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50+ degree terrain

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

I went and skied the Lake Chutes  at Breck on Sunday and had a quick question. What is the best way to transition into this type of terrain? Most of the area where the Lake chutes are actually really steep have a cornice and I am worried about dropping into it. I am pretty comfortable once actually into the terrain. I made a few full hop turns to test the slope and then opened up once I got a feel for the snow and really enjoyed the run.

 

I am comfortable skiing steep terrain over 40 degrees such as lulu's in the horseshoe bowl and am fairly comfortable in the air having done 10-15 foot drops before. I guess it's just a combination of the steepness and exposure as many of the lines have rocks underneath.

 

Is it best to deal with it via repetition? Find a place I am fairly comfortable ski it a couple times then as I become more comfortable move up? I am confident that I have the skills to complete the lines it just seems more of a mental thing. I really enjoy technical skiing and feel that I have progressed as far as I am going to without entering this type of terrain.

 

Btw anyone know what the pitch angle is around right now. I know that they are claimed to be around 50-55 but with the above average snowfall the cornices seem to have built out further than usually increasing the steepness of the top section

 

Any tips are appreciated

 

Jake    

post #2 of 22

Jake, one possible approach for the first run in such terrain on a given day is to drop in at an angle, turn uphill from that cross-hill approach, and get a feel for the snow. You can ride it out to a stop, then, or begin your turn downhill from there. Heading straight off the cornice is a real commitment, especially if you don't know the consistency of the snow and what will happen when you land, so I tend to do one of these for my first time down and enjoy the turns top to bottom after that.

post #3 of 22

LW,

 

SHH's plan is a good one. Snow quality can make a world of difference between success and failure. Checking it out is key. If you can't see the quality of the snow from above, watch other people in the same line to see what they encounter. For Lake Chutes a monocular or binoculars would let you get a look from near the lift. Look for tracks in the snow. Are they deep? Are they breaking through crust and slab? Are they non-existent? Impenitrable snow or totally fresh? Fresh snow can be hiding rocks so watching the chutes over time (days, weeks) can help you prepare. Know where the rocks were the before so you can avoid them when you can't see them.

 

If you are going to drop the cornice, you will want to have your skis pointing in the direction of your motion when you make contact and be prepared to turn immediately. Your time in the air will cause you to be going very fast when you land so you can't afford to have your skis stopping your forward progress as you land; that risks your skis digging in and your body continuing to move down the hill. Visualize the landing and the first turn carefully. Should you fall, your momentum will be the overwhelming factor in where you end up. Be sure that direction is safe.

 

Launching straight into the fall line is easiest although you have to make a move quickly into your first turn if the snow doesn't slow you down. Launching on a diagonal can work, but you need to have good lateral balance. A diagnonal launch allows you to sink your hip into the snow if you need to control speed immediately. Not so much in a fall line approach. Whatever you do, don't fall by high siding (skis stop, body continues down slope). That generally leads to either a head first slide or a rag dolling. Better to slide feet first and be able to self arrest.

 

Ah, self arrest. Use your pole to under your arm (use your arm pit as a hook, if you will) and with the other arm, push the pole into the snow. Self arrest is an imperative skill when going in to steep terrain, with air or without. Practice self arrest to figure it out and make it possible to do instantly because when you need it you don't want to be figuring it out.

 

MR

post #4 of 22

I forget if you ski Copper or not, but I think that they have more cornice options going into various levels of steepness- some that might be just a bit flatter than Lake Chutes and others that drop into more mellow advanced terrain.  If you are able to ski over there, it might give you a chance to feel like you can start with something you are comfortable with and then be able to progress up.   

 

I haven't been there since early season, but recall A-Basin having one or two options that go into more moderate advanced terrain, but not the variety of Cornices found at Copper.

 

Good luck,

Matt

post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the help yet again MR and thanks ssh. What you said about launching diagonally is exactly what I was worried about and I think that my best bet is probably to ski it a couple times and get acquainted with the steepness and then check out my options from there.

 

Self arrest is something I already know how to do but I'm not sure my reaction time to it is quite where it should be. I'll go practice it some more in the horseshoe bowl before trying to drop the cornice.

 

I believe I skied one of the Ivans this past weekend but with all the snow a lot of the normal terrain markers are gone. The line I really want to ski is down the nose to the skiers left of zoot chute as I think it is one of the more aesthetically pleasing lines down.

