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Carving on ice: technique or gear or what?

post #1 of 87
Thread Starter 
I opened season at Whistler (actually Blackcomb) yesterday. It was raining couple of days before and then -11C yesterday, so whole mountain was frozen. There was 1-2 inches of fresh snow on the top.
Everyone was skiing the same run and by sliding around pretty soon almost entire run was very slick – very smooth hard snow.
I had a lot of trouble trying to carve in this type of snow. I had 2 pairs of skis: new Atomic SL:11 165 WC version and Volkl Vertigo Motion 191.
Early in the morning skiing was great, I had a lot of fun. Later in the day, when this glass-like surface formed I suddenly realized that I can not curve any more on especially on stepper/icier places. My Volkls were skidding sideways, both skis, not tail or tip but entire ski! It was strange feeling and I could not stop it: as soon as I put ski on edge it started skidding. I switched to SL:11s, they were MUCH better, but I was still no able to create high edge angle. Also after 2-3 carved turns I was going too fast for crowded slope.
I tried different things and some helped a bit. Wider stance, more pressure on front and less aggressive initiating of the turn helped. Still results were less then ideal, especially on Volkls.
So what is the right way to carve on ice? Is it really possible to create high angle aggressive turn in those conditions? WC racers are definitely doing this, however I do not know how slick the race course is/should be and if it matters at all.
Please share your thoughts.
post #2 of 87
A WC race course is prob harder and slicker than anything you have ever been on. If you were skiing the ski that I believe is known as the G2(sort of a gold color?)then you might have had some problems. It's an all mountain ski from a few seasons ago. As I remember, it was good in powder crud ,bumps etc but not so great on ice. Sort of an early mid fat.

But even on that ski you should be able to get some turns in.

Step 1: Are your skis tuned? with no burs? This is super important
Step 2: Don't tense up, you need to stay loose on ice especially in the ankles and kneees
Step3: Commit to the turn in a deliberate but smooth way.

As far as speding up after 2-3 turns make sure that you hang onto the turn longer, complete the turn up the hill a bit if you have to.
post #3 of 87
Welcome to Western NY type conditions!!!

The answer is... both. We will start with gear, then move to the more touchy issue of technique.

I would imagine that your Volkls - even with the best of tunes would not hold well on ice, especially ice such as you described. Your SL:11's should have been fine, but again you will still need a relatively decent tune on them. The problem with carving on ice with very stiff skis is that you need a platform to brace yourself against to bend the ski into a turn, thus a slightly softer ski with higher torsional rigidity will usually work much better than a very stiff ski like the SL:11. Most western skiers are not accustomed to this type of skiing.

Technique on ice is very touchy and very picky. As was said previously, you have to commit. You also, must put 99% of your weight onto your downhill ski. As soon as you back off and go to a two footed stance you will lose your edge. You need as much weight as possible on the outside ski. When you initiate your turn, be sure that you are angulating and not banking... in other words, do not lean in with your upper body. Your shoulders and hands should stay square and you should feel a pinch at your ribs from your lower body agulating while your upper body stays quiet. This is a huge part of maintaining the weight on the downhill ski. Also, stay out of the back seat. Try to maintain your balance over the center (slightly foreward of center on atomics) of the ski. Use a straight outside leg in your turn and push down through the bottom of your foot in the middle of the turn - as to increase the amount of force on your outside ski. Now, as for regulating your speed. Make a clean arc and bring it either back up the hill, or depending on your amount of athleticism and desired amount of exertion, across the hill. Both will allow you to maintain a relatively constant speed. This speed might still be fast, but if you follow the above steps you will be in perfect control.

Once you are able to perform the above step, you will love to carve on ice. Personally, i prefer to carve on blue ice over powder, packed powder, groomed... pretty much anything. You will find that your race skis are made for this kind of ice. They love it. The more you push them, the more they will give back. On softer snow, often the snow will crumble and give away before the ski starts to give away. The harder the snow, the less likely you are of having this happen. You will be able to get huge amounts of energy out of your skis, and bend them into very tiny arcs, because they will keep digging into the ice. At some point, stop and look at your train track looking turns, and notice how much your edge is cutting into the ice. After that, you can think of the tracks like setting your skis in a groove that they cant be brought out of, and you can use that to build confidence in those types of conditions.


