So why was a guy like this coaching at Brighton’s recent day of clinics, the Big LePowSki? He explains, “I really love teaching. It’s something I’ll probably do when I go into quote-unquote ‘real life.’ I love to teach skiing to people who want to learn to do something that they love a little bit better.”
As a coach, there’s a lot of Zen about Barnhill. But he’s not one of those calm Zen masters who waits for you to get it. No, he’s one of the impatient kind who whaps you on the head and suddenly, wow! Satori! When it comes to upping your skiing a level or two, Cody Barnhill doesn’t just push you, he gives you a shove.
There’s a method to that madness.
“The biggest difference between a good athlete and a great athlete is only maybe about 5 percent physical,” he says. “The other 95 percent is all in their head. If that’s the case, then by teaching here [at Big LePowSki], I’m in a unique position to turn somebody into a better athlete if I can just help them take their first steps forward.”
That in-your-head thing is a huge translation when it comes to skiing, because the key word in any kind of skiing, from beginner to elite, is confidence.
But confidence is the one thing no coach can teach. Occasionally, it can come in a sudden burst of insight, like satori, though that’s not what Barnhill calls it. “It’s like you’ll spend a year doing the same thing wrong every time, and then as soon as you do it right, you gain that confidence,” he says. “Nothing changes in your skiing, but all of a sudden you can do it. You didn’t learn anything, in particular. You didn’t learn any new tricks.
You just did it right, so you automatically got that confidence.”
But, for many people the problem is that they quickly forget that confidence, and once again they’re back to being intimidated by that double-black-diamond field of moguls or by going at the really big jump without slowing down. The cold equation is that when you’re intimidated, you hesitate. And if you hesitate when you need to be making bold moves, you’ll go down. Skiing is truly a cosmic kind of sport, because whatever is in your head is what will happen on your run.
When it comes to being hesitant and intimidated, Barnhill has excellent fix-your-head advice that he uses himself because, occasionally, even he gets a little nervous on the extreme terrain he skis. When that happens, he says, “I just ‘Yo, bitch’ it. If I’m skiing into something and I’m nervous, I just put down my goggles, wipe my face and center my energy. I start skiing and say, ‘Yo, bitch,’ to the terrain— and I make it my bitch.”
He adds, “It’s a totally goofy thing, but it totally works. It builds your confidence just enough so you can make it down those bumps or spin an extra 180 or ride it to the top of the pipe wall. It helps just enough.”