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When do you recommend learning off-piste/powder technique?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I skied when I was younger and have got back into it again going for the last 3 years.
I suppose I'm an advnaced intermediate. I'm able to carve and will happily go down red runs for the whole day. I struggle on some of the steeper icy blacks in Europe but no worries about doing them.
I'd like to do some more off piste or powder skiing but wondering if it's time to approach this yet?
Usually when you book a lesson the instructors take you through "on the slope" stuff...obviously for technique but I'd like to venture a little further...
post #2 of 14
Hi GordonF. Are you primarily skiing in Europe or was it a once in a life time trip? Where were you skiing down those steep icy blacks?

In some parts of Europe off pist skiing is heavily restricted and in some ski areas in for example austria ski instructors taking their students out of bouds can be suspended from their jobbs. It is good to talk to the ski school in advance by phone or by e-mail and ask and request off pist skiing. Note that going off pist and learning something usually takes the whole day and preferably many days because it requires some basic skiing drills and teaching on groomers first.

To me it sounds like you are ready for skiing off pist but since off pist and powder skiing are based on regular technique there is little or no reason to start the lesson off by headding straight into deep snow. First you look at basic technique and when the instructor thinks you are ready you advance beyond the groomers.

To your question if its time to approach this yet I can only answere you that if you think like that you will never be ready. John Scofield told me once that if you wait untill you get so and so good before playing a gig then you will never play a gig.
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
No, I ski in Europe whenever I can get a chance. Unfortunately, that's only every year at the moment although I'm trying to go a few times this season.

So far have been to Chamonix, Andorra (on a cheapy not particularly testing), and Sauze D'Oulx. This year it will probably be Solden and maybe Alpe d'Huez or somewhere in the 3 valleys.

Obviously you can spend ages on technique but staying on piste all the time isn't going to help...nor is it as exciting. However, as you mentioned, to do off piste properly in many European resorts you have to get a guide due to avalanche risk, etc.
post #4 of 14
I would say the right time is when it comes out on Nintendo Wii version of Half Life Dr Freeman because Dr Breen told me so.

In seriousness though you should wait until you can make effective parallel turns without any sort of wedge or christy entry and you are able to dynamically change turn size and shape and the type of weighting you put into your turns and the type of pressure you put into your skis.

Until you can do those things skiing offpiste will seem difficult and might make you more vulnerable to knee injury plus you will look like someone going through some huge fullbody spasms.
post #5 of 14
Gordon,

I've been in the backcountry on heli trips with plain intermediate skiers who were not making parallel turns. Nobody got hurt and they had a blast. With the right gear and the right guides there is no reason why you can't have fun and be safe. The two things I would have done differently now that I know better would be to have read up more about avalanche safety and to have bought my own beeper before I ever ventured off piste. On a typical heli or cat trip the guides take care of you so well that you don't really learn the skills you need to have for basic back country safety. There is so much to learn that I suspect a European day trip with a guide would not be much different. You may get 10 minutes of practice with a beeper and pick up a few things by watching, but you're paying to have a fun time and for the guides to do the work to keep it safe.

In my case, I started by following other skiers into out of bounds terrain that was close enough to the resort to be safer than pure back country skiing, but still had dangers that I was unaware of. Looking back on my skiing career, it's embarassing to have encountered the signs of avalanche danger, noticed them but not responded with the appropriate actions. Oddly enough, most of those experiences occurred in bounds. I used to think you did not have to worry if you were in bounds. A short ride on a slab convinced me to study more. A little study taught me that some of the weird things (e.g. "booming"/"groaning" snow) I'd noticed on previous trips were warnings of danger that I should have responded to. Although I don't think I ever put myself in serious danger, I would do things differently if I had a do over.

Ultimately, at some point you "Pays your money and takes your chances." Only you can decide when you are ready for that.
post #6 of 14
Don't be shy about it. Try to find areas that don't take you too deep into the unknown. Short spurts of more challenging terrain. You will zero in on the technique the more you do it.
To me speed is the one fear factor. Controlling my speed on challenging terrain allows me to ski it. Period.
post #7 of 14
I think people should be introduced to powder and off piste as soon as possible. Even in their first lesson, if it's there! People seem to regard these things as "advanced" but they don't need to be.
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ramshackle View Post
I would say the right time is when it comes out on Nintendo Wii version of Half Life Dr Freeman because Dr Breen told me so.

In seriousness though you should wait until you can make effective parallel turns without any sort of wedge or christy entry and you are able to dynamically change turn size and shape and the type of weighting you put into your turns and the type of pressure you put into your skis.

