Enjoying Chopped and Broken Snow
After the hoards of first track seekers are kicking back with an ear to ear grin, proud of their early morning conquest while they take an early lunch the rest of us that maybe slept in or chose to enjoy a late breakfast are left with the shredded remnants of what was once a pristine blanket of Okanagan Champagne Powder. Don’t despair, the chopped snow or crud as it’s sometimes called can be really fun too if you approach the right way.
Here are a couple little tricks that can help you manage this snow condition a lot better. Like all good skiing your stance is important for balance. A lot of people move back in their stance when they encounter this situation but unfortunately this just makes it more difficult to turn. Instead of moving back try this; press your heels down in your boots and feel your shins up against the tongue of your boots throughout the turn. This will help centre your stance and activate your ankles. Active ankles will help you adjust and be adaptable to the changing conditions. The next thing to do is to try and tighten your stance up a bit width-wise. To do that, try and squeeze your knees together. A narrow stance helps create a stronger platform to stand on and it protects against your skis getting pulled off in different directions, causing you to spin around.
For help with this and more stop by the Ski & Board School at Big White and book some time with one of our pros, they’ll help you make the most of all of the conditions that you may encounter.
Skiing the Steeps
Skiing steep terrain can be an exhilarating adrenalin rush. There’s also a great sense of accomplishment when you stand at the bottom of a really steep pitch and know that you’ve just conquered it. To do this it takes commitment, not only in your mind set but also in your movements, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
One of the more difficult things to do on a steep slope is to get your skis turned and go in the other direction, especially when you’re just starting your run. It’s a good bet the reason why this is happening is because you’re leaning up the hill and your skis are “locked” on their edges. If you’re experiencing this try to start your turn with a little bit of a hop, this will release the edges and allow your body to move down the hill. Another common problem in the steeps happens towards the end of the turn, the tails of the skis wash or skid out, and chances are this is happening because you have turned your upper body into the hill. Next time you’re on a steep pitch try this; ski like a mountain goat. If you’ve ever seen a mountain goat standing on a mountain side you’ll know what I mean. They stand with their shoulders facing slightly down the slope with their rear end facing up the slope. This puts them in an excellent balanced and stable position; this is why they’re not extinct! You can do this same thing by finishing your turn with a strong pole plant and making sure that all of the people up hill from you get a good look at your butt, this will help you get the grip that you need.
Stop in at the Big White International Ski & Board School and spend some time with a pro to make the most of your next skiing experience.
The Pole Plant
A pole plant is a useful tool, here’s a couple things to keep in mind to make sure you’re using it effectively.
A well timed pole plant can give your skiing a smooth and effortless feeling, to make sure that it’s happening a the right spot try to imagine that the plant is the last thing that you do with your turn, after the plant you move on to the next turn. Keep your poles moving by matching the speed that they move forward with the speed that you’re bending your legs at the end of the turn.
Where you plant you pole varies with the speed that you’re going and the size of turn you’re making but generally a good spot is on the downhill side of the turn, out away from your body but somewhere between the tip of your ski and the toe piece of your binding. Try this next time you’re out skiing, draw a triangle that’s equal on all sides with the base of the triangle being the distance between your toe piece and your ski tip, your pole plant should happen near the point of the triangle that’s furthest away from you.
How you grip your poles is also something to be aware of. Grip with all of your fingers with about the same pressure as a firm handshake and when you plant your pole try to point your knuckles down the hill. This will help keep your upper body open to the next turn. For help with this and much more, spend some time with a pro from the Big White Ski & Board School.
This complicated sounding word can really simplify your skiing. Basically all it means is balancing on your edges at the end of the turn but, how you do this affects your grip on steeper slopes and the occasional icy condition.
Here’s a good way to improve your balance and edging at the same time. Find a wide open slope where you are visible from above and start a traverse across the hill; be sure to look up hill first to be certain that you’re not going to get in anyone’s way. As you traverse try to roll your knees up the slope into the hill, you’ll find that to stay balanced it helps to tip your shoulders down the hill slightly. What you’re after is a track that looks like two thin lines that are an equal distance apart all the way across the slope. You’ll also notice that from your ankles to your knees, your knees to your hips and your hips to your shoulders there are now “angles”. These are the angles that help with balancing on edges. Once you’ve got this nailed try some bigger wide open turns on a fairly gentle slope and see if you can get the same feeling of rolling your knees into the slope and tipping your shoulders downhill at the end of each turn. A good way to ensure that your upper body is in a good position is to make sure that when you plant your pole your knuckles point down the slope and your elbow is below your hand. Once you feel comfortable on a gentle slope try applying your new found skills on something a bit steeper and see how it goes, you should feel much better grip.
For assistance with this and more stop by the Big White International Ski & Board School and spend some time with one of our pros, it will help you make the most of your day on the mountain.
Balance on the Outside Ski
The best way to get edge grip on a steep run or to enjoy that pure carving feeling on a smooth corduroy groomer is to stay balance against your outside ski. Here’s a couple of different ways to feel that happening every turn;
On the steeps balance against the outside ski comes from a strong turning effort with the lower body. If you’re too active with your shoulders, especially at the beginning of the turn, then you’re going to throw most of your weight onto your uphill or inside ski. Next time you’re in the steeps try this, as it’s been mentioned a good turning effort from the legs is the best way to start but when you finish see if you can end up with your chin over top of your downhill or outside foot. This will really help with edge grip and it will also make the start of the next turn a bit easier. A good way to feel this is to try it in a couple of stops first.
For that pure carving feeling on the groomers you need to think like you’re riding a bike. If you’re headed down a hill on your bike and you want to make a turn at the bottom what would you do with the pedals? If you don’t want the inside one to hit the ground as you corner you’d lift it up and shift your weight to the one on the outside of the turn, right? Then if you wanted to make another turn in the other direction you’d shift the pedals the other way. Same sort of thing on skis, at the end of the turn try to feel like your inside ski is much lighter than the outside one, in between the turns the weight is pretty much equal on both feet then as you enter the next turn the weight shifts to the outside ski again. Get that happening with a bit of rhythm and you’ll be carving clean arcs in no time!
So wherever you’re skiing balance on the outside ski is going to make things a lot easier. For help with this and a lot more come and see us at the Big White Ski & Board School, we’ll help you take your skiing to the next level!
Director of Snow Sports
Big White Ski Resort