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Skiing blue ice

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
The seemingly weekly thaw-refreeze cycles that have engulfed the East Coast have produced sheets of blue ice on portions of the trails atmy favorite mountains. I don't have too much trouble with blue ice so long as there's at least some snow (or even white ice) nearby on which to initiate the turn. But when I'm faced with trail-width wide sheets of blue ice, I've just taken to doing high-speed sideslips or straight-lining it and worrying about the speed on the other side.

Any other suggestions for dealing with blue ice? Is it even possible to make a turn on you-can-see-through-it type ice?
post #2 of 24
In my experience, there really isn't much you can do on that type of ice except keep moving with your skis. As you probably know, the initial reaction that most people experience when skiing on blue, skating-rink-type ice is to sit back or do something funny and essentially get out of balance, thereby eliminating any chance of making the appropriate movements to control speed, etc.

It's definitely possible to make a turn (although probably not a carved turn) on the ice, but you just have to expect that as you turn, you're going to continue moving down the fall line. You just can't let yourself get out of balance due to the loss of grip that you'll feel. Just keep practicing and focus on not letting your skis get away from you
post #3 of 24
I especially like the ice that is covered by a real thin layer of loose granular, so you come screamin' around, expecting to get a nice edge and...whooopsie, get a bit off course. How fun.

My technique is to keep em on edge, and adjust the angle of attack on your turns. In other words, know that the turn may take longer, etc. I agree with the Orange Fish that a lot of people do this weird 'sit in the back seat' dance when they hit the slippery stuff.
post #4 of 24
My technique is single malt in the base lodge.
post #5 of 24
Skis - reduce base bevel, increase side bevel and keep'em sharp.
Boots - snug'em up
Tactics - longer radius turns, using line to control speed
Technique - Adapt. You might try using a bit more flexed stance, so rolling feet can tip lower leg shafts further, while counterbalancing further to move upper body weight out over the downhill ski a bit more to increase penetrating force and reduce lateral shear force on your edges.

Try it, fix it, re-sharpen edges, try again. If you stay after it and solve the puzzle, your skiing will be stronger and more adaptable forever. I became a better racer by working on skiing ice while my competition was in the bar.
post #6 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF
Any other suggestions for dealing with blue ice? Is it even possible to make a turn on you-can-see-through-it type ice?
You could start by sending some of it my way.

Try an easy touch, don't slam on the breaks and ski the slow line fast.
post #7 of 24

whtmt

Four key things come to mind:

First, have a well tuned ski always. Second, increase the width of your normal stance functionally to allow for greater edge angles. Three, increased hip and knee angulation will allow you to hold onto the turn longer and stronger. Four, create a stronger inside half (ie-greater lead with your inside knee, hip, and shoulder, not foot).

Today at Loon we had some coaches practicing improving their inside half to increase their holding power on boiler plate and ice. They did this by holding their poles together across and out in front of their chest, with them facing their torso down the fall line. Combining this with an increased open stance throughout the turn allowed them to remain in balance no matter how much ice they skied over.

The strength in this position is created by keeping the hip inside the turn and creating enough counter rotation to not let the hip rotate to the outside of the turn, which causes the femur to turn to the outside. When this happens on hard ice / boiler plate conditions the outside ski will lose the edge angle because their is not enough strength in knee angulation to hold the edge at a high enough angle on the ice. Therefore, the outside ski will wash out / slide out and at the least a slight A-Frame will be seen.

whtmt & Mackenzie 911
post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Orange Fish
In my experience, there really isn't much you can do on that type of ice except keep moving with your skis. As you probably know, the initial reaction that most people experience when skiing on blue, skating-rink-type ice is to sit back or do something funny and essentially get out of balance, thereby eliminating any chance of making the appropriate movements to control speed, etc.

It's definitely possible to make a turn (although probably not a carved turn) on the ice, but you just have to expect that as you turn, you're going to continue moving down the fall line. You just can't let yourself get out of balance due to the loss of grip that you'll feel. Just keep practicing and focus on not letting your skis get away from you
My bolding here, Orange Fish. This is the single most important thing I've heard yet! What a revelation!

Lots of people yak on about edge angle, pressure, etc, : but you've got the key to ice skiing.

Loss of grip, SIDESLIPPING, in a way, is what that feels like. This is what scares me, and probably lots of other people. I don't know about others, but fear dictates my skill level at times. I must learn to take this feeling of washing out and make it as normal as skiing the hero snow we rarely get here.

