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6 days at whistler: skiing powder, ungroomed trails and bumps quite the eye opener

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
 i'd been out 6 x before i headed to whistler for their ski esprit program (using my cypress mtn pass) and must admit at our level (3-4/green-blue) we hit some pretty demanding runs that kept us on our toes....i'd say easily we were skiing a level above us at times (even a few 'easier' black runs).

from the 2nd day onward due to the dumping we were getting we were having to ski ungroomed runs ...sometimes with mounds (later in the day after they'd been skiied)...or in fresh deep powder (1-2 feet)..and it was tough...we weren't used to it at all....and on the last day (today) the snow was not only fresh powder but sticky so we'd get caught in the turns if we weren't on tops of things...so we skiied in all conditions this week: freezing blowing winds, lots of fog, fresh powder, bumps, mounds.

it was a most humbling experience and for one who has only skiied groomed runs...what an eye opener.......i even encountered such a bad stumble that i suffered a hairline fracture to my rib (went to get it confirmed in the med centre with xrays)....so these days out weren't a cruise ship sailing: challenging is the word instead.

did most of you also experience frustration initially in these sorts of conditions? (I liken them to learning a new language and having to struggle through them).

once i return to cypress this week i'll begin to practice better edging, balance and turning on some easier slopes, as per some 'your ski coach' videos i've ordered. 
http://www.yourskicoach.com/YourSkiCoach/Ski_Instruction_DVD_Video.html




post #2 of 24
Thread Starter 
 
post #3 of 24
 If you groomers turns are solid and your not on stupid short skinny skis, powder should be pretty easy. if you having trouble in powder on skis that dont suck there is something your are actually doing wrong on groomers but your getting away with it.

In bumps....well that kinda of whole other story.

I was never frustrated by powder even on stupidest short skis off all time(metrons) now bumps sometime still frustrate me, unless well they have powder.
post #4 of 24
Thread Starter 
 i'm 168 and my skis are 163 imonster m77....so not stupid short skis at all.... but the experiences were brand new; and given that i wasn't the only one struggling, i'd like to think it's an issue alot of skiers can initally have an issue with...both in terms of technique and confidence...skiing on clumpy, uneven terrain is difficult initally (the snow was often 2 ft deep and a bit sticky so we were sinking alot or faceplanting, or losing our balance due to fear riding the rear of the skis.

i think these condition--and especially the steeper grades, thus more fear--combined all threw us quite often.

i would have preferred to do less steep runs to better practice how to traverse these conditions but such wasn't the case.
Edited by canali - 12/18/09 at 7:11pm
post #5 of 24
I'm curious, do the coaches of the espirit program encourage you to buy or rent appropriate skis for conditions? The conditions you describe are not easy on 77mm skis for anyone. not to distract from the real issue of skiing correctly, but once one spends the money for a vacation, a little more for the right type of ski just protects the investment.

And BW is saying something I have often thought and conveyed to powder learners: you don't have to change much (methods) if you are skiing correctly. but if you have flaws, the powder and heavy powder skiing  will bring out the shortcomings of your technique.
post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 
RE: "I'm curious, do the coaches of the espirit program encourage you to buy or rent appropriate skis for conditions?''

 no discussion of our skis was ever made or encouraged for different conditions....we knew fatter skis are better in powder but nothing was suggested to change things around.

RE: but if you have flaws, the powder and heavy powder skiing  will bring out the shortcomings of your technique...

so i guess it's back to the drawing board for me....alot of us weren't doing enough upper/lower body separation...or leaning into the hill or backwards when we'd get freaked on the steeper blue (some black) grades with powder and clumps...or not starting/finishing the turn properly...

again in hindsight i think doing some easier grades would have made for more skill & confidence development because we could have slowed things down and understood more what was or what was not happening in the new conditions we were firsthand experiencing.
ie when you're more focused not on crashing and burning but instead on experiencing new technique under new conditions in a more controlled manner.
Edited by canali - 12/18/09 at 8:10pm
post #7 of 24
I think it IS advantageous to experience what it feels like to do it right. 

clinics should be structured for sucess (and fun). not a punishing eye opener.
post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by canali View Post

RE: "I'm curious, do the coaches of the espirit program encourage you to buy or rent appropriate skis for conditions?''

 no discussion of our skis was ever made or encouraged for different conditions....we knew fatter skis are better in powder but nothing was suggested to change things around.

