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How to become one of those graceful but athletic skiers cruising down steeper runs?

yogiskier

Angel Diva
I am jealous of those skiers that I watch cruising down steeper runs in perfect control. I feel like the way that I ski on blues is that I pick up "too much" speed and then end up braking, stopping periodically down a run. It's also tiring on my muscles and I'm tenser than when I'm skiing greens (though I keep telling myself to relax my upper body). I'm guessing that part of it is mental and I feel scared of the steepness? Am I working my body the wrong way? Ironically, I like the feeling of going fast to start, but then the acceleration becomes too much - I'm including this observation, because it could be that I'd need to be patient with my turns at the top to be able to continue in control. I did notice that when I was following 2 other intermediate skiers last weekend that even though they looked like they weren't skiing aggressively, they still kept beating me down the mountain by a long shot.

I have taken some lessons, but spread out over the past 6 seasons since I started skiing in my 30's, so I've only just gotten out of the backseat. Of note, I don't know how to use my poles, which seems integral to how those role model skiers make it down with aplomb.
 

sibhusky

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
The BIGGEST help to me getting down a steep run was the right skis and the right tune. I used to just freak coming out of Elephants Graveyard because I had to get down the last third of No Name. (Steepest section). That trail is not often moguled, but usually has a fair amount of hardpack. Once I got my K2 AMP Rictors 82xTi's, which have a nice short turning radius, and got a 3° side bevel on them, it became a no freak event. I have every confidence as I turn that I'm not suddenly going to take off as I pass through the fall line portion of the turn, that my skis absolutely WILL come around and hold. That confidence is freeing.

As far as poles go, I had a friend once tell me to "walk" the poles down the hill to help get rhythm going. Plant the pole and immediately turn around that pole and as you come around, plant the next pole. I find that a lot more useful on steep hills with snow on them, maybe some moguls, not hardpack. Sure, I'm still planting my poles, it's a habit, but my mind is on my edges, not my poles. The pole walk helps reduce "shopping for turns". Which I still do in non-groomed conditions, I admit.
 
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marzNC

Angel Diva
I am jealous of those skiers that I watch cruising down steeper runs in perfect control. I feel like the way that I ski on blues is that I pick up "too much" speed and then end up braking, stopping periodically down a run. It's also tiring on my muscles and I'm tenser than when I'm skiing greens (though I keep telling myself to relax my upper body). I'm guessing that part of it is mental and I feel scared of the steepness? Am I working my body the wrong way?
Been there. I remember the feeling from 15-20 years ago when I wasn't skiing more than a few days every few years. I was sticking to blue groomers at destination resorts out west. I'd say the answer to your questions is Yes and Yes. There is more finesse than strength to good technique than you might think.

I have taken some lessons, but spread out over the past 6 seasons since I started skiing in my 30's, so I've only just gotten out of the backseat. Of note, I don't know how to use my poles, which seems integral to how those role model skiers make it down with aplomb.
Do you remember what instructors told you about the best way to keep your speed under control? Meaning on a blue, or even a green?

While using poles is more important on steep, ungroomed terrain, it's not absolutely necessary with good technique. @nopoleskier could explain why if she stops by. She's an instructor. I'm not.

What I've managed to learn with the help of lessons starting as an adventurous advanced intermediate in the last ten years is how to maintain a steady, relatively slow speed on a steep groomer. My home hill (Massanutten) is almost all groomers, with only a few short headwalls good for 3-6 turns before the pitch flattens out. Once I told an instructor that I was happy I was finally able to one headwall on a black without having to stop at the top to reset. She said the next challenge was to not speed up after going over the top of the headwall. That took a couple more seasons of lessons, with mileage, to achieve. But being able to to that carried over to steep, challenging terrain at big mountains.
 

skimamma

Certified Ski Diva
Great advice by all! I am not an expert by any means! However, this year, I switched some bindings on a pair of my daughter's old race skis (SL) that she was not using any more. I haven't had this much fun on steep groomers in years! I think I am going to take in her old GS skis so I have a pair of those as well. The right ski for the right terrain helps a ton! (However, I will always advocate for lessons as well!). Enjoy the rest of your season!
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
Aggression is not really what is needed. To get that fluid motion you need to control your speed, but NOT doing Z turns. You need to keep the turning motion so that you slow down by going up hill. Poles are necessary on steeps to keep you moving downhill.

