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Lost skis in the Powder

post #1 of 110
Thread Starter 
All this talk of powder is torture here in a 65 degree day in DC....sigh.....

Anyhow, being an eastcoaster with limited days in deep pow, here's my question. How in the world do you find your ski if you take a header in deep powder and your ski pops off? One time in Big Sky I spent 45 minutes "stabbing" the snow with the ski that didn't pop off to try to find my other ski. THAT sucked!
Anyone have any tips on how to find a buried ski? We're going to Tahoe in January and I hope the conditions warrant this "problem"
post #2 of 110
check out "powder cords". that and intuition...
post #3 of 110
post #4 of 110
Use a streamer. I have used five feet of surveyors tape tied to the ski and tucked into the pant cuffs. Or, you can get real elaborate and buy a powder leash:

By the way, I hope you have lots of powder in the Sierra.
post #5 of 110
I lost a ski up at Sugarloaf during the early Feb dump and couldn't see it in 3 feet of snow.

Then I remembered something I read about dragging the ski I still had across the snow systematically.

I never thought I would have to use that method in the Northeast.

It worked like a charm.
post #6 of 110
best way is to take off your other ski, use it as a balance on one side & your poles as a balance on the other, then walk in very slow, shallow zigzags up the fall line stabbing at the snow with your poles until you hit something. In very deep powder, no matter how fluffy, this is probably the most exhausting thing you'll do all day, but I've found it pretty foolproof. I've never just lost a ski, though. Lost my goggles, as though the sheer force of my fall had knocked them out of existence, but a ski seems like it'd be hard to lose, unless there's a big crust, and the ski runs downhill below it.
post #7 of 110
one thing to pay attention to - the chords/straps attach *only* to the ski - and are then tucked into your pants/gators so that they can run out freely if the ski runs.
post #8 of 110
Somehow powder cords always seem to come untucked from my pants and become a nuisance. But it sucks when you need 'em and don't have 'em. I lost a ski at Cannon a few years back and looked for it for 2 hours, with a patroller helping for a half hour or so...it was about 18" of fresh powder. Never did find it until summer. Unfortunately that was in '01 and I haven't skied deep enough powder to need cords since then. But...THIS winter heh heh...I'm even going to put a powder cord on my snorkel
post #9 of 110
[quote=NewHampie I lost a ski at Cannon a few years back and looked for it for 2 hours, with a patroller helping for a half hour or so...it was about 18" of fresh powder. Never did find it until summer.[/QUOTE]

The worst thing about that is the panicky feeling you get about 15 minutes into a search that all the powder is gonna go to waste while you blunder around in your boots forever. This feeling is worse if it's someone else's ski you're looking for.
post #10 of 110
Depending on how "stiff" the powder is, use a sweeping motion across where you think the other ski migh have gone. stabbing only hits where you stab. If you can sweep the tail of your still found ski across an area you can cover a lot more ground.

If it's real light Powder use your ski pole in the same manner.

post #11 of 110
Or crank up the DIN so the skis don't fall off.
post #12 of 110
A couple of other suggestions.

Once you come to a stop and realize that at least one of your skis is missing, just collect your thoughts for a moment. Visualize your fall and try to remember if the ski came off early or late in the fall. Any clues you can come up with *before* you start searching might lead you to the ski more quickly.

Before you start your search, take one pole and mark the place you came to a rest. You'd be surprised how many people start zigzagging back and forth and up and down and end up searching too far away from the original fall. If you've marked your landing spot, you'll always be able to go back to step one.

My own experience is that if the snow is fairly deep, the ski is nearly always higher up the hill than where the skier comes to rest. Look above you and try to retrace where your line was, where the fall occurred, and where you've ended up. Usually, that will help you be as efficient as possible when you start your search. If it's untracked snow other than your line, your tracks leading into the fall can be a huge indicator on where to look.

One caveat on that: if you've got 10" of fluff on top of a very hard base, a ski can slide a long ways underneath the new snow surface.

If you're alone, search the most likely-looking areas based on your observations first. If the snow is deep and the slope is steep (what we all want, right? ), it'll be difficult to move uphill, but that's usually where you need to go. Use the "sweep" method with a pole or ski tail. The ski tail used to be better when we all used long skis, but a lot of the skis people are on these days don't have much tail behind the bindings. If your "obvious" search doesn't uncover the ski, go back to your mark and start a very methodical grid search (pain in the *$$).

If you have one or more helpers, do the grid search first but really concentrate on the area that your observations tell you are the most likely.

If the snow is deep and you don't find the ski right away, the area you're searching will get all packed down along with the ski underneath. Then, it's harder to sweep and it's harder to detect the ski and it just gets worse and worse.

What you do right at the beginning often gives you the best chance of finding the ski easily.
post #13 of 110
There's a segment in one of the swedish Free Radicals ski movies, where one of the skiers is adjusting his bindings. He grins at the camera and sais:
I'm adjusting the DIN-setting, all the way in and then half a turn out. This way the ski never releases! :

I'm definetly not recomending this, but it's one way to avoid the problem.
post #14 of 110

There are some very good tips here. Here's one more, just in case your powder strap get's buried. Pay attention to where the ski comes off when you're falling. That's hard to do, but you should have a fairly good sense of how far you've fallen (short or long - did you tumble or crunch?). Your track should also give you a clue where release took place. Before you start searching (and messing up your track) mark your stopping point with a ski pole. Next try to guess which side of your track the ski departed to (skis rarely depart your feet when they are going straight down the fall line). Finally make a calculation about your speed at the time of the release vs the density of the snow vs the type of fall (over the front, twisting, or sitting back) vs the slope pitch. Skis rarely travel far under the snow. You'd have to be going pretty fast, have real light powder and/or do a backward fall for the ski to travel more than 15 feet from the point of departure (if you are using powder straps and they are buried - the ski has probably traveled as at least as far as the length of the strap). Although it's possible for the ski to travel below your stopping point, most people search below where their ski turns out to be. If you can tell for sure where the last point was where your ski was attached, mark that with a pole too and don't track out above that point. Start your search by staying in your track to preserve your track as long as you can. When you are searching using your remaining ski, start with horizontal (across the fall line sweeps) about 2 feet apart moving from your stopping point to your start point. Try to cover 8 feet of horizontal distance from your track (use the full length of the ski and drag it back to you). Once you've made a horizontal pass from the bottom to the top, then do a vertical one from top to bottom. If you don't find it on one side of your track, try the other side (horizontal, then vertical). If that fails, double check to make sure your starting point is good and then start searching below your stopping point.

I once found a guys ski by just skiing up to help him. Right as I was coming to a stop at his start point, I heard a click as I ran over his ski.
post #15 of 110
Thread Starter 
These are great everyone, thanks! I especially like the "sweeping" points, I didn't think of that. Cranking up the DIN setting ran through my mind, but after 5 knee surgeries, I'd probably regret that move!

I'm sure these tips will help other easterners who aren't well versed in powder also. Trying to coordinate a months-ahead planned Western trip with a 24" powder dump is impossible....but sometimes sheer luck happens!
post #16 of 110
He He - I just found my stashed November issue of Ski. It has an article on how to find a lost ski. Sorry Dean, I think we did a better job here.
post #17 of 110
Originally Posted by NewHampie
Somehow powder cords always seem to come untucked from my pants and become a nuisance. ...
I've experienced this problem too--particularly with cords that have a slick surface such as Cirquerider's. I solved the problem by afixing a mating pair of Velcro pads on the cords and under the cuff of my ski pants. (Pads come with adhesive backing and can be bought at fabric stores.) Alternately, the mating pad could be attached to the top edge of the boot where the cuff meets. You then stuff the cords under each cuff and attach the Velcro pads. The mating pad on each cord is attached a short distance from the binding with a little slack to allow boot movement.

Another point about cords: Get cords that are strong enough allow you to pull the skis through heavy powder. Sometimes powder will not allow fallen skiers to climb uphill at all. If your cords have pulled out and are lying below the skis (often the case when you crater), you may be able to reach them and pull the skis down.

Finally, I've twice fallen in 12-14" powder over hardpack and searched for a while before a passing skier would yell uphill that my ski is 100+' below my fall spot. The skis had compressed and gone airborne. In one case the missing ski was standing on its tail in the snow.

post #18 of 110
Surveyor's tape seems to be the generally accepted way to go, but if you have any fluorescent or neon shoelaces lying around, they would work as well:

I picked up a bunch of these in various hues to color coordinate with my one-piece ski-suit collection back during the 1980s. I got the idea after watching the movie "Being There" with Peter Sellers. There's a scene in the movie where Sellers is watching a cartoon music video version of the classic song "Basketball Jones" by Cheech and Chong (aka Tyrone Shoelaces) on a TV in the back seat of a chauffered Rolls Royce. It's all about the laces....

Seriously, though, bright colored shoe laces do work as powder cords and are pretty sturdy as well.

So sue me...
post #19 of 110
Oh man, I was skiing a DEEP ass day at Fernie on a pair of Demo B3's. I was flying along and buring one of my tips into a snow drift and double ejected. I found 1 of my skis shortly but the other one was nowhere to be seen. My friends looked with me for at least 45 min (this was huge day and they were true friends) to no avail. I ended up searching the spot for about 2 and a half hours... nothing! Skied from above the Whitepass chair base to the bottom on 1 ski in crud!

I was told of a ski patroller that had a metal detector. Spent 3 hours the next day searching in a very (overly) methodical search pattern. At about 4:30 pm a friend who was helping me kicked what he thought was root. Just for fun he checked it out and it was my ski!! The ski was a solid 30m below the point where I came to a rest. I had thought that the ski I found was the one that released second, I now think it was the first. Needless to say, my good buddy drank for free that night as he had saved me about $700

So I found that skis can travel downhill much farther than you expect. A zig zag pattern works fairly well. Because your usually flopping around in deep snow, it's important to pay close attention to your position. Use markers like trees as a reference. Oh, and really hope you don't have to look for a ski in powder, it is a TON of work.
post #20 of 110
One word: Carnac

post #21 of 110
CMH provided me with powder cords that had a small orange day glow disc with a hole in the middle.. This floated to the top when the ski/s were seperated......worked for me the one time I needed it a few years later....
post #22 of 110
This happens alot in Utah and while I dont have a great answer on the best way to find them I can tell you that a friend of mine lost his ski on the "Porkbarrel" run at Snowbasin and after about 30 minutes of searching he found the Lindberg Baby.
post #23 of 110
Remember that time you fell and your ski came off when there wasn't any powder? And you came to a rest and looked up the hill and you couldn't believe how far back up the hill you were going to have to hike to get your ski? And how relieved you were when you realized that you weren't going to have climb all the way back up there because some kind soul above you picked up your ski on the way down and brought it to you?

Yeah, that's how far above you your ski probably is.

Unless it's below you, in which case you're going to be looking a long time - luckily these times really are pretty rare.

post #24 of 110
I once spent about 40 minutes looking for a ski. I would have never found it had not a skier passing by noticed a mark where my ski had entered the snowpack...about 40 yards downhill from where I was searching. I didn't realize it had gotten so much air, mind you I was more concerned with life and limb when I was falling.
post #25 of 110

Wireless Powder Cords

This thread is ultra old, but I just found it after searching for powder cords, but found these first...


Has anyone used them? Seems like the ticket for when it's really deep, a bit pricey at $80.
post #26 of 110
If you lose a ski and can't find it, get some type of obvious colored plastic and with a permanent marker write your contact info on it, and offer a small reward to the finder. Bury it near where you lost the ski. That way when it's found in the summer the finder can contact you. A single ski is really of no value and so its almost certain that the finder will contact you especially if you offer some type of reward.

Here, local shops send people up the hill in the spring to retreive all the lost rental skis so someone will find the ski.
post #27 of 110
Went hiking at the ski resort during the summer to check out some lakes. I passed by the customer service office to hang some keys on the door knob (with all the other found key rings that were hanging there). Looking in the window I could see a lineup of single skis leaned up against the counter..... The previous summer, I carried one down myself with a boot still attached... hmmm.... Makes you wonder.

I don't lose my skis anymore because I got better skis that don't submarine so easy. Probably should use my powder cords though... Typically, I found my skis way up the hill from where I ended up. Then I got the cords.
post #28 of 110
Originally Posted by breckview View Post
Here, local shops send people up the hill in the spring to retreive all the lost rental skis so someone will find the ski.
Just how many skis are left out there? I have never heard of someone not finding their ski...that would be horrible!
post #29 of 110
Originally Posted by Tele-Swede View Post
There's a segment in one of the swedish Free Radicals ski movies, where one of the skiers is adjusting his bindings. He grins at the camera and sais:
I'm adjusting the DIN-setting, all the way in and then half a turn out. This way the ski never releases! :
Keep in mind that on very steep, you-die-if-you-fall terrain adjusting the DIN to max is rational. A fall from a prerelease is more of a risk than an injury from non-release

Extreme skiers are not worried about losing a ski, they (should be) worried about losing their life.

post #30 of 110
barrettscv, great point.

Ryel: Lots of skis get lost each year. A lot of heli-ski ops won't even let you use your own equipment. If you lose a ski, you get in the heli and go so that everyone can keep skiing. They keep a record of where the skis are lost and at the end of the season, they simply go pick them up. If it's a client's ski that's lost, it's a lot more difficult to tell them to forget it, they can get it in the spring.

Last point: Sweeping for the lost ski across the fall line works best as others have noted. The only thing I didn't see, and it's worth mentioning because invariably I've had to tell people this, use the edge of the ski so that you're cutting through the snow as if with a knife, not the broad direction like a paddle. It seems obvious but when someone's more concerned about the lost ski, they seem to not think through the logic of this.
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