post #4 of 87
Forgot one thing. Dont get scared, as soon as you freeze up and lock your muscles youre done for. You have to keep your turns as a very fluid motion in order to absorb bumps you may come across in the ice. As soon as you hit one of those when youre tensed up, you will skip across the ice like a stone on water (or a stone being skipped on ice for that matter - either way it wont be enjoyable). Also, from now on dont bother with the Volkls on those days. They arent torsionally stiff enough to be able to be powered in those kinds of conditions, so you will end up locking into the radius that they default to and hanging on. Which might be fun for a run or two, but other people on the trail may find you and your 50 mph turns intrusive. When you come out of the carve on your SL:11's, stay centered, and keep your knees loose and bent when your making the stop. Chances are the skis will chatter and bounce in their attempt to keep carving, but just hang on and bring them to a stop. NEVER, lean onto your uphill ski when your stopping like that on ice... and if you do make sure no one is downhill of you (trees included).
post #5 of 87
Sharp edges work for me.
post #6 of 87
Thread Starter 
Volkl Vertigo Motion are the same as Volkl G3 2002 but they have motion bindings. I normally like them on hard snow, they are rather stiff also and normally do have great edge hold.
Edges are tuned fine on those skis, not super sharp, but OK. I do not know if it could make difference that great.
I could control my speed on SL:11, actually I'm very satisfied with the skis and how I skied on those. Still I believe there is something wrong with my technique and SL:11s just hide it when less then ideal Volkls expose the problem.
I could not really control my speed via turn shape on Volkls because skidding was happening at the end of the turn. And it was not just "some" skidding, it was practically sliding downhill sideways. So I initiate turn OK, start carving turn but soon after I cross the fall line I lose the edge (more evident on stip and icy patches at higher speed). Of course I could ski down like that just fine, but I was not able to create anything close to railroad tracks.
I was first day of the season after all and I did not concentrate on this thing only, there was some snowmaking with softer snow and some runs were not that icy so I had a great day. But this problem with carving on ice really surprised me, I never experience this before: start good carving turn but after turn progresses and I expect the skis to hook up more I loose the edge completely and slide sidaways. I appreciate all help and theories.
post #7 of 87
Originally Posted by HeluvaSkier
When you initiate your turn, be sure that you are angulating and not banking... in other words, do not lean in with your upper body. Your shoulders and hands should stay square and you should feel a pinch at your ribs from your lower body agulating while your upper body stays quiet. This is a huge part of maintaining the weight on the downhill ski.
Greg, do you use active driving of the inside hip to stop that shoulder from dropping and what is the role of the lateral position of the inside ski in this?
post #8 of 87
Thread Starter 

Thanks a lot for valuable input. All makes perfect sense, just one question on 99% weight on outside ski. I believe you are actually right and the main reason why I could not carve well is because there is not enough weight on the ski and it just can not bite into the snow. At the same time I could not create this distribution: it is easier to do in narrow stance and it did not work for me at all. In wider stance it was about 60/40 and to get better weight distribution I needed more speed or more turn shape and either resulted in skidding. So I was not doing something else to properly hook my skis on edge.
So let’s say I start a turn with 50/50 distribution (changing edges) in wide stance. As turn progresses I’m putting more weight to the outside, 60/40, 70/30 – bang, I’m sliding sideways and 50/50 or worth again because there is no traction at all and my skis are not under me at this point, they are more outside…, so I can only stay on two foots or fall down.
One more comment, those icy conditions or more speed in turns do not make me uncomfortable, I still really enjoy it and ski in control, but I the same time I could not do something I wanted to do. I have to say almost everyone had similar trouble on that ice, there were several racing schools, all on SL skis and most of those kids had problems carving clean arcs.

post #9 of 87
Originally Posted by Sidecut
A WC race course is prob harder and slicker than anything you have ever been on.
Water injected snow still has a grippier feel than the melted refrozen ski off stuff we get here in the PNW.
post #10 of 87
Originally Posted by HeluvaSkier
Welcome to Western NY type conditions!!!

The answer is... both. We will start with gear, then move to the more touchy issue of technique.
Greg, Excellent explanation. it takes alot of practice and an increduble amount of touch & feel especially at the top of the turn. You must be very light but all your weight on your outside ski and not push on the skis until the edge hooks up. What a dichotomy! How can you be light but have your weight all on the outside ski adn be light at the top of the turn and control your speed?


A lot of our racers going to out of Division FIS racrers for the first time are in shock after skiing in the PNW snow. It can take a year of practice on injected snow to reallt get the feel for it. Once they have like Greg said it is their favorite snow to ski on!
post #11 of 87
StevensMan - excellent thread so far. Lots of very useful information.

First of all, if its icy and fearly steep you cannot carve more than a few turns before hitting the speed limit on a public pist (or you are not doing it properly, see my therad "skiiers think they can carve but they cant").

