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That first turn on a black run

AJM

Certified Ski Diva
#1
Here's a question I'd love someone to answer, I'll set the scene first. On my local ski hill we have two big faces (Bluff Face and Big Mama) both are around 35 degrees pitch and considered black runs. On both of these runs you have to traverse to gain access (plus dodge a few rocks, sketchy entrances the whole shebang !) so you therefore end up at the top of the run facing across the fall line. So here's my question ..... how do you make that first turn? I usually end up jump turning to get into position or side slip a few feet to get some momentum going. Note that both these runs are ungroomed so you come across all sorts of conditions from ice, to pow to chowder anything but pristine cord, I'd love to hear your thoughts x
 
#2
Sounds like you are doing just fine, I look more for where my second and 3rd turns are going to be. Remember to keep your hands down the hill and zipper in the fall line. IF there is zero chance of Ice it is a blast to just 'dive in" and go straight off the top, feels like exiting an airplane or diving into a pool. spooky at first then Oh so Fun... Trust your skis, make Big Turns if you are going too fast, Steep is really fun.
 

AJM

Certified Ski Diva
#3
Sounds like you are doing just fine, I look more for where my second and 3rd turns are going to be. Remember to keep your hands down the hill and zipper in the fall line. IF there is zero chance of Ice it is a blast to just 'dive in" and go straight off the top, feels like exiting an airplane or diving into a pool. spooky at first then Oh so Fun... Trust your skis, make Big Turns if you are going too fast, Steep is really fun.
Thanks @nopoleskier , I love the zipper in the fall line quote !!! They're great fun runs and yes when its on you do feel like you're flying its just getting that first turn engaged that I struggle with the rest is fine, its probably more a mental block as we have steeper runs on the hill and I have no problem with them possibly because they have a wider approach and with the two I mentioned you literaly come flying around a corner and boom you end up facing across the hill, I need to trust my skis more methinks !!!
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
#4
Sounds like you are doing just fine, I look more for where my second and 3rd turns are going to be. Remember to keep your hands down the hill and zipper in the fall line. IF there is zero chance of Ice it is a blast to just 'dive in" and go straight off the top, feels like exiting an airplane or diving into a pool. spooky at first then Oh so Fun... Trust your skis, make Big Turns if you are going too fast, Steep is really fun.
This. And zipper line is the zipper of your jacket in the fall line. This is one of the amazing things of this forum, nopoleskier and I are both ski instructor on opposite sides of the border, yet that statement is something we both use.
 

AJM

Certified Ski Diva
#5
My problem is getting onto the fall line from being across it on steep exposed terrain, once I'm skiing it I'm away its just that transition I struggle with on those 2 runs. I generally ski the fall line and perhaps thats my problem in this instance because I'm starting the run facing across the hill ,you come off a cat track that comes to an abrupt end then around a sketchy corner and you end up standing in the middle of the face with 38 degrees of slope above you and 35 below, the blacks and double blacks off the cat track are fine as I have enough room to turn and face the fall line so I can just launch of the edge x
 
#6
My problem is getting onto the fall line from being across it on steep exposed terrain, once I'm skiing it I'm away its just that transition I struggle with on those 2 runs. I generally ski the fall line and perhaps thats my problem in this instance because I'm starting the run facing across the hill ,you come off a cat track that comes to an abrupt end then around a sketchy corner and you end up standing in the middle of the face with 38 degrees of slope above you and 35 below, the blacks and double blacks off the cat track are fine as I have enough room to turn and face the fall line so I can just launch of the edge x
it is spooky, just take a big breath, exhale and go for it. even after skiing as long as I have I still get butterflies and the brain does pose those questions - 'why are you doing this' LOL
the photo is Climax at Mammoth- I love the trail but always stand there thinking OMG. Yet Once I let go I know my skis work and I know how to turn and slow myself I just ski and forget the jitters it all goes away- Just always be looking for the 2-3rd turns (the 1st turn is going to happen when you go)

Some places we do need to do a side slip or kick turn to get facing the right way- when you run out of room a girls gotta do what we can to get set up. Maybe practice tight short controlled turns, confine your self on a trail to use the same width as the cat track and make your self stay in control with short turns so when you are on the cat track you can make same small turns to be set up facing the right way to enter the trail?

The Best part of skiing there really are no rules except be safe and have fun.

20228349_10211506080799099_5785639725115042413_n - Copy.jpg
 

AJM

Certified Ski Diva
#7
it is spooky, just take a big breath, exhale and go for it. even after skiing as long as I have I still get butterflies and the brain does pose those questions - 'why are you doing this' LOL
the photo is Climax at Mammoth- I love the trail but always stand there thinking OMG. Yet Once I let go I know my skis work and I know how to turn and slow myself I just ski and forget the jitters it all goes away- Just always be looking for the 2-3rd turns (the 1st turn is going to happen when you go)

Some places we do need to do a side slip or kick turn to get facing the right way- when you run out of room a girls gotta do what we can to get set up. Maybe practice tight short controlled turns, confine your self on a trail to use the same width as the cat track and make your self stay in control with short turns so when you are on the cat track you can make same small turns to be set up facing the right way to enter the trail?