My best guess is that you need a lesson on steeps or steep to you at least. Body position is important or you'll end up in the back seat. Pole plant down the hill to start your turn. Let the skis turn, but maintain the effort to get them into that C shape. Once you've harness the speed, it's time to turn again.

Fast skiing hides a multitude of sins....
 

NYSnowflake

Angel Diva
I felt the same way until recently. Take lessons to learn how to make smooth round turns without skidding. Skidding/smearing is ok sometimes under certain conditions... however, learning how to get skis up on edge, make very round turns, and get the tips slightly above the tails before you begin the next turn will help you to get the feel for controlling speed on steeper terrain without hitting the brakes by shoving the tails. Note- this won’t work well on ice unless you’re a real pro. Other methods are needed to control speed on steep ice for intermediates, such as side slipping, pivot slipping, etc.
 

NYSnowflake

Angel Diva
PS- for me there was a need to get upper/lower separation and move my hip in a way that makes a “pinch” at the waist or generate a fat roll/mini muffin top on one side LOL! Once I was doing that, I could get up on my edges and control my speed by carving round turns and stop skidding when I wanted to. Using poles is optional, but not a bad idea especially for shorter radius turns.
 

SarahXC

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
get the tips slightly above the tails before you begin the next turn will help you to get the feel for controlling speed on steeper terrain without hitting the brakes by shoving the tails.
I still aspire to but have not achieved being one of those beautiful skiers I admire but this finishing the turn without freaking out in the middle and pushing out the tails has made a huge difference this far.
 

Bonnie2617

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I struggled with speed on blues for a long time. I watched lots of ski videos on YouTube (ski school by elate media and ski pt (“how to turn skis” video by ski pt was very helpful to figure out upper and lower body separation). Then on the slopes I focused on one tip at a time - i believe what helped me improve was being more forward, finishing my turns and upper/lower body separation. I did the same run over and over to gain confidence and had a video taken of me skiing. Watching my video and comparing it to the YouTube videos really helped me to identify what was missing.

And like NYSnowflake mentioned, ice is a whole different beast - the day I felt I made progress was last spring, so we had lots of soft snow which made me feel more comfortable. If conditions are really firm and you fear slipping you will tense up and it will be really tough to have proper technique if you are still learning.
 

Skisailor

Angel Diva
It’s absolutely true that learning to use turn shape to control speed is an important skill, and that round shapes are generally more efficient. BUT . . we do not need to “carve” to ski round turns. And, in fact, edges are FAST. Controlling speed with round carved turns definitely has its limits. Instead, skiers need to learn how to get OFF their edges and turn their legs so that they can create the beautiful efficient steered turns that have maximum versatility. By “steered” I mean turns which have various blends of edging and rotation (the ski tail displacing more than the tip).

Skiing on a flatter ski that you can steer will take you all over the mountain - steeps, narrow, bumps, trees. Falling in love with your edges will be fast and more limiting, IMHO.
 

Tennessee

Angel Diva
It’s absolutely true that learning to use turn shape to control speed is an important skill, and that round shapes are generally more efficient. BUT . . we do not need to “carve” to ski round turns. And, in fact, edges are FAST. Controlling speed with round carved turns definitely has its limits. Instead, skiers need to learn how to get OFF their edges and turn their legs so that they can create the beautiful efficient steered turns that have maximum versatility. By “steered” I mean turns which have various blends of edging and rotation (the ski tail displacing more than the tip).

