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Steep Icy and Scary

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Iíve just come back and I had my one and only fall of the week on the last home run.
This was supposed to be only a red slope down the Areit, in Zell am See

I was on my own and did not feel 100% comfortable.
I was going slow enough to spot the obvious bits where the snow cover was a bit polished but with enough rhythm to be able to keep the momentum going and not freeze up looking at it.

But for some reason I muffed a right-hand turn, I donít know exactly what happened I suspect I could not get an edge in hard enough so I slid a bit and then lost it. Both skis came away and I tumbled about 10 meters down the slope.

I managed to get up and finish the run but my confidence was severely shaken and I did not enjoy it.

I know Iím not the first and I wonít be the last to do this but Iím trying to get something positive out of the experience.

As I was skiing down I was trying my usual tricks to try and get out of the scary zone such as singing a little song and also spreading my toes when I found them clenching.
Iím sure even the most proficient and expert of you have all gone through something similar at some time, and Iíd like to work out how I can get over this hump.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Picture the bombardino/calimero/vin chaud/dancers at the Folie Douce waiting for you at the bottom. (delete as appropriate)
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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?
This year, when skiing on my own, not only did I fall 150 yards down The Face (Val) and lose both skis....but my skis were gathered up and handed to me by a kind and gorgeous girl in her early 20s, who nonchalantly skied down to me with them over her shoulder! Sometimes our egos just need a good shake up.

As you probably know, The Face is a notorious Black that runs down Belvarde into Val. The snow had been reasonable, up to the point at which you drop over the lip of the path, onto a very steep pitch.

I made the mistake of looking left and watching 2 young Tignes racers do short turns down it, like it was "nothing". Ah, I said to myself, the snow is still good here. Well it wasn't. It was sheet ice. I went for aggressive short turns, rather than several long turn, survival slides...which was a big mistake.

Almost before I began, at alarming speed, my skis slid out from under me, as the poor tune from the hire skis failed to give any purchase whatsoever.....that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. No razer sharp, ceramic tuned edges for me!

Having gathered up the shreds of my dignity, I skied to the bottom, went straight up the Olympic bubble and skied it again without falling.. Knowing where the slick patches were, made all the difference.

It is well worth having a lesson on icy pistes, as tactics and technique can make a big difference.....as can properly sharp edges!


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Sun 29-01-17 21:32; edited 3 times in total
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I hated the run down to les Houches last weekend - a cm or so of snow on top of ice. And lots of people trying to get down making wide turns - very difficult to pick a safe route through! I usually stick to the side if there is some soft snow and small moguls in places - easier to ski.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@DrLawn, falling isn't nice, and can really dent your confidence. To boost it again I would tackle the two elements here - steep and icy - separately. Spend some time working on steep slopes that have good snow cover, and spend some time working on technique for icy slopes where it is not so steep. We can most easily improve technique and confidence on terrain where we feel comfortable and in control. Having seen you ski at Hemel I know you're a good skier, but for all of us a fall like that can set us back psychologically. While the fall was short-lived the effects can last longer, and it can take a lot of practice to get back where we were. I can still picture some falls where I got it spectacularly wrong, and although I did what Old Fartbag suggests and went straight round to ski the same course again I wasn't able to throw myself into it with the confidence that it demanded. An hour or two working on technique on more comfortable terrain was the best cure.
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The other technique I've used in the past is simply to follow someone else down, which can work wonders: you get a lot of information about the snow conditions from watching what happens to their skis, and it gives you something to focus on. Even if you're on your own you can do this by just waiting for someone whose skiing at a speed/rhythm you like and then joining in behind at a respectful distance for a few hundred metres, then pick someone else to follow so you don't get accused of being ski stalker.
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@DrLawn, it sounds as though conditions were difficult. You fell, your skis came off (thus ensuring no nasty knee jobs) and, as you haven't mentioned it, I presume it wasn't particularly painful and you weren't injured.

