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Technique question for a very specific condition

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
So last sunday I hiked up to the top of peak 8 at Breckenridge to ski the lake chutes. This was probably the 5th time I have skiied them...
(for the non colorado types): Lake chutes= above treeline steeps with quite a few rocks and cliffs.

I dropped the cornice on crazy ivan's and skiied the top section fine (good thing since it does not have a safe runout). Made the turn at the bottom to see that the crud at the top had turned into a 2-3inch crust over fairly deep powder. This particular chute has a sharp turn midway that leads to a few different possibilities. I went to skiiers right and stopped above the chute on top of the crust. I assumed that it was going to basically be hard crust the rest of the way down. This section was steep enough that most people would be making jump turns at this point (i think its about 40-45 degrees- the steepest point is published as 55 degrees).

So I made my first jump turn and my right ski broke through the crust as I came down- this caused me to lose my balance on the downhill side and proceed to ragdoll to the bottom- fortunatly the runout was safe and I was unhurt.

So the question is- how does one handle a crust like that on such steep terrain? The fact that this happened definetly worries me as it was the first time I have fallen on terrain like that- its making me question my readiness for it!
post #2 of 10
So I made my first jump turn and my right ski broke through the crust as I came down- this caused me to lose my balance on the downhill side and proceed to ragdoll to the bottom- fortunatly the runout was safe and I was unhurt.
Sounds like a balance issue. Glad you were not injuried.
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
The problem is, im not really sure what I could have done in the situation balance wise.- My right ski suddenly was 2 feet below my left with no warning.

Am I just putting too much weight on the downhill ski on jump turns?
post #4 of 10

or is "rust" happens?

Well you know what they say ....


Hmmm - you want to have spread apart feet (with more weight on downhill) on the hard snow and close feet(weight equal) in the soft. But when ya got one foot in each - you is toast. 3" is awfully thick crust. If you've got two feet of vertical separation of the feet in that environment you need to be going awfully slow and awfully across the hill in order to be able to bail to a stop without falling. If you're a Warren Miller star, you might be able to recognize your trouble before the breakthrough foot goes all the way down and do a retraction turn and get both feet together for the next punch through. Straightlining ought to work, until you hit a compression (nasty visual image there too). Hop turns with both feet together might handle it. Wicked porpoising might be possible. If it were me, I'd probably be happy to crash and live to ask "what the hell was I supposed to do?"

Get fatter skis.
post #5 of 10
Stay low (bend more at the knees), be strong, and bring your downhill arm across your body and make sure you have some beefy skis (contrary to most of the post in this web site, they don't need to by 90+mm wide, just beefy - my Volant Machete Souls - 72mm waist - are the most incredible ski in the terrain you describe).....don't hop turn, just make sure your on your downhill ski enough and angulate it more and jam it at the end to get to the next turn - most people I see in steep gnarly terrain overweight thier uphill ski.
post #6 of 10
Did you say a 3" crust on top!! I skimmed your post and was picturing maybe 1" crust that you'd want to blast through...disregard my previous post...and good luck next time...

They don't show the 3" crust footage in Warren Miller films for a reason!!!

In all my days, I've hit crust on powder like that once, and it was many moons ago when I was a young buck and had barely enough skill to walk my skis out of the woods and over onto the groomed trail...
post #7 of 10
glad you came out OK,
better to rag doll into the bowl than to do the same into the rocks you mentioned above.
when the conditions get toughest (and your condition has the markings of one of those) every skill in our repertoir is tested to it's breaking point.
There's a point where everyone breaks down and some conditions that require survival skills. I'm can't qualify your day's condition, but i have an idea. That's one of the things that happen with lots of days logged off piste, you start to recognize more variables. with that recognition comes more tactical choices. And, tactics is where I'd guess you could use a little help. The high impact turn you chose would maybe not be the first choice in a tough crust, although there are some crusts where a hit and go impact turn is about the only choice (and takes an impeccable blend of balance, aggression, timing and precision technique)
So, that said, often my survival turn of choice in a difficult crust is a hop to the fall line, absorb the landing with weight close to even(60/40ish), and ride out the arc of the skis until the next launch to the fall line. This often works because of the ideosycrasies of crust: you can't displace the skis at all so no steering, you need both skis to have good weight so they behave more similiarly and one doesn't dive, and by skipping the top of the turn you don't have to travel mach 5 to pull it off.
From there, as confidence builds, lessen the agressive entry and try to accomplish the redirections with more fluidity. Other tactics may be a touchy feely favorite of mine skiing very 2 footed on flat skis and pretending like your skiing on eggs and don't want to break them (fat skis help alot with this one).
In less steep terrain, with with a high personal speed threshold, going arc to arc with both skis works (yep, it just takes that impeccable balance, technique, committment and confidence that comes from lots of training)
the short swing, impact, hit and go turn is another go to turn, but once again takes a higher degree of balance, technique and refinement.
As I speak of these items (balance, technique and refinement), whether you learned in a psia school, austrian school, or ?, it's not rocket science, but is a matter of refinement to a very fine level to ski the most difficult snow conditions. If you've worked hard to get rid of tendancy to over rotate, guess what, you'll find yourself overrotated when you hit a condition that is outside of your range. Most people get over their head and find themselves with their balance back and leaning to the inside (where most skiers are anyway, go figure)

So, try some other tactics,
and work on some refinement drills,
do hop turns landing on on matching edges, and going directly to next edge set (this drill is very refined when you can do it in steeps and the skis don't travel forward or slip at all between hops)
You can build to this with wedge hops (woops, I said a bad word)

You can work on the tactic I mentioned first on moderate terrain as well.
You leap from both feet to just before the fall line, land smoothy on your new carving edges (no deplacement or slippage) and ride out that clean two footed arc to finish, then launch the next. As I said earlier, this is one of my favorite very difficult snow tactics and the drill is very valuable for refinement as well.
Not knowing much about your skills, except that you intro made it seem like you had some solid skills, if you struggle with these drills, hire a good coach for an hour to watch you ski and attempt them and they will be able to tell you how to make them work, and once the drills are easy, the breakable crust will seem to have more solutions...


post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks, for the great responses.

I am now the proud owner of fat skis
Hopefully those will help some.

Definetly some things to work on.
post #9 of 10
good choice there,
once you go fat, you never go back,
the skinniest downhill ski in my garage is 86mm under foot.

the drills and mix of tactics will still be required, though.
the snow condition that makes you feel that out of sorts will just have to be even tougher.

post #10 of 10
Locking up those ankles for skeletal strength during that initial, massive crush...helps, particularly with a wide waisted ski.
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