• Women skiers, this is the place for you -- an online community without the male-orientation you'll find in conventional ski magazines and internet ski forums. At TheSkiDiva.com, you can connect with other women to talk about skiing in a way that you can relate to, about things that you find of interest. Be sure to join our community to participate (women only, please!). Registration is fast and simple. Just be sure to add webmaster@theskidiva.com to your address book so your registration activation emails won't be routed as spam. And please give careful consideration to your user name -- it will not be changed once your registration is confirmed.

Ongoing issues with cat tracks/mentally recovering from scary falls?

fgor

Certified Ski Diva
#1
tl;dr: hate cat tracks, gained some more confidence on cat tracks, then caught an edge and fell off a cat track, now even more scared of cat tracks and feel like i should stop skiing

So cat tracks are probably my least favourite part of skiing. My usual way to shed speed is doing wide-ish turns that are fully completed or on steeper narrow slopes I just pivot my turns more and skid my turns a lot to shed speed. Obviously the first technique doesnt work on cat tracks and so I end up just doing a series of hockey stops along the cat track to check my speed which makes me feel like an idiot/like im getting in everyones way. I had a lesson this season where we needed to go down a medium length cat track to access some blue terrain and I sort of got whipped into shape a bit better and forced to do it better (maintain speed, do short turns) and I got a little better. Still not my favourite things. I've had friends suggest to me that if it's hard to slow down then just "don't slow down then, go fast!" but I don't have the ability to quickly dodge someone who falls or stops abruptly in front of me, so I don't feel comfortable doing this.

Anyway on the weekend just been I was skiing with some people who encouraged me to go down a different run with them, which is at the end of a LONG LONG cat track that I've been avoiding because I'm scared of it. I did go down it a couple of times with them but they were much faster than me because I just went back to hockey stopping a lot. This cat track has one part of it which is flattish with a slight rise on either side of it. I noticed that every other skier was just pointing their skis straight ahead along that flat part to maintain speed to get up the rise at the end. I never feel comfortable going straight ahead on skis, I feel like i have more control if im at least slightly on an edge/angled, so i just kept hockey stopping along most of this part and then went straight ahead near the end and pushed with my poles a few times to get up the rise at the end.

The next day I was skiing alone and I decided to do that cat track/run again. After watching more people traverse in a straight line across that section of the track I thought I'd do the same thing. I don't think I picked up too much speed but I was aware of my left ski sort of wobbling/pivoting side-to-side under me. Next thing I knew that ski had caught an edge and I flipped off the side of the track. It happened very fast.

received_667990133705549.jpeg
(looking back at the track - I fell to the right; skiers left. This is the boundary of the ski field so I officially fell out of the field and into the "backcountry" - there are a few signs up along that side saying "SKI AREA BOUNDARY - UNPATROLLED". I don't know if anyone skis here but it was untouched snow.)

I tumbled three or so times with my skis going over my head - luckily I had flipped off sideways so my skis stayed attached. That side had the sun on it and the snow was very soft so my fall was arrested quite quickly. Until I stopped though it was easily the scariest moment I've ever had skiing. There is nothing down there and while I was falling I was terrified that I wasn't going to stop as I didn't know if that snow was soft or icy. I seemed to sort of tumble over my shoulders so I must have slightly curled/tucked once I fell.

Once I calmed down a bit I took a couple of scenic photos from where i stopped.

received_391533071738375.jpeg
received_478575739389656.jpeg

Once I climbed back up it took me about an hour to gain enough confidence to get going again so I could get back down to the base area. I couldn't stop thinking about how lucky I was that I fell down the non-rocky side and that it was a sunny day which made the snow very soft. I made it back to base and spent a couple more hours recuperating until I felt ready to go and ski some more. I just did some blue slopes that I'm very familiar with and even made it down the "easy" cat track to one of them without incident, but none of it was any fun anymore and I just felt like i wanted to be off the field. I then hung out in the cafe for about another hour until the rest of the people I had carpooled with wanted to leave.

I just feel like an idiot. No one else seems to have this many issues with cat tracks and I regularly see people who don't seem to be that good at skiing going along them with no issues (including this scary one). I'd have thought that just pointing my skis straight ahead would be about the most foolproof thing there is - I don't know why my ski was wobbling/pivoting side-to-side which caused it to catch an edge. I suppose it could be a technique thing but then if it's that hard why isn't everyone else going around falling over while going in a straight line? If it is a technique thing then that would mean that everyone else is intuitively doing things right while I'm doing things wrong. :/ I don't know if I just lack some sort of basic coordination? I doubt it's my skis either as they're pretty new (2020) and haven't had any damage except topsheet. Zero work done on them except wax and maybe 8-10 days on them. I don't really know why this happened but it just makes me feel like there's something wrong with me and I shouldn't be skiing.

