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EpicSki › Performance Articles › Crudology By Bob Barnes

Crudology By Bob Barnes

This video clip shows a variety of crud skiing, mostly on steep to very steep terrain (includes the Hanging Valley Wall and Cirque at Snowmass, Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands, the Headwaters Chutes at Moonlight Basin, the First Notch and other North Pole Chutes above Arapahoe Basin's East Wall, and Spaulding, Tucker, Copper, Jupiter, and Union Bowls at Copper Mountain, among others).


Not much explicit instruction in it, beyond just a spectrum of good images, although I may add more at some point. Variable, inconsistent conditions (ie. "Crud") demand the full package of skiing skills, movement options, and tactical decision-making, combined with the will to accept and ski through imbalance, and to remain "offensive" even when conditions and terrain become intimidating. Although it ranges from just mildly more challenging than "good" (that is, "easy") groomed snow, "crud" includes some of the most demanding, obnoxious conditions known to skiing. Anyone can ski untracked powder. Enjoying the full experience of crud requires a well-rounded, versatile, adaptable, unbiased technical and tactical repertoire, in addition to a fascination with the challenge itself. Transcend the quest for "the perfect turn," dig deep, and embrace the athleticism, freedom, unpredictability, and chaos (and occasional crash) that are crud skiing.


There are only two kinds of conditions: conditions that are good, and conditions that are good for you!


I've recently re-edited the Crudology piece with some new footage, including some skiing from the recent Lake Tahoe 2012 Gathering, as well as a section at the end showing "who's who" in the video. Here's the new version. I hope you enjoy it!



Don't over-think crud skiing--just let the images sink into your sub-conscious and then go out and play! Beyond just skill and "technique," it takes a balance of all four resources of Weems's brilliant "Sports Diamond": Power, Purpose, Touch, and Will, along with a synergy of the four areas of Bud Heishman's "TAPP" model (Technique, Alignment, Physiology, and Psychology).

Good crud skiing combines solid technical fundamentals with the adaptability, versatility, attitude, and willingness to simply be a skier--an athlete enabled with, but unencumbered by, good technique. Above all, don't forget the 50% Rule of skiing crud: 50% of great crud skiing is skiing it well; and the other 50% is skiing it anyway!

That said, the six Crudinal Rules are

#1 Zip Everything
This one should be obvious, unless you enjoy your pockets and everything else packed full of snow from the inevitable....

#2 Keep 'em going the direction they're pointed
Glide. Slice. Carve. Avoid braking (skis skidding sideways) in crud at all costs. Even on big fat rockered twin-tips, where you might at least get away with it sometimes, skis going sideways in inconsistent snow are just asking for trouble. Let your tactics--ie, your line--not your technique--take care of your speed, while your turning technique controls direction, not speed. Turn to "go that way," not to "stop going this way." (Search for "slow line fast" for much more on this in EpicSki's archives.)

#3 If #2 doesn't work, point 'em the direction they're going!
Yes, it's that important.

#4 If neither #2 nor #3 work out, console yourself with the fact that, to get a good taste for crud, you've got to eat some sometimes.

#5 Speed is your friend (to a point). Go faster than you can think about technique, as fast as you're willing to fall (but not faster--see Rule #4).

#6 Embrace chaos
Like bumps, crud will never feel like corduroy groomed snow. It's chaotic, like trying to balance on the deck of a sailboat in a gale. It's inconsistent and sometimes violently unpredictable--and that's part of the fun. Balance is nice if you can get it, and worth fighting for, but if you're out of balance, you've got to keep skiing. It really doesn't make any difference whether you're in balance or not--you've got to keep skiing and turning, either way. Don't be frustrated if some--or all--of your turns are not "perfect ski instructor turns." You can (and should) work on those and improve your foundation somewhere else. In crud, be an athlete, not a robot. Ski! [See CRUDOLOGY--revisited!


More About the Cardinal Rules of Skiing Crud

"Minimize braking"

When I say "braking," I'm referring to using your skis primarily to control speed, which they can do only by scraping somewhat sideways across--or through, in the case of crud--the snow. In other words, braking is intentional skidding, using "friction" to check your speed. It is a defensive technique--and a very important one in the repertoire of all good skiers, even in crud.


The other way to control speed is direction--line and tactics. Speed control from direction is offensive--you slow down when needed by gliding uphill, rather than by braking downhill. Or at least, trying to. Crud is often a fairly "slow" condition, and it can be hard--and unnecessary--to complete a turn back up the hill. Speed control from direction is offensive--you're using your turns to go where (which direction) you want to go--not (directly) to slow down. Indeed, you're going as fast as you can, all the time. Even stopping can be an offensive, gliding activity--go as fast as you can, uphill.


It's the intent that counts. Great crud skiers glide as a habit, their skis slicing through the snow and going the direction they're pointed as much as possible. Great crud skiers do brake, but generally only as a situational necessity. 