Skiing on a flatter ski that you can steer will take you all over the mountain - steeps, narrow, bumps, trees. Falling in love with your edges will be fast and more limiting, IMHO.
Wow! Love this Skisailor❤️
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Skiing on a flatter ski that you can steer will take you all over the mountain - steeps, narrow, bumps, trees.
At Taos, since the goal is to learn how to ski the bumps that typically grow all over the mountain, the emphasis during Ski Week lessons is on turns with relatively flat skis at all ability levels.

One of my favorite instructors out west says that it's important to learn to ski the total range from up on end to completely flat skis. Not only how to do it, but to be able to make adjustments as needed as the terrain changes.

For that matter, during the multi-week clinic at Massanutten (northern VA, tiny hill) we spent time making "simple parallel" turns as opposed to carving. The idea was to make turns without picking up speed on a mid-Atlantic blue.
 

tinymoose

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
It’s absolutely true that learning to use turn shape to control speed is an important skill, and that round shapes are generally more efficient. BUT . . we do not need to “carve” to ski round turns. And, in fact, edges are FAST. Controlling speed with round carved turns definitely has its limits. Instead, skiers need to learn how to get OFF their edges and turn their legs so that they can create the beautiful efficient steered turns that have maximum versatility. By “steered” I mean turns which have various blends of edging and rotation (the ski tail displacing more than the tip).

Skiing on a flatter ski that you can steer will take you all over the mountain - steeps, narrow, bumps, trees. Falling in love with your edges will be fast and more limiting, IMHO.

I think you'd like Mike, our race coach. While, yes he focuses largely on carving and the fastest way to do so, his other big emphasis is on just learning to feel our edges and the various size turns we can make mixing carving with slarving. His big MO is what do we "feel" from the skis and how do we control/adjust for it.

ETA: While he's trying to get us to carve cleaner, his other big emphasis is just edge control.
 

tinymoose

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Tbh, one of the most difficult things for me is to get the edge to fully release on a sharply tuned race ski.
 

SqueakySnow

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
One of my targets this year is keeping my inside ski on the snow instead of picking it up to bring it parallel as I move through the fall line and complete my turn. I think the key to this is finding the right amount of pressure on the pinky toe edge of that inside ski and staying out of the backseat. Am I right?
 

Skisailor

Angel Diva
One of my targets this year is keeping my inside ski on the snow instead of picking it up to bring it parallel as I move through the fall line and complete my turn. I think the key to this is finding the right amount of pressure on the pinky toe edge of that inside ski and staying out of the backseat. Am I right?

Staying out of the backseat will definitely help! I don’t think it has anything to do with
finding the right amount of pressure on the pinky toe edge of your inside ski.

Feeling the need to lift the inside ski to bring it around is usually a symptom of what you are doing with your upper body. If you twist or tilt your upper body to the inside of the turn, it will tend to lock up the inside ski and keep it on edge while the outside ski releases into the turn. We are then forced to lift that ski up to allow it to come around.

It often has to do with our desire to look into the 2nd half of the turn right at the beginning - because it’s scary to look downhill and because we want the skis to come around as fast as possible, especially as it gets steeper.

To cure the problem, we have to remember that every turn has two parts. Even in very short radius turns, first we have to let the skis point downhill and THEN we can finish the turn. It’s also key to remember that the feet and skis need to start the turn, not the upper body.
 

newboots

Angel Diva
Staying out of the backseat will definitely help! I don’t think it has anything to do with
finding the right amount of pressure on the pinky toe edge of your inside ski.

Feeling the need to lift the inside ski to bring it around is usually a symptom of what you are doing with your upper body. If you twist or tilt your upper body to the inside of the turn, it will tend to lock up the inside ski and keep it on edge while the outside ski releases into the turn. We are then forced to lift that ski up to allow it to come around.

It often has to do with our desire to look into the 2nd half of the turn right at the beginning - because it’s scary to look downhill and because we want the skis to come around as fast as possible, especially as it gets steeper.

To cure the problem, we have to remember that every turn has two parts. Even in very short radius turns, first we have to let the skis point downhill and THEN we can finish the turn. It’s also key to remember that the feet and skis need to start the turn, not the upper body.

