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Narrows & Trees Tips / Gear

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

I'm an intermediate skier (5'10, 200lbs) and I ski on Volkl Kendos. My question is about skiing in narrow, steep trails. When I ski on wide open groomed runs, I can turn the skis simply by leaning and pressuring the edges. But when I get in the narrow trails, I feel like I really have to force the turns in order to make them in the few spots I can actually get sideways to drop some speed. Often, I can't do it fast enough, so I panic and hockey stop as fast as I can. I think maybe it's that I'm being too timid and I'm not skiing forward enough or fast enough to really be in good contact with the hill as I go down, but I'm not sure. Is turning in a narrow trail (basically narrow enough to only have one viable line) a massively different concept to turning on a groomed run? What are some tips?

Do you think my 177 cm Volkl Kendos, with a 22.6 meter turn radius, are the problem? I see other people making quick turns with no issues and they're usually on a ski with a much smaller turn radius. 

post #2 of 23

Short answer: Lessons!

 

Longer answer: In order to make tighter turns properly, you need to use rotation skills, not just edging. When you say that you're forcing turns - you probably are pushing your tails.

post #3 of 23

@bounceswoosh is dead on with her short answer. 

 

My long answer - Shape your turns to develop your line and allow the line to control your speed. If you don't get that go back to the short answer.

 

FWIW, I’ve spent a good chunk of my ski days the last five seasons on three different pairs Kendos (170cm) and I’m #40 lighter. So I know the ski you are on. They are plenty quick. It's not the arrow, It's the Indian. :D   

post #4 of 23
Narrows is one thing and has been explained that more rotary is required, more or less. Trees can be quite another. It appears that your skill level requires some additional development so I would advise you to stay out of the trees unless with a competent, qualified instructor. People have died crashing into trees.

Skiing is 90% judgement. Please be safe.
post #5 of 23

Your skis definitely aren't the problem. In a tight chute or trees, you are going to be doing skidded/slarved/brushed turn. Because of that, your sidecut diameter doesn't matter. As noted above, rotary skills are extremely important in tight spaces.

 

It sounds like you have bought into the expectation that a carved turn is 'ideal', and maybe your struggle in tight spaces is because you aren't able meet your own expectation of the 'ideal' carved turn in that space. It isn't ever going to happen. Skidding and smearing is the ideal in those spaces. 

post #6 of 23

The Kendo might not be the 'problem' but it certainly isn't helping a self identified intermediate skier in the woods.

 

Skiing in the trees is a lot like skiing moguls, it takes quite a bit of skill to do well. There is no equipment 'fix' that will make an unskilled skier look good and a skilled skier can ski most anything and look like they are skiing effortlessly... but unlike pure mogul skiing the gear can absolutely make a major difference in how hard it is. The Volkl Kendo isn't a terrible choice but it isn't making anything easier for this person.

post #7 of 23
While you need to learn to make an actuall short turn Op, if it makes you feel any better I hated the Kendo. This is where every one comes out and says how great it is. Ok. While we're at it I hated my Intuition liners also.
post #8 of 23

Kendo fan boy here reporting for duty.  :D  I love Kendos in bumps and trees... but have come to realize that I prefer a stiffer ski than most in those conditions.   You need to get them up to speed to enjoy them in the bumps and trees.  :eek  Someone learning will be better off on a softer flexing ski.

 

Learn how to ski bumps first, then work your way into the trees!  

post #9 of 23

OP,

You see skiers turning without drama because they have the pivot mechanism installed in their muscle memory.  I too observed skiers turning like snapping a finger back and forth wondering what their secret was.

 

The gist of it is to let go of your edges, lever them down like a brush stroke, or buttering action.  This release combined with pivot input from twisting ones thighbones under the hips quickly and powerfully brings those bad boys around.  Always try new movements on easy flats, do this over and over as often as appropriate.  This is how you install movements to muscle memory, drill baby drill starting on the flats and progressing slowly to the steeps.

 

Beware of overdoing this, it is tempting to just muscle around everywhere and it can become a bad habit.  Tipping and ripping carves is the opposite extreme of this spectrum in turning.  Every skier consciously or unconsciously varies the pressure between jamming the edge or buttering.  You may feel like you're skidding but that is OK stay relaxed and turn the other way.

