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Packed snow progressions to prepare for powder skiing

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

As a gift for my 50th birthday my wife has arranged a day of skiing with Steamboat Powdercats.  We've booked a day on a beginner cat so she can experience skiing untracked powder snow.  I've been an inactive ski instructor since I changed jobs 8 years ago and wasn't able to committ to 20 days a year.  I completed my level 1 over 10 years ago and was just about to take my level 2 exams when we had a bad snow year in the northwest and then we moved to Colorado for my new job.  I try to maintain my teaching skills by working with friends and family as we ski together during the day.

 

Now I'm going have a day of powder skiing with my best friend and wife.  She's a level 5 skier with good groomed run parallel skills.  She's a long radius high speed cruiser who likes the feel of a carving ski digging in with heavy weighting on the outside ski.  Now I want to work with her over the two ski season months we have before our powder day.

 

I'm looking for progressions that will help her make the transition to powder skiing easier.  Since powder is unpredictable and so short lived in-bounds, I'm looking for exercises on groomed snow.  I figure I need to work with her on two foot skiing, short turns, and for-aft balance.  I'd appreciate any drills or progressions you'd be willing to share.

 

Thank you,

 

Tom Moritz

post #2 of 14

I would work on mid-long radius patience turns.  In powder you need to let the skis turn and not try to force them or pivot them.  Mogul skiing is also very helpful for skiing powder.  Don't worry about zipper lining or going fast.  Try one turn per bump with an edge change near the tops of the bumps on a flexon.  

post #3 of 14

Level 5 and only two months to get her ready to ski powder, AND maintain your marriage? You have your work cut out for yourself!

 

Most level 5 skiers tend to lack dynamic movement because they're locked up in the lower joints. When they hit anything grabby in powder, they dive over their tips. Anything that gets her articulating her joints will be helpful. Shuffle turns can help unstiffen the lower joints. Hop turns also encourage some articulation. Actually, any exercise that allows her to find centre, move the skis around, and return to centre will help. 

 

You also nailed another issue that level 5 skiers can have: challenges with creating a single platform. 

 

I'd agree with TPJ on spending time in bumps: short of skiing powder, bumps are the next best thing. Bumps require lots of flexion and extension. Bumps also encourage skiing using a single platform. 

 

Good luck! 

post #4 of 14

Good hard pack skiers have to unlearn certain skills and that can be tricky. As you alluded she will have to unlearn weighting the downhill ski and ski with a 50/50 weight distribution otherwise she will be doing the classic powder corkscrew tumble. Related to even weighting she will need to be comfortable unweighting the skis evenly moving up and down. She will also have to unlearn skiing with the skis hip width apart and instead have the skis as a single supportive platform much closer together otherwise she has the same corkscrew tumble. If she drives her skis through turns by first weighting the tips (old school) she will have to stay more centered and initiate turns by 'banking' her skis and body from side to side not using her edges. 

Summary of skills - skis weighted evenly side to side and fore and aft and close together, turning skis without using edges, flexion and extension to unweight skis.

Of course real powder is the best way to learn but you can help her rehearse the skills ahead of time. Find a very gentle straight slope like a beginner bunny hill that she can go straight down safely. Have her coast down the hill while consciously weighting the skis evenly side to side and fore and aft and close together. Do this several times until she is very aware of what this feels like. Now have her ski down but unweight the skis by hopping straight into the air again with the skis close together. This will expose any uneven weighting issues.

Next she needs to learn turning without carving edges weighting the downhill ski. This next exercise will sound stupid and looks even dumber but works as a starting point. Skiing down the bunny slope she flexes then extends to unweight and at the same time strongly punches her right arm up and over in front of her head. She doesn't rotate her upper body while doing this. Believe it or not she will turn left. Same thing in the other direction. The edges will engage a bit but not like a carved turn and more of a skid. She won't do this when skiing powder but she can get the feel of turning without carving and  using her body instead.