Since fast skiing is all about controlling speed and carving really doesent slow you down you need to do something to brake your speed. Now, HelluvaSkier, correct me if Im wrong but the SL11's have a turnradius of 14m. I skied last year with Head iSL's with the same kind of turn radius and compared to a friend on Atomic SL9's I made way bigger arches and I was way too fast on steaper runs. Would the SL9's work better in conditions like this with a 11m turn radius and a softer tip and tail? I personally think Atomics Beta's allways have been superb on ice. That edge hold is magnificent on all models. They feel light on the foot and very crisp cutting through ice.

If someone is skidding on ice while trying to carve, me included, I would also at first point the attention towards putting as much pressure on your outside ski as possible and counter the g-force by bringing your hipps into the turn. And I cannot but shake my head in frustration at some who still are trying to convince the public that WC racers have their weight on both skiis, no inside ski lead and hipps remain centered over skiis. Like Sidecut said:

Originally Posted by Sidecut
A WC race course is prob harder and slicker than anything you have ever been on.
Unintentional skidding by the way is 99% of the time caused by a rotating hip. Intentional skidding is 99% of the time achieved by a rotating hip.
post #12 of 87
I see recommendations for tuning your skis but more specifically try more side bevel. A very usable side angle of 3 degrees will give you a good grip but still allow for an easy release. Many racers are using as much as 6 degrees or more however these angles are unforgiving for less than skilled skiers and sacrifice durability but if you want to carve on ice....nervana.
post #13 of 87
Originally Posted by bud heishman
I see recommendations for tuning your skis but more specifically try more side bevel. A very usable side angle of 3 degrees will give you a good grip but still allow for an easy release. Many racers are using as much as 6 degrees or more however these angles are unforgiving for less than skilled skiers and sacrifice durability but if you want to carve on ice....nervana.
Atomics come factory tuned with a 3 degree side edge. If your are going to be on a lot of ice a 4 or 5 would help, but you still need the technique. the harder you push on your outside ski at the top of the turn the more you will skid. you must be light and ginger and wait for the edg to hook up before standing hard on it!

Tough, takes lots of practice
post #14 of 87
As someone who mainly skis in Ontario, I see my fair share of ice. Getting to be good really just takes practice, it's not something you can just try changing your technique for and you'll instantly get it. I find it's more a question of finesse than anything. As someone else mentioned, you need to be "light" on your skis - if you try to apply too much power, for example jamming on your edges too fast, you'll skid out. You need to be gradual in applying edging - and definitely angulation rather than inclination. To control speed, just work on your turn shape - work for rounder, fully carved turns.

Once you get some practice, you'll find ice really isn't a problem at all. I really just go over it without thinking about it, and I actually enjoy a good icy slope, lots of fun to crank out some railroad tracks at high speed (although I ski at a private club, so I don't have to worry so much about crowds to avoid).
post #15 of 87
Besides sharp edges, there are a few other things you need to consider. You need to make small radius turns if you want to go slow when carving, and you will be less able to force your ski into a smaller radius than it was designed for on ice. The bigger side angle will help, so will shifting your weight to the rear a little at the end of the turn. As to wether one or two edges work better, it depends on how sharp you want to turn and how stiff you skis are; play it by ear. Icy conditions are fast conditions, I love skiing after freezing rain because I can go faster. I like carving on ice, but I don't mind going fast on ice either. On a steep pitch there is less normal force, as you have a smaller component of gravity normal to the hill. I don't ask my edges for more than they can give me on these pitches either. When the situation demands it I skid (just like Bode).
post #16 of 87
If you try to ski too slow a line on ice, you are going to skid.
post #17 of 87
1 question. Why would pressure on the outside ski edge be more effective than pressure on both ski edges. Doesn't 2 edges have more biting force than 1?
post #18 of 87


StevensMAn: Without seeing you ski it sounds like you're at least slightly banking or inclining your upper body during turns. On ice more than any other condition you must be in a very angulated (ie-upper body vertical with shoulders level with the horizon), position. This position transfers the weight to the outside ski and helps you hold onto the higher edge angle you need on ice. As already mentioned in other posts, you must also be smooth with your movements.

One way to measure if your upper body is inclined is that your inside pole will typically drag in the snow (ice in this case). Someone mentioned being square to your skis throughout the turn. If you do this you will rotate the outside foot, knee, hip, into the direction of the turn and you will lose the edge engagement or have more difficulty holding onto your edge grip. What you need to do is to focus your upper body to the outside of the turn facing down the hill, and ski to a countered relationship with your upper body.

