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How to get Painlessly Off Piste?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
It's not that I want to go jumping out of helicopters in Alaska or anything but the pistes can be so busy and everyone who does it seems so excited about it so I thought I'd make a concerted effort to get off-piste more this year.

I've given it the odd go in the past but when I have, it's usually gone a bit random. I'm sure snowheads can make all the difference this year though snowHead

I'm OK if there's been no snow for a while but that's just because it's as packed and smooth off piste as on (so it doesn't count). What does me in is the new snow, deep snow, crusty snow, lumpy snow, heavy snow, that sort of thing. My skis get stuck going one way and I can't seem to turn them, or worse, they each start to take their own direction. It's like being a beginner all over again!

What do I need to know to crack it?
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
In a word, lessons!

Go on an off-piste course with a reputable ski school. It will help with your technique and will significantly reduce your chances of getting onto slopes that have high avalanche risks. I did an off-piste course last year with www.improveyourskiing.com and really enjoyed it (although I would still class myslef as an off-piste beginner).
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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?
I Saques, I echo rob@rar.org.uk's comment. It's impossible to say what isn't happening without seeing you ski off piste. In general however, most people have problems off piste becaue they cheat on piste and can get away with it. Any technical faults in your ski-ing will be instantly punished in deep or difficult snow. Check out your shoulder posistion - many people try so hard to turn that they rotate which immediately causes a splat! Shocked
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Relax and flow.
If your body is too tense, you will be fighting the mountain, and all bets are off on who will win.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
OK, you've had the one word answer; here's the two word answer. "Fat (Phat?) skis!". They just make the whole thing so much less of a chore. There is such a vast difference between the way different skis perform in difficult conditions. I was having a really rough time on 'normal' carvers trying to keep up with a friend who was always straying off piste. Worst thing was, I never seemed to be able to get the practice I needed cos I was always wiping out! I got hold of some 1080's and things got easier, I then got hold of some Pocket Rockets and things got magic! I was still rubbish but could now stay on my feet long enough to start improving.
We swapped skis, for a couple of runs and my friend promptly traded his bandit xx's (now B2's) in for some like mine.

I've been skiing on phat skis for about 40 days now and there's not much on the mountain that phases me anymore. Furthermore, I can now ski off piste ok on normal skis too because I now know what it's supposed to feel like!

Follow all the advice above, but do it on Phats wink
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I Saques, 1) Lessons and 2) Phat skis. If you are in the UK, lessons on the DRY SLOPE will help.....honestly !
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How about some advice for me please? (apologies if this should be in the gear forum but this looked like a good place to ask Razz )

I'm off on a (day) touring week in January and will be buying new skis on the way (if not before). For a few years now my uphill setup has been Dynastar 4x4's with Fritschi Diamir Titanal II's. However, these skis are, shall we say, a bit long and thin by today's standards, although they perform well as all-rounders. Last season I bought 1080's and found life in the deep stuff so much easier than on the Dynastars. But the 1080's are fitted with downhill only bindings so I was thinking of getting a new pair of fatter skis with new Fritschis. In fact, being a lazy SOB and preferring to get ready-made skins rather than cut my own, I was considering the B2's (since these are likely to have skins readily available) and Bandits seem to have acquired a good reputation.

BUT, the 1080's are 114-80-108, the B2's are 113-76-103. Would I actually be better off going for B3's at 122-94-112, since the steep and deep is what phases me most (I can ski just about any non-deep snow on most types of ski, but breakable crust, solidified mega-crud (u know, avalanche debris the size of garden sheds Laughing ) and deeper wet cement still throw me).

Any thoughts or experience on B3's? (Or anything else, but bear in mind the skins requirement).
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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!
Alan Craggs, I skied last year on Intuitiv 74s (74 underfoot), and then Beasts of some sort (90 + underfoot) at La Grave. The Beasts were WAY easier, but this (of course) is lift served. On your tour how much vertical are you doing ? Will the skis be used for touring or downhill primarily, and what boots will you use ? - Obviously more down hill, bigger boots = fatter skis, more uphill, smaller boots= lighter skis. B2s, or Scream Limiteds look to be a good 'do everything' choice, but for lift served you may want to go fatter.

