<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by eug:
I guess I was referring to the steeper terrain ... When snow is pretty packed and your skis are off it you would be picking up speed and if trail happened to change direction you could be heading for the trees....<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Truly steep terrain and a fast slide is the very last situation in which you would want to have your skis or boots below you and suddenly grab the snow. Sliding in this orientation often causes people to cartwheel and sustain *very* serious injuries.
This problem is well known to climbers using crampons. In that case, after a fall, the climber is supposed to slide on his belly, bend his knees to keep his feet off of the snow, and lay across his ice ax, thereby putting the point of highest friction with the surface (ie, the tip of the ice ax) above his center of mass. This minimizes the possibility of him either cartwheeling or spinning while flat on the snow (ie, head-first, then feet-first, then head-first, etc.)
In the case of a skier, the previous advice in this thread was correct: Try to get your feet uphill, and then lower your skis so that they drag on the snow and slow you down. If the skis come off (or are already off), dig in with your (uphill) boot toes as hard as you can. This way they will never suddenly catch, and you will come to a nice gradual stop.
Now, some caveats. If you are on a truly steep slope (say, over 40 deg) and you fall into the hill, before you pick up any speed, it is possible for experienced skiers to jump/push themselves back up onto their feet. However, if more than a fraction of a second has elapsed, and the snow is fast, you will have already built up too much speed for this maneuver, so go back to the feet-uphill approach.
Second, if you are skiing on very steep terrain, a fast surface, and with nearby danger of sliding off a cliff or into rocks (at high speed), you may want to consider a ski mountaineering course which covers self-arrest techniques and perhaps the use of ski poles which have built in mini ice axes in their handles.
Tom / PM
PS - After writing the above material, I looked at the SkiMag article, and I have to disagree strongly with its recommendations. About the only time I would ever try to use their feet-downhill technique is in soft snow (where you have reached terminal velocity, and it is low because of the friction from the soft snow), and on slopes where you know there is absolutely no danger of your skis hitting a submerged rock and twisting your ankles and/or precipitating a cartwheel.
To counter their recommendation, see any book on mountaineering that covers crampon management in falls. I think its discussed in the bible, "Mountaineering - Freedom of the Hills", but I don't have my copy in front of me as I write this.
<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ January 02, 2002 12:49 AM: Message edited 1 time, by PhysicsMan ]</font>