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Techniques for cut-up runs

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
One problem I have is skiing an easy intermediate run that has been heavily cut up by skier traffic, is starting to form bumps, and the snow is hard enough that I can't just blast through the irregularities.

Think of an intermediate run at an Eastern area in the late afternoon after a reasonably warm day with heavy skier traffic. The sun is now low, and the surface is now a million 1 to 2 foot high piles of hard refrozen slush. A picture that shows more or less the sort of run I'm thinking of is on page 1E (the east coast area supplement) of the Oct. 2001 issue of SKIING mag (the GearGuide issue).

If this trail were smooth, I'd quickly ski down it using large radius fast carved turns. It would be over so quickly that I'd probably never even give it a second thought.

In the condition it is in, I might try to stick with big carved GS turns, but at a slightly reduced speed. In this case, I'd try to pick a nice rounded path that went between the bumps, sticking to the smooth terrain between the mini-moguls, and thereby avoiding most of the up and down irregularities.

Unfortunately, when I do this, eventually, I always seem to wind up somewhere from where there simply is no low-road out (unless you make a sharp turn which is impossible at high speeds). With no way to avoid going over the next mini-mogul, since I'm going fast, I get thrown around, and usually crash.

Now, I can get down a hill like this perfectly well by slowing way down and carefully picking / skidding / pivoting my way around each mini-bump, almost like it was a real mogul field, but that seems absurdly overcautious for a trail this simple.

I know that I need serious improvement in my absorption of bumps, but are there any other suggestions for better strategies / techniques to ski conditions like this smooth but fast?


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[This message has been edited by FamilyManSkier (edited September 19, 2001).]</FONT>
post #2 of 28
Balance is the key to good skiing. In an earlier thread balance boards, discs, etc were discussed. Go to a gym or physical therapist and try the different ones.

"Blast through" is brutal. If you have balance and flexion of your ankles/knees/hips, you can ski smoothly over them.

"Thrown all over" is again blance and stiffness in joints.

We all ski for fun (sometimes profit -ha ha), but a good way to improve in the eastern stuff is ski the lousy sections of a trail every now and then so when you have no choice but to ski it, you will be ready. I had trained a racer last year how to handle the ice by starting her off looking for patches on groomed slopes-ride over it, then start to turn, then finish the turn...to skiing only on a solid sheet by the end of the day. Balance.

A major breakthrough from intermediate to advance is to ski with the center of mass in balance. Think with your "belly button", not your feet. When you ski over the crud, don't think of blasting your feet/skiis through, think of floating over it with your belly. It's a neat feeling when you ski with your center of mass, oops catch an edge, but then calmly retract your feet and place your skiis into a new turn...all the time having your belly still "float" down the hill.

Practice...but balance comes first.
Good luck
post #3 of 28
Note: These snow conditions happen out West a great deal too - just generally later in the season, but the areas stay open longer so you still end up spending as much time in such wildly variable conditions. Hell - in the spring you might run into solid refrozen slush, melting slush, groomed soft stuff, chowder, powder and more all in one run.

I find that "terrain ignortion" (bad english, good tool) is valuable in chopped up/changable snow. Standing tall and strong, staying centered and trusting that your skis will cut through everything. As skis hit heavy areas of snow they will naturally deccelerate and deflect some, and as they hit open areas will accelerate. Learning to relax and not let the unpredictable movements of the skis affect the rest of your body is key. I've found that high speed GS turns through chopped up snow is now one of the most fun things to do - because of the wide variety of sensations we experience in such conditions.
post #4 of 28
I have to agree with all of the above posts. These kind of conditions are my favorite. Flex at the top of each bump that you want to go over and extend coming off the down side into the trough. Great bump practice.

If you are hving balance problems, here is a good pre-season excercise: Get a half inch diameter rope about eight feet long. Stretch it out on the floor and walk it, one foot in front of the other. Try to balance on the rope without either side of your shoe touching the floor. You will find the muscles along your shins (peroneal and tibialis groups) working overtime. This is one of the few excercises that will develop these groups. And these muscle groups, and the inner ear, is balance is controlled. You will find your dynamic balance will be much better when the snow flies.

post #5 of 28
Cut crud has never been more fun since mid fats, but "coral reef" (refrozen)is just plain work. Turn design and shape is challenging especially when "terrain determined" turns are restricted by crowded slopes. Turning the bald spots, like you described in a great tactic!
post #6 of 28
Familyman- A few thoughts: Don't expect it to feel like it did when it was groomed! I know what a cop out but I think we all aim to have that same smooth feeling in all our skiing regardless of terrain and condition. This is a great goal to aim for but be realalistic in your expectation.

