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Self Arrest Techniques?

ski diva

Administrator
Staff member
#1
I've had two falls in the past two weeks -- one a total yard sale and one where I just lost my poles. The first wasn't on a very steep slope. And that was fine. I recovered nicely. The second, however, was on a steep, hard pack trail, where I slid....... and slid...... and slid. Until I finally, at last, stopped.

Which got me to thinking. I have no idea how to self arrest. I've heard that you need to 1) be on your front, rather than your back, and 2) dig your poles in as best as you can. But what if you lose your poles? I almost always do, since I hardly make use of the straps. I've also read that you shouldn't use pole straps on steep slopes, anyway.

So anyone have any advice?
 

mustski

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#2
I'm listening for an answer also as I struggle with self arresting. I do use my pole straps though. Out of curiousity why is it bad to use pole straps on steeps?
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#3
The argument I usually hear is to not use pole straps in trees (if they get stuck on something you could cause a shoulder injury). However, personally, I always use them no matter what, but I keep the strap so loose it can easily slip over even my big mittens. (And it's happened, I've snagged one on a tree or bush and it slides right off and I have to go back and get it). But if they're not actively meeting resistance they generally don't fall off.

The best success I've had with self arresting does tend to be with a pole. Thankfully haven't had to do that in a long time, knock on wood.
 

pinto

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#4
I think the argument for not using straps on steeps is only in avy terrain OR on slide-for-life terrain. But in the latter, you definitely don't want to lose them. It's just that self arrest is done by grabbing the pole down by the basket and stabbing the tip into the slope, which would be difficult to do if the strap is around your wrist.

Like altagirl, I generally like to use straps at least partially, everywhere I ski. I just put the strap around my fingers so I can drop it if I need to, when in terrain where pole release could be important.
 

Swamp Dog

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#5
I don't use pole straps either. After surgery to fix the torn ligaments in the left thumb I opted to leave the right one alone. Now I want to be able to lose the poles if need be instead of having them jack my thumbs again.
 

Kimmyt

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#6
I've honestly never had the presence of mind to use my poles on the odd occasion this happened, well maybe once. Usually just digging the tips of my ski boots into the snow, and honestly I'm not sure if I just stopped because the pitch evened out or because it actually worked. Googled and found this youtube video, of course he makes it look much more smooth and spiderman-like than it probably looked when I did it.

 

tinymoose

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#7
I did use my poles once to stop myself/turn myself around when I was headed downhill head first on my back. I almost always use my wrist straps when I ski, but they're so loose that sometimes they flip forward while I'm skiing. I don't remember how exactly I did it, I just jabbed around at the snow until I got the tip of one of the poles in the snow enough to slow myself and spin around enough so I wasn't completely head first anymore.
 
#8
I've had two falls in the past two weeks -- one a total yard sale and one where I just lost my poles.
If you haven't lose your skis, use that. That's better than the poles.

Both using skis and boots need to be executed carefully, or you'll flip over your ski/legs and continue down head first! Think more like "slow down" rather than "stop". Keep your knees bend to absorb the unevenness of snow surface.

(the video of "spiderman" makes it look easy because the snow look pretty soft. I suspect it's a lot harder on hardpacks we usually have in the northeast)
 
#9
I think the argument for not using straps on steeps is only in avy terrain OR on slide-for-life terrain. But in the latter, you definitely don't want to lose them. It's just that self arrest is done by grabbing the pole down by the basket and stabbing the tip into the slope, which would be difficult to do if the strap is around your wrist.

Like altagirl, I generally like to use straps at least partially, everywhere I ski. I just put the strap around my fingers so I can drop it if I need to, when in terrain where pole release could be important.

We were discussing this in another thread somewhere recently. The argument against not using poles straps, at least around here, is to prevent injury, regardless or terrain. Like Swampdog said, it only takes once to teach you this. I've had two rotator cuff tears on moderate terrain due to pole straps, and I haven't used them in over 20 years becasue of that. Granted, one can lose a pole easily in the case of yard sales or other falls, but to me that's more acceptable than a shoulder or thumb injury.

Now I haven't had to consider self arrest in a long, long time.
 

pinto

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#10
Understood, but I was addressing Wendy's statement: "I've also read that you shouldn't use pole straps on steep slopes, anyway." I definitely like to ensure my poles stay with me in steeps, and unless I'm in trees, I will have my straps totally on.

