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Tips/practice for truly yukky terrain. Hard wind-blown crust, frozen chop, death cookies

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I want to significantly improve my technique on the truly yukky terrain such as;
- hard, wind-blown crust.
- steep, lumpy, frozen "chop"
- "death cookies"

FWIW, my skiing on powder, bumps, ice etc. is all pretty good/advanced, according to lots of courses/instruction I've been on over the years. Its just that, not surprisingly, when you're on a week long course with a group, there is a tendency to stick to the enjoyable/sexy snow conditions; powder etc. There would be rebellion in the ranks if we spent days on end on real crud.

However, I do NOT have months of time each season on snow. So I am not keen to spend time seeking out "horrible snow conditions" to practice on during the few weeks of precious ski holiday each season. I'd rather be enjoying the powder.

So.... any suggestions on
- technique
- and out-of-season practice away from the snow
to help me improve my performance in truly variable, cruddy conditions? Or is the only way to improve on crud to ski the stuff regularly, then I will have accept that and knuckle down to some serious (but lonely) practice on my next hols.

Cheers!

Cheers!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Only way is to ski it IMV.

Take up touring then you'll get all the practice you need.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
So the answer is MTFU/WTFU

Now the question is why? No one sets out to ski that stuff, unless it's in an explorational sort of way - as in "I know this will be poo-poo but just to confirm" or possibly if you are El Rabbito or myself to troll each other into not enjoying ourselves.

There isn't a lot of magic to it if you can ski icy hardpack it is basically the same just adjust your speed to the amount of rattle you can tolerate. Now non frozen crud is different there the answer really is get on the gas more and own it.
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Go somewhere high in April and then head out far earlier than is necessary. You will find all of the above in spades. When you've had enough of rattling your teeth out, have a nice beer in the sun. By the time you've finished, it will be nice and soft and enjoyable, and you'll wonder why you got out of bed so early.

Non-frozen crud I actually quite enjoy, far easier to deal with than breakable crust.

HTH Toofy Grin
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
If you can avoid it, do so.
If you can't, relax, pray, use your strength, poles and repertoire of skills and get out of there as quickly as you can - unless you actively want to gain as many injuries as possible... wink
I know that when time is precious and limited you sometimes have to take what you can get - but usually there's something at least a little better around.
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Actually, the only thing that's truly tricky is breakable crust.

Most people top out before bumps however.
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+1 for breakable crust and as far as getting better in poo-poo conditions is to practice in those conditions and work out what works in different circumstances.
IMHO the best skiers instinctively know what to do as conditions change
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Quote:

IMHO the best skiers instinctively know what to do as conditions change


Yeah but they weren't born that way - it's all practice. You work out little techniques and they become second nature.
The practice comes because you ski off piste in all (avalanche risk allowing) conditions. At times that means you are "enjoying" less pleasant conditions than you would on piste but you can enjoy the adventure, peace, challenge, etc.

A big little secret to skiing offpiste in difficult conditions is how to get the effortless pop that clears the skis from the crud.
The inexperienced tend to resort to big up movements which require a lot of energy and can play havoc with balance. A big help is to put in a firm little edge check at the end of a turn and then use the rebound off that to skip the skis out and around.
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I think it's unconscious practice more than conscious practice though. You commit to a little off piste detour and then stick with it because it's a bit funky rather than downright miserable. As more things fall into your bracket of "a bit funky" and less becomes "miserable" then you are winning. I'm not sure I'd deliberately go out to practice in such conditions when there was better snow around unless you are training for a ski tour where you will likely encounter such conditions or it is truely grim everywhere and you might as well get some practice in.
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Thanks all for the ideas so far. Looking suspiciously like no at home drills/exercises can substitute for just doing it/ MTFU'ing.

Jedster said..
Quote:

A big little secret to skiing offpiste in difficult conditions is how to get the effortless pop that clears the skis from the crud.
The inexperienced tend to resort to big up movements which require a lot of energy

That sounds familiar to me. Burning too much energy on the hops. Especially compared to skiing with mates who (a) are often better than me, (b) on lightweight touring skis and technical bindings (that last one, of course, could be just me making excuses ).

Some of my mates seem to just flow effortlessly thru this rock-hard, frozen, cruddy junk stuff. Others seem to have a major fight on their hands.
Me, I'm kind of in-between. Whereas I want to be , say, in the top half of the group skill wise. Why? Just the fun of mastering a skill better, and so that its not me slowing the group down all the time.