It's also worth looking at how your skins fit the new skis.....I tele on some Tua Big Easys, and my skins are just too narrow....icy traverses become fun, in an 'I'm going backwards' sort of way. Toofy Grin
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Alan Craggs,

I tele-tour on 4x4s and find them fine. For alpine touring I echo the ski' s comments. If you are fit and can handle it then the B3 is actually a good touring ski, not too heavy with the FR2, and what I am looking to go to for tele-ing this season. As far as boots go, it is impossible to leap straight into a pair of touring boots and find them easy, in fact in anything less than champagne powder (one day a year in Europe?) they are a handful on the downs unless you are completely at one with your posture over the skis, due to the different flex characteristic.

As for skins, if you are putting them onto a fairly stock ski, then get the shop to cut them for you. Telemark Pyrenees will do it if you tell them the skis you are mounting them on.

I Saques,

Lessons, falling lots, fat skis and perseverance, plus a good fitness level are the key to success. Follow someone who can do it when the lesson is over and see what they are doing to make it look easy as well. But have fun, 'cos off-piste is the preserve of the pure and the piste is purely a means of getting there!

Cool
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Alan Craggs, I've not used the B2 specifically but did use the Bandit XX the year the B2 came out and I remember people in shops saying, "B2 is what they call the XX this year". I guess the manuf would have some excuse why the B2 was an upgrade to the XX but there's probably little to tell between them.
I also tested the B3 later that year.

The XX did not provide the 'magic touch' for off piste skiing that I got from the PR's and I rate them far more as an on-piste ski: for the purpose u describe, I'd say they're a non-starter. The B3 was a good off-pister as U would expect, much stiffer than the PR's and so required a more pushy, assertive style of skiing. Their stiffness would serve u well in deep, heavyish snow but they were also substantially heavier than PR's.

I believe a lot of people use 185 PR's for trecking in the US: maybe skins are available off the shelf? The K2 Seth Pistols might also be worth a look. My experience of them is limited to the powder bowls of Milton Keynes but they felt good and I would expect them to work for U in that situation.

PR's or B3's will see u through breakable crust and deeper wet cement...
If U find something that lets U ski avalanche debris the size of garden sheds let me know!
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Did someone mention Seth Pistols???



See... they CAN be skied on piste:

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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.
So it would seem his Foxellency recommends the Seths for groomers and lifts.

But Fox, Alan wants to walk up hill!
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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
2nd pic not the best advert for a ski on piste, I wouldn't have said...!! Twisted Evil

I hope that these are not the knotted hankie, Hackett polo shirt, lager-swilling face of English skiing! Powderhooligan does have a certain ring to it though Puzzled
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Powderhound wrote:
2nd pic not the best advert for a ski on piste, I wouldn't have said...!! Twisted Evil


Hey, give me a break, it had taken 15 minutes to get from the other edges over on to those ones - 128/95/118 snowHead
(also, when we ski powder, we don't stop for photos during the run!)
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Sorry Your Excellency! Clearly the obvious comeback would have been along the lines of 'pistes are merely an embuggerance in the way off getting to the off-piste!'