Until you can do those things skiing offpiste will seem difficult and might make you more vulnerable to knee injury plus you will look like someone going through some huge fullbody spasms.
I've been skiing parallel for quite a while now, so I'm sure this is no problem. WHat exactly do you mean by a wedge entry AND christy entry?

I'm okay with doing short turns or wide turns but what I've been doing recently was mainly carving. Obviously, that will hardly be any use in the deeper stuff!

Quote:
Don't be shy about it. Try to find areas that don't take you too deep into the unknown. Short spurts of more challenging terrain. You will zero in on the technique the more you do it.
To me speed is the one fear factor. Controlling my speed on challenging terrain allows me to ski it. Period.
Fair enough, I've always tried a bit of the stuff on the side of the slopes but I wouldn't exactly call this off piste, it's more crud country and not that great to ski usually ! I guess some good stuff would be to try areas where you can get back onto the groomers a bit further down ?
post #9 of 14
Sorry Dr Freeman I said wedge or christy not wedge and christy. Just using different terms for what functionally are fairly equal in creating roadblocks to effective offpiste skiing. Now on your observation about carving you should think about the idea that wider skis make it possible to carve deeper ungroomed snow in a way that feels almost like using carving skis on the white carpet.
post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ramshackle View Post
Sorry Dr Freeman I said wedge or christy not wedge and christy. Just using different terms for what functionally are fairly equal in creating roadblocks to effective offpiste skiing. Now on your observation about carving you should think about the idea that wider skis make it possible to carve deeper ungroomed snow in a way that feels almost like using carving skis on the white carpet.
Fair enough!
But what is a wedge entry exactly ?
post #11 of 14

What they all said...

...re the off-piste in Europe thingie. What I heard when I was in Zermatt and Verbier is basically if you go off piste without a guide and get injured, you will get rescued...but it will cost you a fortune.

"Off piste" is kind of, to me, extreme skiing/ski mountaineering, so there's a lot more skills involved than just being able to ski powder. That being said...what I'd probably do is get your basic parallel turn down, then work on your powder/bumps/crud skills on piste...once you have that wired, maybe it's time to go off piste...with a guide...
post #12 of 14

North America

We might note that, if you can afford it, the North American west can provide more opportunity for "in bounds" powder skiing in a relatively controlled environment. This is somewhat dependent on recent weather patterns, but areas exist (e.g., Alta, Targhee) where powder is often available for some time after a storm. Of course, it may also involve trees...

Although powder feels different than groomed piste and requires some adjustments, the fundamental skill requirements are the same.

Learn the complete spectrum of edge control, so that you can not only carve, but can also flatten the ski when necessary.

Experiment with different stance/balance positions. Play with finding the "sweet spot." The additional resistance of powder, whether it's fresh or tracked, will require some adjustment. If you've experimented with making such adjustments, you'll be a step ahead.

Although a modern shaped ski makes unweighting unnecessary, even in powder, most powder skiers find some kind of unweighting adds to the fun. Learn retraction turns. Retractions are a low effort way of allowing your skis to surface and may be a useful response when your skis hit a hidden bump. Play with rebound and up unweighting as well. You'll see many powder skiers who appear to "pop" a little bit (or a lot). Either retracting or up unweighting can allow more steering at turn entry and they add to your versatility.

Learn patience. Attempting to force a ski to steer in powder can be very frustrating. You can add some steering force, but not too much. Allow the ski to work in and under the snow (yes, I know, it's easier said than done).

Powder is simultaneously forgiving and unforgiving. It allows more variation in technique than high-level skiing on groomed piste. And it requires more variation in technique! It does not reward a rigid approach or style. Flexability and versatility become the order of the day.

Have fun!
post #13 of 14
There are only two technique changes needed if you already have solid technique--
1) equal weight on both feet (and feet rather close together)
2) be patient turning through the fall line. Don't rush your turn. Let the snow dictate the tempo of your turns. The beautiful part of powder snow skiing is the moment of freefall weightlessness when you're pointed directly down the fall line headed for that feather pillow of snow below you.

If you presently ski by skidding the backs of your skis through the turns, you need to learn better technique for all snow conditions. As you say, you're "able to carve," do that with equal weighting and flexing and retracting the legs to end one turn and start the next.

And rent fat skis, at least for your first try until you feel smooth in the deep stuff.


Ken
post #14 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by GordonFreeman View Post
Fair enough!
But what is a wedge entry exactly ?

Wedge=snowplow.

Wedge entry=stem movement (kind of forming a snowplow) at the beginning of a turn. Usually performed unintentionally by "parallel" skiers who make sequential edge changes instead of simultaneous edge changes.
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › When do you recommend learning off-piste/powder technique?