RE: but if you have flaws, the powder and heavy powder skiing  will bring out the shortcomings of your technique...

so i guess it's back to the drawing board for me....alot of us weren't doing enough upper/lower body separation...or leaning into the hill or backwards when we'd get freaked on the steeper blue (some black) grades with powder and clumps...or not starting/finishing the turn properly...

again in hindsight i think doing some easier grades would have made for more skill & confidence development because we could have slowed things down and understood more what was or what was not happening in the new conditions we were firsthand experiencing.
ie when you're more focused not on crashing and burning but instead on experiencing new technique under new conditions in a more controlled manner.

Whistler gets some thick sloppy cement snow! It's totally different from okanagan powder. Based on what you've described, it sounds like you did really well for your first new snow experience! (I broke my wrist in that snow last May.)

I disagree about skiing in this snow the same way as on groomers though. Some moves won't work well in that cement - pivoting and skidding becomes incredibly challenging if you can even manage it, and dangerous. Carving is more efficient in this stuff. Think of your skis as knives, and the snow as butter. You can only cut butter with the edge (carving), not by pressing the knife down flat (pivoting).

Two feet of that cement is also enough to begin narrowing your stance if you normally ski at hip width. And you really want to have a good centered and mobile stance to be able to make adjustments in your skiing when necessary. If you get ahead and your skis grab, you're in danger of flying. You'll also want to maintain tension on both skis. If you have a more even pressure distribution between skis (rather than alternating between 100% on one ski, 0% on the other), you're most likely to be able to recover when one ski grabs. If you're sinking under the snow, you've also got to manage the 3 dimensional forces instead of just 2d. wowza! Once the snow gets choppier (and flatter), you can have a lot of fun blasting through the piles on your edges. 

And you're 100% correct in starting on easier runs when in unfamiliar conditions. Once you can demonstrate effective technique, it's then time to bring it into more challenging runs. I'm surprised this wasn't the case. Ski Esprit is a well respected program... 

So yes, I do think most skiers have a "holy crap" moment when they come to these conditions, particularly when they're thrown on terrain that would give them pause even in normal conditions. By building up to the harder terrain and getting lots of exposure, I imagine you'll grow to love these neat new sensations!

It's nice to hear you got snow. When I was at Whistler the 5th-7th of Dec, it was basically a skating rink. Too many thaw and freeze cycles will do that.
post #9 of 24
Powder cement isn't the best of snow that's for sure!! You almost have to hop turn. The weighted and unweighted ski is so much more crucial in heavy snow. The heavier the snow the more pronounced the unweighting to turn. Its all good though. Much rather be skiing in heavy snow rather than ice any day. I'm kinda spoiled up north. Nothing but champagne hear.
post #10 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post

I think it IS advantageous to experience what it feels like to do it right. 

clinics should be structured for sucess (and fun). not a punishing eye opener.

the issue with powder is it so mental with the guest that quite often I have to back up and ski groomers. The other things that kills me is when people say they cant see their tips and they shoulndt be looking there anyways. Solution ski backwards in front of them and keep their head up

FYI those skis are REALLY short , longer softer skis = better in powder 100 percent of the time.
post #11 of 24
Thread Starter 
 ''RE: FYI those 163 skis are REALLY short''...please remember i'm only 168 (5'6") so according to my height and skill level (good novice) aren't they appropriate? (sure at the end of this season i'll look into a more all mtn fat ski, ie, 188+) but my instructor said my skis should have been ok in these conditions. (they were so varied, as you could read, however)..

RE: ''hop and jump in cement powder snow.''...yeah he told us that, but again, with my rib injury and on much steeper terrain (a few times on milder black pitches ), plus the feeling of being 'jostled' upon landing (as it's not on a flat groomer), made me less confident.

i had already been out skiing 6x and taken a lesson to refine things and 'prep' myself for whistler, even.

