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Oh **** that's steep.

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Well, OK, I'm new here and don't know Stephen.

As you say, Jonpim, in a narrow couloir a jump turn is often all you can do, even if its not very steep.

I agree that sideslipping or sidestepping are the best answer for anyone on scary slopes, but sometimes a turn is necessary if you find yourself facing the wrong way. And sometimes you don't want even the little bit of speed a normal turn would give you.

Perhaps this is all rather minority interest but yes, Physicsman, I was really thinking of a very experienceed skier on those exposed, 45degree+, off-piste slopes (pistes never get above 35deg, as far as I know. The GoodSki Guide used to finds it worth mentioning if a piste was over 30deg). You don't find patrol (or ropes) there unless you brougtht them with you.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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snowball wrote:
Well, OK, I'm new here and don't know Stephen.


Nor do we.....but we read his post Wink
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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?
Point taken. I hadn't taken note of his second message which would have told me.
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The talk of sitting back sets alarm bells ringing in my head - I thought that was a sure-fire way to damage your knees?
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Glad to hear jump turns being mentioned. Got a bit of a reaming by our guide in La Grave for kick turning in one of the couloirs.
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snowball,
I have an instruction video of some guy demonstrating jump turns in Tignes and thought it looked a cool technique.

Do NOT try this out fully kitted up in your lounge if you don't want your missus stinging you for damaged ornaments and coffee tables Embarassed .

Seriuosly though I have found that the best thing to do if its steep but not to icy is to forget the fact that you are at the top of a steep hill and just concentrate on each turn at a time without spending to much time looking down.

Having said that I am still having to think the turns rather than just skiing them which usualy causes a loss of technique and quite often balance.

Steep and icy is different, when I was in Killington last year I accidently (rubbish map reading) found myself on a heavily mogulled and very icy black with no option other than to try it.

As I don't use poles I usualy try and avoid moguls as its difficult to get any kind of rythm without a pole plant and I fell fairly quickly, losing a ski.

As it was so steep and icy I couldn't get the ski level enough for the bindings to snap back on (again a problem that poles prevent) and finished up sliding across to the side of the piste, taking off the other ski and climbing down the softer snow at the side.

This was a very fraught half hour as I was aware that if I slipped I would have been in a lot of trouble but really I had little choice.

I am now more aware of the dangers of removing your skis, through posts on this and other threads and in similar circumstances I would probably try and get some help because its not just me in danger but anyone else on the slope in an out of control fall.

As I said previously I am a reasonably confident skier but I do try to stay within my ability and whilst I understand (and occasionaly enjoy) the excitement of a challenge my greatest joy is being able to cruise through mountains enjoying the scenery, the snow and the feeling of being at one with the mountain that only skiing gives me.

How long to next season Sad .

Stephen.
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Sounds like you were skiing on your own. Those experiences stay with you.
As you say, not a good idea to take your skis off. I always feel very exposed if I have to take my skis off (to cross some exposed rocks is the worst: absolutely no grip in skiboots).

Its the same if you fall and lose your skis on a steep slope: it's much more difficult to stop. But there is a technique, which is well worth learning. I was taught it by a guide at Alpine Experience called Giles Green who had invented it. It saved my life once when I fell on a 50degree slope above a cliff (the craziest thing I've skied - and it was with a guide!).

Basically you get your feet below you, facing the slope, and then push your body slightly off the slope with your hands (like in a press-up), so most of your weight goes onto your boot tips.

I did write an account of it at the time that I was rather proud of, but the magazine I sent it to really hacked the text so they could print something about Giles Green on the same page.

Perhaps I'll be a horrible show-off and put the original on Snowheads sometime, so it finally gets an airing.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
snowball, there was quite a lengthy thread on this method over on the pre MO SCGB forum, and I believe that one was started here as well. I'll try and find it and post a link. Essentially the advice was exactly the same and I recall that one of our number - Slowplough, I think - used it quite successfully.
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Thanks, I'd be interested.

Perhaps I should have said that Giles made us practice it. That was important when I fell.
It's got to be an instinctive response. If you have to think about it you'll have got up speed and it will be harder to stop.
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> ...Basically you get your feet below you, facing the slope, and then push your
> body slightly off the slope with your hands (like in a press-up), so most of your
> weight goes onto your boot tips...


