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Overcoming brain freeze in bumps

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Am trying to develop some degree of competence in bumps but, after the initial 1 or 2 turns (preplanned before actually starting out) some sort of brain freeze and body freeze sets in. These are ugly, irregular blue bumps that are anything but round -- often with troughs that appear to track down the fall line longer than I want to stay there. Instead of thinking "go there," I end up thinking, "not that one, not that one, not that one" until I've endured a bumpy traverse and have no choice but to make a defensive off-balance turn at the side of the run. : This leads to the situation addressed earlier in the "lift-the-ski-in-the-bumps" thread.

Would it be a good idea to stop trying to find a good line and just focus on making a good turn around the bump I happen to be on? If so, how do you make round turns and maintain speed control in those long bumps? It feels like the skis want to run down the hill in those long troughs, but there doesn't seem to be room to turn somewhere in the middle either.

Although the most logical answer might be that I should stick to groomed runs, I am determined to learn to ski bumps so that my kids will still want to ski with me in a couple of years!! Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

post #2 of 13

The good news is that brain freeze in this situation means that your brain is working perfectly. When it comes time to answer the questions of when and how to make a turn in the bumps, your brain is telling you that you it does not have an answer to either question and it's not going to make one up and give you a wrong answer. Clearly, your only problem is that you need some answers. Welcome to the club! If it makes you feel any better, there are a lot of pros in this "question" club. The bad news is that the better you get, the more unanswered questions you get.

Some people have learned to ski bumps via the traverse method you describe. We call it "shopping for a turn". By the way, you don't have to make an off balance turn when you hit the side of the run. You can stop and do a kick turn and start another traverse. Unless you're a ski god, this is a valuable tactical approach for anyone to adapt to bumps that are too steep, too large, too hard and/or hidden too much (e.g. by fog). Most people learning this way eventually find a bump in the middle of the traverse they can turn on and then slowly get used to making more turns and doing less traversing. But it's a frustrating solution when everyone else on the run is just zipping along and it can take a painfully long time to learn bump skiing this way.

There are several aspects to bump skiing that seem to borrow from the movie catch-22. One of them is that if you find a good line, that will help you make good turns and if you make good turns, that will help you find a good line. To break through this "which came first, chicken or egg" type dilemma we need to break the problem into a few different parts.

The first part is making short radius turns on the groomed runs. If you have not mastered this, brain freeze in the bumps is highly likely. When you make really short turns on groomed snow, you get some rebound action out of the skis that almost makes the groomed run work just like the bumps. This kind of makes sense when you think about it because a bump run is just a groomer that has been made bumpy by skiers making short turns in the same spots over and over again. When you truly own short turns on the groomers, you've got a lot less that you need to think about when you're in the bumps.

The second part, as you've guessed, is speed control. There are many different specific ways to control speed in the bumps. For discussion purposes today, I'm going to lump them into 4 categories:
1) turn shape
2) edge angle
3) absorption and extension
4) snow texture

Traversing is just one way of making a very wide turn. The more you travel across the slope, the slower your speed will be down the slope. Just like on a groomed run, if you finish your turn going uphill, then you will get free braking from gravity.

In general, the more you get your skis on edge, the braking power you are going to get from them. The two basic approaches here are either getting your skis turned across the fall line and "setting" your edges to get a hockey stop like check or aggressively rolling your skis onto edge into the bump surface to get them to turn quicker.

Absorption and extension means using your lower body to maintain snow contact. If you make contact with a bump with stiff legs you will absorb the impact the hard way. If you bend your knees on contact, you soften the blow by stretching out the length of time of the impact. You will also transfer more of your momentum into the bump versus bouncing off of it. This, my friend, is braking - aka speed control! Extension is mostly just resetting the length in your legs so you are ready to absorb the next bump, but it also lets you get your skis back onto the snow quicker so that they have more snow to work into turns. This part (absorption and extension) is what's new to most beginner bumpers.

The last category of speed control is snow texture. Ruts get formed from skiers pushing snow to the sides of the rut. The bottom of the rut is firm and fast. The sides of the ruts and the tops of the bottom collect all that pushed snow and are generally softer and slower. So the more you travel in the rut, the faster you go. The more you travel out of the rut, the slower you go.