Hope that helps.  

post #5 of 14

don't over-think it. i doubt there will be much carryover if you're training on hardpack. just go and enjoy it. she'll pick it up quickly if she is a decent skier. if you are insistent on some kind of training, use a skier's edge machine which is probably the closet thing to skiing powder. there will be significant marriage stress if you insist on working on skills on hardpack.

post #6 of 14

Just to add here is a wonderful video from CMH about the transition from hard pack to groomers and it even speaks from a female learners perspective

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vp4OgUjJx2M

 

My only issue about the video is the lead woman is still 'pedaling' her turns weighting the skis unevenly at the end of the clip.

post #7 of 14

As a born-and-bred east-coast skier...  I always found the hardest part about skiing truly deep snow is judging the resistance the snow provides.  As a hard-pack skier, I'm used to having to turn across or up the hill on a regular basis in order to keep the speed in control.  In deep snow you don't have to turn anywhere nearly as much out of the fall line in order to slow down.

 

That mental block has always been the hardest part for me.

 

I don't agree that there aren't any skills that transition well between hardpack and powder skiing though.  There's a lot of things you can get away with on groomers that won't work in powder.  Pivoted turn entries followed by a hard edge set "work" on groomers but will absolutely fail in powder (or they might work, but you'll be exhausted in about five turns).  As tetonpwdrjunkie said -- patience turns with a retraction transition work just about everywhere.

 

To me though, the tactics of a powder skiing are much harder to learn than the technique.

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tetonpwdrjunkie View Post
 

I would work on mid-long radius patience turns.  In powder you need to let the skis turn and not try to force them or pivot them.  Mogul skiing is also very helpful for skiing powder.  Don't worry about zipper lining or going fast.  Try one turn per bump with an edge change near the tops of the bumps on a flexon.  

TPJ - Good suggestion.  Mogul skiing requires a close stance, active steering of both skis in a coordinated manner, active balance in all directions, and flexed stance.  I just need to find some mellow moguls for her to practice on.  The problem is the mountain rarely leaves blue terrain ungroomed where we ski.

post #9 of 14
Try some two-footed shuffling. This is not the scissor style of shuffling where the feet keep passing eachother. This is sliding both feet forward together in a fairly narrow stance and then pulling them back while making round turns. It requires the commitment of 1000 steps while weighting both skis. Start on easy terrain with the pushing/pulling in traverses and not through the turns, add shuffles into and out of the turns, then go throughout the turns. Then move gradually to the type of terrain she'll ski during the powder clinic.
post #10 of 14

Firm snow progressions usually teach you just the wrong stuff. But you can buy a turn - and IMO for this kind of day you should. Rent real powder skis. If she is an average sized woman, something modern shape, 120+ at the waist, and 175-ish long. Minimal sidecut (or none). Rockered obviously. Then the day will be generally fun instead of frustrating. 

 

Same for you too ;)


Edited by spindrift - 10/28/13 at 3:40pm
post #11 of 14

Tom,

 

Or you could just say "Honey - You're going to have a fantastic time!" because you know you will be riding on fat powder skis provided by Steamboat Powdercats and they will take care of all necessary powder technique instruction.

 

I don't know which models of Armada's SPC has and I haven't seen intermediates ski powder on the newer fully rockered skis, but I have seen a bunch solid wedge christy wives outski their powder experienced parallel turning husbands because of the super fat skis we were on. The ladies just skied like they were on a perfectly groomed slope and had a blast. The guys tried to bounce and all they did was get their skis stuck in the snow and lose their balance. With fat powder skis you trade some of that skiing "in" the snow feeling for "ease" of adapting. Rocker technology enables parallel skidding in powder so those ought to be even easier. I can't imagine that the "beginner" cat is going to be too tough for this strategy to work.

 

Have you tried asking the "cat people" for their recommendation? Or just looking through their website? Their site does a good job of covering it all.

 

But if you insist...

Powder skiing is all about making adjustments. You can try practicing skiing more two footed with your skis closer together making turns more down the hill than across the hill. You can even try practicing making turns in "slow motion" and controlling speed through turn shape. But as Kevin has noted, the biggest change is from the neck up. You can't practice managing your internal speed limit for the extra friction that skiing in the snow provides and you can't practice managing your vertical position within the snowpack. You can practice tree skiing, but you really won't need to. A beginner cat tour will either not do trees at all or you'll find trees that you could practically straight line through. The solution to the mental problem is low stress mileage. There's a reason these guys offer a money back guarantee of success. If you already know how to ski at the intermediate level, it's pretty easy to just show up and have fun.