 

MR how much of an issue is sluffing on a new snow day? I know it depends a lot on the new snow consistency but is it normally a concern? I am planning on spending a lot more time up there this year as I finally feel that I am approaching the skill lvl to actually ski the chutes rather than survive them( I could be wrong there's that whole ego thing that makes self judgement hard biggrin.gif )   

post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MEfree30 View Post

I forget if you ski Copper or not, but I think that they have more cornice options going into various levels of steepness- some that might be just a bit flatter than Lake Chutes and others that drop into more mellow advanced terrain.  If you are able to ski over there, it might give you a chance to feel like you can start with something you are comfortable with and then be able to progress up.   

 

I haven't been there since early season, but recall A-Basin having one or two options that go into more moderate advanced terrain, but not the variety of Cornices found at Copper.

 

Good luck,

Matt



yeah unfortunately I don't. My friend has been begging me to get over there though so maybe I will head over one day. I have played around on the cornice off of Whales tail but that a the Lake chutes aren't really in the same league. Thnx for the advice matt

 

One more question how do you deal with forward lean at these kinds of pitches? I try my best to stay forward (granted first time down I wasn't thinking about it at the top.) but i feel like I might fall off the side of the mountain.

post #7 of 22

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lonewolf210 View Post

yeah unfortunately I don't. My friend has been begging me to get over there though so maybe I will head over one day. I have played around on the cornice off of Whales tail but that a the Lake chutes aren't really in the same league. Thnx for the advice matt

 

One more question how do you deal with forward lean at these kinds of pitches? I try my best to stay forward (granted first time down I wasn't thinking about it at the top.) but i feel like I might fall off the side of the mountain.

 

You won't. But, you're also not spending a lot of time with your skis pointing downhill... they are usually more across the hill, so your move fore-agonally is into space as your skis come around and catch you.

post #8 of 22

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lonewolf210 View Post

Thanks for the help yet again MR and thanks ssh. What you said about launching diagonally is exactly what I was worried about and I think that my best bet is probably to ski it a couple times and get acquainted with the steepness and then check out my options from there.

You can launch diagonally or simply drop across the face of the cornice. You can even "pole whack" a bit out of the cornice to drop in if you're still uncomfortable. Until you know the snow below the cornice, consider it potentially dangerous and treat it with care and respect.

post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the help! One final question whats the best way to become more comfortable  with speeds associated with skiing this kind of terrain if I want to be able to do more than hope turn all the way down? Any other things you can think of that I could work to make this kind of terrain more enjoyable( not that I don't have plenty of fun now) 

post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lonewolf210 View Post

Thanks for all the help! One final question whats the best way to become more comfortable  with speeds associated with skiing this kind of terrain if I want to be able to do more than hope turn all the way down? Any other things you can think of that I could work to make this kind of terrain more enjoyable( not that I don't have plenty of fun now) 



on easier off piste terrain push your own limits of speed and/or get on longer skis.

post #11 of 22

Sound skiing skills apply once you land the cornice. You control your speed with turns. As Bush points out longer skis will help with stability and comfort. Unless the snow is guaranteed to be deep, wider skis (~ 110+) aren't an advantage on these pitches. They are harder to get on edge and will promote big sliding turns with little control. You need to make quality turns without a lot of twisting action (at least while the skis are in contact with the snow). When hop turns are necessary, make sure you have clearance (Clarence) so that the twisting is simpy of skis in the air. Half turns can help approach questionable snow conditions, such as crust or ice, as well. Jump into the fall line and just make the bottom half of a turn. Repeat in the opposite direction. Half turns cover more terrain than jump turns, saving energy and allowing you to cover more terrain more quickly.

 

The hardest part is the transition from landing the air to making the first turn. Unless you plan to straight line (and it sounds like you don't care to) you are going the fastest when you land. You have to make the money turn to control your speed, then the rest is just good sking. When you see pictures of good skiers skiing tough lines, they aren't leaning in, they are over their downhill ski and attacking the slope. Leaning into the slope is the sure fire way to flail on these steep pitches. It requires a lot of confidence to put your body over you downhill ski on a steep pitch. Your inclination on the steeps (pun unintended) is to lean in. Don't! Leaning into the hill (or sitting back on straight entries) only helps when landing air and that is mostly for huge air and soft snow when you would otherwise risk going over the handle bars because there is no way to keep your skis moving when you cannonball into the deep stuff.