When you've got a good enough understanding of these speed control categories to start putting them together, you are well on your way to having a brain that has plenty of good answers when you need one.

The third part is vision. Beginners tend to focus only on the bump at hand because they need their eyes to help guide their feet. With experience, your feet won't need any help to get past the bump at hand just like you don't need to look down at each footstep when you're hiking a trail in the woods. This will let your eyes start looking more ahead, gathering more information and giving your brain time to "package" that information. As you get more experience, you'll begin to transition from seeing "this bump, that bump and the next bump" to seeing "sets of bumps" with "trouble spots" in between. With experience, you'll easily recognize long bumps and short bumps, soft snow and hard snow, steep walls versus traversable ruts and obstacles like a downed munchkin hiding in a rut or the oft dreaded ROCKS! It does not matter what skill level your at, knowing what to look for makes a big difference in bump skiing. It start with looking at a single bump and seeing all of it's skiable parts versus just seeing the rut or places you don't want to go. If you focus on places you don't want to go, that's where you'll end up.

The fourth part is tactics. I teach that there are 3 basic tactical approaches to bump skiing: in the ruts, across the ruts or top to top. In reality very few bump skiers go top to top all the way through a bump run and most runs involve mixing and matching tactics. Very few skiers ski directly in the rut line because it is faster than the original line before the bump was made because the rut is firmer than the original snow surface was. What skiers do is ride the edges of the ruts to get just enough soft snow to turn in and slow down. As you get more experience you develop a tactics bag of tricks for dealing with trouble spots (e.g. making an extra turn to cut a long mogul in half instead of getting stuck in a long rut and end up going to fast). Although tactics is really just putting the other parts together, it's the thought process that says "when I see this, I'm going to do that" that eliminates brain freeze. When you know that certain things are going to work, it's much easier to pull the trigger and just do it. After that, getting better in the bumps is just a matter of going faster, going steeper, developing a different style, picking up a new trick, etc.

There are many different ways to learn bump skiing. I've just introduced one way to think about bump skiing by breaking it down into 4 parts: short turns, speed control, vision and tactics. This may be enough to help you have a break through and start enjoying the bumps instead of struggling with them. There are lots of other resources that can help your quest too. If you search Epic for "bumps" and "moguls", you'll find a ton of threads on the topic and references to books and videos that can help too. Taking a bump lesson from a pro can either be a godsend because of a few simple tips leading to a breakthrough or a total bummer because the message might be that you need to do a lot of work on your short turns on groomers before you're ready to tackle the bumps. But one thing an instructor can do for you is give you an honest evaluation of where you're at and help you develop a plan for getting to where you want to go.

In a beginner bump lesson, I will typically focus on developing one turn that can be used for speed control and be used as a building block for getting down the trail without resorting to traversing. In that lesson I will touch on pieces of the four parts and may introduce exercises to help develop those skills. Here I've just attempted to answer your question without getting into a specific plan, because for that I need to know what kind of bumps we have available to work on and have a better idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are. Let us know if this approach has been helpful.

Good luck. A ton of fun is waiting for you out there.
post #3 of 13
Develop a strong short radius turn with good speed control on the groomers first.

-Start with learning and perfecting pivot slips.
-Then add some turn shape by feathering in the edges (rather than jamming) while remaining balanced more two footed (not so outside ski domininant). This helps with speed control
-practice releasing edges simultaneously to intiate turns (eliminate any form of stemming which is the demise of many aspiring mogul skiers)
-practice efficient pole swings, good hands, and touches to trigger edge changes.
-practice retraction turns, which is a movement downward to change edges vs. an upward movement present in a more traditional turn.

Then pick out some "friendly" bumps to begin your journey! But take the right tools with you for the job!
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks you guys! A lot of good info to digest and play with. We're planning on a quick ski trip over Thanksgiving (praying for snow) and probably will have only easier runs to ski -- perfect for resisting the tempation to ski fast when I can so as to work on bump skills outside the bumps!