 

Mastering when a brushed carve becomes a pivot slip is the key to getting them around quickly, managing this at low speeds shows true technique in narrow chutes.

post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tog View Post

While you need to learn to make an actuall short turn Op, if it makes you feel any better I hated the Kendo. This is where every one comes out and says how great it is. Ok. While we're at it I hated my Intuition liners also.

I looked at the tail, full and flat and demoed the Stormrider95 instead.

post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by freem221 View Post
 

I'm an intermediate skier (5'10, 200lbs) ... I feel like I really have to force the turns in order to make them in the few spots I can actually get sideways to drop some speed. 

 

I'm going to say something others have said, but in a slightly different, less instructor-y way that might possibly help: You need to lose the idea that dropping speed requires getting your skis "sideways." 

 

In order to ski fluidly in trees you need to be able to keep your skis pointing mostly downhill most of the time. There simply isn't time or room to be bringing your skis all the way across the fall line with every turn, or even with most turns. For one thing, it is too hard to get them pointing back down again for the next turn, leading to all kinds of exhausting and counter-productive gymnastics. These factors are compounded when the trees are bumped up, as most eastern glades are most of the time. (Where do you ski, by the way?)

 

In order to keep your skis pointing downhill most of the time, you need to learn how to bleed speed throughout the duration of the turn. There are multiple ways to do this. Here are a couple of them:

 

  • "Brush" your turns from the very top. If you look at the appended much-referenced-on-this-site graphic, the thing to take away in the specific context of this thread is that your skis can and should have some degree of skid all the way through. I.e., it doesn't have to and should not be "accelerate through the fall line and then jam on the brakes in the last third of the turn."

 

  • Take advantage of micro-terrain features to help control speed - e.g., skiing "uphill" on the side of a bump even while your skis are pointing down with respect to the overall slope. Or drift down the side of a bump in an edgy sideslip, even while your skis are pointing down with respect to the overall slope.
  • Look way, way, ahead. Got that? Okay, now look three times further ahead than that. Trust your unconscious brain, eyes, and feet to manage the stuff immediately coming up without your needing to worry about it. They will. Your conscious mind should focus on the long view that will reduce the frequency of "no exit" situations and the inevitable resulting ignominious hockey stop bailout you mention.
  • Ski much more slowly than you think you need to at first. Give yourself plenty of time. Nail that, then move on. When you find yourself back in accelerating-then-bail land, go back to ultra-slow mode until you've nailed it again. You will go through this self-editing cycle indefinitely. Perhaps forever. That's okay. The beer will still taste really good at the end of the day.

 

 

Now lets go back to the first bullet above. That's the most important one. It turns out that this is something that is going to help your skiing all over the mountain, not just in tight spots. Indeed, you need to practice it first on terrain where you are comfortable and stakes are low. The party line is that you always start on a green and work up. I get that. Personally I find that practicing scarved turns like this on a green slope doesn't give me the feedback I need. I like to practice it on a steepish blue that has very good snow (not ice). The appended photo from quite a few years ago shows such a scarved turn on such a slope, in such snow. Note the wide track visible in my wake (large skid angle), and the generous amount of snow being tossed up by my skis even though they are pointed straight down the fall line. Now HOW you get there, is a matter for an instructor to help you with. I'm not one, but I thought it would be helpful to be able to articulate some of the things you can think about shooting for when you do have that lesson.

 

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

 

  • "Brush" your turns from the very top. If you look at the appended much-referenced-on-this-site graphic, the thing to take away in the specific context of this thread is that your skis can and should have some degree of skid all the way through. I.e., it doesn't have to and should not be "accelerate through the fall line and then jam on the brakes in the last third of the turn."

 

I was thinking of this exact graphic when I responded, but didn't know where to find it. This concept of bleeding speed throughout a turn using skid angle is the absolute bread and butter of my tree skiing arsenal. That and the using micro terrain as mentioned. It's not slamming them sideways, its letting them smear through the whole turn. 