Advice?
 

Jenny

Angel Diva
#2
Sounds scary! I don’t have too much experience with cat tracks other than to know that I hate them. Falling off one would rank pretty high on the list of things I don’t want to do, especially since it doesn’t seem like they border nice, gentle, green slopes. The very, very few times I’ve been on one there was a snow wall on one side, so I stayed as close to that as I could. And I snowplowed down it, as much as possible, not endearing myself to anyone behind me.

So, no advice, but much commiseration.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#3
.... I don't know why my ski was wobbling/pivoting side-to-side which caused it to catch an edge. I suppose it could be a technique thing but then if it's that hard why isn't everyone else going around falling over while going in a straight line? If it is a technique thing then that would mean that everyone else is intuitively doing things right while I'm doing things wrong. :/ I don't know if I just lack some sort of basic coordination? I doubt it's my skis either as they're pretty new (2020) and haven't had any damage except topsheet. Zero work done on them except wax and maybe 8-10 days on them. I don't really know why this happened but it just makes me feel like there's something wrong with me and I shouldn't be skiing.
....
Sorry to hear this happened. I can imagine that cat track crowded and I wouldn't want to go down it. It does look scary. So glad you fell the way you did. I'd be shaken to the core if it happened to me.

The problem could be your boots. If there's space in there, above your foot or to the side of your foot or in front of the foot or around the ankle/heel, the foot could stay pointed ahead while the ski/boot unit wobbles. Take a picture of one boot and one regular shoe side-by-side, heels lined up beside each other. Shoot the photo from above. We'll see about the length of the boots that way. But we can't see if you have extra space above your foot or to its sides.

Another thing you could do is put your boots on, clip into your skis, and sit on the floor in your house with your feet up in the air. Have a friend see if they can twist the ski while you hold your foot steady. If the ski twists while the foot doesn't, then you need new boots that really fit, not what you've currently got.

It could be the ski. What ski exactly were you using? Do you know what its turn radius is? If you have skis with a built-in short turn radius, they will wobble when you point them straight ahead and ski them flat. This is natural. The skis "swim." It's a technical challenge to let them wobble but not let them grab; you have to keep them flat and not let a wobble turn into a grippy moment. You can train yourself to do this. If your boots fit snugly enough. If you have space above or to the sides of your foot inside your boots, then you don't have enough control over those little wobbles and a ski can suddenly grip and throw you.

It could be your technique. If there is an inherent wobble because of the short turn radius (not sure your ski has this, though) and it worries you, you may wobble your upper body to try to counteract the unruly ski behavior. This will throw you. You need to control the ski from the feet and legs, while keeping the upper body stable. A quick attempt to control the skis with arm swings or shoulder tilts or hip rotation or folding over at the waist could cause the ski's edge to grip and throw you.

So, tell us what skis you were on.
And post a pic of your boots so we can see the length, plus tell the story of how you bought them and how they were fitted by the person at the store.
 

sibhusky

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#4
I feel like maybe my definition of a cat track must be different than yours. Ours are pretty flat which normally means you're trying to hold your speed, not trying to control speed. The picture looks like this is a narrow, PITCHED, ridge. But a fairly gentle pitch. So, I'm assuming the issue is a narrow trail with possible traffic issues (unlike in that picture). We do have a ridge like that here. And certainly I wait until no one is coming to ski it as I don't want to be an obstruction on the trail as I zigzag down that. So, without traffic I'd be using gentle braking turns. With traffic it would be controlled side slips or intermittent snow plows depending on who is where and my "lane" on the track. But I'm mostly wondering if you've got a canting issue or a tuning issue based on your accident. This is exactly the kind of run that if the snow is firm and one of those things is a problem that you'll suddenly feel like the ski has a mind of its own.

Edit: Ha! LF posted while I was typing! Similar reaction -- equipment issue.
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
#5
Cat tracks are a PITA. In summer these are roads to get up the mountain for logging or what ever purpose. You need speed, but you are limited in the radius of the turn you're allowed by the width of the track.

Then suddenly the track will dip and you're out of control. I've been where you were. Looking really down an abbess...and saying oh..sh*t!! What have I done.