Kee Tov skied with us a couple of weeks ago for a while at night. It was very icy, and I was feeling out of control on even the mildest run. It was frigid cold and the snow was squeaky, hard, icy, and FAST. He wanted me to practice sideslipping. This is why. If I become friends with the sound (SCRAAAAAAAPE) and feel (I'm on nothing solid!) then fear will not dictate my movements, I can breathe normally, and I can ski instead of sit in the lodge and waste my day.:

I'm trying. It's getting better every day I ski.
post #9 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whtmt
create a stronger inside half (ie-greater lead with your inside knee, hip, and shoulder, not foot).
Thanks for the comments. I've quoted this one in particular as it appears to be in direct violation of some of the things I learned at ETU this year. One of the things Doug (my instructor at ETU) told me was that I tend to initiate the edge change by moving my hips across my skis. Doug wanted to see my initial movement be a foot-tipping type action and to only actively engage the knees and hips if I was actually going fast enough to need that sort of angulation.

That seems to be the opposite of what you are saying (along with some of the others who have commented in this thread). Is blue ice simply a situation where nearly maximum edge angles are required to have any prayer of holding?

I imagine World Cup racers are skiing on something pretty close to tilted hockey rinks (which I guess answers the initial question -- yes, it can be skied). They're obviously angulated to a point that defies belief, but I felt their angulation was more due to the speed they were carrying then the conditions under their feet. Comments?
post #10 of 24
Just to expand a bit, Some people seem to advocate a balanced stance 50/50, 60/40 thereby effectively doubling the length of edge-surface contact. Others claim that on ice, nearly all one's weight should be balanced on the outside ski. Opinions from either camp?
post #11 of 24
"But when I'm faced with trail-width wide sheets of blue ice"

Why don't you find a mountain that would not open a trail with that dangerous of a condition. I have skied some difficult conditions at some mountains, but IMO that trail should have been closed.
post #12 of 24

Dealing with blue ice

1. Sharp edges. In his latest book of tips, Ron LeMaster says ski edges should be sharpened at least every other day if you're skiing on ice. Racers typically sharpen (or at least touch up) their edges after every day of skiing. By contrast, most recreational skiers probably don't even take the burrs out of their edges more than once or twice a season. So go have your ski shop sharpen your edges, or learn to do it yourself.

2. Side bevel of 3 degrees or more. Atomic's racing skis (SL 11.12, GS 11.21, SX:11s) come with one degree base bevel, three degrees side bevel, which creates a sharper than 90 degree edge to cut into ice. World Cup racers, who typically run on injected ice courses, sometimes have 5 or 6 degrees of side bevel on their slalom skis. There's a general primer on bevel at the Tognar toolworks Web site, under tips and tricks. www.tognar.com. If you ski a lot on ice, you might consider a side bevel greater than 3.

3. Don't change directions fast. (Another way of saying ski the slow line fast.)

4. Commit your weight more than usual to the outside ski. It takes a lot of pressure to carve on ice, and ice skiing is less two-footed than in softer snow. This means angulation, not just inclination, since bullet-proof ice is a nice candidate for boot out if all you do is incline and the edges slide off sideways.

5. Listen. Ice, with its scraping sound, is a great teacher, because it provides auditory feedback about what phase of the turn you're skidding. It's hard to watch yourself skiing without video, but it's easy to hear when youi're skidding if you're on ice.

6. Practice not getting back. Ice is a great teacher here, too, since everyone's worst habit when it gets hairy is to lean back, and many people do that on ice--it's a bad idea, so it's an opportunity for a lot of good practice.

7. Don't get psyched out. World Cup racers do all of that incredible skiing mostly on injected ice very similar to what you're talking about. (Ice holds up better over a field of many racers than snow.) Ice isn't as fun or effortless to free ski on, but it's a great teacher, so it gives you a nice opportunity to learn more from a day of skiing than you would on the better stuff.

Good luck!

SfDean
post #13 of 24

1 vs 2 ski's

RiDeC58,
About 5 years ago Eva Twardokens (spelling?) father wrote an article in the Pro Skier about this issue. As I recall, his conclusion (after some fairly precise measurements, from an engineering perspective) was that with a given amount of weight, total penetration of a pair of skis was greater then that of 1 ski with all the weight on it. His calculations looked at depth of penetration X length of edge.
post #14 of 24
Interesting Kaz, any other thoughts?

I know I tend to put most of my weight on my downhill ski in ice, but it has been suggested to me that I should try to balance out my stance more. Opinions? Knowledge? Data? Fantasy? Folk Lore?
post #15 of 24
I think Max Capacity said it best, such a run should be closed.

And for those of you who think WC racers ski blue ice, stop kidding yourselves. Even racers would quickly lose control and hurt/kill themselves if they hit blue ice at those speeds.
post #16 of 24

whtmt

Hi Kevin and thanks for your question. I do agree with what Doug your instructor said about turn initiation starting from tipping your foot, knee and then hip, but I was not refering to where turn initiation starts from. I was describing how to improve your ability to hold on hard ice or boiler plate.