The principle behind the technique you described is the same as when using an ice ax for self-arrest. The principle is that you concentrate your weight on a very small area to maximize the ammt of friction that you create. However, there is an important caveat and significant differences in the details between his method and what is taught in mountaineering courses.

Specifically, if you can't stop within the first couple of seconds after a fall, on steep terrain you will be moving fast. If you have the toes of your boots dug in below you, and they catch on some irregularity in the snow while moving at that speed, you are likely to start tumbling and lose all control of your descent. This can be disasterous.

A skier doesn't have a lot of options.

If you are NOT about to collide with rocks (ie, in no danger of hitting your head), you are probably better to turn yourself around so that your feet are uphill, and then do the push-up onto the toes of your boots to create friction. In this position, if they do catch on an irregularity, they will automatically release and not cause you to start cartwheeling. Other than this benefit, they will produce the same ammt of friction whether they are uphill or downhill of you, as long as you concentrate your weight on them.

If you are about to collide with something hard, obviously it's better to take the impact with your feet and legs, rather than your head, so in that case I would continue to descend in the feet-first position, legs flexed and ready to absorb the impact. There might be some advantage to flipping over onto your back (still feet-first) just b4 impact.

Things change if you have some sort of friction producing device in your hands. Obviously, most skiers don't carry an ice ax, but many that venture onto steep, icy, no-fall terrain carry Whippits - mini-ice axes on the top of ski poles.

With one of these in your hands, or even with just a ski pole, you can concentrate your weight on its tip to create friction. In this case, as with a real ice ax, you should be descending feet-first on your stomach, BUT have your legs bent at the knees to raise your feet off the snow so that they don't catch on something and start you tumbling. You still do the mini-push up, but this time, you should be trying mightily to get as much of your weight as possible onto your self arrest device (ie, Whippit or ski pole tip), never onto your boot tips (if you are sliding fast on steep terrain). This advice is doubly important if not skiing, but wearing crampons.

What I described above is discussed in much more detail in the section of mountaineering books dealing with the proper use of an ice ax, but you really need to practice these moves on safe terrain before you need to do it in a real emergency. For example, it's surprisingly difficult to quickly and efficiently go from feet-downhill to feet-uphill, or from sliding on your back to sliding on your stomach. Probably the best way is to take an intro to mountaineering course, get the ice ax self-arrest down pat, and once the general principles and movements are burned into your muscles, then move on to dealing with slides when you don't have an ice ax. I took one of these courses many years ago, and having someone bellowing at you, "Get your weight off your @ss and onto your ax" as you slide by is very effective. Wink

HTH,

Tom / PM

PS - I can pretty much guarantee you that Giles Green did not invent the idea of concentrating your weight on small friction producing areas. OTOH, hopefully he was aware of the dangers of using ski boot toes to create friction and taught appropriately.
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Thanks for that,Tom
I'm sure you are right about Giles Green, but he may have invented that specific variant (at least he is credited with it by many people).
Clearly the ice axe would be good if you had it ready in the hand. But would you want to ski a difficult slope like that? I'll have to consider that one. Some people talk about digging in the ski sticks instead, but I don't think you'd have the time to change your grip (you couldn't have your hands in the loops for starters).
I'm not convinced about going head first. You wouldn't have as much weight on the boot tips (remember your main mass is in your toso and almost none in the lower leg which would be the main bit pressing onto the boot tip that way up. On top of that, instead of the sharp edge of the sole digging-in it would be the rounded upper surface of the boot.
You are right, though, about what happens feet first if your boot tips dig in too suddenly (It happened to me: I was flipped over once and had to try again, but at least I had been slowed, and the second time I stayed almost flat to the snow and stopped. On a 50 degree slope thats impressive. I was scared to move a muscle in case I came loose again, even to kick myself a better boot-hold. On a slope that steep if you do a full press-up your body is only a bit off vertical. There is no way I could have stopped head first or even hung in that position once stopped.
What was below was a 300metre cliff onto a glacier, so my position if I'd gone over would have been immaterial.

David (I'm slightly regretting calling myself snowball, It's a bit standoff-ish).
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
snowball, you can always ask admin nicely and he'll change your username (if you want to)
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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
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
snowball, but obviously very apt!
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
David -

You were extremely lucky that you could regain control. Once you build up some rotational momentium, its very hard to stop the tumbling motion.

