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Why can't I control BC skis on a downhill?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

I'm an intermediate downhill skier, and only ski infrequently, but when I do, it's not very hard.  No worries about getting down the hill or crashing.  Last winter I started XC skiing, and it was great, fairly easy, nice to get exercise kicking and gliding.

 

However, I like slopes, so I got some heavier duty BC equipment, thinking I could BC ski around, and still be able to turn adequately in the downhills.  I picked up a pair of Madshus Epochs (195), Voile Hardwires and Rossi BC X12 boots for the stiffness and control.

 

As it turns out, I just can't go downhill without falling.  I have no idea what I'm doing wrong, and I've been out many times this season thinking I could just pick it up, like I've done with other types of skiing.  I can't turn when I need to, and if I am in a turn, often one ski (usually the right one) will depart formation with the other ski and shoot away, making me do a split, or veer inward, colliding with the inside ski and dumping me.  Just leaning to one side, downhill style, sometimes eventually produces a turn, but just as often does not.  Leaning the knees to one side or the other doesn't have predictable effects either.

 

I can snowplow with a bit of effort, but I don't want to snowplow everywhere.

 

It's weird not being able to figure this out.  Can anyone give me some pointers?  Are there BC instructors who can just teach you how to stay upright on the things?

post #2 of 23

I'm going to take a guess and suggest that you are sitting back, weight on the heels. Free heel equipment doesn't give you much ability to pressure the tips to get them to engage. Have you tried telemark turns?

post #3 of 23

I'm guessing you are back on your heels because free heels make it very difficult to ski in the kind of balanced position necessary for good alpine turns. Telemark equipment is easier in this regard because heels are not quite as free. Boots are more supportive and boot soles stiffer. I was out yesterday on BC gear and felt a bit of fore/aft instability. Skiing over anything that could slow my skis like twigs etc threatened to pitch me forward head over heels and so I tended to get back on my heels. On the other hand my wife was making beautiful guided wedge turns (down an icy packed road) so maybe it was just me. Try flexing at the knees more. It lowers your center of gravity and improves your balancing ability. BC boots do not have much resistance to forward flex and so a tendency is to try to control your balance from the ankle only. Get the knees, waist and hip joints more involved and you may feel your sense of control returning. Years ago when cable bindings were the norm, most skis had rearward hooks on the sidewalls into which the cables could be secured for heel hold down. The cables themselves were adjustable for length to allow this. Boots back then often were no more supportive than today's BC boots and people were out skiing all kinds of stuff. Balancing sure required a bunch more practice.

 

If your skis are coming apart in deep snow it is due to unequal weighting. You need to feel your skis more as if they were a single platform whether they are far apart or not.

 

Don't lean. Flex your inside leg and lengthen your outside leg to get your body to move over and produce edge angles. You will feel an improvement in your ability to balance laterally. This will hold true with your alpine skiing as well.

 

Most likely you are experiencing some of the faults that are also in your alpine skiing. Today's supportive alpine equipment helps to mask and overcome many flaws.


Edited by oisin - 3/3/14 at 12:50pm
post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 

I have tried telemark turns in a very limited fashion, but not often.  I think I am probably way too upright as you suggested, and my alpine skiing is mediocre, so you are probably correct about overall faults.  I will try getting lower.

 

Friday I want to go down the Sherburne trail on Mt Washington, and I would love to take the BC skis, much lighter than the alpine setup, but I also don't want to be clearing snow out of my underwear or meeting a tree the wrong way. 

post #5 of 23

Good telemark turns put your Center of Mass (COM) between your leading heel and trailing toe. This way you can pressure both skis as needed. Most alpiners make 'fake-a-mark' turns if they don't learn to telemark properly. This means you stand on your outside ski and slide the inside ski back without moving your COM between your feet. This is even more unstable than simply trying to alpine ski with your COM over or behind your heels.

post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by zombiesnack View Post
 

....but I also don't want to be clearing snow out of my underwear or meeting a tree the wrong way. 

Excellent description of non-desired outcomes!  Thumbs Up

post #7 of 23

Learn this if Friday is THIS Friday.

