Carving in the Steeps

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Carving in the Steeps

Postby jbotti » Thu Apr 20, 2006 8:47 am

In the interest in moving this forum away from the squabble, I would like to discuss a subject that has been on my mind over the past few weeks.
The two people I respect most in skiing (Harald and Thor Kallerud) both say that carving in the steeps with control is the hardest thing to do on skis. I guess because of this I have decided to bang my head against a wall and see if I can come close to accomplishing this. In reality, I haven't come that close, but my skiing has improved immensely from trying.

Theoretically, carving in the steeps on hard snopw or ice should be the same as on less steep terrain. The big difference is the speed and the G forces. But still, at least theoretically the same movements that enable one to tighten arcs on moderate terrain should be the same as on steeper terrain. Unfortunately I find that although I can carve some really tight arcs on moderate terrain, when I try to tighen the arc this much in steep terrain at times it just doesn't happen. At times it appears that no matter how hard I try, no matter how hard I work to increase the angles it just won't happen, and I am stuck in some big arcs with ever increasing speeed.

Back to the theoreticals. There are four things that govern the radius of the turn. The natural sidecut and turn radius of the ski, the angle of the ski with the snow, fore/aft positioning of the feet and legs over the ski, and lastly, the ability to bend the ski some to tighten the turn radius.
What I am finding is that the last three need to be in place in the steeps or the turn will not be tight. Perhaps even more importantly, if you don't get early engagement of the ski with high angles and if my fore/aft position is not perfect, then all the attepmts to bend won't really help.

To summarize my thoughts, first and most importantly is early engagement with very high edge angles (this means early counter rotation and early counter balancing) combined with a very forward position over the skis (I agresively pull both feet under me) starts the turn off with an ability to be tight in the steeps. From there the extension of the stance leg and perhaps more importantly the agressive flexing of the free leg continues to tighten the turn.

I would like to hear others thoughts. Clearly, this stuff is hard and alot that one can get away with in moderate terrain (being a little back early in the turn, or not nailing early high edge angles) just kills things in the steeps.

What else helps in the steeps?
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Re: Carving in the Steeps

Postby Max_501 » Thu Apr 20, 2006 9:09 am

jbotti wrote:To summarize my thoughts, first and most importantly is early engagement with very high edge angles (this means early counter rotation and early counter balancing) combined with a very forward position over the skis (I agresively pull both feet under me) starts the turn off with an ability to be tight in the steeps. From there the extension of the stance leg and perhaps more importantly the agressive flexing of the free leg continues to tighten the turn.


To carve on steeps you are talking about BIG angles. In addition to the items you pointed out you need to commit to dropping the hip and tipping the 'extra' amount. Also, be careful with getting too forward on the skis. As you get forward you apply pressure to the ball of the foot which then becomes a pivot point which will cause the tails to wash. Its ok to be forward in the first part of the turn but by the 2nd part you want you stance leg extended and its time to start working on moving pressure to the heel of the stance foot. Pressure control is another big part of carving on steeps. If 12 o'clock is uphill and 6 o'clock is downhill then the first part of the turn is 12 to 3 and the 2nd part is 3 to 4:30. From 4:30 to 6 you are in the flexing phase.
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Postby milesb » Thu Apr 20, 2006 9:19 am

A few things I have noticed-
At the start of a turn on a steeper slope, there is very little force to pull the skis out of a carve. That means that the skis WILL carve unless you do something to prevent it. However, because of those same lack of forces, it is very easy to do the things that will prevent carving.
Don't expect to go slowly. In fact expect for the skis to go pretty fast in order to get a shorter radius at the top of the turn. However, there is almost always more room than you think to make a smooth transition. Trust that the skis will make the turn in time to avoid slamming into the rocky side of the chute. It's the same thing as trusting that you will be able to make the next gate, go for it.
My f-up while doing this is always insufficient flexing of the free leg.
I don't try this on hard snow, it's way beyond my ability.
I'm sure I'm not carving as much as I feel when I try to do it.
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Postby HarveyD » Thu Apr 20, 2006 11:06 am

