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Technique/drills for skiing chopped up snow?

ski_vibes

Diva in Training
#1
Hi everyone!

Longtime lurker—this is my first post, and I'm very happy to have found this community as I enter my 2nd season of skiing. I ski on the east coast (tri-state, Vermont), and I typically can do groomed blues and greens confidently. Although not always perfect, I do my best effort to try to lean forward, keep hands in front, and gradually turn onto my edges. As long as a trail is groomed or even icy, I feel like I am in complete control over variations in my speed and my turns. However, as soon as I come across chopped up snow (even on the easiest of greens), I feel like all sense of technique is thrown out the window. I can make it down a chopped up run in one piece without falling, but it's not graceful, exhausting on the legs, and it doesn't feel fun at all.

I've read advice such as:
  1. "You can't rush your turns, you have to turn slowly and gradually with minimal braking" -> However, when I try to gradually turn I end up picking up way too much speed...and then I try to hockey stop to force a speed-check (then the snow bumps throw me off balance and I get exhausted just trying to stay balanced). Is there a technique to gradually turning while being able to burn off speed?
  2. "You have to keep the weight on both of your skis even, not so much weight on the outside ski" -> I've tried this as well, but then the snow catches my skis and carries them away in different directions despite my best efforts to keep them together and parallel. There have been a few times where I got really nervous that my knees would get twisted accidentally.
  3. "Hop up and down as you make your turns" -> this is something that I haven't tried actually, but I'm also afraid to do any sort of jumping motion. I'm sure there's an alternative way?
Any other advice on what I can do to improve my skiing technique in these conditions? I usually ski first thing in the morning, and end up calling it a day by noon because I'm not confident at skiing crud. I'd love to take everyone's advice or drills and work on them on my next trip to the mountain.

Greatly appreciate any and all feedback in advance!
 
#3
In my early years I had a hard time with this. Then I took a lesson where we focused on real bumps, and my ability to deal with crud/chopped up snow drastically improved.

Some skis suck at this, btw, and often these are the skis that are great on ice/groomers. Some skis plow right through crud and I'm not even sure I do anything different, technique wise, when on them.
 

ski_vibes

Diva in Training
#4
In my early years I had a hard time with this. Then I took a lesson where we focused on real bumps, and my ability to deal with crud/chopped up snow drastically improved.

Some skis suck at this, btw, and often these are the skis that are great on ice/groomers. Some skis plow right through crud and I'm not even sure I do anything different, technique wise, when on them.
Interesting, I hadn’t thought too much on the skis themselves since I kind of assumed it was purely due to poor technique. Might be a mix of both? I had been considering taking a lesson this season to address this if I can’t improve significantly on my own.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#5
Interesting, I hadn’t thought too much on the skis themselves since I kind of assumed it was purely due to poor technique. Might be a mix of both? I had been considering taking a lesson this season to address this if I can’t improve significantly on my own.
Since skis have been brought up, the next question is how you chose your boots?

A lesson should help. Although you might not be working what you expect. A good instructor can spot a fundamental skill that's missing that might not seem to be directly related. For example, having solid fundamentals on hard groomers actually helps when skiing bumps or power as well. But what "solid" really means isn't obvious until someone gets to that stage.

For me, reading about a skill or drill doesn't help much until after I've worked with an instructor in person on a given drill. Or at least had a knowledgeable friend demonstrate. I'm a visual learner.
 

ski_vibes

Diva in Training
#6
Since skis have been brought up, the next question is how you chose your boots?

A lesson should help. Although you might not be working what you expect. A good instructor can spot a fundamental skill that's missing that might not seem to be directly related. For example, having solid fundamentals on hard groomers actually helps when skiing bumps or power as well. But what "solid" really means isn't obvious until someone gets to that stage.

For me, reading about a skill or drill doesn't help much until after I've worked with an instructor in person on a given drill. Or at least had a knowledgeable friend demonstrate. I'm a visual learner.
I bought my boots last year through a bootfitter (Salomon X Pro X80). So far they don’t seem to give me any issues regarding fit—ie my heels lock in place, feet don’t wiggle around, able to get the buckles real tight but it’s not painful at all, etc.

I’m definitely a visual learner too. I’d love to take more lessons more frequently, but it’s quite pricey so I try to do as much self learning as possible. So a lot of watching more experienced people on the mountain do trails before me, a lot of YouTube, and a lot of trial and error haha. Although I understand that’s how bad habits can sometimes form as well...
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
#7
So boots are good, what skis are you on. I will agree that narrow waisted skis do not do as well in the crud than a wider waisted ski. But technique helps too.

I would have to agree with Christy....bump lesson. Crud is all about balance and steering. That is a main part of a bump lesson.
 
#8
Do you ever get a chance to play hooky during the week? I've seen it mentioned more than once on the forum that if you go for a midweek group lesson, you have a chance of ending up with a private at group prices.

Also, since it was brought up already, what skis are you on? And welcome to the forum!
 

ski diva

Administrator
Staff member
#10
Welcome to the forum! And good topic. Just today I was skiing through a lot of thick, chopped up crud, so I've been thinking about this a lot. And yes, it can be challenging.