Please let me refer you back to my description of the inside half development. This is the development of a sequence of movements that posiition the body parts (ie-alignment of the body parts), to help you counteract the forces of gravity and centrifugal force while in a turn by allowing greater edge angles to be achieved.

A strong inside half provides you with the ability to engage the edges at higher angles then you could otherwise obtain if your hips and torso were to remain in a square position to your skis. When the torso and hips stay in a square position to the skis the resulting knee angulation is rarely strong enough to allow your edge angle to become high enough to hold on the ice. This is because the knee joint has very little flexibility in a lateral bias versus its fore / aft bias position.

However, while you're turning your legs under a quiet upper body, throughout the turn as it develops with the upper body continuing to face in the direction of the new turn you will find that your inside arm, shoulder, and hip will lead the turn. In so doing your hip will remain further inside the turn, which will now allow you to add hip angulation to your knee angulation. This is how greater edge angles can be achieved.

In my original post I have described an exercise to assist in developing a stronger inside half. Please refer back to that and I think it will become clearer as to what has occured in the changed body movements.

This development however, can be used at all speeds.You should not confuse a stronger inside half development with a high rate of speed (ie-Bode Miller), needing to be reached to become effective.

One last note. If you have access to a copy of Bob Barnes' book,"The Encyclopedia of Skiing", you can source some very good explanations on the development of greater edge angles and of how a stronger inside half occurs. Best of luck with your skiing.

whtmt & Mackenzie 911
post #17 of 24

whtmt

A couple of other thoughts.

As already noted when I'm skiing ice frequently I sharpen every other day.

In reference to the weight distribution question, I have found that I am skiing most comfortably with a 70/30 or 80/20 ratio and am working my little toe side on my inside ski very aggressively. So if I do slide during a series of turns on ice, I just keep turning and adjusting the edge angles and pressure under the arches of my feet, until I find the sweet spot.

One other item is that the CM must continuously stay ahead of your feet, so if / when you begin to slide, you will have a chance to hook up without losing balance completely.

And not to beat a dead horse, but keep the stance functionally open and with increased "functional tension". Increased "functional tension" when skiing icy conditions allows you to have an "at the ready" assist in recovering your balance if your ankle is slightly closed of tensed lightly. Here in the East we tend to have a lot of long patches of icy areas where recovery is dependent on mili-seconds, so the added tension in the ankle helps to achieve a quicker edge engagement once I have slipped.

whtmt & Mackenzie 911
post #18 of 24
I just searched this one out. It was going on during late fall as i recall. It is a good thread with some good advice for skiing ice.
http://forums.epicski.com/showthread...ht=carving+ice

There are several replies in there that should serve you well.

Later

GREG
post #19 of 24
I still think that "skiing blue ice" is misleading. WC runs are far from blue ice. Blue ice describes water that has frozen solid. Climbers, skiers, boarders have died when they hit such pure ice on steep descents.
post #20 of 24
I agree TomB I don't believe any sane Mt Op's or Ski Partrol would open a run in that condition.
We all have skied on a little ice and try to avoid it when ever possible. I believe there are very few people that would beable to turn and ski on blue ice. I have skied some pretty frim surfaces. All the tips above will help a skier on frim snow, we just need to practice.

I would like to give those of us looking to improve a hint. The only way I have been able to make improvements is when I break away from my normal ski buddies and ski by myself. I can then take my time and learn the new movement's. If your trying to keep up with friends you won't have time to learn.
post #21 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by RiDeC58
Interesting Kaz, any other thoughts?

I know I tend to put most of my weight on my downhill ski in ice, but it has been suggested to me that I should try to balance out my stance more. Opinions? Knowledge? Data? Fantasy? Folk Lore?
Another thought (from a purely theoretical perspective) is that you are probably in a more stable position from all you weight on your downhill ski. This is because if you are trying to hold an edge 2 things can happen (1) you hold the edge or (2) you lose the edge and your balance point starts moving to the inside of the turn. Having all you weight on the downhill ski (coupled with a wide stance) maximises the amount of unintended slip you can manage before your weight moves inside your uphill ski and you start falling over.

My thinking is based on applied mathematics calculations I used to do at school to determine whether an object (e.g. a double decker bus going around a corner) was able to balance on its base or not.
post #22 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by whtmt
Four key things come to mind:

Today at Loon we had some coaches practicing improving their inside half to increase their holding power on boiler plate and ice. They did this by holding their poles together across and out in front of their chest, with them facing their torso down the fall line. Combining this with an increased open stance throughout the turn allowed them to remain in balance no matter how much ice they skied over.

whtmt & Mackenzie 911
Can you elaborate on the description of that exercise a bit? You have someone with their poles horizontal in front of them pointed down the hill open stance, then their are all of a sudden making turns. What happens in between? In what position do they hold the poles while turning? What movements are going on?
post #23 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by TomB

And for those of you who think WC racers ski blue ice, stop kidding yourselves. Even racers would quickly lose control and hurt/kill themselves if they hit blue ice at those speeds.
I stand corrected. (That'll teach a Western U.S. skier to talk about ice...) You're right, WC racers ski on snow that's been water injected. It's hard, it's called ice, but you're right, it's not transparent blue ice.