We were cat skiing a couple of weeks ago and the outfitter doesn't have straps on the poles, for several reasons. Anyway, my husband could NOT stop dropping his poles, and it was starting to be an issue. During a single-file runout through some trees, he dropped his pole and it lodged between two trees and horizontally across the trail about shin high. My son was right behind him and didn't see it until he was right there, and couldn't stop. Long story short, he was almost seriously injured by this, but luckily everything turned out ok. So ... it all depends on the situation, I guess. I don't like losing my poles, period.
 

Ellen

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11
Leki makes a trigger grip system that addresses the strap/no strap issue. I have it on some GS poles. The strap comes out of the pole when subjected to certain level of force. I can release mine with a forceful whack of the tip on a hard floor. In terms of general self arrest, it is a challenge especially on hard/icy steeps at high speeds (like a race course). My efforts get more dramatic if I see I am headed off the trail than just down it. It is so quick and instinctive and scary that I usually don't actually know exactly what I did in some of the worst ones.

The pole tip is obviously the best solution but not real likely - you need to have held onto the pole through the fall but not have it tied to your wrist, have enough control of your body and the pole to move your grip from the far end down to the basket, stick the tip into snow going by at high speed, hold on, etc. --- I think I've managed this once or twice and then not in real scary situations. The video of the guy using spiderman seemed real optimistic. I think the boots are the biggest asset but they are risky too for a flip.
 

Skise

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#12
Leki makes a trigger grip system that addresses the strap/no strap issue. I have it on some GS poles. The strap comes out of the pole when subjected to certain level of force.
But the force has to be in the right direction. I stopped using the straps of my Lekis after a quite innocent fall where the pole twisted my wrist.
 

Pequenita

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#13
Wendy's statement: "I've also read that you shouldn't use pole straps on steep slopes, anyway."
FWIW, I was specifically told to put my straps on this past weekend, while skiing steep stuff, because the straps seemed like they were getting in my way (I'm not really sure about this, but whatever).

That being said, I've had the weirdest pole handle-related injuries during crashes, which have influenced me not to have the straps on. Two seasons ago, I punched myself in the jaw, and the pole left a nasty bruise, and over the weekend, I punched myself in the eye (goggle saved me).
 

pinto

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#14
FWIW, I was specifically told to put my straps on this past weekend, while skiing steep stuff, because the straps seemed like they were getting in my way (I'm not really sure about this, but whatever).

That being said, I've had the weirdest pole handle-related injuries during crashes, which have influenced me not to have the straps on. Two seasons ago, I punched myself in the jaw, and the pole left a nasty bruise, and over the weekend, I punched myself in the eye (goggle saved me).
Yep, like I said earlier, it all depends. Everyone has their own history and tendencies, so it's nice to be able to base our actions on those. If DH dropping his pole had caused DS to blow his ACL (which I thought had happened for 3 or 4 min), I think I would have killed him. lol. Yes, that's a freak accident, but so is punching yourself in the face. I hope. ;-)
 

mustski

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#15
It's funny because DH never uses pole straps and he is the one who is most likely to have a "yard sale". Of course, I am usually coming down behind him and can retrieve all his stuff. I keep mine attached because on a steep or in powder, I need them to put my skis back on. Injury never even occurred to me. Great! Now I have something else to worry about on steeps! :fear:
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
#16
There is definitely a right and wrong way to use pole straps too, in terms of thumb safety. I've torn ligaments in my thumb before too until I learned how to put them on to keep my thumbs safe. (Basically - hand up and through the loop, then bring the hand down onto the grip so both straps are between your hand and the pole as you hold the grip. You let go, the pole drops around your wrist/hand. And I keep them so loose that the rest of the strap often is sitting over the top of my hand - so if I let go of the pole and it's snagged on something, it's gone. If I don't let go of it I could still tear something in my shoulder, but then again if I don't let go of it, it wouldn't matter if I've got a strap on or not.

FWIW, when we went cat skiing it was all tree skiing for the most part and the guides were fine with the above method.
 

pinto

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#17
FWIW, when we went cat skiing it was all tree skiing for the most part and the guides were fine with the above method.
Yeah, next time I will use my own poles. I have powder baskets, so I could have, but they pointed out that if I lost or broke a pole, it would be theirs and no big deal. (Of course, I've never lost or broken a pole in my life, so I don't know why that sounded so sensible.) The problem with holding them was the grips were slick hard plastic, not rubbery, and it was really cold, so we were wearing big mittens and had no dexterity whatsoever.

I think their main reason for removing straps -- besides trees and avy terrain -- was to keep the straps from tangling up when they were putting the poles in and out of the storage baskets on the cats....
 

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