First off...skis are not meant to go straight. They want to turn. So when you are straight lining it, no edges, make sure the skis are running flat. That takes work. You may even have to think about making the outside edges flat. Depends on your alignment.

Second...stay to the mountain side of the cat track. You may have to watch out for snowboarders that use the edge of that side to gain a little speed, but not falling off the "road" may be better in the brain.

Small turns...to check your speed. Or just plain go into a wedge. I do it all the time!! I need to scrub speed... and/or warn people behind me of an issue...wedge gets their attention.

You mention that your skis were "wobbling". That sounds like your weight was not on the skis, but maybe a little back. Relax, but don't give into being behind your skis. Keep those hands forward,and the weight should follow.

Now I need to read what LF has posted.
 

kiki

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#6
Cat tracks are hard for me too. Exactly how you describe with the fear. I’ve spent some time with instructors working on techniques to get over that the past two seasons and can say it gets easier with time and exposure. Keep at it and don’t give up.
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
#7
Kiki - I hate the cat track back from 7th heaven to Blackcomb. Scottishgirlie was terrified of the snowboarders on that track when we skied there years ago...I reminded her that we had pointy things!! (aka poles).
 

ski diva

Administrator
Staff member
#8
I'm not a big fan of cat tracks, myself, and have had a couple fairly unpleasant falls on them. So you're not alone in feeling this way. We don't really have them in Vermont, so the only time I encounter them is when I ski out west. Maybe if I skied them more, I'd do better.
 

fgor

Certified Ski Diva
#9
Sorry to hear this happened. I can imagine that cat track crowded and I wouldn't want to go down it. It does look scary. So glad you fell the way you did. I'd be shaken to the core if it happened to me.

The problem could be your boots. If there's space in there, above your foot or to the side of your foot or in front of the foot or around the ankle/heel, the foot could stay pointed ahead while the ski/boot unit wobbles. Take a picture of one boot and one regular shoe side-by-side, heels lined up beside each other. Shoot the photo from above. We'll see about the length of the boots that way. But we can't see if you have extra space above your foot or to its sides.

Another thing you could do is put your boots on, clip into your skis, and sit on the floor in your house with your feet up in the air. Have a friend see if they can twist the ski while you hold your foot steady. If the ski twists while the foot doesn't, then you need new boots that really fit, not what you've currently got.

It could be the ski. What ski exactly were you using? Do you know what its turn radius is? If you have skis with a built-in short turn radius, they will wobble when you point them straight ahead and ski them flat. This is natural. The skis "swim." It's a technical challenge to let them wobble but not let them grab; you have to keep them flat and not let a wobble turn into a grippy moment. You can train yourself to do this. If your boots fit snugly enough. If you have space above or to the sides of your foot inside your boots, then you don't have enough control over those little wobbles and a ski can suddenly grip and throw you.

It could be your technique. If there is an inherent wobble because of the short turn radius (not sure your ski has this, though) and it worries you, you may wobble your upper body to try to counteract the unruly ski behavior. This will throw you. You need to control the ski from the feet and legs, while keeping the upper body stable. A quick attempt to control the skis with arm swings or shoulder tilts or hip rotation or folding over at the waist could cause the ski's edge to grip and throw you.

So, tell us what skis you were on.
And post a pic of your boots so we can see the length, plus tell the story of how you bought them and how they were fitted by the person at the store.
Thank you. I'm still shaken and it's over 24 hours since it happened :(

My boots are (I think) fairly well fitted. I took a photo of my ski boot beside one of my shoes (i don't know what happened with the focus!! my phone does this sometimes):
received_468814450384681.jpeg

^ NZ size 6 shoe (roughly EU 37)

I had them fitted earlier this year before the ski season started. I'd previously been in a 23.5 boot (nordica sportmachine 65w) and someone from a different shop measured my feet this year and confirmed 23.5. However I didn't get a great idea of which boot I needed and so went to a different, highly recommended shop as I'd heard they're the most reputable place in my region. I made an appointment and probably spent about 3 hours there. They put me in a 22.5 boot, narrow fit ("98mm" last - it's actually 90mm in this size though) atomic hawx ultra. I had the length and width of my feet measured and they measured sort of across/around the instep/ankle too. The fitter got me to put my feet into the boot shells and looked around with a torch. I then tried on the boots and stood around in them for a while. For some time I had a different boot on each foot. They brought out this boot and a different boot, and I went with this one because although I had more pressure points and fit issues, it was a tighter fit around the heel/ankle (though I couldn't even keep them on for 5 minutes haha) and after my last boot was too big I didn't want to make the same mistake. They relaxed the worst pressure points with heat and I also had custom insoles fit. I have some very tiny foam wedges under the heels. They're now very comfortable to be in and i can happily wear them all day, though I unclip the bottom buckles on the chairlift sometimes because my toes on one foot get cold/numb otherwise. Just something to do with pressure over the instep I think.