On the question of one footed vs. two-footed skiing, in one of his online slide shows (Alpine Racing Technique), Ron LeMaster discusses how contemporary WC technique is more two-footed than it used to be, and why. Specifically, he says modern technique involves "more pressure on inside ski" than old school technique, but notes that use of (weight on) the inside ski is "definitely increasing" but that it "varies" from World Cup skier to skier and also "varies with snow and pitch". LeMaster says there are five reasons to put weight on the inside ski:

Provides support in the first half of the turn, before the outside ski hooks up fully.
It's the safety valve for overestimating grip (my translation: if your outside ski slips instead of bites, you can try to use the edge of the inside ski to stay up instead of sliding out into boot out city/race over)
Facilitates manipulation of outside ski (my translation: you can still adjust your line/increase steering angle relatively late)
Assists fore-and-aft pressure control (e.g., better balance means more consistent ability to properly keep weight forward early in the turn to carve, with weight back late to release)"
Avoids "brutalizing softer snow" (over pressuring in softer snow conditions, leading to chatter/skid)

LeMaster notes that equipment- and technique-driven "better holding" leads to more use of the inside ski. (E.g., because a skier can put more weight on the inside ski, retaining better balance, while still arcing and staying on the course.)

http://www.ronlemaster.com/presentat...nique-2003.pdf

There's a nice quote in Modern Technique about contemporary weighting:

"The top racers have on average 80:20 ratio of outside to inside ski pressure in Slalom and 70:30 in GS. This ratio is constantly changing throughout the turn. Normally the turn is started above the fall line with 90% of pressure on the outside ski. Upon entering the fall line inside ski is starting to carry more load while it is not only assisting in maintaining lateral balance but is actively contributing to carving. It is normal to see a ratio of 60:40 in the second part of a turn. It could even be 50:50 throughout the most of a turn, but only on the flat less turny sections of a course. Loading of inside ski works and produces speed advantage only if skis are kept parallel throughout the entire turn. "

http://www.youcanski.com/english/coa..._technique.htm

In general, conventional wisdom is that in softer snow (and especially powder) skiing is more two-footed, but on hard pack or boilerplate, it's more one footed, but this is a matter of degree and emphasis. A common problem pointed out in race clinics I've attended (with Masters, club, and junior racers) is insufficient commitment to the outside ski.
post #24 of 24

whtmt

Hi Learn2turn: The exercise I described is done while holding the poles horizontally throughout the series of turns you're making. It's purpose is to provide a reference for the torso to be continuously facing down the fall line in the direction of the new turn. And yes, the poles continue to be held in the horizontal position while doing the exercise / drill.

To expand on my previous post, you would initiate turns with a release of the old outside ski (now new inside ski), while simultaneously extending the old inside ski (now new outside ski). As your turn is initiated your upper body (torso) and hips remain open and facing the direction of the new turn. As the skis (feet and legs), turn under you, your hips and upper body remain quiet with the development of countered position occuring, due to the turning of your legs under your stable and quiet upper body.

These movements are done from turn to turn with the stance width remaining functionally open, so that you will be able to control the centrifugal force that is trying to pull your skis from under you down the hill in a sideslip. Since your stance width is open and your upper body and hip alignment are also open and facing down the slope, in the direction of the new turn, you're now able to resist the forces. By managing the edge angle and engagement to a point that if some slippage occurs it will now become a controllable side slip as opposed to a complete wash out of your skis causing you to lose balance and fall.

As I previously mentioned in my earlier post, the reason for the improved holding capacity is due to the higher edge angle, which is developed by the hip remaining to the inside of the turn, which when combined with the ankle and knee joints adds increased angulation to the turn. This angulation combined with a stronger inside half allows the skier to control edging and to manage pressure throughout the turn more proactively, not reactively.

Once we finish the drill, we then ski the same turns with our normal pole touch and timing, but we continue to emphasize the retention of all three components. They are 1) the development of a stronger inside half, 2) a combination of greater ankle, knee, and hip angulation, and 3) the continuously functionally open stance, which allows the legs sufficient space to tip to a higher edge angle and hold on the ice / boiler plate.

Thanks for the question and good luck with the drill.

whtmt & Mackenzie 911
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