 

 

And step turn, stem christie, telemark, ...

post #8 of 23

What are your snow conditions? Are you simply straying from the groomed tracks, out and out bushwacking or venturing out on some snow shoe/hiking trails?

post #9 of 23

post #10 of 23

FWIW.  The Epochs are not the easiest to turn, tele or parallel.  With XC gear somethings I have learned to consider (maybe wrongly), is that turning is very active.  Unweight; steer; angulate; move inside ski alongside downhill ski, then weight.  If you just try modern alpine skiing technics of weighting the ski you want to turn and letting the sidecut & flex take over, you might find yourself stuck in a deep fall-line groove (LOL).   turning these skis does require active steering and angulating IMHO.  With long skis you can also have the problem of the tail of the ski catching in the snow--not as much of a problem if you angulate while moving the rear ski parallel to the downhill ski.  Old-time tele turns actually called for making an arc using BOTH skis, in tandem; I never quite learned that too well.  But active up, stop, release, steer, angulate, down, pressure seemed to work.  GOOD LUCK!

post #11 of 23

Ready AC's comment above has me wondering about the amount of camber (when held base to base without being squeezed) that these skis have.

post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by MastersRacer View Post
 

Ready AC's comment above has me wondering about the amount of camber (when held base to base without being squeezed) that these skis have.

The Epoch is described as "single camber plus" = almost double camber, more camber than the Madshus Annum/Karhu guide; that camber has to be compressed before the ski can be pressured into a reverse camber.

post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Carey View Post
 

The Epoch is described as "single camber plus" = almost double camber, more camber than the Madshus Annum/Karhu guide; that camber has to be compressed before the ski can be pressured into a reverse camber.

Good point! Most XC skis have double camber ie extra camber under the foot to create a wax pocket. I imagine this is done with waxless skis as well. The idea is that the drag from the kick wax or fishscale base is minimized during sliding because that portion of the base is held above the snow.. A forceful downward component from a diagonal stride imprints the kick wax or fishscale in the snow in order to provide grip for the kick. The large amount of basic camber is to insure an even distribution of weight over the rest of the ski to provide a good glide.

 

So, you have a lot to overcome in order to bend the skis in a turn and there usually is no side camber. I'm not familiar with the Epochs but assume they are similar to most of these BC skis that are more of a XC ski than an alpine ski.

 

Telemark turns are probably the way to go. I would carry my alpine skis up to ski the Sherburne trail if I were you or learn a good tele turn.

post #14 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hah!  I have seen that "how not to ski" video.

 

I might decide to man up and take BOTH skis up tucks trail..... skin up on the Epochs, crash a bunch of times on the sherb trail until I am sick of it, then put on the alpine skis and come the rest of the way down, then sell all of the BC gear.   

 

Great advice though, I will probably start with a lot of snowplowing (dragging a boat anchor and saving my poles), see if stem christie works, and trying the great advice on balance with beginning tele turns here.

 

Andy, can you expand on active steering and angulating?  Is that like step turning?

post #15 of 23

Steve Barnett tried to convince me that step turning is an essential technique for negotiating very tight trees, but I'm short and squat and heavy and my legs and steps are too short for my long skis in deep snow LOL; but really, stepping out, turning the ski while doing so, and coming down on a ski perpendicular to the slope, then bringing along the other ski can be very effective.

 

But what I was talking about is (1) steering: having taken some weight off the ski, start turning it the direction you want it to go using your lower leg, not initially relying on ski sidecut or flex; 

(2) angulating: what the old instructions called "big toe, little toe"; your downhill ski is tipped/weighted using the inside of your foot (big toe) and your uphill ski is weighted/tipped using the outside of your foot (little toe).

 

But more effectively, as the DesLauriers brothers recommend for alpine skiing, at the end of a turn, unweight both skis, drift into the fall line, then full unweight the previously downhill ski (to be your uphill ski), even to the point of lifting it up slighty in deeper/grabbier snow, tilting you ankle/lower leg so the outside edge of that ski is down, the inside edge up, and if necessary move it parallel to th the now automatically weighted and tipped to the inside (angulated) previously uphill ski.   Now the once downhill ski will be your uphill ski.  On modern alpine skis, this is done so quickly and easily and the timing slightly altered so as to result in skis that appear to never stop carving (at least on groomed snow).

 

To make it more clear:  (1) you have just made a left hand turn (or just about to start skiing downhill when your right ski is downhill & parallel to the slope).  

 

(2) You lightly unweight both skis (sometimes even with a vigorous up pull if the snow is deep), such that they turn into the fall line.