Why do you think such an understandable, and harmless, fall has dented your confidence so much?
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@DrLawn, My advice would be to cut yourself some slack. I don't know if you were skiing your own skis or hire shop, but that makes a difference to me as I know that my edges are sharp and I know how my own skis react. Also, my experience is that each confidence loosing stuck on slope nightmare I have, I recover from more quickly as I tell myself that it was bad, but I survived. You may be like me in that you don't fall over much if at all. I learned to ski on the dry slope and the first lesson I took in was don't fall over, it hurts a lot! I am still struggling to overcome that and I am sure that there will be some very confused people around on my next trip as I am intending to purposely practice falling over. I also find that counting a rhythm for my turns works for me (1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 etc). The more worried I am the louder the counting!
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Thanks for the advice and kind words Guys & Gals
@Hells Bells, . ah thats the answer .. no dancers waiting for me at the bottom Toofy Grin
and @kieranm you say such nice things .. my confidence has soared already
but there may have been people to follow down, I know there were a lot going down who looked to me to be totally out of control.
and @pam w I did manage to complete the run but I did sneak off down a "cat track" for a bit of it.

I did suffer .. but I'm trying to imagine that it didn't.
But in this confessional I can own up.
I can still hear my knee swearing at me .. "I'll give you gypp now for the rest of your hobbly life",
My thumb has been the most painful bit, but ice seems to be helping the swelling to reduce.

I've been on slopes before where I have enjoyed the ice ride sideways escalater down with a wide stance and independent leg action, but then it was sunny and I was in good company.

Perhaps the legend of those old Volkl P10s helped back in those days. Even though I'd had these skis serviced just 2 days before.
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Hi @Darkstar101
Perhaps I should fall over more often, twas the first fall of the week on the last run.
Apart from praying, I sometime hum or sing something ... usually
"I'll sing your the song of the lonesome goat herd! Tra la la la la la Lee!"

It used to be
"Plastic Jesus" ... but I find that far too blasphemous now a days.
I can imagine having a terminal fall and find St Peter at the Pearly Gates saying,
"What was that we heard you singing just before we pulled the plug on you?"
PS @Darkstar101 Welcome to the forum Little Angel
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DrLawn wrote:

I've been on slopes before where I have enjoyed the ice ride sideways escalater down with a wide stance and independent leg action, but then it was sunny and I was in good company.



Hi again. What is this independent leg action you speak of?

After your knee issue it's no wonder you are going onto ice a bit tense. Any reason why you feel the need to turn in such conditions rather than lose height?
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Something already mentioned is to make sure you look at the sides of the pistes for softer snow that's been swept aside in difficult conditions. I had a course in Italy during which the instructor drummed it in to us to chase after the good snow for recreational skiers. He even made us stand and watch for a while a steep pitch with very hard packed / scraped ice down the very wide centre as all the people coming down variously struggled to control pace and turns as they scraped down it. Then made us follow his tracks with some very neat controlled turns right down one side, which was just good fun. And very succinctly demonstrated to us how easy it could be.

Another tactic I've used across different sports, but all with the same intention of picking a path though any type of obstacles, that is to literally make your mind and eyes pick out where you want to go and not focus on the part you don't want. Like ice patches. Your body is surprisingly good at achieving this, skills allowing. In other words, if you look at the worst ice patch then you'll probably succeed in getting onto it.

Another more amusing event that helped me, there were about eight of us all coming down at the end of the day in a long line with a bit of distance between us, gliding along, parallel skis on this gently right curving flatish piste, trying to keep a bit of speed in it to avoid poling. As the lead person went across a huge icy patch his body did a star jump shape, and the amusing bit is all the rest did too. The body's reaction to thinking it was going to fall right is to us the load the right foot, which has the obvious compromise of lifting the left ski, funny that the arms extend also to make a cross shape. From this, I took it that to be gliding not really prepared for that eventuality, our core response was counter to learned skiing response in which we should be standing on the outside leg to maintain the most important edge. It's funny that all those in front of me did exactly the same.

