operates like a
machine is useful for
both skiing practice and injury
It's 90 degrees. Sweat trickles into King Smith's beard as he
dons a white polo shirt with khaki shorts. But his feet are in ski
boots. "It's not about
power. It's about finesse," said Smith, as he glided down a
"mountain" of rolling carpet. "I'm better than I was 20
years ago." Smith, 60, is a student at SnoZone Ski and Snowboard
School in the Curtis Park neighborhood of Sacramento.
school was established in 2000 by Sam Morishima in his garage. It
features a ski deck, a conveyor-belt-like contraption that simulates an
"endless slope" and is designed to teach skiing and
half an hour you can do a whole day's worth of skiing," said
Morishima, an ex-scientist. This is because the student is in constant
motion and needn't worry about climbing up the mountain once down, he
said. In addition,
the ski simulator is better for learning than snow because all variables
are constant, he said.
like being in a laboratory. Everything is consistent," said
Morishima, 49, began skiing when he was 10. He became a ski
instructor during college and upon graduating from Santa Clara
University worked as a chemist. Over the next 20 years myriad science
jobs demanded constant travel.
"I'd wake up in a hotel and didn't even know what country I
was in," said Morishima.
Exhausted, he made a list of loves and at the top was skiing. He
remembered a day in 1990 when he drove by a parking lot in San Diego and
saw a ski deck. Morishima
quit his job and began working for Virtual Snow in Orangevale, a ski
school that uses ski decks. A year later, he built his own ski simulator
and opened SnoZone, charging $50 per hour long lesson. Now he plans to
open two more SnoZone Schools later this year, one in Modesto, the other
in San Jose.
(For San Francisco School)
(For San Francisco School)
Salerno owns Virtual Snow, the ski deck school where Morishima got his
start. Salerno, a six-time world skiing champion, began training on a
ski deck in 1974 and has a total of nine ski schools nationwide.
six weeks after I won the world championship, I got on the ski machine
and it kicked my butt," said Salerno, adding that in the 1970s ski
decks didn't have harnesses or safety bars.
agrees that the ski deck is more challenging than actual skiing because
of increased friction and lack of forward momentum.
"Snow is forgiving. Carpet exaggerates your flaws," said Salerno, whose clients include Olympians and actors. He likens it to a treadmill on an incline.
Salerno says that the snow deck's increased challenge "makes it
easier once you get to the mountain," both he and Morishima stress
that it is not a substitute for snow. Beginners who have used a ski deck
still should take a class once they get to the mountains, he said.
builds on itself. It's like playing a musical instrument. You practice
and practice," said Morishima, comparing it to an actress who
memorizes her lines only to forget them at showtime. "If you take a
lesson up there, it paces you."
for Smith, the ski deck provided more than preparation for the mountain.
Two years ago he couldn't walk after back surgery and was "taking
Vicodin like candy." Now, as he skis on one leg, he attributes the
progress to ski decks. "I
was ready to give up skiing," said Smith, who had been skiing for
before his surgery.
case is not extraordinary, according to Brian Chavarin, director of
sports medicine at the Center for Athletic Medicine at the University of
Southern California University Hospital. At the center, physical therapists work with injured skiers and snowboarders using ski
"The ideal way of getting someone back to peak performance is
mimicking their sport," said Chavarin. "It allows you to work
in a safe, contained environment."
the center, ski decks are used alongside treadmills and bicycles to
strengthen balance and re-educate muscles, not only for injured skiers
and snowboarders, but also for those who have knee or lower back
the majority of Morishima's clients are skiers or snowboarders hoping to
refine their skills. "As a human being you want to move, and you
want to move gracefully," said Morishima. "It's almost like
Sacramento Bee/José Luis
Morishima, 13, daughter of SnoZone Ski and Snowboard School
Sam Morishima, learned how to snowboard in the family garage,
the Curtis Park neighborhood of Sacramento.
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