 

(3) Simultaneously steer both skis towards the right, while totally unweighting your right ski, flexing your lower leg inward (moves the inner edge up) and, if necessary, moving it parallel and adjacent to  your left (downhill) ski.   Initially, you may even find yourself moving the new uphill (right) ski slightly forward, above, and uphill of the new downhill (left) ski. 

 

(4) This automatically places your whole body weight on the left (downhill ski), compressing the camber and bending the ski as well as placing it on its inner (uphill) edge.  

 

(5) Then pressure both skis through the turn with down weighting (pushing down with your legs).  This is a simple parallel turn.

 

(6) If you wish to make a tele turn: (a) as you unweight and tilt the right ski slide it slighly back such that when you drop into the tele postion your right knee is almost  to up against the back of your left knee/calf/ankle depending on how deep you want to drop; (b) both skis are angulated, weighted, flexing, and parallel.  

 

(7) In the tele turn, you should feel like you are weighting the rear ski through the turn more than the lead (downhill ski)--that will be an illusion because the pressure on you downhill will actually be great/greater practically no matter what you do.

 

(8) A XC downhill turn, IIRC, is similar, but, after initial steering, often with a more vigorous stepping/weight shift to the downhill ski with a more active movement of the uphill ski parallel to the downhill ski before downweighting.  This greater stepping/steering/stem christie like action is often desirable with high cambered/double cambered skis with little side cut and a long length.  A tele turn on long, skinny XC skis may require dropping your knee much farther back such that the the tip of the rear is closer to the boot on the lead ski, with an angle between the 2 skis that creates an arc that assists in turning (with both skis highly angulated).

 

CAUTION: skiing is a dangerous sport and it is even more dangerous to take advice online; a good PSIA instructor is worth a thousand words; and even one lesson is worth a couple of hundred dollars (you will save so much more in doctor's bills and physical therapy).

post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Carey View Post
 

The Epoch is described as "single camber plus" = almost double camber, more camber than the Madshus Annum/Karhu guide; that camber has to be compressed before the ski can be pressured into a reverse camber.

I have Eons, and I can't imagine the Epochs having more camber than those. The Eons have, at best, 1 1/8 camber. Nowhere near double. With the correct size ski for my weight, I can easily fully compress the extra bit of camber between two skis, base to base, with one hand. On my Pellestova's, which I would describe as actual 1 1/2 camber it takes quite a bit more effort. My classic race skis, with actual double camber, require significant force with both hands to compress out that gap. 

post #17 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by anrothar View Post
 

I have Eons, and I can't imagine the Epochs having more camber than those...

That means you haven't tried them?  I haven't tried the Eons.  I have both the Karhu Guide (now Madshus Annum) and the Madshus Epoch.  The Epoch has notieceably more camber--but certainly not as much as my first skis--Karhu XCD GTs.  They also seem to have more camber than my Fischer Outtabounds, but less than my Salomon X-adventure 88s (same as Fischer Rebounds).  Onion River sports describes the Epoch as requiring "dynamic tele turns" whereas they describe the Eon as a blend of XC and tele (thus, apparently, requiring less "dynamic" tele turns).    I have Dynafit AT bindings on my Guides and have no trouble turning them in shallow snow conditions on mild slopes without having the heels locked down (and having a totally free pivot toe) and without using the cuff buckle or power strap on my boot.  I have 3-pin bindings on my Epochs (which offer more retention than the free pivots of my Dynafits) and I find I have to use a pretty vigorous technique  to get them to parallel turn or tele turn even with my BC6s firmly leased and power strap tight.  Both skis are 190+ cm.  I guess it would be nice if someone could actually measure the force required to press the bases together comparing the same lengths on different models--as the force required varies markedly among lengths.

post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Carey View Post
 

That means you haven't tried them?  I haven't tried the Eons. ....