Rusty, my short radius turn isn't perfect but works well on all the groomed blue runs at Taos SV (where there usually are no groomed black runs). It seems like you and Bud are suggesting a change in focus -- instead of practicing short quick turns through edging and outside ski pressure, to steering more while the skis are flat. Besides this, are there any good drills to practice extension/absorption on groomed snow while making turns? Trying to extend/absorb while traversing bumps has not been particularly helpful in getting the feel for doing this in a turn. And the extension I get while turning on groomers just seems to happen without conscious effort -- it's more an awareness of pressure building under the arch of my outside foot rather than trying to do anything.

Although I'm not uncomfortable with the bumps dictating where to turn (okay, slightly uncomfortable), I'm very uncomfortable with the shape of the bumps dictating turn shape. The dilemma seems to be that when attempting slow turns through bumps, I feel more at the mercy of the bump shape -- too slowly, and there is not enough momentum to go over a choppy bump without getting stuck, so the skis end up tracking torugh the troughs -- usually the long ones heading down the fall line. It makes sense to try to stay in softer snow outside the ruts, but the sides run downhill also. Will I not still track downhill and build up speed, only now riding an edge on the little cliff on the side of the rut rtaher than in it? :

Thanks in advance for your help.

post #5 of 13
I have a couple of suggestions for you DEP.

First one way to get to know the terrain well in bumps is to simply spend a couple of runs side slipping down through them. This will give you a good feel for where the terrain will allow round turns and where it won't. the second session of side slipping through the bumps add in slipping forward and slipping backward through them as well. This will reveal where and you can easily cross the troughs without getting hung up on the tips and tails. It may sound too simple to be of value, but it can really open our eyes to all the terrain available to us in the bumps. Especially when we add in the forward and backward movement. Pivot to face the other direction every so often so that you work both sets of edges.

For a functional extension in the bumps I sometimes use an exercise I call "looking over the wall". First we need to set the mental picture, so imagine you are standing with your toes against a 5' high brick wall, and you want to look over the wall and see what is on the ground on the other side. You will rise up pressuring the balls of your feet as you move your core and upper forward towards the wall. Next, standing still on your skis, crouch down like you would as you absorb a bump and then raise up to look over the wall.

If you want you can try this on groomers by crouching low as you finish a turn and then raising up to look over the wall as move into the new turn. Try to keep the movements timed to the size of the turn, which should make you long in the middle of the turn and short at the end.

Taking this into the bumps, you should try to time the start of looking over the wall just as you start to ski off the top of the bump and as you start your next turn. At this time, make a very deliberate strong movement to look over the wall, as the terrain starts to drop away from under your feet. Just as you did in the static practice. Remember the movement should result in the balls of the feet pressing down, the legs simultaneously getting long, and the hips opening up as the upper body moves forward and down the hill with the head in posture of moving forward and peering down the hill as well. This should slow down the feet, press the tips and fronts of the skis down into the snow to get them working early, and move the hips and core down the hill where they need to be, as we extend as the terrain changes.

The tendency may be to rush the movements, or to start too soon, so some experimenting may be needed. Both rushing the movements and starting too soon will result in the skis getting too light right away and a lose of control early in your turn. To emphasize when to start these movements, say look down the hill out loud some of the time. To emphasize the rate of the movements draw out the word Loooook.

I've had good luck with this for students of all abilities. It is a mental picture and a focus we all done at sometime in the past. We are just applying it in a different context. Good luck.
post #6 of 13
Originally Posted by DEP View Post
Rusty, my short radius turn isn't perfect but works well on all the groomed blue runs at Taos SV (where there usually are no groomed black runs). It seems like you and Bud are suggesting a change in focus -- instead of practicing short quick turns through edging and outside ski pressure, to steering more while the skis are flat.
Actually - both foci are good. Pivot slips are a great exercise for building flat ski steering skills. When you are near the top of a bump, you'll often have your tips and tails in the air. Being able to turn the skis quickly in this position is one technique you can use for "easy does it" bumping. But you also want to develop your short turn skills that use edging and pressure to get the skis to turn quickly. When you get your short terms snappy enough, you can actually get your skis off the snow as they pass underneath you. This is kind of like a virtual bump. Whether you can get there or not, it helps to be able to make short edged turns on a groomer where your upper body stays facing down the fall line and your legs extend out to each side. These are movements that can be used in the bumps.

