Hi-tech help for local skiers uses virtual simulator Olympians train with

Marissa Gallmeyer of White Lake trains on the ski simulator, like the ones U.S. Olympians train on and the only one in the state of Michigan. Photo by Kathy Shelton

Special to the Clarkston News
Who would have thought in early January skiers might be wondering, “where’s the snow?”
Not to worry, said Bob Thomas, owner of Vertical Drop Ski Shop in Clarkston.
They have a virtual, interactive ski simulator, the only one in Michigan and one of just a handful in the country.
“It provides a lot of condensed training time,” Thomas said. “It would be like going to Vail, Colorado, and skiing top to bottom in 15 minutes.”
Fifteen minutes on the apparatus is equivalent to 30-minute runs at Pine Knob, Thomas said.
It’s a useful training tool for racers, and gives recreational, beginner skiers the “feel” of skiing before they ever hit the snow.
He learned skiing from his father, Don Thomas, who was a pioneer in the ski industry.
Bob grew up on the slopes and under racks of ski clothes, and enjoys the aerobic workout, fresh air, and opportunity to participate in a sport for the whole family. He has made it his quest to make the skiing experience as gratifying as possible for any one who skis, novice, racer, or professional.
“Vertical Drop really concentrates on one thing and does that thing well,” he said. “We are a well rounded ski shop with expertise in ski maintenance and boot fitting, all done with the end goal of people having fun and enjoying their winter. We try and spend more time, regardless of whether the skier is a racer or ‘rec skier,’ on making sure they are in the right equipment.”
Skiing is far more enjoyable with finely tuned skies and boots that fit properly, he said, so they employ a high tech boot fitting system.
“We have a whole foot mapping system here which is a computerized foot scanning system that sort of acts like an MRI machine,” of which there are fewer than 20 in the country.
“With a boot that doesn’t fit, you give up safety, control, speed, and make it tougher on the skier,” he said. “In competition, 1/100th second can make a difference, so we want the best prepared equipment out there. Obviously the biggest factor in racing is the skier, but then what makes the difference between first place and tenth place is everything else, all the other stuff, the tune, the maintenance, the boot fit.”
Call Vertical Drop, 6325 Sashabaw Road, at 248-241-6509.

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