Maybe priming yourself to think you may fall on ice brings you closer to core response rather that committing to ski it which should help to keep you in the correct stance. I wonder what others think about it.
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ski3 wrote:
that is to literally make your mind and eyes pick out where you want to go and not focus on the part you don't want. Like ice patches.


Like tennis - watch the ball.

And don't watch the snow cannons, else you will hit them...
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
ski3 wrote:

Maybe priming yourself to think you may fall on ice brings you closer to core response rather that committing to ski it which should help to keep you in the correct stance. I wonder what others think about it.

Over the years I've been given a variety of tips....but being relaxed and soft on your edges, has always been a constant theme. One instructor I had, said to "Sneak up on your turn", which I thought was a nice way of putting it.

He said to plot your way down by watching out for the patches of soft snow (scraped off by other skiers) and only dig your edges in to slow down when on that soft snow (which you had actively aimed for)....otherwise you would be fighting your way down, making yourself tenser and tenser.....much as you've said above.

Other things that sometimes can help are:

- Skiing more 2 footed, so getting bite from 2 edges (also helps stop overloading 1 edge)
- Pushing the feet forward at the end of the turn can sometimes get the back of the ski to bite
- Don't get too forward if skidding, as this only makes the tails lighter and skid away even more uncontrollably.
- Slightly wider stance for balance.

But sharp edges, good tactics and being soft on the edges, are by far the most important, as everything else is trial and error.
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Old Fartbag wrote:
- Skiing more 2 footed, so getting bite from 2 edges (also helps stop overloading 1 edge)
Not sure that this works on very hard-packed/icy snow. If there is very little grip to be found, being extremely well balanced on your outside ski will help find it so your ski grips and you can control your speed and direction. If you spread your weight/balance across both skis there's every chance you'll find less grip overall. I'm in Les Arcs this week and the pistes are mostly hard-packed and polished - when I'm very well balanced on my outside skiing (pretty much skiing just on one foot for much of the turn) I can find grip. But if I move a bit on to my inside ski the outside ski will often break sideways as it loses grip.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
rob@rar wrote:
Old Fartbag wrote:
- Skiing more 2 footed, so getting bite from 2 edges (also helps stop overloading 1 edge)
Not sure that this works on very hard-packed/icy snow. If there is very little grip to be found, being extremely well balanced on your outside ski will help find it so your ski grips and you can control your speed and direction. If you spread your weight/balance across both skis there's every chance you'll find less grip overall. I'm in Les Arcs this week and the pistes are mostly hard-packed and polished - when I'm very well balanced on my outside skiing (pretty much skiing just on one foot for much of the turn) I can find grip. But if I move a bit on to my inside ski the outside ski will often break sideways as it loses grip.

As I said, these tips have been given over many years, so may now be frowned upon (as it probably goes back to the days of straight skis and old school technique).

I experiment with what works on the day and sometimes have found being "more" 2 footed helps...other times it doesn't. It may depend on how much grip there is, what type of turn I'm doing and how fast I'm going.

TBF. I did emphasize that it "might" help and wasn't the important thing to take away from my post.....though from what you are saying, it probably won't.
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@James the Last, it's funny about how strong that ability is. That other thread (I read it but kept away) of bigger people biffing smaller less skilled skiers out of the way had a video of snowboarder hitting stationery skier, I know it's a camera view but it appears to be that of the rider and also, to me, he appears to be looking at the "target " and got a bullseye!
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Old Fartbag wrote:
I experiment with what works on the day and sometimes have found being "more" 2 footed helps...other times it doesn't. It may depend on how much grip there is, what type of turn I'm doing and how fast I'm going.
I think you're right to say "do what works", not least because, as you say, it will depend on how much grip is available and what you can do to find it. If being more two footed gets you down the hill under control, that's what you should do. But also play around with being balanced on the outside ski to see if that helps. Over the last couple of days I've seen a lot of people "hugging the hill" (dropping their inside shoulder and putting most of their weight on their inside ski) as they get a bit freaked by the polished snow. The result is always the same: the outside ski unloads, loses all grip and breaks sideways.
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@DrLawn, you just need your trust your edges. Aggressive confidence works better on ice. Once you feel fear you are nearly guaranteed to take a tumble.