Skis: 2020 Blizzard Black Pearl 88 159cm. Look NX 12 Dual bindings. I think the radius is 13m:
received_510902516311193.jpeg

I'll try the thing with putting the boot and a ski on and getting someone to twist the ski later on, if my flatmate is home. I don't think my feet have too much movement in the boots but I'll see!

I'm not sure what my body was doing at the moment I was thrown, I just remember feeling uneasy and trying to keep still and stable and going straight ahead, and glancing down and noticing my ski wobbling side to side and then I was gone! Good to hear everyone saying that skis don't really like going straight ahead and prefer to turn. That definitely backs up how much I prefer to have my skis on edge, and unless I'm traversing ground which is really flat, I prefer to be doing very big curves across the snow rather than going straight/skis flat.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#10
@fgor, it sounds like you had a great bootfitter and your boot probably fits as well as it can. Congrats! My guess would be that if you test the boots with skis on and a friend twisting the skis, there will be no "loose steering wheel" effect. So maybe boot fit had nothing to do with it.

Discomfort with the wobble is natural the first time you notice it. Those 88s with a 13m TR will give you some wobble, for sure. Simply glancing down may have been the trigger to the fall. Or whatever caused one ski to not wobble while the other did, who knows....

Go to safer terrain and ski straight runs over and over to gain stability on flat skis. You can try getting into a tuck for the extra stability that comes from lowering the body. Look up low tuck and high tuck for proper body positioning. Close your ankles to get your knees as far forward as possible, and shoot your hands waaay forward for more weight over the shovels, and you'll be good as gold. Make straight runs. You'll feel the wobble in both skis, or should. Get used to equalizing your weight distribution between the skis which should keep them wobbling equally. Start with a low tuck, then a high tuck, then work on standing up while going straight, again on the same safe terrain. Avoid looking down at the skis. Once you feel like you know what those skis want to do and know you can ride them, take it back up to that ridge.

Note: you'll go fast in a low tuck. The wind resistance will be minimized, so choose beginner/low pitch areas to work on this. You'll need low traffic areas and good peripheral vision to avoid running into folks. Be careful.
 

BlizzardBabe

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11
I'm not a fan of cat tracks. There are one or two at Snowbird that scare the crapola out of me - primarily b/c they are narrow and there is inevitably a nutty snowboarder or six wanting to pass at speed. I'm fine with cat tracks until they get crowded. At that point, I hate them.

An instructor in Taos taught me to use cat tracks for a number of drills. When I'm able to focus on the drills, much of the trepidation goes away. It may just be a matter of getting used to skiing them, @fgor and making a conscious mental effort to approach them differently. The confidence building exercises suggested by @liquidfeet sound to me like they'll be enormously helpful. Proficiency on a flat ski is a fabulous tool - I'll bet you'll get comfy with the natural "wobble" very quickly. BTW, I ski the BP 85/159. I find it a very forgiving and maneuverable ski when skiing flat. It is my favorite pivot turn machine.
 

Abbi

Angel Diva
#12
@fgor - I was queasy just looking at those pictures! I also, being an East Coast-Vermont skier, do not see many cat tracks. And the ones I tend to see out west definitely scare me. There just doesn’t seem to be enough margin for error if you slip! I have been known to snow plow to slow down then come back to parallel and then snow plow again. I’m totally sympathetic to you!
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#13
There's a name for doing a straight run alternating between snowplow/wedge and parallel, going back and forth. That's called "wedge change-ups." That's an option for speed control without making turns.

It's the crowds that make narrow passages scary, since impatient people insist on passing on both sides. No rules of the road to tame the chaos.
 

VickiK

Angel Diva
#14
Looking at that exposed ridge - yuck! I would control speed by snowplowing (wedging) my way down or skidding little turns down, which I think you were already doing. Bad experience, though, I'm glad you weren't hurt.
 