 

The other thing about this skid angle is being able to create it in extremely narrow spots. In New England woods, you often end up on certain tracks or traverses where your only option is a corridor that isn't even wide enough to get your skis sideways, and doesn't allow for turns. In those situations, I'm constantly throwing in tiny brushed turns to manage speed. I'm hardly ever just pointing my skis and letting the track take me for a ride, instead i'm twitching my skis from side to side, maybe 5-10 degrees each way to create a small skid angle that keeps me somewhat in control of speed. 

post #13 of 23

What freeski919 said with the addition, in my case, of an occasional little snowplow on the narrow traverses when you want to scrub some speed.  Often you will be on a little roller coaster of a traverse and you may want to lose a little speed before a tricky section.  Hitting the brakes with a bit of a wedge just another option.

 

It does take time and experience to learn to trust, not only yourself, but that there will be a line open to ski.  Once you become comfortable with those 2 things it takes less effort to ski the woods.

 

 Another tactic I use in deep snow, usually when I am a bit tired and don't think I can make a turn fast enough to avoid a tree, or am just feeling lazy. is to just sit on my butt.  This will bring you to a stop quickly and softly.  It is best used on steeper terrain as that makes it easier to stand back up.  Falling in deep snow is the fastest way I know to wear yourself out.  Not the falling part - that takes no energy and is kind of fun, soft and restful.  Getting back up is the hard part.

post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post

 

 

It does take time and experience to learn to trust, not only yourself, but that there will be a line open to ski.  Once you become comfortable with those 2 things it takes less effort to ski the woods.

 

That's another good point. If you are skiing a well tracked set of trees, you are going to find that the lines present themselves as skiable based on where the tracks are. You'll never find a well tracked line suddenly end, it always leads somewhere, and pretty much always does so in a way that allows you to manage your speed. After all, the people that skied the line before you wanted to manage their speed too. You'll see little spurs where people bail out of the line, you'll see turns snaked to either side of a main line, you'll see spots where the turn has become hugely banked because everybody executes a high skid angle turn around that same tree... as you get started, it's a matter of reading that, and trusting that those who skied it already have laid a good line. Which they inevitably have. 

post #15 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post
 

That's another good point. If you are skiing a well tracked set of trees, you are going to find that the lines present themselves as skiable based on where the tracks are. You'll never find a well tracked line suddenly end, it always leads somewhere, and pretty much always does so in a way that allows you to manage your speed. After all, the people that skied the line before you wanted to manage their speed too. You'll see little spurs where people bail out of the line, you'll see turns snaked to either side of a main line, you'll see spots where the turn has become hugely banked because everybody executes a high skid angle turn around that same tree... as you get started, it's a matter of reading that, and trusting that those who skied it already have laid a good line. Which they inevitably have. 

 

Oh, I believe the person who came before me wanted to manage their speed as well...  But we all have different "speed tolerances" and reflexes...  Yes, the track that you're following will go somewhere...  but your ability to follow that set of tracks is by no means guaranteed.

 

that's my viewpoint (as a tree skiing novice).  Your idea of a good line and my idea of a good line are two different things.  It's like with bump skiing; novice bumpers need nice low angle round bumps where all lines work...  once you start to get the hang of it, all kinds of things start looking like good -- or at least doable -- lines, including the "well, this sucks, but it'll work" lines.

 

My $0.02.

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

Kendo fan boy here reporting for duty.  :D  I love Kendos in bumps and trees... but have come to realize that I prefer a stiffer ski than most in those conditions.   You need to get them up to speed to enjoy them in the bumps and trees.  :eek  Someone learning will be better off on a softer flexing ski.

 

Learn how to ski bumps first, then work your way into the trees!  

 

+1 to this (I also have kendos in the same size).

 

A good drill for managing speed in tight spaces is skiing on cat tracks.  Stay in a straight line, no turns, and practice scrubbing speed by pressuring your edges and tails in a controlled skid / partial side slip. I'm sure you've probably been on a crowded cat track before and had to do this.  It's really the same concept, just that in chutes it's obviously much steeper.

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

Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post

 
That's another good point. If you are skiing a well tracked set of trees, you are going to find that the lines present themselves as skiable based on where the tracks are. You'll never find a well tracked line suddenly end, it always leads somewhere, and pretty much always does so in a way that allows you to manage your speed. After all, the people that skied the line before you wanted to manage their speed too. You'll see little spurs where people bail out of the line, you'll see turns snaked to either side of a main line, you'll see spots where the turn has become hugely banked because everybody executes a high skid angle turn around that same tree... as you get started, it's a matter of reading that, and trusting that those who skied it already have laid a good line. Which they inevitably have. 