I'm not an instructor, but I find these things help:

• Keep your hands in front. If you let them fall back, you're going to twist and that's going to throw you off balance.

• Just like in powder, a straighter line is better. It keeps the snow from tripping you up. So make shorter turns that don't take you across the hill.

• Keep a narrower platform and an even balance over both skis.

• You have to use your legs like shock absorbers. Let your legs absorb the variations in the snow. In crud, I rely more on retraction turns than carving: retracting and then extending your legs into the turn. Initiate the turn by compressing your knees up toward your chest, then extending your legs into the turn. I'm sure an instructor could explain it better than I could.

• Stay strong. If you're too loose, you're going to get thrown around. But don't be too stiff, either. You have to make adjustments in your balance all the time.

• Look ahead and plot where your next turn is going to be.

Also, wider skis are better.
 
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NYSnowflake

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11
Switching from beginners K2 Amp Strike skis at 146cm, to Head Total Joys at 153cm (I am 5’2), made an immediate improvement in my crud skiing at the beginning of my second ski season. The Total Joys are 84mm under foot, with a wide shovel front, front rocker, and stiffer than my beginners K2 skis. The Heads sail through or over the crud. I got tossed around or stuck on the K2s.
 
#12
Hi everyone!

I've read advice such as:
  1. "You can't rush your turns, you have to turn slowly and gradually with minimal braking" -> However, when I try to gradually turn I end up picking up way too much speed...and then I try to hockey stop to force a speed-check (then the snow bumps throw me off balance and I get exhausted just trying to stay balanced). Is there a technique to gradually turning while being able to burn off speed?
  2. "You have to keep the weight on both of your skis even, not so much weight on the outside ski" -> I've tried this as well, but then the snow catches my skis and carries them away in different directions despite my best efforts to keep them together and parallel. There have been a few times where I got really nervous that my knees would get twisted accidentally.
  3. "Hop up and down as you make your turns" -> this is something that I haven't tried actually, but I'm also afraid to do any sort of jumping motion. I'm sure there's an alternative way?
Some of the advice you're mentioning doesn't seem like the best.

1. Yes, you don't want to rush your turns, but to control speed you'll have to complete your turns more.
2. You DO want more weight on the outside ski. Otherwise, as you have noticed, your tips will diverge and you'll suffer!
3. You want more of a weight shift than a hop when you turn. Hopping is really old school.

I strongly recommend lesson(s).

And never lose sight of the fact that the most important thing is to HAVE FUN!
 

snoWYmonkey

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#13
@ski_vibes It seems that some of your points in the opening post apply more specifically to untracked powder than crud. I do finish my turns more in crud than powder, a lot more depending on how chopped up the crud is. I also do not use the more bouncy, flexion extension move, as that is really for deeper powder. I do however, really actively try to weight my skis evenly as any excessive lightening of the inside ski is guaranteed to end in at least one or more banana splits when the inside ski gets caught by a big soft heavy pile of snow at the end of the turn.

Ski Diva's points are spot on, as are the questions about what type of ski you have.

I think about keeping my edge angles less steep and try to ski a flatter ski which can even out the unevenness more. I also slow my general speed down and imagine myself as a very strong (strong core and chest) and slow freight train that will ski through or over the bumps, depending on their actual consistency.

Remember that no matter how stable you are, or how perfect your turn is, it will not feel smooth. The snow is not smooth so there is no way for it too feel that way. Your brain is reacting to the jerky nature of the snow under your feet. Once I gave up on that expectation, and accepted how I am being thrown off balance non stop by the actual unevenness or the snow, I was able to absorb it better, and just focus on the endless linked recoveries that are simply a part of skiing crud.
 

ddskis

Certified Ski Diva
#14
Remember that no matter how stable you are, or how perfect your turn is, it will not feel smooth. The snow is not smooth so there is no way for it too feel that way. Your brain is reacting to the jerky nature of the snow under your feet. Once I gave up on that expectation, and accepted how I am being thrown off balance non stop by the actual unevenness or the snow, I was able to absorb it better, and just focus on the endless linked recoveries that are simply a part of skiing crud.
This is so helpful. I need to remember this! Esp “the endless linked recoveries” part!
 
#15
...
Some skis suck at this, btw, and often these are the skis that are great on ice/groomers. Some skis plow right through crud and I'm not even sure I do anything different, technique wise, when on them.
I just discovered this. I got Black Pearls (82) for Christmas and I was laughing all the way down a pushed-up trail. My S. O., Mr. Blizzard, says it’s the rocker. It floats above the cruddy little bumps.

What is your home mountain? And -
:ski: :welcome: :ski:
 
#16
How tall are you? Weight? Since you have a season rental, that means you could try skis that are a little wider and/or a little longer to see what difference it makes. That's the advantage of renting before buying a first pair of skis.