2nd I get the feeling you don't like this condition and there lies the problem. We tend to get tense when we are put in a situation that is uncomfortable or were we do not have confidence. You need to change your mindset to enjoy the bumpy ride and reval in the dynamic vibrating sensations your feet so kindly share with the rest of your body! Only by doing this will you relax enought to truly ski this stuff so you can make it smooth. You need to be actively absorbing so you need a tall skelatal stance allowing the muscles freedom to bend and unbend.

Last you need to keep looking further and further ahead and not looking at the bump that just hit your ski.

Take the condition as a challenge and enjoy the learning! As todd mentioned this is not a East only thing ski a south facing bowl out west in March or worst April in the early AM and you have a greater appreciation of the work you dentist did with your teeth. Looking forward to it!!! todo<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Todo (edited September 19, 2001).]</FONT>
post #7 of 28
hop on a snowboard?
post #8 of 28
Yeah, and heelside slip the whole way down, then say "Dude! Mtn. High rocks!"
post #9 of 28
Obviously it is very difficult to offer specific suggestions without seeing you ski. However, the dilemma you describe is very typical and I might suggest a concept/approach which I have found to be of use to many. First, the problem. Skiers learn to control their skis on groomed slopes by pressuring (and too often steering) them and trying to get the edges to do the work. In cut-up conditions (and powder) this can create a lot of problems. The harder you "push" on your skis to get them to turn the more they are pushed around and controlled by the snow. A big part of the answer is to focus on flexion or retraction of the legs to initiate a turn. This allows release of the ski edges and easy transition towards the so called "fall into the future."

On groomed slopes I might use the concept of lift and tip (inside ski) to get this point across. However, in cut-up and powder conditions you are much better off with both skis relatively close together, forming a broad platform on or in the snow. In these conditions the concept of retraction seems to work for many. By promoting good edge release it will let the force of the snow on your (bent) skis gently propel you around the turn - a feeling that has the much touted carve beat by a long shot if you ask me.

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[This message has been edited by skiprofessor (edited September 19, 2001).]</FONT>
post #10 of 28
I thought about my first post and realized that there is another obvious approach that has not been mentioned. Get a midfat ski (73-80mm waist). Given that you ski in the East I suspect that very few skiers are using midfats. However, they offer 2 advantages which can make a significance difference. First, the more recognized advantage is the floatation they provide which certainly makes them easier to control in cut-up and/or soft snow. Just as important, if not more so, is the increased stability they provide by means of a wider base. With increased stability comes improved ability to recover from being pushed around in variable crud as well as the numerous mistakes that skiers make. Being able to recover from perturbances and mistakes has got to be one of the very best learning experiences there is. If you want to see immediate improvement in cut-up conditions go wide. Then bring in retraction to step up to the next level.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by skiprofessor (edited September 19, 2001).]</FONT>
post #11 of 28
Skiprofessor - you mention using a narrow stance, "However, in cut-up and powder conditions you are much better off with both skis relatively close together, forming a broad platform on or in the snow"

If balance is a problem, doesn"t a wider stance provide better stability. This is assuming near equal weight on both skis?
post #12 of 28
In any deeper snow a rampant misconception among even experienced skiers is that somehow more flotation is provided by keeping the skis closer together. In fact it does not increase the size of your platform. Skiers who find a closed stance easier are probably finding that for them there are less ski deflection problems and steering accuracy problems. But if the deflection and steering are not an issue for you, you will indeed benefit more from a wider and more versatile stance.
post #13 of 28
Kee Tov! Awesome post! Check out my site.
post #14 of 28
Lisamarie-have seen your site and I think I know where you are coming from.
Four years ago my Lyme disease was so bad that if I closed my eyes and lifted up a foot, I would fall down.. and not even know I was falling! Needless to say-I didn't ski for a year. I couldn't teach Karate either. My first year back, I spent a tremondous amount of time looking at balancing excercises that ski teams use (not Karate), because skiing has a non level continually changing playing field. The skiers' edge or the fitter machines are good for motion, but not balance like disks or boards. Try doing knee flexes on a disk while having someone toss a medicine ball at/to you! With an increased awareness of my balance capability, my skiing zoomed forward in leaps and bounds.
Now I have done such things as skiing blindfolded in a Master clinic(This May I should be finished with the Master Teacher Program...but willing to admit I am still learning), well, sloppy skidded windshield wiper turns down an intermediate slope. I was balanced, but the fear factor effected performance.
Even did a day in a bucket on a monoski(parapalegic) to see how limited body movement would effect my understanding of balance.
I am a firm believer in balance first, movement flows out from your center. When I followed an examiner down ice, hard pack, new 6 inch powder...and his turns were all the same (God damn it-if he could do it, I should)I then realized he was skiing his center of mass, while I was skiing my feet. You know, where to feel the skiis, the boot, the usual feel the snow philosphy.
I then tried a run and tried to catch edges. When I did, I would just retract my feet and floated my belly until my feet regained the touch on the snow.
Try it!
Balance and fear.
post #15 of 28
Cool! What an inspiring story! I'm currently finishing up an article for TPS on that topic. The latest current events have caused a bit of a motivation block. It also does not help that I gathered infinitely more info than I could have imagined this summer, so now the darn thing is unbelievably long!
post #16 of 28