 

 

Correct. I'm definitely just internet speculating on the Epochs having less camber than the Eons, but it seems like it would be the case, no? They're designed for softer snow and more maneuverability. I have the Eons in 205 with bc magnums and Alpina 2150's. With my limited skill, they turn great in everything from hardpack(not boilerplate...) to several inches of snow. Over that and I struggle. Probably a mixture of skill, ski length and the boot/binding being right on the verge of too soft for that ski in deeper snow. My focus is more on covering miles in low angle terrain than it is in finding turns though. 

post #19 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Carey View Post
 

That means you haven't tried them?  I haven't tried the Eons.  I have both the Karhu Guide (now Madshus Annum) and the Madshus Epoch.  The Epoch has notieceably more camber--but certainly not as much as my first skis--Karhu XCD GTs.  They also seem to have more camber than my Fischer Outtabounds, but less than my Salomon X-adventure 88s (same as Fischer Rebounds).  Onion River sports describes the Epoch as requiring "dynamic tele turns" whereas they describe the Eon as a blend of XC and tele (thus, apparently, requiring less "dynamic" tele turns).    I have Dynafit AT bindings on my Guides and have no trouble turning them in shallow snow conditions on mild slopes without having the heels locked down (and having a totally free pivot toe) and without using the cuff buckle or power strap on my boot.  I have 3-pin bindings on my Epochs (which offer more retention than the free pivots of my Dynafits) and I find I have to use a pretty vigorous technique  to get them to parallel turn or tele turn even with my BC6s firmly leased and power strap tight.  Both skis are 190+ cm.  I guess it would be nice if someone could actually measure the force required to press the bases together comparing the same lengths on different models--as the force required varies markedly among lengths.

We seem to be in the same boat then, size and ski length wise.  Thanks for the advice and online lesson.  Point very well taken about online advice.  I think I may skin up and snowplow down, while trying to learn the turns.

post #20 of 23

There is nothing more fun than trying to learn to tele on your own on a BC trail. :confused

post #21 of 23

Opting to hike down a narrow, steep chute is sometimes the best option. In hindsight.

 

 

post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by anrothar View Post
 

 

 

Correct. I'm definitely just internet speculating on the Epochs having less camber than the Eons, but it seems like it would be the case, no? They're designed for softer snow and more maneuverability. I have the Eons in 205 with bc magnums and Alpina 2150's. With my limited skill, they turn great in everything from hardpack(not boilerplate...) to several inches of snow. Over that and I struggle. Probably a mixture of skill, ski length and the boot/binding being right on the verge of too soft for that ski in deeper snow. My focus is more on covering miles in low angle terrain than it is in finding turns though. 

There are definitely tradeoffs in distance vs downhill, ungroomed vs groomed, etc. as we all know (or will find out).  I got my guides for their versatility, especially their climbing ability, in quasi-groomed to deep wild snow; they climb up to moderate slopes well.  They turn well in everything but deep, heavy snow, even on ice.  I think long skis do not turn sharply well  in deep snow (long, narrow turns are fine but only if the snow slows you down on the steep slopes--thus, sometimes a narrower ski works a little better than a wider ski).  Both the Guide and the Epoch have reasonable sidecuts; the Guide (109-78-95) with its soft camber turns much better in the 185 vs 195 lengths, but glide, of course, is reduced.  The Epoch (99-68-84) has more sidecut than the older standard AT skis (90-70-80) but its turning is much reduced in a 195 cm length and moderater camber.  I bought the Epoch to use primarily on groomed trails with the option of dropping off the trail into wild snow.  I used to use Madshus Voss (195, 60-50-55) for that; NNN binding and soft boots made for great kick and gliding, but with my poor skills, poor turning, and with my weight, poor lateral stability in soft snow.  A friend swears the metal edge actually reduces its turning ease and he uses a similarly dimensioned ski without the metal edge.  I switched to NNN-BC with a stiff boot and that helped turning--then I outgrew the boots and gave the skis to my son-in-law and, a couple of years later bought the Epochs and put 3-pins on them for turning.  The 3 pins however make for lousy skiing on the flats and uphill on wild snow--all the snow goes on top of the skis vs. with NNNs and ATs free pivots.

 

And all that is why rando racers use AT race skis with AT binding and with climbing skins; but that, to me, takes away some of the bliss of pure, unecumbered XC skiing.

post #23 of 23
Thread Starter 

Well, it was great going up, skinning with those skis was effortless.  That particular trail was way way past my ability level though.  I don't think I could have even done it on regular alpine skis.

 

So, I crashed a lot, and ended up hiking down quite a bit.

 

So, three successes: 1) great exercise, which is why I do this kind of thing, 2) great climbing experience, and 3) my limits were made abundantly clear.  Naybe time to stick to more groomed trails on these things as mentioned above!

 

I'm going skiing with the kids Sunday on a regular groomed place, time to get some confidence back. :)

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