#15
Catracks with as much slope as the one in your pictures ARE scary! So glad you weren't hurt in your fall. I'm impressed you took pictures!! Wow. Anyway - they are a real challenge and require high level skiing skills to negotiate consistently with confidence. So I'm sure some of the people you see bombing straight through are lucky they are getting from point A to point B, but they are probably not really skiing with as much control as they should. They're just lucky they haven't had to deal with a bad situation yet. Oy vey - posted this before I finished. More below . . . .
 
#16
Love all the stuff posted above. You are checking off the possibilities for what may be causing problems.

If your boot fit is good and snug, there is STILL the possibility that your alignment is off - which would result in you have trouble going straight ahead on flat skis without engaging your edges. Do your feet and ankles pronate? Are you a little knock kneed? Bowlegged? One leg a little different from the other? Not uncommon! A good bootfitter can help with this. Our individual anatomies often cause problems in this regard and have to be corrected for - preferably inside the boot. But possibly on the outside of the boot or by canting the binding. But the goal for all skiers should be that on a nice flat slope, you should be able to ski straight ahead with skis flat and equal weight on both feet without your skis being all squirrely. And it should be easy - nice and relaxed. But many, if not most, skiers need certain corrections with their boots and/or bindings to allow this to happen. When we are not TRYING to "edge", it should be easy to stay on flat skis. So it might be worth having your bootfitter check your "alignment".

It's also possible that your skis have a funky tune - something else to check.

Last comes technique:

The ideas of using a wedge or wedge change-ups are good ones, but not always very easy to do, especially on steeper cat tracks. Definitely worth owning these though. Another good tool to add to your tool box would be linked pivot slips. These are similar to the hockey stops you're already doing but without so much edge. The skis are kept very flat and essentially wag left and right while you face straight down the hill and travel straight ahead. It allows you to ski in a very narrow corridor at a slow pace. You might have to take a lesson to learn these but you could start by practicing hockey stops where you finish each one facing down the hill (don't let your shoulders turn toward the side of the run) and also finish with your chest right over your downhill foot at the end. This will keep the skis flatter so you can drift smoothly down instead of the hard edginess of a true hockey stop. For this or for any technique you want to practice for cat tracks, find a nice comfortable wide slope, and give yourself a narrow artificially defined corridor that you must stay within while you ski down - an imaginary cat track!
 
#17
Give yourself some slack to be scared. Our brain/bodies become frightened in life-threatening situations without any help from lack of courage, lack of self-confidence, and the like. Some things frighten us physiologically; we almost always assume it's "just emotion" and we should talk ourselves out of it. Give yourself a bit of time to recover before you tackle any big challenges again. Work on techniques (from the experts, above) and/or get a lesson. If fear persists you can read A Conversation with Fear by Mermer Blakeslee - it's all about the natural response to fear, and how to manage it in skiing and other frightening situations.

How terrifying. I would not want to find myself on the out-of-bounds side of those big mountains. But it does look like beautiful ski country. I hope you feel better soon!
 

Magnatude

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#18
Wow, that was definitely a scary fall, you're super lucky the sun had been softening that slope off the side, as it's a long way down if you can't stop! The Virgin Mile (the cat-track in the pics) can be quite a gnarly access track, the first part especially so as it's quite steep for such a narrow track, and currently a bit icy here and here. Add in other skier/boarder traffic, and it's definitely a path you think twice about taking. In my opinion, the first part of that track is too steep, and often too icy, for any wedging. Options I tend to use are short turns (but the track is so narrow that you still need to use the whole width to do this) and pivoty turns (mentioned above), depending on traffic. You won't need to think about tucks and straightlining until well down the steep part. When it comes to skiing in a straight line to maintain/build speed, certainly practice (in a friendlier area) helps. Also work out whether you have a strong leg/weak leg (most of us do) and think about how to compensate for that to avoid wobbles. And stay low, though it shouldn't need to be a tuck, and centred -- you'll be in a better position to recover from a mistake, and to deal with what can also be very strong crosswinds that only hit you just as you come off that steep part.
 
#19
Great thread. I too hate cat tracks. I have fallen on them but luckily never pitched over an edge (*shudder*). I am finding the tips for skiing them very interesting.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#20
Clarification: I was not suggesting the OP use a tuck on the ridge in question. Far from it. I was suggesting that she practice skiing on flat skis down on beginner pitches, using a low tuck, a high tuck, then standing tall, in order to get used to the swimming/wobbling of flat skis.
 

Staff online

Latest posts