I don't think stability is a primary issue for the dynamic balance we strive to achieve in skiing. I do, however, agree with comments referring to the need for skiing "in balance." In fact, the primary goal of my suggestion was to provide a cue to help remove a common barrier that people encounter which keeps them from skiing in balance. From my experience telling an intermediate skier that they need to be more in balance doesn't do much. However, if you can help them remove the self imposed barriers to skiing in balance most are able to find it for themselves.

The difficulty with a wider stance is that the skis act much more independently. In cut-up or soft snow this can result in perturbations which are difficult to independently control although it is not much of a factor on the groomed.

I certainly agree with Todd that having the skis closer together not providing improved flotation and I don't think I inferred otherwise. Perhaps where I said "broad platform" I perhaps should have said "single broad platform as opposed to two independent smaller platforms. In spite of the physics of the situation, skiing on a "single broad platform" (I'm NOT talking about boots locked together here) yields the sensation and confidence of improved flotation. Thus I expect that the "rampant misconception" Todd refers to is actually an expression of perception rather than the physics of the situation.

The two recent threads on stance and balance deal extensively (and probably excessively) with the issue of wider vs. narrower stance. The only thing I would further offer here is an empirical argument. Spend a day watching all the expert skiers (and level 3 instructors) skiing the cut-up and crud on the Hobacks at Jackson Hole (or of off KT 22 at Squaw if that's your preference). You will find a narrower stance to be quite dominant. Yes, there are many ways to ski but the vast majority of these great skiers find it easier, more efficient, and more functional in a narrower stance. Addtionally, at least the instuctors I know, who are great skiers and teach in this environment, use this approach in their teaching.

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[This message has been edited by skiprofessor (edited September 19, 2001).]</FONT>
post #17 of 28

Obviously you've been offered some excellent advice in previous posts. Here's my experience with the conditions you mention anyway.

My breakthrough in such conditions came in learning to 'ski from' a tall stance. Instead of getting down and tensing(sp?) up like I used to do there came a day when I stood tall and LOOSE. No matter what the terrain did to me I let my body return to tall and loose between turns.

I noticed my ankles worked better right away. My legs were very supple and and I hardly felt those piles and bumps. My skis stayed in contact with the snow and were able to work for me.

Skiing from a tall stance doesn't mean being tall all the time. It means starting tall and that tall is the neutral position, though I may flex fairly deeply depending on turns and terrain. **IMPORTANT: the flexing isn't really a muscular action as much as it is an allowing/passive thing(at first),** letting the forces push my joints where they needed to be then snapping back to tall and loose. As I learned I made it more active.
post #18 of 28
Skiprofessor-All of us seem to be steering our friends in the same direction-it is a matter of what words we are using.
As mentioned earlier-without actually being with familymanskier, it is difficult to really see what is happening, let only what is his learning style. Skiing preference, movement analysis preference, progression favorites...it doesn't matter. Skiing is fun.
The one phrase I differ with you is "don't think stability is a primary issue for the dynamic balance." Maybe I don't understand your definition of the word "stable". If I see a tightrope walker swinging their arms and feet wildly around, but still stays on the rope-they are in balance. They are stable enough to move and recover and maintain the "no falling" position. It isn't pretty. As skiers we try to be smoother and efficient. Do we agree on this term of stable?
I did like your comment of "help remove a common barrier that people encounter which keeps them from skiing in balance." For some it is a physical movement, for others it is a fear factor preventing them from doing the physical movement. As instructors we have to determine what needs correction, and then figure out the best way for that student. Again without seeing familyskiman, we miss out on a critical component of teaching-feedback.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by KeeTov (edited September 20, 2001).]</FONT>
post #19 of 28
I would agree it takes more motor-center control to control two independant platforms. And perhaps if you hopped down the street with your feet tied together it would be easier mechanically, but it would take more physical effort and be less versatile.

