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Fear of the Steep

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Fear of a steep hill comes when looking down, seldom when looking up, so why not start at the bottom?

The idea would be to ski a very short part of the bottom, then start from a little further up and so on. (It's the old choirmaster's trick of learning music starting with a bit at the end, taking in a few new bars eachtime and adding them to what you already know and can improve each time). It has the advantage that you're moving into familiar territory and not out of it.

Now it's easier to make use of lifts, so if possible approach the bit you are going to 'ski' by traverses/sideslips from above, then ski out the bottom section.

If this is too scary, start at the bottom and climb up a bit then ski it, little by little.

The ideal learning terrain is an easy slope with some optional steeper parts, try skiing these bottom up.
post #2 of 17
I like the "one turn at a time" approach. That is, on steep (or new) terrain make one turn and then let the skier come to a stop by allowing the skis to turn slightly up hill to a stop, then repeating in the other direction. After a while, link a few turns and again, allow the skis to come to a stop. I've found that this has worked for me and others that I've skied with to move to steeper terrain. It's a great skill and confidence builder as it allows you to focus on the task rather than the terrain.
post #3 of 17
This is good advice. I was taught to make wide turns going down hills. Also to make several turns on steep hills to slow me down. I wanted to take the steep parts slower and not fly down them. Although speed can be fun, I am afraid of going to fast and losing control. I was told that as long as I know how to stop I should be okay on any terrain. Knowing how to stop is a big step.
post #4 of 17
Originally posted by lilskeer:
...Knowing how to stop is a big step.
Good point. Many advanced recreational skiers, and some instructors seem to forget that the biggest worry for virtually all beginning skiers is simply "How in the world do I stop".

IMHO, if instructors of level 1 to 3 students don't directly address this universal concern, create trust, and continue to do so repeatedly during the lesson, many of these students will never feel entirely safe, and the actual technical content of the lesson will be wasted on them.

Tom / PM
post #5 of 17
Tom/PM, agreed. In fact, I think it's important to help them know multiple ways to stop. At Eldora this past winter, we taught kids the "emergency stop" which was a snowplow stop, but we would work on using line to control speed as the primary mechanism for stopping. Of course, it takes anyone longer to stop via the use of line than it does to simply set the edges and grind to a stop, so it seemed logical to teach both.

With some, as has been stated elsewhere here, the braking wedge was often "learned" without being taught, too.
post #6 of 17
It is extremely important to know how to stop. If you do not know how to stop you feel out of control. It is especially important if you are going down a steep slope and want to take a break before flying down the hill. When I first learned to ski I learned the snow plow. Soon after I learned how to stop on my edges. I find this more effective and comfortable. Either way when I feel I am in an uncomfortable situation I can stop and take a breath before continuing on down the slope.
post #7 of 17
I do not recommend wide turns to go down a steep slope. I recommend the opposite. Look at an expert making jump turns on very steep slopes. Lesser skiers should learn from that and make a lot of quick turns. Long turns build speed, the enemy of the beg-intermed. skier.

Also, on the steeps, the skier must do what does not come naturally -- that is, lurch out with the pole over the slope and plant it, then turn around it. Leaning over the steep part of the hill is not want they want to do but they soon learn it works.

Teach them how to use their edges by sideslipping down a very steep, hardpack slope (but chose one with a gentle ending, not a cliff or something nasty below). Sideslip a yard -then stop. Repeat all the way down the slope. The skier must learn to get a feel for the edges and then trust those edges and what they can do for them.
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
I accept many of the points raised here about the technical requirements of steeper terrain, but the problem addressed here is the margin for error and the consequences, hence the fear.

Even if you can stop reasonably well and could sideslip it, this is not the same as knowing that you can ski it. I am merely suggesting a psychologically sound way of buiding that confidence which for many people is not best done by starting at the very top. Bite-sized pieces can be got at better from the bottom.
post #9 of 17
I like dasliders idea. The ability to stop is not trusted by the newbie on a steepie. So if you have the appropriate steep with a runout that's flatter, the fear factor is totally addressed. The skier will be more relaxed.

It'd be a lot of work though.

The complimentary idea is a run that varies between steeps and shallows. Most large resorts have at least a couple of runs like that. Still, the newbie then has to face the prospect of dealing with all the steeps between them and the bottom. At least walking up the bottom and learning that you can turn and stop so the bigger steeps can be trusted might still be useful.

