<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>What IS the "slow line", and HOW DO WE FIND IT? <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Great question, Oboe! I'll give the short answer toward the end of this post, but bear with me for a little more explanation (and mind games)....
Good skiing is skiing a slow enough line as fast as you can--WHEN you can!
That is my full statement that has often been quoted as the directive to simply "ski the slow line fast." There are some significant differences between the two statements!
First, to ski "a slow enough line" suggests that there is often more than one such line. Usually there are MANY slow enough lines down any run. And a slow ENOUGH line could be very different from just a SLOW line! How slow is slow enough is up to you.
Likewise, "as fast as you can" does not necessarily imply FAST either! It all depends on the line....
The key point is to control speed by DIRECTION when possible, not FRICTION--by gliding uphill to slow down, rather than by braking with skidding skis.
So a "slow enough line" can be one that simply takes advantage of the existing ups and downs of the slope, the natural little knolls, the sloped sides of gulleys, the miniature little "hills" we call moguls, and so on. If I want to gain speed, I go downhill; if I want to lose speed, I go uphill (if I can!). When I ski, I am always looking around, scanning the slope, looking for where to go to minimize my need for braking. The key word, whether I'm trying to gain or lose speed, is always GO!
If I want to slow down or stop, and there is a natural uphill in front of me, I'll just ski straight ahead and go up it--as fast as I can. But usually, of course, it's all downhill in front of me, so to go uphill, I'll have to make a turn and go back up the mountain. Usually, I make linked turns. I make a turn and try to go as far around the circle as I can until I feel that I'm going "too slowly." Then I release my edges, let my skis turn back downhill, and start a new turn. As I go downhill, of course, my speed increases, and I continue around the arc until once again I (literally) want to go faster--then I turn the other way. The size of these circles can be anything I choose--it's how far around them I go that determines the "slowness" of the line.
This all may sound a little silly--and obvious. But watch skiers on the hill--almost NONE will ever complete a turn to the point that they are going back uphill--EVER! There are only two ways to slow down--by increasing sliding resistance (skidding, falling, wind resistance, hitting a tree, etc.), and by GOING uphill. Since few skiers ever go uphill, they must be braking all the time--or going very fast! Since few skiers ever "complete a turn," they are skiing a "faster line with the brakes on."
Habitually skiing the "fast line slow" is defensive, exhausting, unreliable (brakes fail!), and in many ways, out of control. Since the very moves that allow our skis to act as brakes (skidding) also reduce our control of LINE (you can't go uphill by pushing your tails downhill!), braking compromises control of direction. The movements of TURNING (guiding the ski tips in the direction you want to go) are contradictory to the movements of BRAKING (pushing the tails in the direction you DON'T want to go). Furthermore, balancing on skis that are skidding sideways is much more difficult than balancing on skis that are cleanly gliding and carving. Ironically, the faster you go, the less you can afford to hit the brakes!
So to summarize, and to give a simple answer to your question, Oboe, a "slow enough line" is one made primarily of COMPLETED TURNS.
When is a turn "complete"? That's entirely up to you! The pre-requisite to any good turn is the desire to GAIN SPEED--because that's obviously what will happen when you point those skis down the hill (unless you have the brakes on). The only time I ever want to gain speed is when I feel like I'm going too slowly (a state of mind, by-the-way--not a speed--one person's "too fast" is another's "way too slow").
So--a turn is complete the moment I feel like I want to go faster--the moment I feel like I'm going "too slow." At that moment, and not a moment sooner, it makes sense to turn the skis back downhill and gain speed--and enjoy the ride!
Gliding around linked, completed, turns--that's all there is to skiing the slow (enough) line fast!
The turns can be any size--again, it's how far around them we go that determines how slow or fast the line is. And they are naturally linked. Why? Why NOT?! Why, if I feel like I'm going too slow, would I traverse across the hill? Why not turn downhill? And why, if I do NOT want to gain speed, or if I want to LOSE speed, would I traverse? Much more effective to turn UPhill! So I start a turn, gain speed, continue around the turn until I want to gain speed again, and then start a new turn.
Because I only do it when I want to gain speed, I enjoy every dive down the hill into a new turn. Gravity, the "enemy" that most skiers struggle against, becomes a toy to play with, a force that does my bidding.
That's what I mean by skiing "a slow enough line as fast as you can." Anyone who can turn can ski a slow enough line, if he chooses. The "fast as you can part" involves maximizing the glide, minimizing the braking and skidding. It's a function of skill, equipment, and conditions that determines just how fast a skier can travel on any given line. A more skillful skier, all else being equal, will obviously be able to ski any line faster than a lesser skier, if he/she chooses.
Then there's the "when you can" part. None of this discussion should imply that braking is bad! Just like driving a car, effective, skillful, and judicious braking is a critically important skill in skiing! But RIDING the brakes is an exhausting, bad habit. If we can't ski a slow enough line--whether limited by skill, crowding, fatigue, obstacles, or whatever, then we NEED brakes. A little intentional skidding here and there can be necessary, effective, and even fun.
Finally, do expert skiers usually complete most turns back uphill? No. But this does not contradict the "slow (enough) line fast" ideal! There are several reasons why experts don't usually need to complete turns back uphill. First, they usually like to ski very fast, when conditions are safe. Sometimes even straight downhill is a "slow enough line." Second, at higher speeds, WIND RESISTANCE plays a big role in speed control. And third, ALL turns involve at least a little increased sliding resistance, whether intentional braking or not. The cleaner the turn, the less resistance, but there's always some.... Quite often, especially on steeps with soft snow, it is all but impossible to actually go uphill--but the INTENT to do so is what matters. The rule to go as far around the arc as possible until you want to gain speed again still applies!
Go downhill to speed up. Go uphill to slow down. Take advantage of terrain features. Complete every turn. Glide when you can. Brake when you have to. Play with gravity--don't fight it!
That is the simple essence of "skiing a slow (enough) line as fast as you can"!