I think my instructor had good intentions and just wanted to give us a good taste of alot of both whistler/blackcomb (as is the itinerary), but in retrospect (and with some of the windy/foggy weather) I would have gone down a notch (but that lower green/blue alternative group was just too basic...so i was caught in the middle)...on the groomed runs when we were first being evaluated for example,  (ie be put into either higher or lower green/blue group), I was being considered being moved into a more skilled lower blue category since my skill level (pivoting, upper/lower body separation) on an easier groomer was good...but again, in deeper snow and mixed deep snow, bumps, mounds and especially combined on much more steep terrain, my skill level (let alone confidence) just wasn't there....these latter conditions IMO do present a different skill and confidence base to learn..

as mentioned, i think i would have assimilated the challenges more efficiently (and had a happier time and not worrying about crashing and burning) if i'd had perhaps fatter skis and especially taking our time on lesser grades,...ie in morning do drills on easier runs to warm up/get confidence and in afternoon hit something a bit more aggressive to put things into practice....but again, add poor visibility on some runs at top (tons of fog) and high winds made things difficult too....after that one bad tumble (first powder day and it was pretty deep) mid week in which i encountered a  hairline fracture to my rib,  i ended up taking a whole day off (doc suggested both remaining days to let it heal, but i didn't...and i am as sore as hell)

don't get me wrong: i'm not against skiing in these rougher & varied conditions: I want to be able to ski in all conditions now that i've had a taste of that...just my ability level and confidence weren't up to these elements at this stage....in fact now going back to cypress mtnh to practice those ski skills (via the dvd series i bought) may seem a bit tame as there will be little ungroomed runs or deep snow to push my skill level ahead as much as did the week at whistler...but when i go to 'big white' in kelowna in late jan for 4 days i'll hopefully be better prepped (I may take their 3 day group lesson, too)...so i'm looking at this 'eye opener' ski experience in as positive a way as i can: it has been both humbling and motivating.
 
.
 

Edited by canali - 12/25/09 at 7:48pm
post #12 of 24
Well, I don't know what the official definition of powder is, but to me, if you can make snowballs out of it, it ain't powder. It's just sticky snow. It sounds like you were stuck with lots of sticky snow.

For me, sticky snow is the most difficult skiing there is. Particularly if I'm on skinny-ish skis and it's cut or lumped up. It's the unpredictable nature of the stuff that makes it hard. If you don't know whether the shovels of your skis are going to ride over a lump or punch straight in, your natural reaction will be to tense up, so you'll lose your upper/lower body separation.

If I'm stuck in those conditions, I just tell myself that the skis will ride over the lumps and ski appropriately, accepting the fact that every once in a while the tips will punch in and I'm going to step out of the heals and go flying.

The more appropriate the skis are for those conditions, the less launches I do. So, my enjoyment is highly dependent on the skis I'm on. It sounds like you did about as well as I would given the skis you were on. It's great that you're getting motivation from the experience.
post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by retroEric View Post

Well, I don't know what the official definition of powder is, but to me, if you can make snowballs out of it, it ain't powder. It's just sticky snow. It sounds like you were stuck with lots of sticky snow.

Yep... sounds like the conditions were lots of fresh cement, not fresh powder... typical for Whistler (at least he wasn't getting rained on).  It would be a VERY tiring experience for someone unaccustomed to it, and without the right equipment.
post #14 of 24
Welcome to the wonderful world of Northwestern deep crud skiing!  The stuff can be challenging to say the least.  There is a very bright side to the not so fluffy, once you get comfortable with the heavy snow, the lighter snow you see inland will be ego snow.

Getting comfortable with glop is the issue.  Just a few ideas from spending about 50 years in it. 
When you are at Cyprus ski the edges of the trail more where the varied snow is (mileage and experience).  If there is no loose snow head for some bumps.  The object is to put you in places that force you adjust your balance and turn shapes.  You are having trouble with inconsistent situations, practice them.  Don't give up your groomers of course, but don't ski them exclusively, vary the conditions.

Look farther down the hill, several turns further.  If you can see your ski tips, you are looking down.  When skiers start looking down near their tips bad things can happen: hands can drop, weight will go back, ankles straighten up, physical and mental tension increases, you are surprised by upcoming changes, there will be less upper/lower body separation, and of course you can run into stuff.  More bad stuff can happen but you get the idea.