I’ve been working on this too! I only do it on the left. I’m improving my upper body separation though, and I’ll see how that changes things. Thanks!
 

SqueakySnow

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Aaaaaah! So I’ve been thinking about this all wrong. And, I can definitely feel when my upper body flails a bit into a turn... usually when I’m getting tired or am getting off balance. Thanks for the tip, I’ll take that out with me next time :smile:
 

yogiskier

Angel Diva
Do you remember what instructors told you about the best way to keep your speed under control? Meaning on a blue, or even a green?
Yes, they said to turn up the hill! Right, I'll have to practice that.

Aggression is not really what is needed. To get that fluid motion you need to control your speed, but NOT doing Z turns. You need to keep the turning motion so that you slow down by going up hill. Poles are necessary on steeps to keep you moving downhill.

My best guess is that you need a lesson on steeps or steep to you at least. Body position is important or you'll end up in the back seat. Pole plant down the hill to start your turn. Let the skis turn, but maintain the effort to get them into that C shape. Once you've harness the speed, it's time to turn again.

Fast skiing hides a multitude of sins....
Hear, hear. I feel like I am doing Z turns. Thanks for pointing out that the poles are what keep you moving - that helps me see how to use them. And also that once the speed is constant is when it's time to turn.

get the tips slightly above the tails before you begin the next turn will help you to get the feel for controlling speed on steeper terrain without hitting the brakes by shoving the tails.

I struggled with speed on blues for a long time. I watched lots of ski videos on YouTube (ski school by elate media and ski pt (“how to turn skis” video by ski pt was very helpful to figure out upper and lower body separation). Then on the slopes I focused on one tip at a time - i believe what helped me improve was being more forward, finishing my turns and upper/lower body separation. I did the same run over and over to gain confidence and had a video taken of me skiing. Watching my video and comparing it to the YouTube videos really helped me to identify what was missing.

And like NYSnowflake mentioned, ice is a whole different beast - the day I felt I made progress was last spring, so we had lots of soft snow which made me feel more comfortable. If conditions are really firm and you fear slipping you will tense up and it will be really tough to have proper technique if you are still learning.
Thank you for the reminder that if I want to improve I need to do homework, like watching ski videos or repeating runs. Also, as a note to be kind to myself, I was at Wildcat on my 4th day of the season when I was trying to follow those other skiers down a blue and it was a little icy and the day before I had wiped out a couple of times in icy and overcast conditions so I think I had the previous day in the back of my mind.

Instead, skiers need to learn how to get OFF their edges and turn their legs so that they can create the beautiful efficient steered turns that have maximum versatility. By “steered” I mean turns which have various blends of edging and rotation (the ski tail displacing more than the tip).

Skiing on a flatter ski that you can steer will take you all over the mountain - steeps, narrow, bumps, trees. Falling in love with your edges will be fast and more limiting, IMHO.
I have a glimmer of what you mean, @Skisailor - I'm going to file this away for later. Also, I need to not rush through the first (scarier) part of the turn, as you were saying to @SqueakySnow.

@marzNC @tinymoose I would love to learn how to ski in different ways/be able to ski in different conditions and terrain!

Thank you all for your insights, some new and some jogged my memory about what I've heard before from lessons. You managed to intuit what my bad habits are in your minds' eyes! I feel more confident going skiing next weekend with concrete things to practice and have more fun -- yay!!
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
@marzNC @tinymoose I would love to learn how to ski in different ways/be able to ski in different conditions and terrain!
I only started taking lessons after age 50. Really only starting working on technique in the last 5-6 years when pushing 60. It can take a while to understand what instructors are trying to achieve. But once you manage to feel something work correctly, then it becomes easier to identify when you aren't doing things that would make skiing easier, less scary, and more fun. It will come in time.

I had plenty of fun skiing blue groomers every so often as a working adult. Lots of ways to enjoy the slopes.
 

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