And some of us use the photo stops as an excuse for a rest!! wink
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Wow guys, what responses. Do they help in the decision stakes though Puzzled Laughing Methinks I'll have to visit a shop and feel these weights and stuff for myself. For info, I'm not a hard-core touring nut (all that smelly hut stuff is not my scene). Day tours are plenty for me and the downhill is more fun than the up, so I've stuck with my ordinary downhill boots (Technica Icons) so far without too many problems. As for how much up we will be doing, I just don't know - on a similar trip last Jan we took all the gear but conditions were such that all access was lift served, it was the getting back to the piste that wasn't Shocked so we didn't skin at all. I guess heavy skis would be a bugar on the uphill kick turns?
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Alan Craggs, I find length is more of a pain than weight.......but think if the energy you'll waste! If you are using big boots, then you may as well go for big skis ! You'll just take longer to get there, and find telemark tracks left be me andPowderhound, Toofy Grin

Now one for Powderhound - tele turns in Powder - how do I complete more than 3 ?
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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?
Powderhound, Mrs Ski calls pistes 'funny track things' and thinks they serve no useful purpose at all.
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Quote:

I guess heavy skis would be a bugar on the uphill kick turns?


You are right, but not too bad if you take a little time to practice with them. As a Jock I have not bought the return spings for my FRs and it has not posed a problem yet, although I am a believer in taking the skis off when it is too steep and kicking steps instead, conditions and glaciers allowing. And as I said, if you prefer the downs and tour for the express purpose of accessing stuff that no-one else skis then make sure the ski you choose is the one you are most comfortable with in difficult conditions - crust? crud? chop? ankle breaking cement? - a bad tool doesn't help the workman! And only a tool blames the bad workman... wink
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Alan Craggs, I find length is more of a pain than weight.......but think if the energy you'll waste! If you are using big boots, then you may as well go for big skis ! You'll just take longer to get there, and find telemark tracks left be me andPowderhound, Toofy Grin

Now one for Powderhound - tele turns in Powder - how do I complete more than 3 ?
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ski wrote:
Now one for Powderhound - tele turns in Powder - how do I complete more than 3 ?


How about by completing a fourth? snowHead
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Wear The Fox Hat, Correct!

ski, It sounds like the issue is with your first and second turns being of either different radius' or of increased stance, meaning that by the time your fourth turn is looming, either the stance is too wide and you are off-balance causing you to over-rotate the shoulders and hips, thus preventing the setup for the next turn to be completed, or speed has increased to a point that you have lost control.

For tele-ing in powder it is worth practising skiing on chop beside the piste using a more rearwards stance, and weight distribution on the ski swapped from 60/40 front rear, to 40/60 front rear. The initiation of the turn is a down and out pressure, pushing both skis against the resistance formed by the soft snow. The switch of lead foot is prompted by the lead ski starting to brake having crossed the fall-line. Leaving it late, ie until the ski has crossed or is approaching the perpendicular to the fall-line means that most skiers will over-rotate to compensate and not be able to make the next turn. Control your speed by the amount of pressure you apply sideways in the carve, and by the radius of the turn you make. If the problem persists, try increasing your speed (controversial, I know) and opening the radius of your turn to encompass the whole width of the slope you are skiing but without skiing uphill. Keep low, but without too open a stance, you should never feel the back of your calf against your skiboot, nor your back knee on the top sheet of your ski. Resist a double pole plant to keep the shoulders down the hill, as it is hard to get a rhythm doing this and can lead to too much weight on the front ski. Plus it looks silly! I have to admit that I succumb and use this technique in the bumps.

In short, the smoother the better, and as little up and down movement as your thighs will take, coupled with the courage of your convictions!

Free the heel etc...

Hope this is of some help, and not too confusing!
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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!
Quote:

Mrs Ski calls pistes 'funny track things' and thinks they serve no useful purpose at all.


ski, She's quite right, the Powderb*tch is of the same mould, and apart from bumps - too much energy if you ask me - uses the track thingy as a launch pad for her Aztecs into the trees, chop, soft, powder, whatever. Hence her elevation to Powderbit*h status!!

Razz Razz
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Alan Craggs, Fab all round skis - not too heavy and excellent in all condition : Scott Aztec. Quite pricy but then you get what you pay for!
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well easiski, in the case of my forays into the stockmarket I have bought a lot of grief. However, there's always skiing so I shall check out the Aztecs as well. Thanks snowHead
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Powderhound, Thanks very much - I'll print a copy and read on the lift.......
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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.
ski,

Good luck!! Laughing
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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
I am looking at Stockli PIT lights this year. These might be good for tele/touring.
If you are spending all day off-piste, get a fat ski, if you are just jumping in, get a combination.