The Best part of skiing there really are no rules except be safe and have fun.

View attachment 13965
Thanks so much for the tips @nopoleskier , such a shame I now have to wait another 8 months to put it into practise !!! I asked my son if he has issues as well and he said he often has to pull a random move to get into position so whew its not just me :smile:
 

marymack

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#8
This same issue happens to me, though usually in the trees or bump runs. I call it "getting twisted up" because even though I'm looking down hill my skis are stuck sideways and I can't commit to releasing the edges and making a turn. I'm looking forward to hearing some new suggestions!

I often traverse/sideslip and try to get my skis kind of diagonal to the fall line and then look down hill and commit. Using a pole to reach down hill can help make me commit and release my edges. I think I sometimes use a bullfighter turn... Use your poles for support down hill while you step your skis into the fall line...not very graceful but useful in tight spaces.
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#9
This same issue happens to me, though usually in the trees or bump runs. I call it "getting twisted up" because even though I'm looking down hill my skis are stuck sideways and I can't commit to releasing the edges and making a turn. I'm looking forward to hearing some new suggestions!

I often traverse/sideslip and try to get my skis kind of diagonal to the fall line and then look down hill and commit. Using a pole to reach down hill can help make me commit and release my edges. I think I sometimes use a bullfighter turn... Use your poles for support down hill while you step your skis into the fall line...not very graceful but useful in tight spaces.
You describe exactly what I teach and what I've heard from other instructors for years. Sideslip to get yourself moving, shift to diagonal side-slip, pole plant and go.

A stem-step works, too. Rotate the new outside ski's tail outward and set it down, with both tips close to each other, stand on it and go. It doesn't have to point all the way downhill for this to work. Remember to pole plant. Caveat: don't stand on the stemmed ski's tail. A way to avoid doing this is to make sure its tip is behind (uphill of) the other ski's tip. That will position your body somewhat forward on the stemmed ski when you shift your weight to it. I learned this one from Mermer Blakeslee. She uses it in her fear clinics to get people going on scary terrain. You can make each turn of the run a stem-step that ends in a full stop, if it's really scary and/or narrow.

I haven't heard of using both poles as in bullfighter turns to help with that stem-step. Great idea for that first turn.
 
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#10
I agree with @liquidfeet and her approach as I teach the same concepts.

A big mountain expedition skier that is a guest coach for our women's camps admitted to us that when she climbs a new mountain and skis a line for the first time she often starts in a wedge/stem step, as mentioned above. It gives her that extra little bit of stability and a slower entry.

I think all of us, or at least I hope, trust that we have what it takes to ski a black run when we ski to it. What we never know is how the conditions will be. This can add or subtract levels of difficulty to any run. By starting a little slower, be it a stem step or side slip we get those extra seconds to assess the snow quality.

As liquid feet also mentions that pole plant is key. By reaching with the hand, arm, and essentially body, we help release our skis, which is the at times almost impossible commitment move to start that first turn. If the body is not over the skis, we will start off a little behind the ball (center of the ski) and end up never quite on our game.

I like having a mantra for what happens as soon as I engage in that first turn. Tommy Moe used to tell himself, keep the hands forward, I have a number of words or sensations I focus on. While being confident is great, I would caution against too much aggression on that first turn, in the event that you have to shut things down and slow down right away. As we know from driving on ice, it is hard to slow down once we are going too fast, so a moderate speed is best. Unless of course a person is in the starting gates....

I have only once experienced true fear. It was a steep backcountry line, my first time on it, and I could not see what was below, including the cliff band to be skied around. My colleagues and the head guide for the ski area were all eyes on me. For certain the negative self talk was the worst part. Once I started moving, I kept reminding myself that I know how to do this, I know how to do this. Once I could see around the hump, after the first two turns, I was able to enjoy the process. Pleasure and challenging terrain don't always happen on the first turn,
 
#11
An instructor at Taos told me I tend to "stem" when I get in a tight situation, but also said it's okay to do that. It's usually on the first turn as I'm standing there looking down a steep ungroomed run at Taos. Also tend to "bend over" at the same time. Bad habits from over 40 + years skiing !
 

AJM

Certified Ski Diva
#12
You describe exactly what I teach and what I've heard from other instructors for years. Sideslip to get yourself moving, shift to diagonal side-slip, pole plant and go.

A stem-step works, too. Rotate the new outside ski's tail outward and set it down, with both tips close to each other, stand on it and go. It doesn't have to point all the way downhill for this to work. Remember to pole plant. Caveat: don't stand on the stemmed ski's tail. A way to avoid doing this is to make sure its tip is behind (uphill of) the other ski's tip. That will position your body somewhat forward on the stemmed ski when you shift your weight to it. I learned this one from Mermer Blakeslee. She uses it in her fear clinics to get people going on scary terrain. You can make each turn of the run a stem-step that ends in a full stop, if it's really scary and/or narrow.

I haven't heard of using both poles as in bullfighter turns to help with that stem-step. Great idea for that first turn.
Thats exactly what I often do, so pleased to hear I'm not the only one to pull random moves out of m bag of tricks :laughter:
 

AJM

Certified Ski Diva
#13
I agree with @liquidfeet and her approach as I teach the same concepts.

A big mountain expedition skier that is a guest coach for our women's camps admitted to us that when she climbs a new mountain and skis a line for the first time she often starts in a wedge/stem step, as mentioned above. It gives her that extra little bit of stability and a slower entry.

I think all of us, or at least I hope, trust that we have what it takes to ski a black run when we ski to it. What we never know is how the conditions will be. This can add or subtract levels of difficulty to any run. By starting a little slower, be it a stem step or side slip we get those extra seconds to assess the snow quality.

As liquid feet also mentions that pole plant is key. By reaching with the hand, arm, and essentially body, we help release our skis, which is the at times almost impossible commitment move to start that first turn. If the body is not over the skis, we will start off a little behind the ball (center of the ski) and end up never quite on our game.

I like having a mantra for what happens as soon as I engage in that first turn. Tommy Moe used to tell himself, keep the hands forward, I have a number of words or sensations I focus on. While being confident is great, I would caution against too much aggression on that first turn, in the event that you have to shut things down and slow down right away. As we know from driving on ice, it is hard to slow down once we are going too fast, so a moderate speed is best. Unless of course a person is in the starting gates....

I have only once experienced true fear. It was a steep backcountry line, my first time on it, and I could not see what was below, including the cliff band to be skied around. My colleagues and the head guide for the ski area were all eyes on me. For certain the negative self talk was the worst part. Once I started moving, I kept reminding myself that I know how to do this, I know how to do this. Once I could see around the hump, after the first two turns, I was able to enjoy the process. Pleasure and challenging terrain don't always happen on the first turn,
What I generally do is side slip a little way to get the momentum going and a feel for things, then my first turn is generally a little cautious ie the stem turn then if all is good I open it up, if not then its a long way down using whatever technique needed.
 
#14
I do the same sorts of things that everyone is saying above. When something is steep or I’m in trees/bumps especially I often traverse and/or sideslip to get my first turn going. Stems definitely happen too. Glad to hear it’s common strategy from others, sometimes we are too hard on ourselves for “cheating” on these things to get going. Really though, if you’re safe and in control that’s really all that matters.
 

AJM

Certified Ski Diva
#15
I do the same sorts of things that everyone is saying above. When something is steep or I’m in trees/bumps especially I often traverse and/or sideslip to get my first turn going. Stems definitely happen too. Glad to hear it’s common strategy from others, sometimes we are too hard on ourselves for “cheating” on these things to get going. Really though, if you’re safe and in control that’s really all that matters.
Whew Im so pleased to read that I'm not the only one who "cheats", I asked the question originally as that was exactly how I felt, that I was somehow "cheating" by not being able to pull off that first turn on steep sketchy terrain in a technically correct fashion, so happy to hear that I'm not alone in my "do what you have to do" techniques :smile:
 

fgor

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#16
All the advice given here seems great! I haven't deliberately tried that stem-step - definitely will be next winter ! - though last winter I had a half-day of instruction where we were skiing steep ungroomed terrain the entire time, and getting my skis diagonal to the fall line was key when I was a bit nervous about starting a turn.

Thinking about it now, I've absolutely seen videos of my own skiing where the very first turn looked like a giant wedge, so I'm probably unconsciously doing a bit of a stem-step to get going on terrain I'm not 100% sure about :smile:
 

liquidfeet

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#17
I've used the stem step in lessons where my adult students are experiencing bumps for the first time. If the bumps are easy, I don't do it. But if they are surprisingly big and nasty I have them do one turn at a time.

From a dead stop, plant the pole directly downhill, in line with the downhill ski. Stem that uphill ski's tail outward. Be sure its tip is behind the stance ski's tip. Stand on it! It is now your stance ski. It will bring you around that bump to its downhill side. Set the inside ski down beside it. As you turn, rotate the stance ski's tip uphill-ish. This will bring your to a stop right at the bottom of that bump. Repeat in the other direction.

One bump at a time. Stop after each one. This is the way a frightened group of non-bump skiers can get through bumps. Stem steps that come to an almost immediate stop serve as speed control on steroids. They are big confidence builders.
 

Jilly

Moderator
Staff member
#18
@fgor - the stem doesn't work all that well in ungroomed snow. As you noticed you need to be pointed downhill to get some speed to get going in ungroomed. The stem needs to be narrowerd and short in duration. This wedge/snowplow/stem works great on groomers and getting into bumps.

My mentor years ago told me to start EVERY run using a small wedge. It's gets you balanced, stable and the weight on the downhill ski. And we're talking back when skis were STRAIGHT! Still works and I still do it.
 

fgor

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#19
True. Yeah, that was a big issue I was having in ungroomed snow - I was having difficulty turning, but I was starting with my skis pointing straight across the hill because I was also nervous, which was making it very difficult for me to get started turning anyway! (which made me more nervous, etc...) My instructor got me to start with them diagonally down the hill and we did one turn at a time.

Ugh, I miss skiing. 7 months until my season re-starts. Can't wait to start living vicariously through everyone else here once the ski season is underway up north :smile:
 

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