When you release into the next turn the torsional forces, which have built up will help you start your skis toward the new turn direction. In addition, skiing hard icy conditions is the art of pressure management. When you feel the forces build up from the middle to the end or the turn you may feel your skis begin to chatter (a kind of grab and release quickly on their own). If you're feeling this happen then you need to release into the new turn sooner. This feeling is frequently an indication of holding the turn too long with too much pressure build up. So go with the flow and release sooner and you should feel a smoother transition to the new turn with greater control.

I haven't commented on your skis, since I'm not familiar with the Vokl skis flex and other characteristics. Best of luck with your challenge on ice. Like someone else said, we call this "Eastern Powder".

whtmt & Mackenzie 911
post #19 of 87
Hey StevensMan: I skied Blackcomb today and it was ICY. Nobody on his first day on skis is gonna carve on that. Relax and get your feel back. Do some drills. Check out the NASTAR site. They have some first day on snow drills. (Mostly sliding turns).
post #20 of 87
From those of you who know of such things: May we assume that skiing a race course free of those pesky "other skiers" is somehow different than skiing a "non-injected" relatively uncontrolled condition slope at a crowded resort?
post #21 of 87
While, there is some fantastic advice here (especially from HeluvaSkier, who probably has seen his share of ice), I think it is highly unrealistic for the average skier (non-racer) to carve ice in any effective manner, unless they go very fast and manage to dig the outside edge deep into the ice.

Even if the commitment and skill are there, crowded slopes simply aren't the ideal ground for such skiing. Remember that when you carve ice, you are truly at the mercy of the natural radius of the ski. You can bend the ski, but it takes even more skill to keep a bent ski fully engaged on ice.
post #22 of 87
StevensMan, i saw your other two questions and i will try to explain them as best i can - and apply it to recreational skiing, as most of my ski training involves racing. The two kind of go hand in hand.

When you are transitioning you will want to go from all of your weight on one ski to having all of your weight on the other ski (outside ski to outside ski). This is a very athletic way to ski, and requires that you use the skis rebound to transition yourself. your skis will almost float across the fall line. In order to get the rebound i have always thought of it as dropping my hip into the turn (not rotating). This will allow you to pressure the ski even more as i mentioned above. The best application to recreational skiing that i can come up with would be to bring your skis directly across the fall line (almost perpendicular) and at that point engage your uphill ski. Drop your hip, put all of your weight on that ski, and ride it around in about a 170 degree arc. Brase all of your weight against it, using your inside ski for balance only. First try this on a relatively medium grade slope (blue square or something) so that you get used to the feeling without gaining too much uncomfortable speed.

You should try to minimize the time you spend on both edges and in transition. Dont think of it as several stages - think of it as one motion between turns. When dialing in your technique it is good to think of the turn in 3 stages, but when actually making the turn you have to think of it all at once, or you will get hung up in a certain part of the turn. I think this may be why youre ending up on your inside ski mid turn. It will take a little bit of faith that your edges will catch and hold you at first but once you get used to making one motion across the hill in transition you will find your skiing and how effortless youre able to transition your turns improves greatly.


post #23 of 87
tdk6, In theory the SL:9 would be a better ice ski, but in reality it isnt. This is because that either due to its different construction or due to its increased width, it loses significant torsional rigidity when compared to the SL:11. Torsional stiffness is what its all about on ice. I prefer to have a ski that i can bend on ice to make my turns, versus a ski that will make a turn for me, because that means you can put more energy into the ski, and still get a reasonably large radius, and still have the ski hold on the snow. In reality, the more energy you put into your skis, as long as there arent any sudden movements, the better edgehold you will have. Ifyou are relying on only the sidecut of the ski to turn you - it just wont work on ice because you wont have the centripetal (sp?) force to hold you up.

I think of carving kind of like the kid who takes a bucket of water and swings it in a vertical circle. The water doesnt spill, but if he stops swinging the water when the bucket is upside down, then he gets very wet... and probably has an angry mother. The same is true with carving. You must have that force to stay up through a turn, or you simply tip over (or rock to your inside ski... and you guessed it... tip over/skid out (on ice that is). If you stop mid turn, you have to bail on the carve and go back to your 60/40 or 50/50 weight distribution, and of course lose all of your edgehold. If we do this in a race we end up with a very unhappy coach (kind of like the boy and his mother); i suppose it cold be likened to a skier falling into another pedestrian skier while bailing on a turn though.