Why? Skidding and braking work reasonably well on ideal groomed snow, where it's not too difficult to get your skis going sideways, and not much trouble to control the skid after you've started it. It's the way the vast majority of skiers ski. But it's also why so many of those skiers find crud virtually impossible. Skis do not like to go sideways in crud. It's often difficult to get them going sideways--to twist them, when they're stuck deep in the snow. And if you succeed, then your skis are going sideways through heavy, inconsistent, grabby, snow, and you're bound to catch an edge and crash. A lot!


Hence, Crudinal rules #2 and #3: #2--Keep 'em going the direction they're pointed. #3--If that doesn't work, point 'em the direction they're going! Use tactics to control speed, and technique to control direction (tactics).


It's that important. But for many skiers, it represents a massive paradigm shift. Most skiers, when asked the question, "why do you turn?" say something related to "to control speed," or "to avoid obstacles," or some other such reply that belies their fundamentally defensive turning paradigm. Turn to control direction, not speed--to "go that way," not to "stop going this way." Glide. Slice. Carve. 


Everywhere. But nowhere more important then crud.


(To read more on this topic, see Ski the Slow Line Fast.)


Unbiased mastery of Rotary, Edging, and Pressure Control

These are the only things you can do with a ski attached to your foot, when you think about it--turn it, tip it, and push or pull on it. These represent the three fundamental skills of skiing, and the movements they involve can be blended and timed in a myriad of ways to make skis carve or skid, float or dive or sail through the air, carve on rails or drift and slip, get heavy or get light, bend different degrees in different parts of the ski, go the way they're pointed, or skid sideways to brake. Great skiing--especially in crud--demands mastery of all possible movements and skills. "Unbiased" means without preference for or prejudice against any particular movement option or skill, beyond its ability to get the job done. It means function first, and form following function. It means versatility, and the ability and willingness to do whatever it takes, whenever it's necessary, to accomplish an outcome. And it means that technique serves purpose, rather than being an end in itself.


The Key to Skiing Crud

It was a heavy powder day--a foot or so overnight, along with a lot of wind. I was riding the first lift up with my student, and she started to describe her skiing, and her motivation for the lesson. "I don't understand--I have absolutely no trouble skiing the groomed runs, green, blue, or black. But I cannot figure out this powder...." "Let me guess," I interrupted her, "your skis feel like they're 'stuck' in the powder, right?" "YES," she said, "YES--that's exactly it!" She was so excited she nearly jumped out of the chair. "Is there a cure for that?"


"No," I replied. "There's nothing you can do about that." And her excitement deflated instantly. The look on her face was priceless.


"The only difference between you and me," I went on, "is that I LIKE my skis to feel 'stuck.' 'Stuck' means they're holding, gripping, carving, gliding, going the direction I've pointed them. It's what I usually want them to do, and it's easier to do in heavy, deep snow than anywhere else...because they're 'stuck'!" 


And the day turned out to be an enormous success. She quickly realized that her fundamental technique--her paradigm for "turning"--had involved twisting her skis into a skid, often powerfully. She became aware that, until then, she had virtually never thought of a turn offensively, as a way to "go that way," rather than to "stop going this way." "I've always been doing it just exactly the opposite of how good skiers ski, haven't I?" she exclaimed. Suddenly, her very reason for turning in the first place, the fundamental, underlying purpose and intent that dictated her technique transformed--and her technique transformed right along with it. Suddenly she was gliding and floating, rather than braking and fighting gravity. And suddenly, she found that skis being "stuck" wasn't so bad after all, and her ability to enjoy powder and crud skyrocketed. 


So that's the key. Keep 'em going the direction they're pointed, as much as you can, when you can.


Of course, if you're skiing a modern fat powder ski, especially with "early rise" or "rocker," you will not find it quite as critical. Those skis carve too, but they also make skidding and drifting in powder and crud a lot easier and less risky. But please don't let that become an excuse for failing to learn good technique and tactics. The best skiers will extract the most from any tool on their feet, and will skid and slip and drift when--but only when--they choose to--not because it's the only way they know. 

Edited to add first post from CRUDOLOGY--revisited!

Comments (5)

Your crud is my bc powder :-) LOL NIce video, good visual instruction.
Thanks Bob, hitting the nail again right on the head. The visualization really helps me attain the overall picture. Progress is my most important product - goal.
Certainly comments I will keep in mind and for sure I need to have my sister read this, as this comment is her. "her paradigm for "turning"--had involved twisting her skis into a skid, often powerfully. She became aware that, until then, she had virtually never thought of a turn offensively, as a way to "go that way," rather than to "stop going this way." "I've always been doing it just exactly the opposite of how good skiers ski, haven't I?" she exclaimed".
I miss west! Wow that looks awesome. Sure made me want to be there.
Cracker video Bob. The first thought that struck me when I read the "Why do you turn?" question was "because it's fun!"
EpicSki › Performance Articles › Crudology By Bob Barnes