Bit like @ski3's example of target fixation. If you think you are going to fall you will probably fall. If you think you are going to hit a tree.......don't look at it or you will hit it. Imagine yourself cutting the ice and getting your elbow down.* You will carve some awesome lines.


*Works on a motorbike as well.
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@rob@rar, yeah, a few years ago I did the hugging the hill thing as I dropped in to the north face of the Foglietta after our guide. It was steep and very hard snow. He shouted at me "Lean out" which felt a little counter intuitive but meant my edge held. Otherwise it would have been a rapid fall down a big vertical. Phew!
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rob@rar wrote:
I think you're right to say "do what works", not least because, as you say, it will depend on how much grip is available and what you can do to find it. If being more two footed gets you down the hill under control, that's what you should do. But also play around with being balanced on the outside ski to see if that helps. Over the last couple of days I've seen a lot of people "hugging the hill" (dropping their inside shoulder and putting most of their weight on their inside ski) as they get a bit freaked by the polished snow. The result is always the same: the outside ski unloads, loses all grip and breaks sideways.

It's not something I have needed to do in recent times, as I have improved over the years and have very sharp edges, but it has worked in the past when on edges that were far from sharp.

In the interest of my own sanity and to prove to myself that I didn't make it up....I checked in a BBC book that I own called "The Complete Skier" by Karen & Michael Liebreich (He was British Mogul Champion in 1988). One of his tips for ice was "Ensure your weight is evenly distributed between your skis and use the entire length of your edges by keeping your weight in the middle." This instruction was in the era before shaped skis, so may well be obsolete. At least I'm not going senile. Toofy Grin


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Mon 30-01-17 19:28; edited 1 time in total
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andy1234 wrote:
@rob@rar, yeah, a few years ago I did the hugging the hill thing as I dropped in to the north face of the Foglietta after our guide. It was steep and very hard snow. He shouted at me "Lean out" which felt a little counter intuitive but meant my edge held. Otherwise it would have been a rapid fall down a big vertical. Phew!
Sound advice, but challenges your psychology, for sure! The 'lean out' (with the upper body) moves your centre of mass outwards so you are more balanced on your outside ski.
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a little exercise to avoid hill hugging is to try and make sure your "outside" pole is always dragging on the snow as you turn, forces you to angulate more effectively.
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@Thornyhill, yes it was racing motocrossers that I learnt the impact of that.

@Old Fartbag, I too have heard those words taught to people in the dim and distant past, but I wholly agree with @rob@rar, as to how it is now.

You can do a little exercise to illustrate which ski to stand on and it's effect. If you stand and imagine you are on a slope that is going down to your left, then put a packer of about an inch under just the right side of your right foot, now stand on that leg only. Your body will angulate outward / down the imaginary hill, which is wrong. Also it flattens the imaginary ski onto the slope, so taking the edge into a less grip situation.

Conversely, if you now put that same packer under the right side of your left foot, then stand on just your left leg, your body will angulate into the slope, increasing the edge angle to the snow, and so increasing your likely security in preventing the ski sliding out down the slope.

All slopes, snow, edges etc are imaginary in this exercise. No snow, artificial or otherwise, will be hurt in this process. Toofy Grin
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I think it's quite easy to lose confidence. I've thought for ages that i can ski down any piste. Yet after falling fairly innocuously on cristeaux in val thorens, then sliding about 500m at high speed uncontrollably down it i just can't bring myself to ski with it again. it doesn't upset me at all i just find myself going straight on instead of turning left down it
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under a new name wrote:
a little exercise to avoid hill hugging is to try and make sure your "outside" pole is always dragging on the snow as you turn, forces you to angulate more effectively.


