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Unskiable Condition

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I ventured into a small area on the Mt. that I was unable to ski with any style. Survival tech. to stay erect was marginal. 2-4" of new with a layer underneath that was bottomless(+4 feet) At the begin of the turn you were on top but as soon as any pressure was applied to the skis they sank below and into the next layer of snow, causing the skis to completely sink away from you, leaving you with no base to ride or carve on. I tried everything to adapt to the condition but nothing seemed to work. I skied out of it but it wasn't pretty and left me frustrated that my technique was unable to compensate for the conditions. Usually I would go back and try to ski it again but in this case it would of been even more frustrating. Meanwhile the Snowboarders glided easily on the top layer.
post #2 of 21
Not that I could provide any advice on this matter, but what kind of skis were you using (powder skis or midfats)?
post #3 of 21
I know the snow you are talking about.

Tips for sierra cement

I have found in my polling of other high level instructors, there is probably now "easy" way to ski this stuff. It's work.
One tip that worked real good for me is to disregard the tips about a calm upper body (in this kind of snow). Use lots of Up/Down unweighting. Use the arms hands. As you begin to reach for your pole plant drive the arm/hand up first to begin the up motion.
post #4 of 21
here's an article by Scott Mathers that I found helpful as well.

secrets of the deep
post #5 of 21
Sounds like tough conditions, slider! Perhaps the key is in your observation that snowboarders were able to glide and float through the top layer.

Conditions like these absolutely require that you be "soft" in your movements--avoid harsh edging, pressuring, or pivoting movements. Two-footed balance and simultaneous movements of both skis at once are critical--if you ever try to stand on one ski and move the other one, that "platform" will let you down!

Wider, softer skis, combined with speed that may be uncomfortable in these challenging conditions, will also help your skis float more like the snowboard.

I don't know if this will help much though. It's one of those "good in theory" ideas that can be difficult to put into practice if your habits are otherwise. Sequential movements--standing on one ski while "pushing off" into the turn with the other ski--are intuitive and all but inevitable when we become defensive. As I mentioned, they are the last thing you WANT to do--but they are the first thing we TEND to do in these conditions!

Even simultaneous movements, though, that involve strong "pushing off"--such as "hop turns"--are unlikely to work in this soft-breakable-crust condition. You really have to carry some speed, gently release BOTH edges, gently steer your tips down the hill (allowing your speed to pick up), and gently continue to steer both skis around until you lose the speed, then release the edges and do it again. No hop turns. No gyrations of the upper body. Nothing harsh. Keep the skis going the direction they're pointed (or conversely, pointed the direction they're going) to avoid braking and maximize gliding.

And remember rule #2 of a powder day:


Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #6 of 21
Indeed. Surface area is the key.
I used to have infinite fun on monoskis on that kind of stuff. The best one I ever used was the Bahne Single Ski, made in California, which was a 195, so the floating power of the thing was fantastic.
People malign monos, but if you keep them in the fall-line with a quiet upper body, they sail over anything. Very exhilarating.
Don't know if you can still buy them.
post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
I was skiing on Volkl 191cm V30 Carvers. I don't like to think that a ski would have made the difference. If you know what I mean.
post #8 of 21
tough to say, because snow is such a ever changing, ever challenging thing, but with most breakable crust type situations a couple of things come to mind. Speed is your friend. If you can find more speed, you may be able to plain up more like the snowboarders were. Another thing I often feel helps in breakable crust is a quick punch and retract type of turn. This hit and go turn is one we often had to use with long skinny skis, and luckily don't have to use so often anymore. Anyway, if it wasn't for the toughest snow conditions, we'd all get complacent. Challenge is good.
Cheers, Holiday
post #9 of 21
Play with everything until something works.

Bob's comment about speed is also important.

Bob, Depending on the conditions I found that sometimes the very calm upper body and no push off didn't work either. I guess this is where you keep trying until something works. I think my earlier comment about up/down unweighting was a poor use of words. I typed it before thinking about it and it may send the wrong message... I'm thinking the unweighting would be from a strong slow motion upward movement by your pole planting arm which starts the unweighting process. Not using the whole body (although it will follow) It's real hard to explain. You almost have to see it. Scott Mathers called it "ready Pole" which went against what I was taught about pole plants needing to be small efficient movements but in the conditions it worked great. I guess that's why skill blending is so much a part of getting that level 3 pin...
post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the great advice. I will try to use this information next time I wander into something of this nature. Tomorrow?
post #11 of 21
Somethings not right here. I've skied with Slider and he rips. It could very well be that it was truly unskiable. Is there such a thing?

I've been in deep, ugly snow, and all I know is this. Lots of flexing and you do the two footed thing - flex to get the skis to flat, ride 'em for a moment while they're flat, then roll 'em over and repeat movements.

Slider. Get out there again! You can't walk away like this - no way!

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 19, 2002 08:22 AM: Message edited 3 times, by SCSA ]</font>
post #12 of 21
Unless it is truly breakable crust I think SCSA is on the right track. If I can get away with subtle movements I try to start weighting the uphill ski before I am ready to turn. When I make the turn the skis (tipping and floating) are weighted about 50-50. As the turn develops I transfer a little of the weight back to the down hill ski (60-40.) If this doesn't work well I let the speed build up, push the skis down to get some pressure and then retract actively and rotate the skis.
post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 
post #14 of 21
Slider, I'm a huge Volkl fan and know the V30 Carver really well, and am here to say that that ski absolutely sucks in those conditions. That is one of the all time great groomed snow carving animals, but put it in harshly soft and deep stuff and die.

