- Advanced Carving / Increased Ice Grip requires proper stance and bringing both your up hill (inside) ski and down hill (outside) ski equally on edge. A common mistake in carving is having your down hill ski on edge but your up hill ski flat or at less of an angle with the snow than the down hill ski. First lets review stance. It is important to keep your feet 6 – 12 inches apart (varying with your height) and your thighs separated 2-3 inches as well (avoid having your thighs touch). Secondly, your shins should be angled forward having a light pressure on the tongue of the boot with a slight bend in the knee. To visualize this, sit in a chair with your feet touching the floor and your feet and legs perpendicular (or 90 degrees) to each other. Now slide your feet backward under the chair and notice the angle between your foot and shin decreasing (shin angling forward) and your heel wanting to rise off the floor. As you make your turn, your up hill boot and down hill boot should be even or the up hill boot should be slightly forward of the down hill boot. This stance will enable you to bring your up and down hill skis with an equally greater angle with the snow by rolling then tilting the skis by moving your hips toward the center of the arc you are turning. The further you tilt your skis (or bring then on edge) the more your up hill (inside) knee with bend (toward your chest) and your down hill leg will extend. As this occurs, it is important to pull your up hill boot back beneath you to maintain a 65-75 degree angle between your foot and shin. You also want to maintain the slight bend in your down hill knee. When the ski is on edge, you will carve with the natural radius of the ski. At the end of your turn, you will roll your ski to the other edge and repeat the process above. Let’s review the photo below to illustrate these points.
Here you can see Katsumi’s skis are about 10 inches apart and there is space between his thighs, both his edges are equally on edge and angled with the snow, his hips are inside his skis toward the center of the arc, there is a bend in his down hill ski knee and a larger bend in his up hill ski knee (bringing it towards his chest) and both his arms are slighly infront of him and to the side.
As you begin to master this approach, you will feel your skis’ edges making better grip with the snow. To ensure good edge grip on ice (I’m talking the menacing kind in the Northeast), you must also have sharp, well maintained edges (visit the tuning page on this site). Ski design also has an effect on edge grip, with some skis performing much better than others. If you are continually skiing in areas notorous for ice, you want to select a ski with good grip. View SkiEnthusiast’s recommendations page for a full low down on skis for the 05/06 season.
- Speed control is accomplished through short radius turns and is key to mastering the steeps. Each ski has a natural turn radius and if your turn is shorter than the natural turn radius of the skis, you will slide across the snow (very similar to stopping). To tighten the radius of your turn, actively steer with your lower body by pushing your heels out to one side while rolling your skis so it comes perpendicular with the mountain faster than if you were to follow the natural turn radius. It is important that you apply even pressure on your edges throughout the turn. Applying a small amount of pressure at the beginning and more pressure at the end of the turn creates instability and makes it more difficult to control speed. This is called the windshield wiper effect.
- Pressure control is totally dependent on the conditions, terrain and type of skiing. In deep powder or moguls, it is better to apply more even pressure (50/50 or 60/40). If you’re on a slalom course at high speeds, it is better to be (70/30 or 80/20). The best rule of thumb is to adjust your pressure to match your skiing type and environment.
- Balance comes back to staying forward – shins against the front of the boot and your chest over your toes moving your body down the mountain as you roll your skies from edge to edge (I am purposely repeating myself) and using your poles properly. With your arms in position (see above stance or turning basics), plant your pole on the inside of each turn doing so with minimum movement. As you move through the turn, your wrist should move forward and your pole should release from the snow. In addition, keep your head up and look 2-3 turns ahead.
- Moguls / Trees are some of the most challenging yet rewarding and fun terrain. The reason they are so challenging is because this terrain magnifies small imperfections in your technique. The good news is that bumps and trees are very manageable with the skills learned above and a little bit of practice. However, there are a few additional skills that are key to success; bump absorption and turning path. Bump absorption is the act of retracting of your feet and legs as you pass over the top or a portion of the bump while keeping your upper body steady. Turn at the crest (or peak), either side or the back of the bump (avoid the bottom of the rut). Use the absorption process to slow your forward momentum. Apply light pressure when you hit the front of the bump and apply even but firm pressure as you complete your turns on the back or sides of the mogul. Stay forward on the balls of your feet moving your upper body down the hill (i.e. avoid the back seat). Actively steer with your lower body by pushing your heels to one side while rolling your skis to produce short radius turns. As you build confidence experiment with your path; ski from one crest to another, vary short turns and carved turns, do a jump or vary your direction. As for trees, avoid them at all measures because it really hurts when you hit one.
- Deep Powder is another challenging condition for those living in the east because it magnifies improper technique and it doesn’t appear on a regular basis (groomers are very forgiving). Again with the skills learned above there is little you have to change. Just remember to use more even pressure distribution and ski smoothly with no abrupt changes (stay smooth or you lose). Uneven pressure or abrupt changes will cause you to sink in the snow. Also remember to turn less. Natural snow has very high friction and as a result smaller turns slow you down faster than on groomers. You may also want to try a wider ski that has better float on the snow.
- Jump Turns are not used often but come in handy when skiing the extreme. Often times out west, I have encountered extremely steep and narrow shoots and my only alternative to control my speed and get through a dicey situation was 180° jump turns. They’re done just like they are written, jump and turn your body 180°. It might be tricky at first but you will get the hang of it after practicing on easier terrain.