Perhaps skiing in a wider stance in cut-up snow is more difficult, but the rewards are also higher. You can simply make a wider variety of movements more quickly when you have two platforms to work with instead of one.
post #20 of 28
Kee Tov,

I definitely agree with aiming towards smooth and effecient. In fact I find the term smooth (as in try to be smooth or smooth it out) to be a very effective cue for some skiers. It is surprising how many poor movements can sometimes be eliminated with this one goal in mind. On the other hand, I generally avoid using the term or concept of stability because of people's interpretations. In trying to integrate a goal of stability I have found that many skiers end up widening their stance, locking their muscles and joints, bracing, etc. Because of this I find it often imposes a barrier to dynamic balance (smooth skiing from a point of balance that allows effcient dynamic changes of postures and movements).

I would like to pick up on a "Kee" point you made when you said "for some it is a physical movement, for others it is a fear factor preventing them from doing the physical movement." In my experience, when there is fear there is almost always a defensive movement or posturing in reaction to such fear. Vice versa, there is often a fear which underlies the movements or positions which form the barriers to skiing in balance. With that said, just trying to correct a movement may not be adequate. It may take a paradigm shift requiring different terrain, a new progression, etc. In general I do not usually try to teach someone to overcome their fears - I don't find that works very well. Instead I try to find an approach that demonstrates an alternative that allows them to get a fresh start and build confidence in their skiing. When done well, this philosophy leads to the avoidance of fear (and associated reflexive movements which can be such great barriers to skiing in balance) by building confidence in smooth and efficient skiing movements. Perhaps it seems like a trivial point to differentiate between the overcoming of fear and avoidance of fear but I have found some degree of success by keeping this model in mind.
post #21 of 28
Valid comments - "overcoming of fear and avoidance of fear"
This is where an understanding instructor/coach/mentor is important. Maybe this can be a new thread...what is your fear and how did you overcome it?

For me...fear of falling and getting hurt, then not being able to ski or work (notice my priorities) If this is a new thread, I'll wait for others to post and get it started.
post #22 of 28

The flexion/retraction moves that skiprofessor is suggesting are an excellent way to negotiate cut-up/powder snow and I understand why a narrow stance is a good option for such technique. However, I think he is selling the carving action a little short.

Nobody can dispute the fact that carving (or scarving) your way through cut-up snow almost assures you that there will be little (or no) deflection, even with independent leg action. After all, there have been so many articles about carving your way through difficult snow that it seems odd to see somebody advocate a technique that requires lots of up/down and steering. Articles aside, I have very short super-shaped skis and I carved my way last spring through deep heavy wet snow with much success.

So here is my advice: first, go short on the equipment, if at all possible. This reduces the swing weight of the ski, lets you carve very tight turns and if skis are kept on edge, they give more than enough stability. Of course, when carving a turn is simply impossible, use narrower stance and flexion/retraction. But remember, flexion/extension is significantly harder on the muscles than carving, especially since many skiers do not take good advantage of the rebound of the ski. And if the ski is very damp or old, rebound will be non-existent, regardless of technique.

Also I like Todd's advice that you have to stay tall, centered and trust that your skis will cut through everything. Fear of hitting a small bump or cut-up snow will invariably get you in the back seat (because you will subconsciously try to lift your tips). User absorption/retraction to remain centered and trust those skis.

Good luck!
post #23 of 28
Ah, Revelation, and for once this week I don't mean in reference to Saint John.

The balance/stability and fear issues are closely related. This summer all of the fitness seminars I attended dealt with up to date research on balance and stability.

I have mentioned some of this on other threads, but it might be appropriate to reiterate. The transverse abdominal muscles are responsible for stability. Recently, there have been some studies that have shown that if ANY part of the body has ever been injured, the tva will be "weaker" on the side of the injury, and balance and stability will be compromised on that side. Also, if someone has ever sprained an ankle, the proprioception on that foot will be lessened.

Years ago I was hit by a car. My right tibial plateau was fractured. When I was a kid, I was constantly spraining my right ankle. But in my 28 years of teaching fitness, I have never experienced a fitness related injury, and I never feel pain in my knees or ankles.