Demo some larger skis, maybe something 85 to 95 mm.  Get too wide and you may find the skis harder to initiate a turn.  Others are way better for recommendations here at Epic.  Do it on a loose snow day and start the day on them, not your current skis.  As the day progresses you might try your IM's, but the idea is see what you are missing.  You would probably find a little longer ski easier in loose snow too, with the extra tip length they won't be thrown around as much by the choped up crud. 

Visualization can help too; close your eyes and try to experience the sensations of your good turns.  Last but not least; smile, this can really help to reduce your levels of mental and physical tension and you will look farther ahead.  (The other great thing about smiling is that it can confuse everybody else.)

The more you ski this stuff, the more you will enjoy it.
post #15 of 24
I have skied a lot at Whistler and when you have mashed potatoes there is not comparison to Utah's light fluffy powder.  Great skiers get frustrated with the cement, so why not you.

If you can learn to ski in it though, you will be a better man for it.  I do not agree that skiing Whistler "heavy" powder is easy.  But once you master it, it's a blast and it comes with a big reward.
post #16 of 24
Thread Starter 
 thanks everyone...i appreciate your supportive comments....i don't feel like such a 'write-off'  (it was discouraging alot of times and my 'fun factor' was about a 4-5 out of 10...so not ideal).

i've certainly learned to distinguish between fluffy powder and new snow/cement....but even on a lighter powder dumping i was having issues (again, steepness & sitting back too much)...so much to learn...but now skiing a  smooth groomer is akin to being spoon fed, lol...talk about being spoiled.
Edited by canali - 12/19/09 at 5:41pm
post #17 of 24
IMO, for most folks anything under 100 or so for skiing off piste at Whistler (or anywhere in the PNW) is just silly. Look at the lineup on a big morning. Look at who is still going strong in it at 11:30 AM... Yeah, some folks will be styling it on narrower skis. But that's a tiny, tiny minority. And for good reason. (of course a poorly thought out "fat" ski will not make anyone feel the love...)

There is no shortage of folks who'd view S3s, Kung Fujas, 2010 Gotamas, older goats, Blogs, etc., etc. as the narrow end of a PNW quiver. With skis like EP Pros, Hell Bents, Bent Chetlers, etc being the "middle" ground. Again, for good reason... 

Unless you a) want to stay on groomers or b) like the discipline required to master painfully difficult things for no particular reason or c) have already done the hard learning & have years of muscle memory & response preference just where you want them - get on the "right" tools for the region and make your life easier. You will get to skip the many, many days of learning needed to defeat a narrow conventional ski's hard snow design bias.

Read McConkey's "Mental Floss" piece on the Spatula Design to begin to grok this. 

Personally, I can't imagine hauling a sub-100 ski to Whistler. Period. And on what I consider a good day (which includes many "heavy" fresh snow days), if that's all I had at my disposal, I'd cry, or shoot myself, or something... just my .02
Edited by spindrift - 12/19/09 at 6:00pm
post #18 of 24
Thread Starter 
 thanks...so when i head to big white resort in kelowna next month, i'll rent some fatter skis while i'm there as per your suggestions...perhaps the newer salomon lords or something fatter...since i'm not a good skier yet i'd still be looking for something with a mid flex shovel, i presume?)..

any suggestions for a fatter ski that's a bit forgiving as per my ability level yet is something versatile for all mtn and i can grow into skill wise?
Edited by canali - 12/19/09 at 6:11pm
post #19 of 24

See if there is a shop there that will let you try several different pairs.  You don't eat the same thing every night for dinner do you?

The Lord is a nice ski though, I liked it @ Crystal Mt for a day.  There are lots of good choices out there.

 

Enjoy Big White, great resort.

post #20 of 24
Some conditions suck and are not worth dealing with. For a person struggling in heavy wet snow with poor visability, there is no fun and NO BENEFIT. You survive with your worst habits thereby learning muscle memory that is wrong. You risk injury that would never happen if you were skiing your ability. I am NOT a believer in skiing over your head to advance. That's an old and invalid concept. You have to do it right to learn it right and in those conditions you will not make many correct turns.