StevensMan - i just realized i didnt explain why you need 100% on the outside ski. If you think about it, it is much easier to gain your edgehold from your downhill ski - even when you hockey stop you use that ski to stop you. The same is true with carving. You could thoeretically carve only on your inside ski (it is possible - i can do it), but it takes a lot of effort to get your body balanced over that leg versus bracing your weight against the downhill leg. One edge works best since it gives you one thing to focus on, and a way to put sometimes up to 4 to 5 times your body weight on the ski in a turn (centripetal force again). Look at snowboarders when they really lay out arcs - its the most impressive thing on snow if you ask me, but they do it effortlessly because all of their weight in focused on one edge, no matter what. As soon as you do something to disrupt the weight on that edge you will ski out. This is assuming your over the sweet spot on your skis, because if you fall to the back seat, that inside foot has to move foreward (leads too far int his case) and you end up having to weight it to stay on your feet - and there goes the edgehold... and you probably pick up a bruise or two - i do at least. I know this is long so ill wrap it up, but try those things out when youre skiing. You will probably have to use 90/10 on a flat trail, but you will get the feel for it. Learn it there and take it to a steeper trail.


post #24 of 87
Oh, and if you want any hand tuning tips PM me.
post #25 of 87
Thread Starter 
Wow, everyone, thanks for the responses and fantastic advised. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we do not have this type of snow often on PNW and even if it re-freezes after day of rain slopes normally are much grippier then ice glided out by thousand of skiers. I’m really looking forward to try some thing I learned here, so now I have to wait for ice )
Whtmt, your guess it excellent and it may be main source of my problems: sometimes I bank more then I have too. I normally get away with this and now I’m glad that it is exposed, it means I have to fix it.
Also, I checked my skis, well, edges are not as good as I thought they are. They are relatively sharp, but with a lot of burrs, I guess it does not help either.
Again, thanks a lot everyone for great advices. This site is the best )
I may need more information after I try more things, I hope next week we may have something opened locally…
Another question for ice experts: is it possible to carve (or come close) a turn in less then sidecut radius? In other words, it is possible to carve 14m turn on 21m skis? It can be done on softer snow, but on ice it was almost all or nothing – good carved turn or skidding all the way.
One more thing I do not really understand, when WC racers skid they normally finish skidding by starting new carve, sort of checked turn. Again, on softer snow it can be done by increasing edge angle/pressure, but they do it on hard ice. How is it done? Magic?
post #26 of 87
Yes, you can bend a ski into a shorter radius than it naturally carves. In my posts above i tried to explain how it works, and how ice is actually better for that sort of thing. I'm not an instructor by any means, so sometimes the correct words to explain skiing escape me. But it can be and is frequently done. That is how you can get so much snap out of a ski on ice. Because the surface youre carving on is so hard you can easily bend the ski on it.

As for WC racers skidding their turns, it is done as a speed check. They carve the end of the turn so they can start carving the new turn. Someone here recently posted an article where Bode described his racing technique. He skids every single right hand turn (i think it was right) in order to get a tighter line around the gate. He scrubs speed just enough to keep him in the course, and the scrubbed speed in compensated by the tighter line. This is why Bode is often late for one gate and early for the next. As for how its done on ice - same way, it just requires a lot more outside ski focus and quads the size of tree trunks.
post #27 of 87
I liked the reference of a carved snowboard turn and the explanation of what is occurring with all the weight applied to one edge. I've never associated this taking place with carved snowboard turns, but it certainly is occurring in a carved snowboard turn and valiates the need to have as much weight as possible on the downhill ski to facilitate a pure carve on ice- hard pack conditions.

I wonder which is more difficult , high edge high speed carves on skis or snowboard turns where the snowboard is way up on edge and the rider is almost touching the snow? Obviously both take a lot of skill and practice.
post #28 of 87
Don't surprize your skis or the ice! You need a light touch by always allowing the skis to move forward thru the turn. Try cutting a ripe tomato with the knife going down quick and hard, then try moving the knife forward thru the tomato same apply's to your skis on ice.
post #29 of 87
Originally Posted by HeluvaSkier
tdk6, In theory the SL:9 would be a better ice ski, but in reality it isnt. This is because that either due to its different construction or due to its increased width, it loses significant torsional rigidity when compared to the SL:11
I think that the reason the SL:9 isn't as torsionally stiff as the 11 is because of the extreme shape of the sidecut. The 11 has a fairly narrow shovel for a slalom ski, and that helps with the torsional stiffness. The wide shovel on the 9 does the opposite. If you think about how a ski bends to meet the snow surface, the wider the shovel (in comparison to the waist), the more the waist will have to flex down to have snow contact. This makes for more torsional bending.

That said, I have an SL:9, and it has an incredible edge hold, especially on ice. I haven't tried the 11 on ice, so I can't compare, but the 9 is certainly better than just about anything else out there in terms of edge hold.
post #30 of 87
Could StevensMan acquire at least part of this (the shoulder/hip/extension) by finding some skates and a hockey/speed coach and practicing crossovers?
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