Besides this, are there any good drills to practice extension/absorption on groomed snow while making turns? Trying to extend/absorb while traversing bumps has not been particularly helpful in getting the feel for doing this in a turn.
Leapers are good. This is where you start a turn by jumping into the air, change edges in mid air and land softly going in the new direction. What leapers don't teach you that traversing in the bumps does is pushing your feet down on the backside of the bumps in order for the ski tips to maintain contact with the snow.

Although I'm not uncomfortable with the bumps dictating where to turn (okay, slightly uncomfortable), I'm very uncomfortable with the shape of the bumps dictating turn shape.
I've had success teaching what I call the old man's way to ski bumps. Pierre uses something similar. This is where you approach the bump from the side, use a small uphill check turn to kill speed on the front face of the bump, then carve around the top of the bump in the soft snow doing a 180 from the direction you came into the bump, cross over the rut, then attack the next bump from the side. The check move leaves you in a spot on the bump where even if you come to a complete stop, you have so little of your skis touching the snow that it's easy to do a small nudge downhill to get moving again. It's much easier to understand when you see it, but beginners often approach the bump from following the rut path (i.e. going more downhill) than from attacking it from the side. This technique still has the bump dictating where you turn, but not the way you expected. Instead of letting the rut between the bumps dictate your path of travel, you end up traveling across the rut from bump top to bump top. This is just one of many ways to ski the bumps, but it is an easy way to get started.

It is possible to ski the bumps making turns where you want to turn regardless of where the bumps are, but this is much more difficult.

It makes sense to try to stay in softer snow outside the ruts, but the sides run downhill also. Will I not still track downhill and build up speed, only now riding an edge on the little cliff on the side of the rut rtaher than in it? :
When skiing the sides of the ruts, you are taking a longer line than the original rut makers and getting into softer snow than when the original rut was made. These are factors that help to control speed. But you still are going relatively fast and need to have quick feet and make precise movements or you get in trouble very quickly. This is easy to do if you are comfortable making snappy short turns on the groomers because the movements are so similar. But most people learn to do this starting in smaller bumps on less steep trails before they can be comfortable with this technique in "regular" bumps. Many beginners are just not skilled enough to make short turns any where near the speed that was used to create the bumps. For these skiers, skiing the sides of the ruts is not an option unless the bumps are small enough to allow going way up the side of the ruts. Many resorts have limited bumped up terrain. This makes it harder for beginner bumpers to start slowly and work their way up to harder bumps.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks RicB and therusty for the clarification and drills. The sideslip seems like a good chance to get a feel for letting the skis slide around and over bumps with enough time to try out the occasional pivot or edge set. Without feeling pressure to react and find a place to turn -- somewhere, anywhere -- hopefully it'll give me time to be aware of the snow texture and how the bumps feel under the skis and not pass over those spots where I can use the "old man's way" to ski bumps. Sounds like this "middle-aged mom's" way to ski bumps too! Does every bump have this kind of spot?

The "look over the wall" drill seems very helpful. Although I've tried to absorb and extend in a traverse, it has ended up being knees up and down facing the side of the run. NOT particularly helpful. My mental image of extension in a carved (or somewhat carved) turn tends to be of my legs extending to the side through the turn. I can visualize what you're talking about from the words on the page, in a way that I couldn't before. Can't wait to take this one to the slopes!

I'll let you know how it goes this season. Hopefully there will be at least one eureka! moment to report.

Thanks again!

post #8 of 13
It can be surprising how much terrain lies outside of the troughs DEP. And yes sliding around down through the bumps is a great way to find those spots on a bump.

Looking over the wall has always worked for me, both in my teaching and for personal use. Remember to really think of looking over a wall rather than just trying to extend. Kinda like you are Tim Taylor and you want see Mr. Wilson's shoes by looking over the fence. Put the right focus in the mind and the body will respond accordingly. Good luck and have fun with it.
post #9 of 13
This is the easiest way....Take a lesson!!
With someone good!!
Make it early in the season!
Work on balance.
How to find it,
How to fine tune it,
And most important, how to get it back when you lose it.
Then do all the stuff above.
post #10 of 13
Good advice from all. There are a lot of cool things to try in bumps, and this group has offered a huge list.