But when skiing, my balance and stability on the right side is horrific. I have built up some muscle groups that mask the condition. As a result I rarely wipe out.

But if someone intuitively knows that they are not stable, their skiing may have a tentitive, fearful element to it. Its can be tricky for an instructor. I once had a writer for the Boston Globe interview me for an article on Women and fear at the ski slopes. I had met her at a ski workshop at Sunday River. He comment to me was that she has never seen someone so afraid of falling who never falls, even when hit from behind.

BTW, there is a thread on this board called The Uh Oh Syndrome, that deals with this. I think you should start a new topic, though.
post #24 of 28

You have me quite confused. I am not sure if you were referring to my post but is seems like you were. The concept of retraction in no way suggests up and down or steering movements. However, the very same technique works on both the groomed and off piste. Retraction is a cue intended to initiate edge release and weight transfer just like when carving on the groomed. Flexion and extension (of the legs) is what occurs whether you are carving on a groomed slope or "scarving" in softer snow (as the legs cross under the body). In either case it should not produce any great degree of up and down movement of the entire body and certainly does not imply any requirement for steering.

Also, when skiing in softer snow the ski does not carve on edge like is does on hard pack. That is why I don't use the term carving when talking about technique for such conditions. In soft snow it is the reactive force of the snow acting on the base of a bent ski that produces a turn as opposed to the bent edge cutting through a hard surface. However, the very same efficient movements can be used both on groomed and soft snow. The biggest differnce is typically a more equal weight distribution between the two skis in soft snow.

While to me some parts of your post fit quite well with what I was saying you present them in contrast to what I said. Like I said I am confused. Perhaps my descriptions were inadequate. If not, you and I have dramatically different perceptions of skiing that are far apart.

FamilyManskier, I apologize in the sense that I feel this part of the discussion may only serve to confuse rather than enlighten. My post was not at all intended to be controvesial, only to add a simple cue that has been helpful to many in trying to overcome difficulties experienced in the off piste.
post #25 of 28
This skiprofessor guy/gal/thing really has it going.
post #26 of 28
Thread Starter 
> Correct me if I was wrong but isn't he
> asking how to ski a corral reef? Most of
> the advice I am seeing is for skiing heavy
> cut up snow not a corral reef.

Pierre - I'm not sure if you are wrong or not. I didn't know the term "coral reef" is when I first asked my question. Even worse, I'm still not sure of the exact meaning of this term, so I'll try to describe the situation again.

Also, I fear that I may have confused people by mentioning that particular magazine photo. It does indeed show a cut up run, but on close inspection, the snow looks much softer than the conditions I was asking about.

BTW, after discovering shaped skis and learning how to carve instead of skid my short radius turns, most heavy, thick snow hardly worries me any more. This IS NOT the condition I was asking about.

The condition I was asking about is solidly refrozen snow that has been heaped up into mini-moguls. You might get an edge in snow this hard, but not much more. Basically, I'm thinking about a field of very hard (but not quite icy) mini-moguls.

FWIW, to me, the name "coral reef" does not seem very appropriate to describe the snow condition I'm talking about. I can sort of guess, but what exactly is this?

Finallly, I must appologize to all of the people that responded in this thread to my question. I have been sneaking the odd moment here and there during the day to look at your responses, but I simply haven't had a block of time to sit down to write a full response back.

post #27 of 28

I was referring to your post, but I confused your flexion/extension moves with up/down. My mistake entirely. And I don't think we are that far apart. My main point (did I have a point? ) was that keeping your skis on edge is key to avoid deflection from cut-up snow (of course FamilyMandSkier know this already!). I think of it as carving, but I understand why it is not the same kind of carving as on hardpack.

FamilyManSkier, I apologize if I confused the issue.

SCSA, yep the skiprofessor is cool!
post #28 of 28
TomB, Thanks for clearing up the confusion.

I am sorry if I have misinterpreted the specific snow conditions you were talking about. However, I think my suggestion of working with the concept of retraction might still be of some help. Whenever a skier encounters snow conditions which produce strong perturbations there is the tendency I described to tighten up and pressure the edges even when trying to initiate the next turn. This leads to an inability to release. This is where retraction (lightening of the skis, flexion, lifting) is intended to help - in release and turn initiation. Of all the terms available I have found retraction to be one of the best cues for this type of difficult snow situation. But please explore and find a cue that works for you (if this problem is at all a component of your difficulties in this kind of snow).<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by skiprofessor (edited September 23, 2001).]</FONT>
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