I will try Head Monster 70/75's, Atomic M/B5's, Volkl 724EXP and Dynastar Legends 6200.
Most UIAGM guides I skied with last year use Dynstar 74's..!!
And I am looking forward most to getting on the new Dynastars
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Quote:

Most UIAGM guides I skied with last year use Dynstar 74's..!!


Look at the way a Mountain Guide usually skis though. It is a style that most of us cannot copy because we are not able to ski so defensively. On the course they are constantly reminded about the issues associated with them being incapacitated through injury. On my course (Heeresbergfuhrer) I was constantly being told to ski more defensively, which for an ex-racer and total adrenaline freak was not easy, and one, of the many, reasons why I haven't enrolled on the UIAGM scheme. Plus my rock climbing isn't up to it, ice climbing isn't up to it, navigation isn't up to it, knees aren't up to it, bank balance is too precious to be up to it!! etc etc...

Having said that the 74s are great skis - particularly in Big format. Have you noticed that UIAGM MGs also often ski on Trab, Hagan and Tua skis, with those wimpy Silvretta bindings? You wouldn't catch me on them!!
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Powderhound, what do you mean by defensively?


Last edited by Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name: on Wed 15-12-04 17:47; edited 1 time in total
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Powderhound,

Yeah, you have a point, that may account for their strange style. It is a funny thing to say
but none of them ever have great style but they have a bullet proof technique.
In a funny sort of way it is quite comforting, you don't get so blown away, ha!!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Powderhound and JT (or anyone else who wants to join in), your comments about the skiing style of the guides really peaked my interest. Could you elaborate?

Thanks,

Tom / PM
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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?
marc gledhill, JT,

I may have made up the term defensively, but it is kind of appropriate... It means that when you and I see a spot of untracked powder off the line, we go and ski it to put the prettiest tracks down it; generally we ski everywhere at a speed that is somewhere towards the limit of our ability or 'comfort zone'; also when we fall, apart from the overbalance in the lift queue checking out the Powdermuff/stud that has sashayed into view, it is usually referred to as a wipeout - for good reason. With clients, and responsibility for weaker skiers, the wipeout and associated potential injury is not an option. When I ski with clients or friends, they often comment about the disparity of my skiing on/near piste and when in the true ooloo/boondocks/back-country, this is for the same reason. Usually I am making decisions for the whole group on terrain suitability, avalanche risk, route finding, weather, timings and so on, and to take me out of the equation through aggressive, offensive and unnecessarily gung-ho skiing would be irresponsible.

Have you ever considered how many people in a group are actually capable of using a transceiver under pressure of time, weather, and objective, secondary danger? Not many unfortunately, so the expert should not unnecessarily put himself at risk. It is also sobering to think of the kit that is carried by a group of friends off for a day's off-piste skiing, seldom do they have a decent med pack, short rope, masking tape, harness, descendeur, compass, map etc. And for 99% of the time this is not an issue. The remaining 1% is the one we read about in the papers!

I hope that I haven't digressed too far from the thread. More relevant to pain than painless perhaps! Maybe I should start another thread dealing with off-piste issues to attract the wider population and let someone else take the soapbox - I often feel that I am preaching, for which I apologise!!!

Embarassed wink
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Physicsman,

I hope that some of the above is of use. To clarify, they ski extremely well, but with a style that is definitely Guide-specific. Energy-efficient, crud/powder/ice/crust/chop - munching, perfect for floppy touring boots. They seldom fall, and they seldom ski out of control. All for the reasons mentioned in my last reply. It can also be because of the fact that many of them are climbers/mountaineers who came to skiing late as part of the Guides' course, so lack some of the natural skiing ability that can come with being brought up on skis (more relevant to British guides than mainland-European).