OK, bring it. I can hear the rumbling already. but I can support this idea.
post #21 of 24
Judging by the days you were here, you would have had a few days of good powder and 2 (the last 2) of heavy snow. I haven't skied the last 2 days, but heard it was fairly heavy - nowhere near as bad as it can get though.

Skiing powder is completely different to skiing the groomers - a novice skier is always going to have a hard time in 20+cm of powder (Wednesday we had 49cm in 24hrs) - especially on 77mm skis. The biggest hurdle to overcome is speed - you need it. However it can be hard to let the speed build up when you can't turn like you are used to.

For a green/blue skier, I am not surprised you had a few tough days - It sounds like you finally got to do some real skiing

The last week has been good, not 'blower' snow, but good nonetheless , and with more snow coming over the next few days -> more fresh turns coming up :)
post #22 of 24
Thread Starter 
 RE: "skiing powder is completely different to skiing the groomers - a novice skier is always going to have a hard time in 20+cm of powder (Wednesday we had 49cm in 24hrs) - especially on 77mm skis. The biggest hurdle to overcome is speed - you need it. However it can be hard to let the speed build up when you can't turn like you are used to.''

and wed (49 cm dump day) is when my rib accident (bad tumble) occurred.

RE:: "Some conditions suck and are not worth dealing with. For a person struggling in heavy wet snow with poor visability, there is no fun and NO BENEFIT. You survive with your worst habits thereby learning muscle memory that is wrong. You risk injury that would never happen if you were skiing your ability. I am NOT a believer in skiing over your head to advance. That's an old and invalid concept. You have to do it right to learn it right and in those conditions you will not make many correct turns.''
 
I agree, yet our instructor felt that you learned when you pushed yourself..we all know that...but there is 'pushing yourself' vs and then there is pushing the limit to much too soon if you don't have the base there....to be frank in our class we  had a gal who was constantly falling and/or her skis were falling off (and I could see a few others and the instructor were getting frustrated with her as she was slowing things down alot)..she must have felt alot of pressure to keep up, wherein the instructor should have just moved her to the lower level (heck, in hindsight, given my growing frustration with myself, I should have joined her LOL).

Edited by canali - 12/19/09 at 8:56pm
post #23 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by canali View Post

 thanks...so when i head to big white resort in kelowna next month, i'll rent some fatter skis while i'm there as per your suggestions...perhaps the newer salomon lords or something fatter...since i'm not a good skier yet i'd still be looking for something with a mid flex shovel, i presume?)..

any suggestions for a fatter ski that's a bit forgiving as per my ability level yet is something versatile for all mtn and i can grow into skill wise?
 
 
Rossignol S7

Or, heck, given your height, S3, which is the scaled-down version of the S7.

Early-rise, early-taper tip = happiness in challenging snow conditions
post #24 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by spindrift View Post

IMO, for most folks anything under 100 or so for skiing off piste at Whistler (or anywhere in the PNW) is just silly. 
Personally, I can't imagine hauling a sub-100 ski to Whistler. Period. 

I find Whistler isn't always powder or cement. I was there a couple of weekends ago after a nasty thaw/freeze/thaw/freeze cycle, and most of the runs were groomed ice. A fat ski would have been nasty on the groomers as you needed high edge angles. (It was like skiing Ontario!)

Quote:
Originally Posted by canali View Post

I agree, yet our instructor felt that you learned when you pushed yourself..we all know that...but there is 'pushing yourself' vs and then there is pushing the limit to much too soon if you don't have the base there....to be frank in our class we  had a gal who was constantly falling and/or her skis were falling off (and I could see a few others and the instructor were getting frustrated with her as she was slowing things down alot)..she must have felt alot of pressure to keep up, wherein the instructor should have just moved her to the lower level (heck, in hindsight, given my growing frustration with myself, I should have joined her LOL).

If you have the instructor's name, I'd recommend writing to the ski school director. Learners deserve much better than that.

Enjoy Kelowna! The conditions are generally great--the snow's light, and generally the temperatures are cold enough that even if it hasn't snowed recently, the base is still soft and fluffy. And if you take a lesson, see if you can get Christian--he's a level 4 with a great attitude--you'll see huge improvements in your skiing with him!  I was in an all day session with him recently and he greatly improved my skiing.
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