 

One thing you should prep your wife for is the safety protocols. Group dynamics is a major contributing factor to back country accidents, but it's probably the least emphasized point in the safety briefings. Make sure your wife knows that if she hears the little safety bird chirping on her shoulder that she SHOULD speak up, but that she should not be making snarky comments about luke warm hot chocolate. When you buddy ski, take turns leading and let her know it's ok if she peeks back to check on you now and again. Avy beacon training can be scary for a couple of reasons (e.g. is it really that dangerous? there is no way I'm going to be any good at this), but driving to the airport is more dangerous than professionally guided back country skiing when you trust your guides and follow their directions (no stats - I just made this up to make you feel more comfortable :). The more your group pays attention to your guides, the more "leash" the guides will give you on your runs. Don't let the words "hurry up and wait" bother you.

 

Don't worry. The snow around Steamboat is about as idiot proof as it gets.

post #12 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheRusty View Post
 

Tom,

 

Or you could just say "Honey - You're going to have a fantastic time!" because you know you will be riding on fat powder skis provided by Steamboat Powdercats and they will take care of all necessary powder technique instruction.

 

I don't know which models of Armada's SPC has and I haven't seen intermediates ski powder on the newer fully rockered skis, but I have seen a bunch solid wedge christy wives outski their powder experienced parallel turning husbands because of the super fat skis we were on. The ladies just skied like they were on a perfectly groomed slope and had a blast. The guys tried to bounce and all they did was get their skis stuck in the snow and lose their balance. With fat powder skis you trade some of that skiing "in" the snow feeling for "ease" of adapting. Rocker technology enables parallel skidding in powder so those ought to be even easier. I can't imagine that the "beginner" cat is going to be too tough for this strategy to work.

 

Have you tried asking the "cat people" for their recommendation? Or just looking through their website? Their site does a good job of covering it all.

 

But if you insist...

Powder skiing is all about making adjustments. You can try practicing skiing more two footed with your skis closer together making turns more down the hill than across the hill. You can even try practicing making turns in "slow motion" and controlling speed through turn shape. But as Kevin has noted, the biggest change is from the neck up. You can't practice managing your internal speed limit for the extra friction that skiing in the snow provides and you can't practice managing your vertical position within the snowpack. You can practice tree skiing, but you really won't need to. A beginner cat tour will either not do trees at all or you'll find trees that you could practically straight line through. The solution to the mental problem is low stress mileage. There's a reason these guys offer a money back guarantee of success. If you already know how to ski at the intermediate level, it's pretty easy to just show up and have fun.

 

One thing you should prep your wife for is the safety protocols. Group dynamics is a major contributing factor to back country accidents, but it's probably the least emphasized point in the safety briefings. Make sure your wife knows that if she hears the little safety bird chirping on her shoulder that she SHOULD speak up, but that she should not be making snarky comments about luke warm hot chocolate. When you buddy ski, take turns leading and let her know it's ok if she peeks back to check on you now and again. Avy beacon training can be scary for a couple of reasons (e.g. is it really that dangerous? there is no way I'm going to be any good at this), but driving to the airport is more dangerous than professionally guided back country skiing when you trust your guides and follow their directions (no stats - I just made this up to make you feel more comfortable :). The more your group pays attention to your guides, the more "leash" the guides will give you on your runs. Don't let the words "hurry up and wait" bother you.

 

Don't worry. The snow around Steamboat is about as idiot proof as it gets.

 

^^ THis is what I was going to say. Well, sort of. We were there last season and they provided Armada JJs. Super easy to adapt. 

 

It's likely the most difficult part of the day will be getting stuck on too-flat terrain and having to pole out. 

post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson View Post

Try some two-footed shuffling. This is not the scissor style of shuffling where the feet keep passing eachother. This is sliding both feet forward together in a fairly narrow stance and then pulling them back while making round turns. It requires the commitment of 1000 steps while weighting both skis. Start on easy terrain with the pushing/pulling in traverses and not through the turns, add shuffles into and out of the turns, then go throughout the turns. Then move gradually to the type of terrain she'll ski during the powder clinic.

I'll have to play around with this one before I ask my wife to try it.  Practicing pulling the feet back or forward should help her develop a feel for staying over the center of the skis.  I recall a clinician talking about pulling and pushing the feet back and forward during a bump clinic.

post #14 of 14
Just like 1000 steps, the biggie is in keeping the shuffle going during the turn.

I'd pay attention to the Rusty's suggestions.
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