I'd like to add one thought. The picture I have from your description is that the number one thing that bothers you is the sense of this rocket ride down a trough that finished only slightly off fall line, therefore offering no slow down opportunity.

Two solutions (and these were already offered above--I just want to emphasize them).
1. It is okay to do that "old man's turn" occasionally. Do a quick twisting crank at the end of the trough, turning the skis uphill in a pivot to slow down suddenly. It is important to swing the pole during the movement so that you are ready for an instant pole touch and new turn start immediately after the slow down. Don't take it across the hill. In this manner, it may take two or three turns to slow it down enough. If you have this tool, you won't need it much!
2. Up against the wall. Yes, go ahead and ski the outside of the rut. I mean the WAY outside. Drive the skis out against the outside wall high enough so that the legs are almost horizontal. This puts the pressure on the ski in such a way that you can drive the skis back underneath the bump, crossing the rut finish. Basically, it's a bank shot, and it is not only very useful for controlling speed, but it is heaps of fun. It's just like laying a turn into the side of a half pipe. You can learn it on roads at ski areas. Run the skis up the wall, then back on the road. I taught it to a 70 year old man last season, and it was a piece of cake.
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
You are spot on both about my insecurity and about the great advice here. I definitely plan to take lessons over Christmas break, but since we've scheduled a short Thanksgiving warm-up (sending up many good snow and cold weather prayers right now), it seems like an opportunity to start on groomed snow on my own and give the instructor a little more to work with when the time comes! Having some confidence that I can slow down even if the next bump/trough isn't shaped like the round turn I want to make would be a HUGE breakthrough and, hopefully, allow me to use the skills I've been developing outside the bumps.

Thanks so much.

post #12 of 13
Find the green.

My friend Rob Hill (an instructor and fellow OHG guide at Copper) turned me on to the idea of there being paths through the bumps that are green, blue, black, and double-black. If you look at bumps, you can link the "green" parts of the bumps together into a series of turns. Look at how flat those sections are (the green is usually on the very top uphill side of the bump). Just guide your skis gently from one green spot to the next. Ski the green.

You'll discover that skiing green terrain make it pretty easy to ski slowly and comfortably.
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 

So Happy!

Had the best week of skiing ever! Thanks so much! DH and I shared some private lessons, and I ended the week skiing easy black bump runs at Taos (Tell Glade, Papa Bear, Moe's) -- generally comfortably, without big traverses, and able to link 4-8 turns without stopping. It was like night and day from Christmas when my bump skiing sucked so bad that it was depressing to even contemplate posting (yes, I had lessons with the same great instructor at Christmas).

1. The "swing thought" for the week, to use a golf analogy, was to wait to feel the bump under the ball/arch of my downhill ski before starting the turn (as opposed to starting when the bump pushed under the uphill ski). That split second difference gives the new inside ski time to come around without me wedging, lifting the inside ski, or otherwise getting off balance by trying to jerk the inside foot over/around the bump. What a good eye our instructor has to identify one thing that cleared up a variety of problems.

2. It finally clicked that you don't have to make a tight turn around the bump where you do a pole plant. WOW! Totally consistent with your suggestions, but it took an instructor skiing down next to me for an entire run, stopping whenever I stopped to "regroup", and helping me see the "round line" on the sides of adjacent bumps.

3. Because of 1 and 2, I was able to look one bump ahead and that was usually enough to link some turns and avoid getting thrown off balance too often.

4. On some blue bump runs (or ungroomed parts of blue runs) it actually felt like the skis got really light just at the right time to start the turn -- and the skis seemed to slide almost effortlessly through the turn. Amazing and extremely fun! Maybe because my legs finally relaxed when skiing something that seemed easy?

There's still a lot to work on, but what an improvement! It helped so much being able to read your responses and think about this before actually skiing. Also, I watched Pierre's video of low impact mogul skiing and read his description of his intent -- at least a dozen times. Thanks again!

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