What if you were trying to make a GS type turn on a steep hill and the next gate was at 6 o'clock. Would you still start to flex at 4:30, or would you continue to deflect until getting past the gate?
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Postby dewdman42 » Thu Apr 20, 2006 1:31 pm

Some interesting comments. One thing I would like to point out..the reason its difficult to carve on steeps doesn't really have to do with speed so much..it has more to do with gravity. The steeper the slope gets, the more that gravity and momentum are pulling you in the same direction during the last 1/3 of the turn. On a flatter slope, gravity is pulling down into the snow. On a steeper slope, gravity is pulling you down the hill more, and less down into the snow...

During the last part of the turn, the effect of this is that your momentum and gravity sum up to a lot of sidways forces in almost the same vector, which is down the hill and out of their arc direction. The amout of force pulling your ski down into the snow(to increase traction) is reduced.

Another phenomenon, which Miles started to touch on...is that on steeper slopes there is a tendency for skiers to want to get their skis horizantal to the fall line as soon as possible. So whether they realize it or not, they will pivot too much as they approach the fall line and feel scared about going so fast down the fall line. Patience and confidence is needed to trust that the skis will come around as they always do. If you pivot there, the skis will break free from their arc and as you all know..its very very difficult to get the arc back under carving control at that point.

The only general purpose advice I would try to give here is to make sure you're doing all the things you know you're supposed to do, such as angulation and counter. It is precisely this kind of situation where sufficent angulation is critical. Another tendency that many skiers have, whether they realize it or not, is to lean in towards the hill a bit...if not blatantly..then perhaps subtly.

As you come into the last part of the turn, your angulation is going to mean that your CM will be positioned out over your skis. Skiers will fear that if they aren't careful they will go over the handlebars and my oh my how scary that would be on a steep hill. But if you allow your CM to be even just a little bit too far in towards the hill you will lose some of the edging capabilities of your skis...so again..this takes faith and confidence to be angulated all the way through the turn.

Someone mentioned bigger edge angles. That goes hand in hand with angulation.

Even then..sometimes the slope is just so steep and icy that only the best in the world will hold their arcs...and even they don't always hold their arcs...so don't beat yourself up too much if you're aren't holding a perfect arc on steep icy conditions.

ps - Please forgive me if I have not stated these things in PMTS terms.
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Postby jbotti » Thu Apr 20, 2006 2:04 pm

Thanks Dewdman and all who have commented.

Let me clarify one thing, it is not the carving part where I run into trouble. It's carving tight enough arcs to be in control. The real question for me is: how do I get the extremely high edge angles early in the turn consistently which enables a tight turn. What are the things that I need to do to insure that my arc will be as tight as can be made (at least by me!!).

Again thanks for all of your comments. JB.
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Postby dewdman42 » Thu Apr 20, 2006 2:09 pm

That sounds like a transition issue to me...but I can't comment on the proper way to do it with PMTS due to the fact that I'm not qualified. Is this where PMTS "feathering" comes into play?

Some other things to suggest which are pretty obvious but I'll say them anyway.. what kind of skiis are you on? What is the sidecut radius? What radius of turn would make you feel more safe? Also try finishing your turns a little bit further across the hill before making your transition. Just turning further away from the fall line will gain quite a bit of control.
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Postby Max_501 » Thu Apr 20, 2006 2:27 pm

jbotti wrote:Let me clarify one thing, it is not the carving part where I run into trouble. It's carving tight enough arcs to be in control. The real question for me is: how do I get the extremely high edge angles early in the turn consistently which enables a tight turn. What are the things that I need to do to insure that my arc will be as tight as can be made (at least by me!!).


I think your first post plus my 1st post cover all the PMTS specific things you do. When working with HH there was a blue slope I could carve (meaning two thin lines in the snow while reducing the radius of the ski by bending the ski) without any problem but higher up there was a blue/black slope that was my arch nemesis. By the end of the week I was finally making nice turns on that slope. It was exactly the same movements as on the easier slope but just more of everything and better pressure management. For example, on the steeper slope I'd have a tendancy to flex my stance leg far too early as the pressure starting building. Instead I needed to extend smoothly and stay extended, feeling and working the pressure, letting the tip hook up and then keeping my hips over the boots (which builds more pressure), and letting the ski bend. Even when releasing you manage the pressure by releasing gradually and letting the stance ski track back to the inside leg.

And you really need to commit your hip early. If you hesitate here you are lost. There is also the 'extra' tipping point. Where you tip more than you think you really can.
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Postby milesb » Sun Apr 30, 2006 9:41 pm

Max, an important thing you mentioned was doing the same slope over and over. This builds the confidence and familiarity to go for it. There are a couple of steep slopes at Mammoth I ski so often that I like to see how much I can carve on them. With varying degrees of success, depending upon snow conditions and other things. Now granted, they are not THAT steep (35-40 degrees), and the one that is a chute never gets narrower than 15-20 feet. The point is that I am hesitant to try to carve on similiar slopes that I don't visit very often.
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Postby joey » Mon May 01, 2006 9:37 am

Hi I'm new here and having some of the same issues on carving steep icy terrain. A SL ski (12m) is easier for me to control speed than a GS ski (18m) in thses conditions. Thanks to Max I am starting to get a grip on understanding the correct movements. It seems the earlier I counter and engage my edges in the turn the better speed control I have. I guess practice and drills are in order. Looking forward to attending the upcoming ski camp at T-line.
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Postby Harald » Mon May 01, 2006 11:55 am

see you all soon
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skiing on the steeps

Postby lannq » Tue May 02, 2006 12:00 pm

Would it possible to pressure the ski before it goes up on edge? Pressure the flat ski. That is pre-loading the ski ,like a hockey snap shot does. Thus having loaded pressure to initiate the carve at the earliest angle/edge. Result I think will alough ski to get into the hard pack quicker , and arc faster ,and rebound stronger. Again like a snap shot in hockey wih a pre-bent stick before the puck snaps/rebounds out of the bent sick . Gary
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or do this

Postby John Mason » Tue May 02, 2006 5:15 pm

The Super Phantom turn the ski that will be your new outside ski is fully pressured before the ski has gone flat and before the transition point.

This will keep that ski, as you have pointed out, pressured so it will engage at the very top of the next turn.

I'll look for a link here for a description of that turn and edit this after I eat.

In the SP turn, in the last 1/3 of your old turn, as your removing pressure from your outside leg, your letting your uphill LTE engage and by the time you're at transition, that leg is fully weighted and your downhill ski is fully un-weighted. As the ski goes flat and rolls to it's bte after transition it's fully engaged right from the start.

This is the key turn style taught in Eric and Rob's book Ski the Whole Mountain. Keeps you connected to the snow in all conditions.
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Re: skiing on the steeps

Postby Max_501 » Tue May 02, 2006 9:17 pm

lannq wrote:Thus having loaded pressure to initiate the carve at the earliest angle/edge. Result I think will alough ski to get into the hard pack quicker , and arc faster ,and rebound stronger. Again like a snap shot in hockey wih a pre-bent stick before the puck snaps/rebounds out of the bent sick .


As John pointed out the SP turn does in fact weight the ski before you get on edge. That said, you need to be careful to use finesse in the early part of the turn. It would be very easy to over pressure the ski by pushing off of it. Instead a nice smooth extenstion of the new outside leg should firmly engage the edge. The harder the snow is the smoother the extentsion should be. If you try to jam the ski into boiler plate it will likely break free and skid or chatter. Note, when setting up early edge engagement (a high C turn) you need early counter and counter balance.
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Postby lannq » Wed May 03, 2006 6:32 am

By 'early counter' you ,do you mean getting off your heels early and cm towards the diagnal (center of next turn). Or just getting your shoulders availed (opened down hill)while still maintaining old edge angle. Brings me to a second question . Is it Ok to finish turns on your heels? Maybe even both heels?
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