Another approach is to just use a set up slopes that very gradually increase steepness. Not within the same run but on a series of runs. Green to Blue at many resorts they have some "teals" that are nicely in the middle. The same is true going from Blue to Blacks. Most places have some blues that are steeper or have black steepness for sections. This is the progression I did to get used to the steeper terrain in a non-threatoning way.

As far as short or long radius turns go, if the person can't demonstrate a solid short radius turn on a blue I would hesitate to take them on a black as they will need that skill to control speed.

As a newbie that can remember my progression to blacks as it's all been done this year, the hardest fear part or backwards part of skiing the steeps is the need to still commit to the turn and actually let your body go down that slope. The normal reaction is to lean back rather than lean forward. Once I realized to commit even though it was steep it was all good - and fun! The fear factor could be a big issue for many to realize you can lean that far forward and still be fine when it's steep. Dasliders idea would address this.
post #10 of 17
daslider - one of my instructors pretty much did that with me...

I had a fear of a particular cornice area due to a bad experience in the region... I would start to go nuts anytime we went anywhere near the area - despite the fact that I knew damn well I could ski down the slope nearby - I had many times...

My instructor got frustrated with my 'mind problem' re that region of slope.... my other instructor got sneaky... we used to take fast runs down the mountain to blow away cobwebs after I had been working hard on something... At the end of the season I realised many of those fast runs had included skiing UP the cornice I hated... progressively further each time .... then turning out of an almost stall & back down the same slope.... I was effectively skiing up to within about half a metre of the top - then turning out....

The thing was I was so focused on my set task - keeping up (speed wise) & staying in the instructors tracks - that I hadn't noticed the slope was the same one - besides we approached it from UNDER....
post #11 of 17
This past season was my first. My last days on the snow included a private lesson. When asked what I wanted to work on I replied "I want to progress to blue trails and feel confident and to learn how to use the hockey stop in all conditions". The instructor said really? For most of the two hour lesson we worked on turning technique and I learned a lot but not untill about a half hour left did I have to repeat my request to work on stopping at faster speeds than the wedge would allow. Seems curious that stopping shouldn't be taught first.
post #12 of 17
still learnin,

Right or wrong, I suspect that the instructor wanted you to learn linked turns rather than linked hockey stops. If your intent was to learn how to do hockey stops, I would expect a good instructor should do that. And those stops are needed at times and not just for spraying unsuspecting friends.

But I would suspect that the instructor usually sees skiers whose only skill consists of linked hockey stops. There are a lot more efficient ways to get down most slopes.

post #13 of 17
Rob, as a matter of fact the instructor did teach the linked hocky stop as a way of practicing the hockey stop. It was helpful. And at 53 I didn't even think about spraying folks, however might be fun! All in all my first season got me hooked and several lessons make me want to do even better next season. Hope I don't forget everything. Tryin to talk the wife into south america or Australia for the summer to keep the ball rolling, maybe if I hit the lotto!

post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
Still learnin (aren't we all?)

your point about needing to stop is important, but the control you get from turning properly is also important and maybe that was your instructor's priority at that point (because of your wish to progress to bluse etc). Confidence in both is what makes the steeper terrain enjoyable to ski, (any sack of potatoes can come down a black run).

But that confidence is acquired incrementally, hence my suggestion to approach steep pitches a little at a time, preferably the last bit with a safe run out and then gradually add more.

The problem with approaching steeper terrain with a good hockey-stop but inadequate linked turning skills is that the entire exercise becomes defensive and it may be more difficult to learn an offensive (unfortunate term) approach once defensive habits are set in, than if good habits are learned progressively.

But I have yet to meet anyone who didn't want to run before walking!
post #15 of 17
Come here - you can grab a lesson with Man from Oz or Smooth Johnson....

or go skiing with me....

or both

or we can all suggest instructors
post #16 of 17

My instructor had been sneakinh me down black runs (or bits of them) without telling me for a while before he told me - I really did NOT want to be on one for a LONG time after I really had more than enough skill... took even longer to agree to do it myself & i HAD to be told to do so after my lesson
post #17 of 17
the major factor in conquering steeps is general comfort on steep hillsides to begin with. hiking and trail running certainly help with this. mtn biking and mtn boarding definitely do too.

no matter whether you have solid turns, if you're just plain afraid of the pitch, you shouldn't be there alone (without an instructor or coach)...IMHO... because you're going to be defensive and therefore possibly learning new bad habits that can be so hard to break later.

that's something I learned the hard way.
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