Sounds a good tip. Must try to remember for next trip.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
ski3 wrote:
@Thornyhill, yes it was racing motocrossers that I learnt the impact of that.



Rather unfortunate phrase. Laughing Laughing


Confidence is a weird thing. I don't want to die. OH doesn't want to fall and get a bump. She skis more timidly and falls more because she won't trust her edges to bite. When you get that icy rattle you can either commit or fall. The worst set of skis you have ever hired will still bite
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@Thornyhill, definitely right. You really can't afford to back away from your skis when you are on hard-packed snow or ice otherwise they'll just skid away from you. You do need to be smooth and progressive with your movements, as well as being committed to finding grip.
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If you had face scanned this may not have happened...
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I was doing that run the week before you, as you know and yeah it was pretty icy especially about 3/4 the way down, seen a few folks coming a cropper there and on Black 13 and 14, like someone else said I was watching people ahead of me to gauge the conditions as I was skiing down, still got caught out a few times though. The new red 21 at the Zell Am Express was really icy as well.
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@Old Fartbag, I suspect that that advice is aimed at the not so skilled skier, travelling not so fast, on rather gentle slopes. Where limited risk of losing control makes standing on both skis equally weighted a reasonably valid technique.
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
If skiing using the Barnstaple convention (as we all should!), you should always remember to have your turnwards foot upmost and ensure you initiate using a counter-wising clockweighted swing rotation; unless skiing south of the Equator, in which case the Coriolis effect reverses the whole malarky and ski backwards. Of course, this is the only correct way to ski pitches inclined between 17 and -28 degrees; declined before half-past four, and anyone saying otherwise is just a liar, a communist and probably a Frenchman.
Really people, it's just so simple!
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@Richard_Sideways, that's all ballcocks, and you should know better. This, on the other hand, is 30 seconds of enlightenment and we should all rehearse this every morning (even snowboarders, but as they only have one edge they should think about it 50% less than us skiers)


http://youtube.com/v/tDnzeHxlPc4&feature=share
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@rob@rar, Pfft, you *could* do it that way, if you WANT to reek of noob. Talk about dumbing it down rolling eyes Whats the next lesson? The Cows go 'moo'?
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@Richard_Sideways, Laughing
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under a new name wrote:
@Old Fartbag, I suspect that that advice is aimed at the not so skilled skier, travelling not so fast, on rather gentle slopes. Where limited risk of losing control makes standing on both skis equally weighted a reasonably valid technique.

I think that is fair....though (IIRC) wasn't Tomba known for weighting both skis, while hammering down (and winning) WC slalom races on straight skis. Not many could though.
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rob@rar wrote:
This, on the other hand, is 30 seconds of enlightenment and we should all rehearse this every morning (even snowboarders, but as they only have one edge they should think about it 50% less than us skiers)

Brilliant.

There's a guy over on Epic who talks just like that.....I have to read every one of his posts 6 times and still struggle. Conbobulation and confustication seems to be an American thing.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@Richard_Sideways, if skiing using the Barnstaple convention when not originally born in Devon, would that make one a Groccle?
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FWIW I think the one-footed vs two-footed debate on ice is about whether you are trying to "ski" it or "survive" it.
If you are going to commit to holding an end you need to be balanced over your outside edge just as Rob suggests. If you get it wrong you are likely to fall onto your hip on a hard surface.
Two-footed means it is unlikely you will hold an edge properly but when you do skid you will do so on a wider base that means you are more likely to stay on your feet until you reach some snow that you can grip or scrub off speed on.
The right tactic depends on how good your technique is, how steep it is and what your attitude to falling is.
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@jedster, good post.

I like to go forwards more than I go sideways, so I try to find as much grip as I can with my outside ski which is possible even on scraped glacier pistes (although it's imperative that I keep my speed down otherwise it gets pear shaped very quickly). If I really can't find any grip I'll get more two footed and make much more braquage-like turns at very slow speed.
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