Words: Martin Obermayr | Photos: Sandi Murovec
He is a Demo-skier, Author, Film Director and refined the technique of his Slovenian country woman Tina Maze. Sandi Murovec is also a tireless and passionate ambassador for Snow Sports. With us he talks about his experiences and takes a look into the future.
Insight Magazine: You have worked with Tina Maze, who holds to this day still the points record for the entire World Cup – 2,414 points in one season. How did the two of you meet?
Sandi Murovec: I met Tina in 1999. She was 16 years old and was considered a great talent in the National Team. Since then we’ve always stayed in contact. It stepped-up in 2008 when we established “Team to a Maze” – a management group that was tailored to all things Tina. Her partner and Condition Coach, Andrea Massi, was team leader, there was also a serviceman, and myself, who worked with Tina on her ski technique from May until the end of October. Later, more people became involved.
What did you learn from this partnership?
Sandi: Firstly, you can never be good enough. There’s always reserves. Secondly, the development in skiing is never ending. As soon as you think “Wow, that’s where I need to go” something new crops up – every season, and thirdly, when you work with a champion, you are working in an entirely different world. Those who ski at this high level are different.
What do you mean by that?
Sandi: Every day I learnt something new. How patient you need to be. How important a good personal relationship is. How you communicate with such a high-performing sportswoman. Above everything though, how you get an already exceptional athlete to the next level. For example: I noticed that she needed to move her center of gravity lower. For this of course she needed more strength. To accomplish that she needed to strengthen the muscles in her legs as well as in her entire back and torso. Then I needed to convince her that it actually takes time to see the effect of the changes. It’s always a chain of things that are connected – a real challenge but also a great joy.
Is there the perfect turn?
Sandi: There’s the physics and the facts – you can’t ignore these. But every athlete is different, from the musculature, body characteristics, genes etc. For this reason, you can’t just copy others. In Tina’s case we couldn’t just say “Mikhaela Shiffrin’s Slalom technique is the best, we are going to use this now.” The problem for Tina was that she skis with a wider stance than Mikhaela, this meant she needed to take a longer route. It costed her about 2 hundredths of a second per gate. That’s 1.1 seconds after 55 gates, exactly the time difference between them. So, in this case we needed to work on Tina’s overall program.
How do you manage to convince someone to take a completely new direction?
Sandi: You need unconditional trust. I scanned her ski technique and explained to her what developments I was seeing in the World Cup and where I saw her potential. She followed my vision and trusted in my technical knowledge.
Tina has won everything; from Overall World Cups, to 2 Olympic and 4 World Championship Golds, to victories across all 5 disciplines. What part in this success did you have?
Sandi: Well that would be presumptuous to say, only she can explain that. When she’s at the starting gate she concentrates on not- hing but skiing – she needs to do that on her own. Although I must say that Andrea Massi was the master of this brilliant project. Personally, I was really very happy that after Tina’s career we produced the film ‘7 to Heaven’. In that she tells of how I helped to improve her right turn. If she says that this is the best experience she has had with Muri, then this is the greatest compliment I can have.
In the High-quality 45min long Film you describe 7 axioms that brought success to Tina. These have names such as “Open Attack”, “The Arm of Glory”, “Battle Control” etc. What were your aims?
Sandi: We wanted to show how Tina was able to push her boundaries further and what details we worked on. Of course, this isn’t everything, but it should also motivate the amateur skier to take a look at his or her technique. The message of the film was: “Only the best knows and shares the future.”
What’s keeping you occupied now?
Sandi: My current project is a book, the Slovenian title is “BITI MOJSTR-SKI” – translated it would be “How to be a master skier”. It’s a Master Manual of sorts, that within holds my entire knowledge of skiing; from beginner to race skier. The 7 axioms of the film are also in there, but just a small part. Unfortunately, at the moment the book is only available in Slovenian and Chinese – in China they are all about skiing right now. I hope though that the book eventually will be translated into both German and English. German of course is the most important language in skiing and ski education.
What are the contents of the book?
Sandi: It is a dialogue between the reader and my- self. I try and convey the essentials and everything as directly as possible: “Great Performance is equal to great understanding”. This means we need to make the training and teaching understandable, only then can people implement it. “We are always learning. It never stops.” Or “Less is more.” There’s a mass of technical tips and theories, also the Ski Instructor Program “UPS” that I developed is introduced. Alongside this, there’s also a large chapter on Ski Technique for Youth Race Skiers – my daughter demonstrates the exercises for this one.
Will she follow in the tracks of Tina Maze?
Sandi: It’s not something that you can say. I’m happy for her that she enjoys racing and loves skiing just as much as me. But there is also a part in the
book that is called “What is the difference between talent and an extraordinary feeling for skiing?” Ta- lent is much more than being able to ski well – as I said before it’s about genes, muscle structure etc.
Your also part of the Slovenian Demo-Ski team and advisor to the International Ski Instructors Association. How do you see ski instruction in 2025? What have the guest got to look forward to?
Sandi: I have been working on this question in my UPS Program for the last 15 year and that won’t change until 2025. The expectations on “normal” skiing and the sport are pretty high. When people buy their equipment they have bought into certain promises too such as: “With this ski I’ll be able to go quicker, I’ll look better or ski more efficiently.” But if I can say honestly, most ski schools are not ready for this and rely still on traditional methods.
How can lessons be designed differently?
Sandi: My approach here is that with specialized equipment we can make the learning process much more efficient. Our physical abilities haven’t changed much over the years. Evolution doesn’t happen that quickly. It’s still just skiing, and it obeys certain laws of physics. To me skiing and inline skating are very similar. The question I asked myself was: “How come people learn to inline skate so quickly, but when you put them on skis it takes forever?” The movement is essentially the same.
What’s the solution?
Sandi: We need to re-think the whole thing. The program needs to be more interesting and exciting, the people need to be able to learn the sport quicker, have more adrenaline released and more fun. They also don’t want to have a boss in their free time who tells them what to do and where to go. A lightbulb moment for me in this regard was teaching children. Here we don’t use complicated explanations about movement processes and body positions. We’re always saying, “Make a Pizza”, “Make chips!” Why don’t we do this with adults too?
Sounds exciting, but do you really think it would work? Sandi: Of course, we have already developed figures and names for it. You can write them down: Straight Jacket, Superman, Happy Man, Acrobat, Bungee, Nutcracker. People are really taking to it. When I say to them “Hey, be like Superman”, they don’t need any explanation, and this is the whole concept. Everyone knows it. The same goes for “Straight Jacket”. Of course, you need to see it in the context of the entire UPS program. But in the future, we should head more in this direction. We have the full range of equipment to make for exciting lessons such as cones, rubber bands, balls; we just need to use them better. 40 or 50 years ago people enjoyed skiing without these things. Why shouldn’t they still enjoy it today?
Do you also mean to include smart technology and gadgets?
Sandi: To simplify it: A leg is still a leg and skiing a physical process. It doesn’t matter what you measure, no App or Gadget can solve your problem. All you gain is information on areas you are not good at. You can’t buy a tool and automatically be a better skier. You need to work it out. Digital technology can be a perfect support tool for training, but our main goal shouldn’t be to develop the best App, but instead to improve the program – that’s something else entirely.
What is the most important area?
Sandi: Where we have the most problems, speed control – doesn’t matter what level skier you are. Too many people today rely too much on their skis, but the skis are much quicker nowadays. If you can’t handle the speed of your skis you put yourself and everyone around you in danger. The main aim remains however, to learn in a playful manner. I found a nice phrase for this “Life is Beautiful – Skiing is Both”; meaning skiing is life and its’ beautiful.