Babes Day 4 – Skiing the Hard Snow

February 9th, 2007 was much nicer than the previous week. 2/2/2007 was blizzard filled. High winds, snow, lift closures, etc. However, the week saw some temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s. Anything facing south was hammered with sun.

February 9th, 2007 was much nicer than the previous week. 2/2/2007 was blizzard filled. High winds, snow, lift closures, etc. However, the week saw some temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s. Anything facing south was hammered with sun. Many of the runs went through a few thaw-freeze cycles. We in Colorado prefer to head to the north facing slopes to escape this “loud powder”.
JoAnn and Mary Lou skiing High Anxiety… Well!
On the first ride of the day, JoAnn let me know of some of the weeks challenges skiing steeper faces with this very hard snow. How does a skier effectively navigate frozen snow. I dare not say, “Ice” as the eastern skiers would just laugh. But in some cases we did see ice. In fact, as clear as the ice in your refrigerator in certain places.
We did get to some North-facing bump runs. Corsair was a great challenge, that I had faith everyone could ski. And we did. With smiles, amazement, and a sense of accomplishment.
As mentioned, JoAnn brought to light a very important skill set. How do you ski hard snow at a variety of speeds? Sure if you carve at high speeds without applying much twisting force (rotary) the skier can carve down the mountain. It is very exhilarating. Albeit, skiing on the razor’s edge can also impose a system overload. We wanted to tweak our technique to allow us to ski at a slower speed on groomed and ungroomed terrain.
Current movement pattern:
As we allow the ski to move further away from the centerpoint of our body the ski will increase in edge angle. This conscious or unconscious understanding presents itself when a skier starts to slip on hard snow. The skier pushes the downhill ski away from him/her. The idea is to put the ski on a higher edge angle and get it to bite into the snow. Unfortunately they also tend to lean their body back up the hill. The instinctual movement to keep them from falling, is the exact movement in skiing that puts them in a high risk position for falling. Feet pushed away, as the upper body leans outside of its base of support.
Mary Lou getting a bit defensive. Extending the outside leg away, while leaning up the hill. On the flipside, it is a really big bump!
Polygon of Sustination
The multi-sided shape of WHAT??? Basically your base of support. What is your “footprint” on the snow. When both your skis are on the snow the shape represented is tetragon, basically a rectangle (4-sided polygon). Add a pole touch an you have created a pentagon (5 pointed/sided polygon). Put the second pole in the snow, vwalla… you have a hexagon (6 sided polygon).
When a skiers Center of Mass (CM) is in between this Polygon, he or she is in balance. When the CM moves outside of this base of support, the skier is out of balance. The faster a skier goes the more Centrifugal force is felt by the skier. This allows the skier to tip inside the base of support and remain in balance. (For the sake of the this conversation we won’t define the physics of the movements, or the the application of tipping in a high speed (force) turn.)
The goal:
How can we keep our balance while in a slow to moderate speed turn down slick slopes.
Keep the legs (base of support) under the body while still being able to tip the skis on edge to hold an arc in the turn.
The new movement pattern:
CLICK FOR VIDEO:Turn the Stripes.
Rather than getting the legs away from the body to edge. Early in the turn start, while the legs are moving toward the APEX (outside) of the turn, begin turning the legs back to the centerline of the body. i.e. if you are making a right turn, start turning your legs to the right. This turning is not to pivot the skis, but rather to roll the skis on edge. Review the video to see and feel this movement.
This movement also works very well with the (CLICK FOR VIDEO:)Big Toeside initiation of the “inside” ski.
Lynn and Myrlene skiing a very windy and slick White Crown


As we skied this turn, there were different dynamics involved. We allowed for some skid, but also were able to tune the amount of skid versus carve.
During a sideslip to turn-to-an-edge exercise, Sue W. discovered that she was able to feather her turns from an straight sideslip to carve and variations of skid. Indeed, turning the legs to an edge is not and “ON OFF Switch” but rather a dimmer switch. The skier can dial in how much, and how fast to edge or flatten the skis.
In the afternoon, we purposefully took this movement to different spots on the mountain. It was time to explore, and for me to offer some guided discovery, rather than teaching with feedback. Play and let the mountain teach.
Success. JoAnn, thank you for starting the journey.

2 thoughts on “Babes Day 4 – Skiing the Hard Snow”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *