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Recovering from unusual attitudes.

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Ghost's thread got me thinking about this.

Last spring our friendly Atomic rep handed me a pair of 155 ST11s. I was stuffing my face with a eggwich so I wasn't paying much attention to my skiing when I got off the lift and went to follow the other guys who were on bigger straighter new Atomic stuff.

There is a cat track to the left followed by a turn to the right onto an initial pitch of ~20 degrees that you follow tight to the righthand side, followed by an immediate right turn onto a flat traverse. The area is in the shade from the trees on the right and above, and for some reason the snowcat operator sometimes doesn't drive over it. This particular day I came around the turn in a hurry to follow the guys on the longer boards, and wasn't vigilant enough because of familiarity with the area.

At the end of the pitch as I was feathering the short little turners to the right at 30mph or so, I hit a couple nasty frozen in bumps and I somehow (not totally sure, its a weird way to fall) spun around and found myself sliding headfirst on my back with both skis in the air. At this point I couldn't think of anything super clever to do, so I waited. I must have had a good bit of speed, because I all of the sudden I slid clear off the traverse I had been turning onto and found myself in underbrush hanging from some new skis caught up on some two inch branches.

Alls well that ends well, but the feeling you get when earth drops out from under you as you slide backwards into the woods off a traverse can get the adrenaline pumping.

The best part is that a couple guys were still behind me, and never stopped. They just saw a huge cloud of smoke and assumed I stopped as they skied right through...they had a good laugh when I showed up a couple minutes later looking a bit ragged.

FOCUS:Obviously the best plan is to never find yourself in such a situation....such an unusual attitude as flight training would call it. However, Murphy states that it will happen, and it has happened to me once or twice. When you find yourself in such a situation, what is the best course of action? Lie there sliding like a moron (as per me) or is there some fancy technique I'm unaware of for getting out of jams like this.

In less unusual situations like going down on a hip, the recovery is well understood although often not recommended because of the potential for injury. Its completely possible here that if I had just gone down on a hip instead of trying to have my fat butt (I'm like 6' and 210) ride some 155s through icy bumps at speed, that I would have been better off.

A huge factor here is that I had literally just gotten off the lift on unknown skis. Those of you that are older and smarter would probably pick a more sensible line and make some turns. I understand that aspect of this, but I'm interested in what unusual attitudes others have gotten into and what people know about getting out of these silly things.
post #2 of 13
As I read your description of being on your back with your skis in the air, it reminded me of being in just such an unusual attitude.

I don't know how it happened, but it was on a black diamond run which had melted off except for an underlayer of manmade snow. Somehow I ended up on my back with my skis up hill of me in the air. At first I thought I'd just come to a stop and get up with a feeling of chagrin, but no, I kept sliding, and accellerating, before I had the presence of mind to flatten myself out, and turn my skis sideways for drag, I had slid over two hundred feet down the hill. I got up to see the most beautiful female liftie (who I saw every day) coming down the hill. I don't THINK she saw it!
post #3 of 13
Seeing someone fall in just that same attitude was what finally pushed me over the edge to buy a helmet. I was watching them, realized they had no idea where or what they were sliding into, and that a single ill-placed rock or tree would ruin their day and perhaps their life (nothing happened to them btw - slid down, picked themselves up & laughed about it some). Anyway, after watching that sequence and seeing how exposed the head was (even in a "low speed" situation - the one I witnessed was), I bought a helmet that evening...

As far as recovering, other than flattening out & trying to drag your skis to slow you down, I got nothing.

post #4 of 13
I always instinctively move to self-arrest. Get my skis below me quickly, use skis/boots/poles (in that order) to slow myself (depending on terrain; don't want to catch a ski wrong if I'm sliding too fast). Honestly, it's been a long time since I've found myself sliding like that... One advantage of skiing where I do, I think. The snow tends to slow skiers more here in Colorado...
post #5 of 13

Below is a quote from a post of mine awhile back. I really believe that knowing a basic method of self-arrest is a very important skill for a skier to have. Some folks like using boots, others like using skis, I like using a ski pole.

Whatever method "feels" best, I think it's critical that skiers learn one. Sliding on a steep, slick surface can lead to very unpleasant consequences. Nothing will help while you're in the air : like part of your experience, but once you're on the snow it's good to know how to stop.

"All skiers really should learn how to self-arrest. Trying to use your skis (skidding sideways) on hard, steep slopes will sometimes result in a binding release in hard-snow conditions or maybe even a leg injury that might not have happened otherwise.

Some people like using their ski boots to try to stop, but I personally believe in the pole arrest and actually used it once to stop myself. It's simple and intuitive. Hold one pole by the handle in the palm of your hand just like you would while skiing. Bring the lower part of the pole across your abdomen and grab it just above the basket with your other hand. Now use leverage and both hands to jam the tip of the pole into the snow as *hard* as you possibly can. Jam it into the snow as if your life depended on it, because it might.

Curl your upper body around the pole while you're jamming it in the snow. The drag will at the very least slow you down and turn you such that your feet are downhill, which means your feet hit any oncoming obstacle first, rather than your head or chest.

This is easy to do and easy to practice. Just find a moderately steep, slick slope (obviously with no obstacles and with a nice gentle runout not far below you), lay down sideways, let yourself start to slide, and then try it. You'll figure it out almost instantly.

Then, if you ever do go down on a slope where there's danger, you'll have an idea what to do. And if you should ever have to use it, do it very fast and very hard.

It really doesn't take a very steep slope for something like this to happen. We've all watched people slide quite a ways on relatively gentle runs if the conditions are right. Being prepared by having a plan in case it ever happens to you is just one more ski skill to have in your bag."
post #6 of 13
Bob, right on!

I should note that my comments above are as much a checklist ("Should I use my skis?") as anything else. But, in a real slide, the pole arrest is the only real option.
post #7 of 13
I've had two related falls, both skiing bumps. The first one, I just took off over one bump a little odd, landed without my feet under me and flipped onto my back head first and went right off the trail before I even knew what the deal was. I thought about flipping around to self arrest, but I could see I was just missing trees on either side and slowing down anyway. Result = damaged pride only. Sometimes when you fall, riding it out is the best option.

The second instance was hilarious. I was going down a steep bump run in soft snow and rebounded out of a rut without my skis (ye old double eject). Both skis were left side by side upright in the snow pointed straight down the hill. I landed on the back side of the second mogul down standing up. I thought I could walk it out, but the slope was too steep. As I was approaching the speed where my legs could not keep up I swan dived onto my stomach. That was a big mistake. I accelerated even quicker and was crashing hard into the moguls. I finally managed to flip over and swing my feet in front so I could use my boots to bite into the mogul tops. I finally stuck into a mogul all the way up to my crotch (btw - that set a record for highest octive I've ever sung). I ended up 100 yards down from my skis. After 10 minutes of fruitless progress trying to climb back up (the snow was too soft and the slope too steep - it was either stand up and punch in waist deep or crawl up and slide back down), a patroller found my skis (he was the only other person on the run). I started yelling at him for help, but he yelled back to wait. He was perplexed about the "abandoned" skis with no footprints and was far enough away to not understand my yelling. The lesson I learned from this was to get the feet out in front ASAP. It seemed impossible at the time, but when you are down and sliding, you can twist around even though you have no leverage. Ab muscles are good for something!
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Bob, thanks a ton for the excellent advice on that technique. I need to try that out.

Rusty, that second fall sounds like a real doozy! Its amazing how stuff you ski without too much thought is literally impossible to ascend in some conditions.
post #9 of 13
The ability to self-arrest can not be over emphasized. Happened to me at TRide on very hard (for Colorado) snow. head first on my back, had lost skis and 1 pole, managed to arrest with remaining pole.

Here in Colorado, CMC (Colorado Mountain Club) offers climbing very affordable climinbing classes, in the snow travel section, they spend an entire day on practicing ice axe arrest. The movements are the same whether you're using an ice axe or a ski pole.
post #10 of 13
The most vulnerable part of your body is your head. In fighting or anything else, Protect your head.

Well I have to go back a long ways to recall being in that position, and what I did then and likely would do now if I wasn't able to think about it is probably not the right thing to do. I just spun my skis around and placed them parallel to the line of travel dug in the tips to initiate a bit of a carve and started skiing again. It's probably safer (less risk of injury to knees) to use you skis for drag straight out behind you.

In any event the number 1 rule should be "Protect your head".

Try to direct your travel so you don't hit anything, but if you do block your head with your arms and ski poles at shedding angles.

Did I mention "Protect your head"?
post #11 of 13

Self Arrest

Originally Posted by lennyblake
The ability to self-arrest can not be over emphasized. Happened to me at TRide on very hard (for Colorado) snow. head first on my back, had lost skis and 1 pole, managed to arrest with remaining pole.

Here in Colorado, CMC (Colorado Mountain Club) offers climbing very affordable climinbing classes, in the snow travel section, they spend an entire day on practicing ice axe arrest. The movements are the same whether you're using an ice axe or a ski pole.


I had that happen twice here in Telluride on consecutive days! First time was on Magnolia headwall just below lift 12. I was just getting onto double blues and lost it at the top. Went turtle with both skis staying on and slid to the first group of trees. :

I talked to an instructor friend go get some advice. That day the same thing happened on "Lookout", another double blue. Deja Vu all over again. I slid to the bottom and was dusting off and recovering when I heard from above "Hey Ken, didn't we just talk about this". My friend was there with two students. Guess I was the object lesson for the day.

This is an excellent thread. Thank you for the instruction on self arrest. It could be a lifesaver. Y'all are putting out good information.
post #12 of 13
Just to reiterate the value of the pole self-arrest

I was skiing off-piste - fairly rocky terrain, lots of changes in the slope angle with small mounds, slope alteranting from convex to concave. Was using a pair of rentals as my skis were in for a base repair. There was a small amount of windblown fresh over hard pack. I skidded of an exposed area of hardpack into a patch of windblown snow which caused one ski to pop (lower DIN setting than I normally ski on - had not checked!). I ended up sliding head down. Other ski popped. Knew there were plenty of rocks about and that the slope below was convex - what was over the brow? Got the pole in which pivotted me so my feet were down hill. Next thing I know I'm in space. Landed hard on my thigh, slid and stopped. Nothing broken, leg a bit numb, feeling a little shocked. I'd come of a ten foot rock outcrop and happily landed on my leg on sloping snow. I skied away from that but if I had not got the pole tip in I think I might have landed on my head which could have been much less pleasant...
post #13 of 13

Wind Blown

Last february at Bryan Head Utah at 11,000 ft on the big step run the wind was blowing extremely hard at the top and blew me off my feet. The wind blew me accross the snow for 50 ft. before I managed to get stopped at the edge of a real ugly drop. Since then I pay attention to available mountain peak wind info. "So you want to learn to carve? Just keep on dodging snowboarders and you will get the hang of it."
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