 

Sloughs are a real consideration that you have to take into account. If you see snow overtaking you, ski to one side or the other to escape it. You'll see that sort of thing in a lot of movies where they skier takes a few turns, the snow catches up, they ski left or right, take a few more turns, etc. Overtaking snow is like stalling in a plane or being becalmed in a sail boat. You loose your control when you aren't moving in relation to the snow. Sloughing is something that you can observe before you drop in so you can anticipate it.

 

post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 

MR could you expand what you mean by a half turn? Is it like a hop turn without a full rotation?

 

Also I guess I may eventually learn to straight line this type of terrain but I don't have the confidence to hit those kinds of speed at the moment. However, some of the lines I would like to eventually hit look to require a straight line exit which is why I asked about the best way to improve my confidence at speed.

 

Thanks for all the help! 

post #13 of 22

Half turns are what you guessed. From a position either stopped or going slowly with your skis across the fall line, jump into the fall line, then do a half turn. Less rotation of the skis than a jump turn.

 

For the straight line exits, you just manage your speed with turns before the crux where you have to go straight, then straight line the exit.

post #14 of 22

Lake Chutes at Breck.

 

Been there done that.   But 2 weeks ago I passed on

the Lake Chutes since snow quality wasn't great.

Kind of hard cut up windblown powder at that time.

post #15 of 22
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the help! Now to just go work on it. I'll let you guys know how it goes.

post #16 of 22

BTW, hop turns and half turns are usually only needed on exceedingly steep terrain or very poor conditions such as wind slab, styrofoam or ice. If it is deep, you ought to be able to make a turn.

 

Another skill to have under your belt is a kick turn. These are handy when you get blocked into a spot and have to face the other way around and a hop turn just can't be done.

post #17 of 22
Thread Starter 

Thnx MR looked up what a kick turn was and I already know how to do it just didn't realize it was called that. Once  the east wall at Abasin opens any suggestions and runs to try there? I am really trying to round out my ski skills and would really like to try skiing some tight steep chutes. I have read that first and second notch are pretty good runs. Any others?

 

Any more info you can provide is welcome.  

post #18 of 22

Those are probably have the most challenging entrances on the East Wall and are fairly narrow although North Pole and it's variations can be dicey at times, too. A good cornice builds up along the Zuma Cornice with some steep terrain.

post #19 of 22

Strategy is the most important aspect of skiing the steeps. I think the first turn is the most important because it sets up the direction your skis are heading and so much depends on what is below.  Ski steeps that have low exposure below this will allow you to practiceDan Turning chute.JPG

and be aggressive.  The real beauty of skiing the steeps is when there is exposure below and or a narrow section that requires some timing for the key move.

 

The mistake most people make when entering steep terrain is they are overly focused on the entry and not the exit.  The exit determines the entry point and move that is require to set the skier up for success.  If the entry point is a cornice and you are jumping into it you have to make sure that your upper body is positioned to handle the impact and that you are prepared to set your edges and pole plant to set up the next turn.

 

Remember decelerating on steeps has to do with the edge set and the pole plant they go together.  If you do coordinate your upper body with the pole plant your skis will travel too far across the slope and this will cause you to lose your line and if there is exposure below or a critical move to make for a narrow section you will have stop and restart which is not the objective.

 

Often the most over looked element of skiing the steeps is the eyes.  Don’t look across the hill, don’t look at the obstacles, look only where you want to go, your destination and the snow between here and there.  You go where you look, so look where you want to go!

Skiing steeps is the essence of skiing, it requires all of the technical and tactical excitement the sport has to offer.  Master the steeps and you can go where you please!

Have fun!   

post #20 of 22
Thread Starter 

thanks for the advice Dan. The eye thing is what i already do in trees.( Look between the trees not at them). I really enjoy technical terrain and have had some real breakthroughs this season that I hope will keep happening

post #21 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lonewolf210 View Post

thanks for the advice Dan. The eye thing is what i already do in trees.( Look between the trees not at them). I really enjoy technical terrain and have had some real breakthroughs this season that I hope will keep happening



If you focus your eyes where you want to finish your turn, at the initiation of the new turn, that is were it will happen. Same idea as, "Don't look at the trees."

post #22 of 22

You may already have progressed beyond it, but Wolf Creek has the best learning cornice I have seen anywhere.  A real but manageable cornice, followed by a short steep gradually flattening out to a cat track.  Absolutely zero consequence if you mess up. 

 

Colorado Springs to Wolf Creek is more or less equivalent driving as CoSpg to Summit County.

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