GNAR COUNTRY EXPERIMENT
Gnar Country is the story of an unusual study in peak-performance aging—with only one participant. In order to figure out if these ideas work for everyone, the Flow Research Collective ran a larger study in the winter of 2022. We used principles from this book to teach seventeen adults, ages thirty to sixty-eight, how to park ski and snowboard. None of our subjects had significant park riding experience. Many were complete novices.
Our goal was not to teach our subjects how to throw tricks—though that was one major outcome. It was to teach them how to creatively interpret terrain features as a safe and sure path into flow and, by extension, performance improvement. We broke park riding into eight foundational movements: crouching, jumping, switch riding, slashing, grinding, 180, 360, and a shifty. We spent four days on the mountain, with subjects learning two new movements per day.
To see if it worked, we videotaped training sessions and assessed the results with the same criteria used to judge professional freestyle competitions. We also conducted lengthy pre-enrollment and post-study assessments and interviews, and had the subjects take two flow and learning assessments a day, for each day of the study.
The results—to be blunt—were freaky. We taught a bunch of old dogs a bunch of new tricks. All our subjects made real progress within the so-called PAVED criteria: progression, amplitude, variety, execution and difficulty. We also saw a sizable uptick in flow, which amplified performance, and produced a significant positive shift in attitudes toward later-in-life learning. Afterward, all our participants had reevaluated what they wanted to do with the second half of their lives.
Don’t just take my word for it, check out the video and see for yourself!
If you’re interested in learning more about the science behind the Gnar Country experiment, and our actual results, check out our white paper here: