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slowing down [more intermediate than beginner]

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

In an old thread, I read this:

 

Quote:

Great skiers, as a habit, are offensive, gliding, conserving energy, using technique to control direction, and tactics to control speed--they ski "the slow line fast"--"a slow enough line as fast as they can (when they can--and brake when they have to)." Most skiers, from beginner to advanced, and especially the plateaued, stuck-in-a-rut, "terminal intermediates," are defensive, intentionally dissipating energy, using technique to control speed (and, as a natural outcome of excessive skidding, giving up a lot of directional control as a result). They "turn" to control speed, meaning that their "turns" would be better called "braking." They ski "too fast" a line slowly--with the brakes on. And this is true no matter how fast they choose to go. "Defensive" is not at all the same as "timid," and some of the most aggressive skiers on the most challenging runs are still defensive--braking aggressively down the hill.

 

This makes good sense to me. I'm a beginner, skiing in my second season, and I'm clearly skiing defensively according to this description. Almost every turn is a form of braking for me, and it means that by lunch, I'm sort of a wreck. I feel like I've been avoiding falling instead of skiing, my thighs are burning, and I'm ready to call it quits. There are times, rare times, when I can tell that I've actually been skiing. And these are glorious, so usually I keep going hoping to get that high again. Those times are when I'm skiing the fall line, following my tips, turning for the sake of turning and not solely to control my speed, and remaining in control the whole time. But man, these times are way too rare. 

 

My question is how do I ski offensively, particularly when the trail is too narrow (or crowded) to make turns that are wide enough to let me control my speed by heading parallel to the hill or even up hill, instead of by braking and sending up a big cloud of snow and scraping the trail flat with each turn? I skid, I dissipate energy, I brake. How do I glide, conserve energy, ski — particularly on narrow or crowded (or narrow and crowded) trails? 

post #2 of 18

There are a couple of things that might work.

 

If the trail is wide enough, you can keep turning until you are going more up hill than downhill and not turn back down until you are going slow enough.

 

If there are terrain features such as moguls, it is easier to control speed by skiing up the bump while making a turn on the uphill side of the bump (skidded if needs be) than trying to avoid the bump and skiing in the rut line between the bumps or trying to slow down by braking a turn on the downhill side of the bump.

 

Get better skis.  If you have a beginner set of skis with a low speed limit, you are extremely unlikely to be comfortable at speeds likely to be achieved "carving" the slow line fast, but a decent pair of skis might afford you some comfort.   IMHO, you can't ski slow enough to be comfortable on a narrow trail with decent pitch with crap pair of skis without being on the brakes most of the time until you have mad skills.  Most folk would rather not have you skiing fast until you have a few years under your belt, but I feel strongly that the truth must be set free. 

 

Hope that helps.

post #3 of 18

Capri, that's a great question.  For clarity, can you describe how narrow you're talking about?  Are you describing shortish, flattish trails that cross the mountain sideways, serving to connect the real trails to each other?  Maybe 10-30 feet wide?  


Or are you describing narrow New England style windy trails that head down the mountain, wider than 30 feet but still feeling narrow, and crowded on weekends?

post #4 of 18

Or is he talking 4 meters wide 40 m long and 35 degrees biggrin.gif.

post #5 of 18

Ghost, this post is in the Beginner Zone!  

post #6 of 18

Didn't you skis steep narrow trails in your 2nd year of skiing; I did.... French Fries!  Hockey stopeek.gif, Ab-Stem  turnredface.gif,  French Fries devil.gif...

post #7 of 18
Go to some easy terrain, traverse slightly downhill and gradually roll your feet onto more and more uphill edges to let the skis turn you. Gradually increase how much you point toward down the fun line and ride on the edges. On really easy terrain, traverse on, say, right edges and gradually flatten the skis to release them. As the skis point toward downhill, gradually roll onto the other edges. Play with how much you edge and how much you press on the cuffs of your boots with your shins to determine how your skis react to your input. You CAN learn to let the skis do more of the work.
post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 

I was asked how narrow a trail: something like a cat track that crosses the mountain. There's one in particular that gives me trouble that has a mogul field above and another below, so many advanced skiers/boarders use it when coming off of (or going on to) one of the mogul fields. It's also the main route to three chair lifts, so it's crazy busy, with a lot of lateral traffic as people move between the two fields, and it's pretty narrow so there isn't a lot of room for maneuvering. It's not very steep but with so little room for moving side to side, I can pick up too much speed. 

 

Also I've got good all-mountain skis, middle-width with some rocker. They're not very long, but they're good for the snow here on Mount Baker which can be pretty heavy powder. I think Colorado skiers call it concrete, with good reason. Depending on the weather, this can slow me down or speed me up, depending on whether I'm skiing through or over the snow. Light powder days are easier to ski, as the powder flows over my skis and slows me down. The heavy days are harder, as I ski right over the snow and it's wet enough that it turns glassy and fast as I ski over it. It's also tough for catching an edge. I've been working on loosening my muscles, so I can absorb terrain and snow bumps instead of bouncing off them, and that's helping. But wet new snow is the standard condition, so I need to learn to control my speed when it's like this. 

 

Kneale's advice is really good. I'll focus on using my edges to control my speed. I've been doing side-slipping exercises and they really help. 

post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Capri View Post

I was asked how narrow a trail: something like a cat track that crosses the mountain. There's one in particular that gives me trouble that has a mogul field above and another below, so many advanced skiers/boarders use it when coming off of (or going on to) one of the mogul fields. It's also the main route to three chair lifts, so it's crazy busy, with a lot of lateral traffic as people move between the two fields, and it's pretty narrow so there isn't a lot of room for maneuvering. It's not very steep but with so little room for moving side to side, I can pick up too much speed. 

 

Also I've got good all-mountain skis, middle-width with some rocker. They're not very long, but they're good for the snow here on Mount Baker which can be pretty heavy powder. I think Colorado skiers call it concrete, with good reason. Depending on the weather, this can slow me down or speed me up, depending on whether I'm skiing through or over the snow. Light powder days are easier to ski, as the powder flows over my skis and slows me down. The heavy days are harder, as I ski right over the snow and it's wet enough that it turns glassy and fast as I ski over it. It's also tough for catching an edge. I've been working on loosening my muscles, so I can absorb terrain and snow bumps instead of bouncing off them, and that's helping. But wet new snow is the standard condition, so I need to learn to control my speed when it's like this. 

 

Kneale's advice is really good. I'll focus on using my edges to control my speed. I've been doing side-slipping exercises and they really help. 

 

The article you linked in your first post discusses the two ways to slow down -- friction and direction.  For a variety of reasons, slowing down by changing your "direction" (i.e., going uphill) is preferable -- as you've found, it's less taxing on your legs, and it uses your skis as the precision tools they're designed to be.

 

This concept of "slowing down by changing direction" is known by a variety of names; perhaps the most common is "ski the slow line fast".  However, I feel that's an unfortunate shortening of the full phrase which is:

 

Quote:
Ski a slow enough line as fast as you can, when you can

 

i.e., note the "when you can" part.  Nobody can ski "slow line fast" all the time.  (Most people never ski the slow-line-fast, but that's a different topic entirely).  If you have to hit the brakes (i.e., "friction") through whatever means are necessary, then you have to hit the brakes.  The scenario you describe in the quoted text above -- i.e., narrow cat track which is essentially a feeder trail to get from Point A to Point B for everybody  -- is the nightmare scenario.

 

Is the scenario skiable with "gliding / direction changing" turns?  Yes.  It involves being able to change turn shapes at will and ditching speed (i.e., go uphill or "hit the brakes") when the opportunity to do so presents itself.  Is it easy to do all that?  No.  So don't be too hard on yourself or analyze your technique too carefully in those situations; you do what you have to, you get through it, and you move on.

 

So.  That brings us back to the original question concerning "how do you actually do this"?  You can ski "direction changing turns" in anything from a beginner's wedge turn to an expert's carved turn.  The key is not what you do, it's more in what you don't do.

 

And what you don't do is rush through the fall-line portion of the turn -- i.e., a very common mistake from skiers is that they try to rush through the fall-line portion of the turn (because lingering in the fall line will increase your speed).  As soon as you rush through the fall-line (invariably causing a dubiously controlled sideways skid) the "slow line fast" concept is gone as it becomes very difficult to "go uphill" at the end of the turn.  It's one or the other -- go uphill or hit-the-brakes.  You can't have both.

 

So, now we're to a somewhat simpler concept.  You don't want to rush through the fall-line portion of the turn.  Let me rephrase that.  To devotees of the "slow line fast" concept the time to start a turn is because "I am going too slowly, I want to speed up".

 

If your thought process upon starting a turn is based on the all-too-common belief that "turns are to slow down" -- you will hit the brakes as you start to speed up (and you will speed up as soon as you hit the fall line), and that's not what you want.

 

This simple concept -- "I start a turn because I'm going too slow" works wonders because now you WANT the fall line, you WANT to speed up and all that gets your skis doing what they're designed to do in the first place.

post #10 of 18
Quote:
To devotees of the "slow line fast" concept the time to start a turn is because "I am going too slowly, I want to speed up".

 

Before anybody jumps down my back, I realize this is somewhat oversimplified and that the real idea is that you start a turn because you want to go someplace else.

 

However, when we're talking about controlling speed on groomers and "getting" the SLF concept I think the "someplace else" you "want to go" is the fall line because you've slowed down too much and now you WANT to speed up.

 

At least that's how I "got it".

post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF View Post

Quote:
To devotees of the "slow line fast" concept the time to start a turn is because "I am going too slowly, I want to speed up".

 

Before anybody jumps down my back, I realize this is somewhat oversimplified and that the real idea is that you start a turn because you want to go someplace else.

 

However, when we're talking about controlling speed on groomers and "getting" the SLF concept I think the "someplace else" you "want to go" is the fall line because you've slowed down too much and now you WANT to speed up.

 

At least that's how I "got it".


It may not be in accordance with the approved canon, but it makes sense.   As someone trying to turn defensive skiing into offensive skiing on steeper and steeper slopes (not all that steep, as yet), first thing I thought when I read it is I've got to try that.   Looking forward to turning downhill rather than being nervous about it seems like a step in the right direction.

post #12 of 18

Turning helps.  

 

This sounds really simplistic but, if you link your turns (start turning from the end of your last turn) it may be easier for you to shape and complete turns, and control your speed. This is a slightly different approach to the slow line fast idea. It really does not matter what type of turn you make the principal stays the same, just keep turning.  Watch most any video of a good skier and they spend very little time going straight, they are continually turning with very few exceptions.  At the end of a turn you are in the right stance to start that next turn and there is energy built up in your skis and arguably in your body that can be used to start your next turn, traverse (go straight) between your turns and you loose that energy.  Bend a ski in your hands and feel it push back, that is some of the energy you can use.

 

Try this first on a very gentle slope first.  It may feel a little awkward to start with but but keep at it.  Think you will find this will help you with bumps and steeper stuff too.  It does not require a lot of space and really works well in soft snow like Baker.  

 

Have fun Capri, and think snow.

post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 

These answers are great. Can't wait for Sunday when I can try them all out on something other than my carpet :) 

post #14 of 18

Lots of good advice here.

 

Quote:
My question is how do I ski offensively, particularly when the trail is too narrow (or crowded) to make turns that are wide enough to let me control my speed by heading parallel to the hill or even up hill, instead of by braking and sending up a big cloud of snow and scraping the trail flat with each turn? I skid, I dissipate energy, I brake. How do I glide, conserve energy, ski — particularly on narrow or crowded (or narrow and crowded) trails?

 

A few points to add:

 

  • You can ski very slowly without making wide turns.  You just have to make small, round turns that still finish by going up the hill, and link them directly into each other.  It's very tricky to carve turns like this, but it's not very hard to do this making wedge turns or wedge/stem christies.  Practice on an easy green run -- make turns that take up half the trail, then a third, then a quarter, then just a couple ski lengths wide, trying to keep a consistent speed.  It's a good skill to have.
  • In really narrow/crowded conditions you may have to slow way down, maybe even staying in a wedge all the time or stopping to let traffic go by.  Sometimes you just don't have room to maneuver safely and you have to 'brake'.
  • (Controlled) skidding is another really useful tool to have.  By using less edging during a turn, you can 'smear' or 'brush' the skis at an angle relative to your direction of travel to constantly scrub speed -- while still having control over where you are going and finishing the turn up the hill.  However, this won't work very well in the wet, heavy PNW 'concrete' you mentioned earlier (unless you get significantly wider skis that can plane over the crud).
post #15 of 18

I'll second Mattias from a learner's perspective:

 

Though I'm not exactly a beginner and have been skiing blacks comfortably for a long time, I had similar issues with speed control and quad burn.  It got pretty frustrating.  Recently, I took a lesson with T-Square, though, and he noticed I was muscling through transitions -- forcing the transition from one turn to the next.  The result was a kind of zig-zag, breaking turn that was hard work and not terribly controlled.  He suggested I learn to release the turn instead, give in to gravity, and float into the next turn, without forcing it.

 

It made an immediate difference.  My turns were suddenly rounder, and I could control their size and shape better.  I could control my speed better, too, by carrying those turns past the fall line and back up the hill -- big turns or little ones.  During that released transition, too, my quads got a rest, so where before they were on fire, now they felt limber.

 

Because I was releasing the turn and falling into the next, I was actually skiing the line faster -- falling with gravity (or dancing, as T-Square puts it), but skiing a line that took me back uphill: the slow line.

 

It was a great day.  Amazing how a single one-hour lesson can improve your skiing!

post #16 of 18
Quote:
Though I'm not exactly a beginner and have been skiing blacks comfortably for a long time, I had similar issues with speed control and quad burn.  It got pretty frustrating.  Recently, I took a lesson with T-Square, though, and he noticed I was muscling through transitions -- forcing the transition from one turn to the next.  The result was a kind of zig-zag, breaking turn that was hard work and not terribly controlled.  He suggested I learn to release the turn instead, give in to gravity, and float into the next turn, without forcing it.

 

This is something that almost everyone struggles with -- myself included.  I'm a big, strong guy, and if the skis aren't going where I want them to go (or aren't getting there fast enough) it's all too easy to start trying to force it.  It works, sort of, but it's tiring and it gets increasingly ineffective in steeper terrain or on ice.

 

One thing I'll point out to beginners who are doing the "Z" turn thing is that they spend an awful lot of time going straight and then throwing on the brakes.  Going in a straight line makes you go faster unless you are going uphill or completely straight across the hill (or make a braking wedge, but then that wears you out really fast).  If you make more rounded turns and link them together smoothly, you avoid big speedups and then you don't need to make a dramatic braking/recovery move after each turn or two.

 

The thing that keeps you from being out of control at the end of the turn is easing into it and getting some speed/direction control at the beginning, before your skis are in the fall line.  It's counterintuitive, but if you force the skis around too fast you just make things worse.

post #17 of 18

bump

 

A recent discussion in Ski Instruction related to intermediates seems directly related to the discussion in this thread.  Check out this post from one of the very experienced instructors who works at JH.  Made a lot of sense to me as someone who moved from an intermediate to advanced in recent years after starting to get many more days on snow after an early retirement.

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/121331/what-do-you-teach-an-upper-intermediate-skier-who-wants-to-get-better#post_1610533

post #18 of 18

Recently, people were discussing how to improve as an upper intermediate or advanced skier when the closest ski areas are hills with limited harder terrain.  Reminded me of this Beginner Zone thread that includes comments about why "skiing the fast line slow" is a skill worth practicing at any ability level.

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/123003/iimproving-my-skiing-at-small-local-hill#post_1641025

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/122941/how-to-get-better-as-a-dc-mid-atlantic-skier#post_1641024

 

Note: Please remember this is in the Beginner Zone before you reply

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