Why do I want to go to places this stuff anyway? Cuz its often en route to the luvverly bits, or unavoidable because we're doing a day tour.
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Quote:

(b) on lightweight touring skis and technical bindings (that last one, of course, could be just me making excuses ).


I honestly don't think ski weight is very important for this, it is technique.

Quote:


I think it's unconscious practice more than conscious practice though. You commit to a little off piste detour and then stick with it because it's a bit funky rather than downright miserable.


Sure - something looks interesting, turns out to be a bit ropey but there is a certain satisfaction at skiing it competently even if you can't truly flow over it. Tends to get filed as "well that was a little character-building" at the bottom.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Quote:

I honestly don't think ski weight is very important for this, it is technique.


Yup.
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jedster wrote:
Quote:

(b) on lightweight touring skis and technical bindings (that last one, of course, could be just me making excuses ).


I honestly don't think ski weight is very important for this, it is technique.



If anything the opposite applies - lightweight skis and tech bindings make skiing re-frozen rattly mank even more unpleasant IME. A little extra weight and mass normally helps smooth things out a tad.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Once you accept it won't feel very nice, isn't part of the trick being comfortable when you're being thrown all over the place by the crud? I'm shamelessly copying what I was told in clinics with TDC a couple of months ago, but practising skiing on the "wrong" ski, skiing backwards, etc seems to let you recover your balance better.
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The conditions you describe sounds like the back corries in Nevis Range Scotland. (when they are open, and worse when closed)

Also it sounds like average piste conditions in Scotland. Add in not enough snow, rocks, large bare patches, ice....

Get there and practice on it. Simples!

NehNeh
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@Tomahawk Tone, comments re Scotland spur a thought - a less pleasant artificial surface (e.g. Dendix?) might afford some helpful practice...

I started to learn to ski in Scotland on snow and artificial mat...makes a difference.
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Quote:

If anything the opposite applies - lightweight skis and tech bindings make skiing re-frozen rattly mank even more unpleasant IME. A little extra weight and mass normally helps smooth things out a tad.


agreed - almost said that
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On our last trip my missus said that has she'd grown up near a ski area and so did days/weekends "when conditions were good" she'd never learned to ski all the crud, slush and other sh !t. That was until she moved to the UK and met me in 2000. Having kids and skiing in December and April has taken it to a new level.

Toofy Grin Toofy Grin Toofy Grin Skullie Skullie Skullie
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There is a lot of good advice here and I agree with those that say you have to work out just what the conditions are and then use various methods that you have learnt over the years to cope.

Another little trick that I was taught when conditions are a bit tricky, is to initiate the turn with a little bit of a stem. It does not necessarily have to be a big old fashioned stem, but just enough to make you commit your weight to the outer ski. I find it a useful thing to do sometimes as well on the first run of the morning off piste, or the first run on a new slope if the conditions are a bit packed or the visibility a bit poor. I find stemming just a few turns gives me a feel of what to expect plus a bit of confidence whilst establishing a rhythm. It also saves a lot of energy compared to trying to hop round.
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Bigtipper wrote:
. sounds like average piste conditions in Scotland. Add in not enough snow, rocks, large bare patches, ice....


You forgot the joys of ice-laden, face-freezing howling hoolies and infinite forms of usually-nil visibility snowHead
Learn to ski /board in Scotland, and you can do it anywhere - or so I was told. Seems to have stood me in good stead...So far.
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It had rained and refrozen in Riksgränsen the other week. I was there to try my hand at ski touring which was good, but the ski down wasn't fun. In one area there were frozen peaks and troughs about 20cm deep and 20cm apart. Apart from straight lining it, it was unskiable. We got out of there asap.

The "effortless pop" as @jedster mentions - just enough to clear the bumps or crud- is nice to watch but I've yet to master it.
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And the most annoying example of the "effortless pop"... when your mountain guide/instructor switches 180 degrees in place, on a steep slope, when standing still, losing no height at all, with just a little jump up and down.
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@Tomahawk Tone,

now that does actually require a bit more energy than the edge check/rebound approach.
Useful skill though. Not that I can quite do the "losing no height at all bit"
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@Tomahawk Tone,

now that does actually require a bit more energy than the edge check/rebound approach.
Useful skill though. Not that I can quite do the "losing no height at all bit"
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Unconvinced they're "losing no height at all" ...
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well quite - the reason its normally done on steep ground is that you use some of that height to get round
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Lie on your back with your feet in the air like 'dead ants'. Then get a mate to wiggle your feet about randomly.

Resist all rotation and lateral movement.

Accept all vertical movement - flex your knees and ankles.
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@altis, ???
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Skiing crud is all about maintaining your position and balance even though the 'snow' is trying to kick you off all the time. So keep the suspension going whilst resisting other disturbance.

Bit of a silly exercise but it highlights what's required.
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@altis, I am not convinced (about the exercise). And the dynamic balance required also requires soft absorption of rotation and displacement. IMHO.

Although there was a video I saw once, referenced here http://www.fall-line.co.uk/ski-fitness/ about Franz Klammer's downhill training machine,

"Klammer would click onto the machine’s two metal girders that were then jolted aggressively by the set of camshafts that revolved randomly underneath. The machine made an awful racket and looked about as dangerous as racing the Hahnenkamm itself, but there was The Kaiser, legs pumping wildly, as he tried to hold a tuck position. "
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
under a new name wrote:
...also requires soft absorption of rotation and displacement.


Agreed. But from the point of view of a crud / off piste beginner with flopping upper body and arms flapping wildly, they need to realise how and where the suspension works best.

I just suggested it as an awareness thing - not some regular exercise. For that you might try slacklining.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
"I want to significantly improve my technique on the truly yukky terrain such as;
- hard, wind-blown crust.
- steep, lumpy, frozen "chop"
- death cookies"

Easiest first.
Death cookies, these with find out all your bad habits when skiing, tail swishing, side slipping, etc. The key is to ski cleanly on an edge, no sideways movement. Otherwise known as carving. Truth is not many skiers actually carve cleanly, do your tracks look like railway lines or bananas.

Chop, big skis, and light on your feet. Strong legs help absorbe shocks, ski in control.

Hardest last.
Crust, again big skis, and a little jump when turning. Plus lots of practice which you don't really want. If the crust isn't breakable then try the counter intuitive sinking through the turn even weighting and exerting minimum pressure.

General comment applicable to all, practice, the right gear, stamina, and maybe some technique imputs, oh yes, more practice.
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Breakable crust - opportunity to try out the famous downhill kick turn. Or get the slowboard out.
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Skiing hero snow on wide skis comes up against the reality of variable conditions. Happy

For breakable crust I would head for the steeps. As for the rest, technique and fitness, as under a new name said above.

Preparation for conquering variable snow conditions begins now with general fitness preparation. If you can't ski 2000m vertical without stopping for a breather you are not fit enough. I'd also focus on balance.
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My main suggestion would be not to ski it:find something better.

Snowboards are definitely better, but there are still conditions I can't be bothered to deal with.

As far as practice, I think it's not necessary and the last thing I'd want to do would be to seek out garbage snow in order to get better at riding it. If you can ride (or ski) then that's all you need. Nothing fundamentally changes, hence if you're solid then it's not an issue. For what it's worth you tend to see people fall apart more on powder than tricky snow.

Get a guide, send her down first, and if it's garbage make sure they radio back so you can go some other way.
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Quote:

s far as practice, I think it's not necessary and the last thing I'd want to do would be to seek out garbage snow in order to get better at riding it.


Although if you ski off piste a lot you WILL find yourself on stretches of rubbish snow at times, even just on wind scoured sections between the good stuff of sun crust getting to shady slopes. So ski off piste as much as possible and you'll get the practice.
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Quote:

For breakable crust I would head for the steeps.


Could you expand on that? Do you mean try to ski breakable crust on steeps (tbh I find it terrifying even on moderate slopes), or just ski steeps and that will help you with breakable crust?
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mcloke wrote:
Quote:

For breakable crust I would head for the steeps.


Could you expand on that? Do you mean try to ski breakable crust on steeps (tbh I find it terrifying even on moderate slopes), or just ski steeps and that will help you with breakable crust?


Hi,
Well i'm not talking about 55 slopes but 30 degrees +, it is easier to get skis clear of the crust using jump or (my favourite) windscreen wiper turns. It is a crutch but generally crust is a case of losing altitude.
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@davidof, what do you mean by windscreen wiper turns?
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under a new name wrote:
@davidof, what do you mean by windscreen wiper turns?


It is very old school but you basically turn on your tails, if you have some slope the skis are almost horizontal compared to the slope.
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