In a situation like the one you experienced, it's a hard decision whether to risk slowing yourself quickly (but risk starfishing which hardly slows you at all) or slowing more gradually. BTW, there are horrific stories of guys in Alaska on big mountains starfishing/rag-dolling all the way down a steep 1500+ m vert pitch, unconscious after the first 50 meters.

The decision is similar to when you start to skid in a car - do you try for maximum braking and risk prolonging the skid (and continuing in a straight line), or braking gently and having some control of direction and line.

As you said, the only way to make a good decision when the time comes is to be so experienced with both techniques that your response will be automatic (and FAST).

One final note, FWIW, I believe I first saw the push-up technique for self arrest described in the late 50's or early '60's (I was into mountains as a kid and grew up on one), but I'm no historian, and it probably was in use centuries before that. Wink It certainly was described in the very earliest editions of "Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills".

Tom / PM

PS - I'm pushing 60 years old, and after a couple of long scary slides in my youth, have turned into a cautious old f@rt - grin.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
snowball, I think snowball is a great name, and not stand-offish at all.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Thanks Jonpim (I just switched on again) perhaps I'll stick with it.

Tom PM: well, I'm f@rt-ish too at 55 but trying to keep my nerve as best as I can skiing with mostly younger people.

Well, it looks like Giles re-invented the push-up and his friends were too ignorant or polite to tell him. (My incident was on the Victoria Couloir at Alagna a few years ago).

By the way, how do you put photos onto here? (This is probably old-f@rtishness showing again. I've only been on-line about a year and a half)


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Thu 29-04-04 21:42; edited 1 time in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I see a prospective tester for our draft user guide!

Try looking here
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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?
Useful, thanks.
But as far as I can see I can't put a photo on your site. Just give a link to another site where I can. Or did I misunderstand.
I do have my own website ( www.david-johnson.co.uk ) but thats for my art, so I'll try Alan's site sometime.
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no you didn't misunderstand snowball, the only way users can put photos here at the moment is to link to another site (and, by the way. we prefer links rather than actual pics as you will see in the users' guide). Please use my site if you wish.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Time and again I watch skiers linger at the top of a steep slope and finally get the nerve to ski it and lose control after the second or third turn due to a mistake, a habit acquired on easier slopes.

Those skiers start srtaight down the fall line for a second, maybe just a few meters then turn, which is actually half a turn, one out of the fall line, and they are doomed.

Those few meters straight down a very steep slope, especially if it is narrow, builds up so much initial speed that the next few turns have to be spent in speed control.
When it is very steep the entry should be a medium traverse with a short uphill turn and THEN skiing can commence in whatever radius turns one has chosen. As nolo said, finishing your turn is paramount. The speed gained in the fall line phase of the turn has to be lost by keeping the turn going around, even uphill until the speed is the same as when that turn was initiated. Repeat until at the bottom you are not going any faster than the first turn you made and all inbetween were consistant.

Swooooosh-Ahhhhh-Swoooooosh-Ahhhhh-etc. and you will never fear slopes of any steepness again.

....Ott
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I would strongly recommend that anyone who aspires to ski off-piste learns how to do kick turns. I use them a fair amount -

coming round a ridge and not liking the look of the snow - kick turn gets me out of there with minimum disturbance limiting avalanche risk

finding the snow was thinner than I expected and I'm hitting rock - kick turn gets me out of there without wrecking my bases (anymore)

They are not that tricky - you dont need to be a contortionist just a little practice. I'm fairly short (5'8") but used to manage them on 200cm skis, on 174s they arepretty easy.

J
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There is an alternative, uphill version of the kick-turn someone showed me when I was young.
Swing the lower leg around in front of you so it is above the other and facing the other way. Now lift the heel of the other and swing the tip around (its downhill, which gives lots of room).

If you do this on the flat you can continue this swing around to the "uphill" side and link several together. It looks quite bizzare and impossibly rubber-kneed but can amuse the impressionable.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
If you do this on the flat you can continue this swing around to the "uphill" side and link several together. It looks quite bizzare and impossibly rubber-kneed but can amuse the impressionable.

I think I have just perfected this one in Lava and I definitely amused the impressionable.

Been to Rotherham today - pants (I shouldn't have hung my boots up).

Stephen.
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