I’m definitely a visual learner too. I’d love to take more lessons more frequently, but it’s quite pricey so I try to do as much self learning as possible. So a lot of watching more experienced people on the mountain do trails before me, a lot of YouTube, and a lot of trial and error haha. Although I understand that’s how bad habits can sometimes form as well...
I was lucky. My home hill had a clinic for several years that was offered a couple afternoons a week (Thu, Sun) for a while that I do. It was $40 for 2 hours with a very experienced instructor interested in working with folks over 50. One of the things we did when I ended up with a solo lesson was critique a few skiers we could see from the lift. That's called Movement Analysis. So I learned how to spot weaknesses in a skier that look pretty good to me. Of course, learning how to avoid their mistakes took a while even with lessons. Plus I learned to ski long ago and had habits to undo.

During the early or late season, group lessons for intermediates aren't very popular even on weekends. Often the more part-time instructors are not as available, so may get one of the more experienced instructors for a group lesson. Don't start by saying that you're in the second season. Better to talk about terrain you want to learn to ski better.
 

ski_vibes

Diva in Training
#17
@ski diva Thanks for the tips! Regarding the retracting turns, I'm trying to visualize—is this similar or still very different to the kind of hopping motions I described in my opening post?

@snoWYmonkey Ah so this will probably be something that will take some time to wrap around psychologically. I guess I was approaching this struggle with the hope that with proper technique, or the right gear, it will feel very comfortable or natural. Similar to how after a while for certain easy groomers, it feels as though my legs are going through the movements very naturally. But it sounds like there will always be that feeling of unpredictability and having to recover. Which is fine! :smile: I just need to mentally accept it.

@marzNC I'm 5"7 and 160lbs. I'm definitely trying to see what type of ski works for me this season. My first season, my skis were I think 144cm so super short. This season I like the feel of these longer skis and feel SO much more stable on the mountain. Wouldn't mind trying something even a bit longer and wider to see how it differs. Going to keep an eye out on group lessons for the rest of the season—I may ask if we can focus specifically on bumps or variable snow conditions.

@newboots My regular mountains are Mountain Creek and Camelback just because they're so close, but I've also spent some time up in Stowe (2 trips), Whiteface, and Killington. Do you find that there are skis that perform well in any or most conditions? Or do you typically have to get another pair of skis to handle specific snow conditions like that? I'll probably look into purchasing skis either at the end of this season or at the end of next. I want to try demo-ing a variety to see what works best. That said, I primarily ski east coast so I feel like I'd need something that can handle groomers, ice, and slush all in one since the conditions change all the time.
 
#18
@marzNC I'm 5"7 and 160lbs. I'm definitely trying to see what type of ski works for me this season. My first season, my skis were I think 144cm so super short. This season I like the feel of these longer skis and feel SO much more stable on the mountain. Wouldn't mind trying something even a bit longer and wider to see how it differs. Going to keep an eye out on group lessons for the rest of the season—I may ask if we can focus specifically on bumps or variable snow conditions.
Umm, 154cm is still quite short for you. When I was essentially an adventurous advanced intermediate, my skis were 75 underfoot and 154cm. But I'm a lot shorter and lighter than you are. I'm not quite 5'0", about 110 pounds then. For an intermediate, nose height is about right.

You don't need skis over 80mm for northeast skiing. Easier to learn fundamental skills with narrower skis. My narrow skis that I use in the east are 78 underfoot. What I had when I was starting to take lessons regularly were 72mm. My current all-mountain skis are 85mm. With improved technique in recent years, I can use them off-piste in 15+ inches of fluffy powder although I usually rent powder skis when I get lucky and catch a storm on a trip.
 

ski_vibes

Diva in Training
#19
Umm, 154cm is still quite short for you. When I was essentially an adventurous advanced intermediate, my skis were 75 underfoot and 154cm. But I'm a lot shorter and lighter than you are. I'm not quite 5'0", about 110 pounds then. For an intermediate, nose height is about right.

You don't need skis over 80mm for northeast skiing. Easier to learn fundamental skills with narrower skis. My narrow skis that I use in the east are 78 underfoot. What I had when I was starting to take lessons regularly were 72mm. My current all-mountain skis are 85mm. With improved technique in recent years, I can use them off-piste in 15+ inches of fluffy powder although I usually rent powder skis when I get lucky and catch a storm on a trip.
@marzNC Ahh, my local ski shop recommended that ski length to me along with another one that was a bit longer. I wasn't yet sure how I'd be able to maneuver with longer skis so I opted for the shorter version he recommended. I was able to adjust to the new length right away, so it might be worth it to take another visit and try out the longer one!
 
#20
@marzNC Ahh, my local ski shop recommended that ski length to me along with another one that was a bit longer. I wasn't yet sure how I'd be able to maneuver with longer skis so I opted for the shorter version he recommended. I was able to adjust to the new length right away, so it might be worth it to take another visit and try out the longer one!
You were given skis good for a typical 2nd season skier who is happy to stick to groomers and stays off the slopes if the weather is bad. The fact that you found TheSkiDiva and have asked very good questions . . . means you fit more into the "ski nut" category. So the typical short skis probably aren't the best fit for you.
 

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