The Volkl Vertigo--G3 or G4 will serve you much better.

I also agree with SCSA about the flexing, but also you've got to match it with extending.

Crud tricks:
1. Flex for the finish (only for a short time) and extend for the initiation (stay long for a long time). It's kind of a porpoising move and it very much starts in the feet and ankles.

2. Hold your thighs together. It makes both skis become like a snowboard, so that one doesn't climb while the other submarines.

3. Go as fast as you dare, but stay light on the tips.

4. Laugh as you fall, because even if you do it well, you're gonna fall.
post #15 of 21
I had a similar experience at Whistler/ Blackcomb this year. It was a "cement" day of 57cm (over 2 feet). I couldn't turn at first but started "trying everything." When I started getting results I found that balance skills were most important (It was like balancing on the tip of a needle) particularly I had to keep the tips light but not too light.

The second thing I found working was rotary movements of both legs at the same time. I tend to have a very modern legs open stance these days but I found that keeping my legs closer together helped significantly. It seemed that when I used the separation I use on groomers and in soft pow that each ski had to break through the heavy stuff on its own. When using a narrower stance I found the lead ski (inside ski) would "make a path" for the other which eased things significantly.

Next I found that a bit of inclination of the whole body into the new turn helped ease the load on the muscles I was using for rotary motion.

Lastly, I found that edging skills don't just help but really make skiing in this stuff easier.

All of this in just one run on Blackcomb earlier this year. The rest of the day was a whole lot easier but skiing through that muck was tiring!

post #16 of 21
Above all, remember this:

There are only two kinds of conditions--conditions that are GOOD, and conditions that are GOOD FOR YOU.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #17 of 21
I was also skiing the wind slabbed fluff at MtBachelor the same day Slider is describing although we were not together so we probably were in similar but slightly different conditions.

First of all, as SCSA has already said, Slider is a very strong aggressive skier.

And this was not "Sierra cement". This snow was light and dry underneath with (in the areas I was in) a bit of a wind slab on top. It's been dumping at MtB for the last 10 days and I don't think the temperature has gotten into the 20s until yesterday.

My personal experience is that there is a thickness/strength of crust/slab related to each individuals body weight, strength and technique that is practically impossible to ski without catching edges and relying on survival technique. Like trying to ski on an egg shell. Years ago I was skiing in a group of very strong skiers when we encountered a wind slab that had all of us scrambling. Except for the one 95 lbs superwoman who could ski easily on top of the slab. She found it to be hilarious. 300 meters further down the slope was less exposed to the wind and the slab was not as strong. We were all skiing the 50cm of fluff under the slab with the slab breaking around our knees. Except for the same 95 pounder who could not break through and was catching an edge every time she even moved. She did NOT appreciate the turning of the tables...

So what do you do? You cannot change your weight so you need to change your technique to either ski on top of the layer as Bob Barnes describes but on exactly the wrong slab it will fracture just enough to grab your edges even in the two footed evenly weighted technique. The other alternative is to try to break through enough to ski beneath the layer. When I was younger and stronger I employed a "two footed blasting technique" with extreme bounce, lifting the skis clear of the snow and driving them down hard in an attempt to break through the layer. Hard work, very tiring, and, if it works, leaves bunches of broken slab everywhere. Not the kind of tracks you ever see in Powder Mag.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 20, 2002 12:03 PM: Message edited 2 times, by PowderJunkie ]</font>
post #18 of 21
well said powderjunkie,
your experience seems to mirror mine and your choices seem to be similiar; first try to ski fast and light, hoping to stay up, or if that fails, give the old hit hard to break through, then retract method. the challenge of a difficult crust will always keep us honest and striving for better balance and technique. Holiday
post #19 of 21
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Holiday:
the challenge of a difficult crust will always keep us honest<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


For some reason the use of honest struck me as being hilarious. Maybe humble?
post #20 of 21
Yeah, I can see your point. It can definitly keep us humble. By honest, I meant you can't cheat, or get away with movements that are often fine in friendlier conditions. If were dead on the sweet spot that day and we still can't pull it off, then we can be humbled and try to figure out what we need to improve to "ski the unskiable." I figure there is always someone out there who can pull it off, so they must have some skill or level of skill we have yet to acquire. Anyway, thanks for keeping me honest (and humble).
Cheers, Wade
post #21 of 21
crust over deep soft is awful, yeah I agree! Give me deep wet snow any time.
Having a bunch of ways to ski helps enourmously, I'm still appreciating.
We got a semi dump last week, and me and a buddy who is certified by the ski ecole in France went to the Outback. It was basically heavyish (for colorado) chopped up fresh over ice, weird conditions.

So we experimented, and he found pulling back the inside foot worked - almost a tele style turn! I gave it a go and it was amazing, it really felt good. The outside ski would square up very strongly, and there was a distinct pivot phase.
PSIA would have a conniption, we were moving our hips even! But it was very effective.

cheating can be good...
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