Hope this is of some use....
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Powderhound, thank you - that was very clear, and I totally agree with the reasons for doing it. I used to lead a lot of hikes and backpack trips out into the wilderness and was keenly aware that if I became disabled, my #2 was often a large step down in ability to keep the guests safe and on-route.

Back to the guide's skiing for a moment - Can I press you a bit more for a technical description of the types of skiing you described in general terms above. Specifically, what types of turns are favored, eg, skidded, jump turns on the steep sections, kick turns, stem turns, side stepping down through coral reef, all of the above, others ...?

I ask because I teach skiing here in the USA, and the types of turns / techniques that I listed above have fallen from favor in comparison to much more carved turns. One clearly has to prioritize when teaching students who may never take another lesson, but I don't think this is wise.

TIA,

Tom / PM
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Powderhound,

I can't put it any better. The most relevant point I think is that they are mountaineers/climbers first and foremost
and ski guiding is work in the winter.
Of course, they are fine skiers but their style is functional for all the reasons Powderhounds mentions. I find this typical with UAIGM guys. not unusual. The best skiers - to my mind, prettiest - I have skied with have been heli guides with their own operations or off-piste guides in the resort. And they haven't had the UAIGM accreditation. That doesn't make it bad, but you need to know what they can do. If I was going off the beaten track in Alanga, for example I would go UAIGM even with their odd style..!!!
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Physicsman,

As I said before, most last year were on Intuitives 74's with touring bindings, not sure of the type.
Their style was very economical and on steeps they may start with a little stem, they hop and jump and use a snowplough and they ALL kick turn. They ski with their legs apart at hip-width. They aren't bothered about anything other than effiecently and economy of movement.
I remember being a bit peeved he would not let me ski a slope, I had to traverse it on the basis that it was too steep, not that it was unsafe. I now accept that was his job. They are never hurried or knackered and can't afford to be as Powderhounds says. They don't carve too much. They don't look the greatest but they know they can cope. Like I say, it is a bit reassuring that the guy in front does not intimidate you because he skis like a dream. I soon found out there was nothing he couldn't do though. They don't ski with an ego
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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!
Physicsman,

I think what Powderhound is refering to is the same for on-piste instructors. When was the last time an instructor (while in uniform) blasted down the piste, or took a bump run on the limits of his/her comfort zone? It's probably more to do with the instructors/guides duty and safety to the students along with the instruction school image towards the general public. When skiing offpiste in Europe guides (especially British ones) tend to teach their students to use the snow efficiently (one controlled wiggle run next to the other), a heli-ski guide isn't so interested in making efficient use of the snow and so will blast down it with larger turns. One will appear defensive or cautious while the other will appear much more all out.

A driving instructor style differs to that of a rally driver. Many students never get to see their instructors in 'Rally driver' mode.
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DB,

We always try to stay as tight as possible so as to leave snow for others behind us. If the heli trip is to a specific hill
then the guide will want to leave it skiable to other parties he may take there and in Europe, in my experience heli trips are offered to a known, well used drop. Besides it looks better than to splat the whole slope. In this case an off-piste instructor is more considerate that the UAIGM type guide. He wants the safest route down not the prettiest and will go most places once he has talked through the route objective with the party By anywhere, I mean the client will propose a route and the guide will say whether he will do it based on what he knows about your abilities. His priority will always be safety though that should apply to all guides.
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JT,

From what I have heard by reading American ski message boards (e.g. TGR and Powdermag) I get the impressiom our American cousins don't use deep snow as efficiently. Perhaps some of our friends across the pond can confirm this.
PS How many heli-ski trips have you been on?


Back to the original question ........


http://www.skimountaineering.com/

Graham and his team help many off piste begineers to find their feet instead of just looking for their skis. Over 15 years of guiding in St Anton, he really has the experience to see what's going wrong and put you in the right tracks. As others have said, Phat skis (e.g. Salomon Pocket Rockets) really help too.
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