Oh, I believe the person who came before me wanted to manage their speed as well...  But we all have different "speed tolerances" and reflexes...  Yes, the track that you're following will go somewhere...  but your ability to follow that set of tracks is by no means guaranteed.

that's my viewpoint (as a tree skiing novice).  Your idea of a good line and my idea of a good line are two different things.  It's like with bump skiing; novice bumpers need nice low angle round bumps where all lines work...  once you start to get the hang of it, all kinds of things start looking like good -- or at least doable -- lines, including the "well, this sucks, but it'll work" lines.

My $0.02.

Yeah, worn-in lines have a natural speed and going a different speed sometimes doesn't work so well. More precisely it is a natural skid angle more than the speed itself. That's why being able to do a little speed check between the tricky bits can help.

Edit - or maybe it's a natural radius. Anyway, something is trying to dictate the pace.
Edited by mdf - 2/24/15 at 10:02am
post #18 of 23
Quote:
 I'm an intermediate skier (5'10, 200lbs) and I ski on Volkl Kendos. My question is about skiing in narrow, steep trails.

Wrong tool for the job.

 

Quote:
 Do you think my 177 cm Volkl Kendos, with a 22.6 meter turn radius, are the problem?

Yep.  It takes a very skilled, very athletic skier to handle skis like these on the narrow steep trails.  I'm not saying it can't be done; I'm saying that you're making it hard on yourself with these skis.

 

"While all skis are getting better, there remains no doubt as to which genre of skis are best in a qualitative sense. Sorry all you fat boys, it's the citizen race category (often referred to as "beer league" models) that is producing the most exquisite set of on-snow sensations for the skilled recreational skier.  What's insane about this state of affairs is that practically no one in America buys technical skis, almost invariably preferring a ride with a wider girth to these slender rockets with a velvet touch."

http://www.realskiers.com/NEWSLETTERS/big-picture.html

 

I was skiing in Austria a couple of weeks ago.  The rental shops were doing a great business in skis like the Head SuperShapes (which I rented).  Great skis for on-piste.  Great for narrow steep trails.  This type of ski will make most skiers a better skier, but they aren't the current fad.

post #19 of 23

Oh god... here we go.

post #20 of 23
So wait, the cheater gs ski is the best for eastern trees?
This is when I wish Josh could make an apoearance.

Btw, it's not the radius so much as the flex. Plus the design. Even stuff like a rounded tail can give you options that a flat tail might hang up on.
post #21 of 23

Does the term "rotary skills" mean some degree of tail pushing?

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

Does the term "rotary skills" mean some degree of tail pushing?

 

I'm not a professional, but no, I don't think so. Rotation should occur from your whole foot. Tail pushing is done with the heels and is not as balanced. Although I'd love someone who actually knows what they're talking about to say if I'm right or not.

post #23 of 23

The tools, technique and strategy all depend a great deal on the terrain, tree density and snow conditions.

 

For firm conditions, a narrower ski is appropriate, of course, and it may be helpful if you have mastered the pivot slip, which may offer some speed control without heel pushing and without actually changing your direction of travel. While in a slip, you can easily change direction of travel with a small increase in edge engagement.

 

Worn-in lines may have issues, as mentioned previously. Your skill level may not match the skill level of the previous skiers in the line. In addition, as the line gets more worn, it also tends to get faster.

 

In the West, snow in the trees is rarely firm, and you will need a big enough ski to allow you to smear it in soft snow or crud.

 

With practice, you may also begin to see, in some cases, that the limited, closed corridor straight down the fall line that you could see most easily is not as closed as you thought. Once you begin to see alternative (but less obvious) lines, you can choose slower lines which allow you to do more carving and less smearing. This strategy obviously doesn't work if the trees are too dense, or if the spaces are clogged with underbrush, but practice and experience will often reveal options you had missed previously.

 

It's a little bit like being able to see multiple lines in the bumps in addition to the most obvious zipper line.

 

Slower lines, of course, can be skied with more focus on going and less focus on speed control.

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