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Steeps

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Have we had a steeps topic yet?

Now would you classify, this, as steep?I let you hazard a guess as to the steepness. The conditions were off piste, rotted, refrozen, rock hard snow. You would almost certainly slide to the bottom if you fell. In this instance, this would not have been far, as the pitch tails off in steepness after about 50m or so.

Now, would a decent slalom skier munch up a slope like this with short carved turns? Skid, carve, or jump- how would you ski it? Up-unweight, down-unweight, or other?
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Does this look steep?
http://skiing.wtfh.com/images/jungfrau/IMG_0934.jpg
http://skiing.wtfh.com/images/jungfrau/IMG_0935.jpg
http://skiing.wtfh.com/images/jungfrau/IMG_0938.jpg
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Kit Wong, you seem to have missed out "on your @rse" wink
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Wear The Fox Hat, been doing Oh God I take it foxy, but did you try the slalom course at Inner Wengen ?
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Quote:

Does this look steep?

Wear The Fox Hat, it certainly looks nice! Any slope where you're standing vertically, and can touch the slope with outstretched hand, is steep in my book. That equates to roughly, 45 degrees. Unless you have the arms of an orang-utan, snowHead , I'd say from your second pic is about 30 degrees. Mind you, the skier in my frame is probably well 'laid back'!

Mark Hunter, no use me patenting that technique now!
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D G Orf, no, but I did do Oh God on slalom skis, if that counts.

Kit Wong, I thought it was very steep, but did a bit of photoshop on the photo, and the run out seems to be around 35deg.

The last photo is looking back up to the top of the Eiger.
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From my very faulty memory Oh God (the run in WTFH's pics) is arround 30 degrees average, but it is very long, the Slalom course I mentioned and the last Schuss of the Lauberhorn downhill reach arround 38 degrees and either are seriously knee trembling, but not as long, in many ways the end of the downhill is easier as there is plenty of run out, the slalom has a kink in it so if you go out of control you can end up in the trees, the stream or a concrete manhole !
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I believe the "Couloir Extreme" in Whistler is 45 degrees? Plus theres a pretty big lip, so you have to drop in. Unfortunately I am not crazy or good enough to try it Sad
Here's a random photo of someone looking down into it (not someone I know, just a pic I found through google):
http://www.biglines.com/photos/blpic19441.jpg
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Couloir extreme is actually 1 degress, at least according to the copy of "where to ski and snowboard 2005" that I was reading last night. I have pics of it, but from pre-digital camera days and I haven't scanned them in yet. Amd no, I didn't do it, I hadn;t been skking too long at that point (6 weks or so) and thought better of it. Looking forward to going back though.

For comparison, the average black run is around 30 to 38 degrees
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Thanks to David Goldsmith I give you The Wengen Slalom Course I think we can all agree it's steep but this is only the right hand side, the left is even worse Shocked
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Heh, I suspect that magazine might have a slight typo snowHead
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What is the definition of a 'steep' if blacks are 30 - 38 degrees.

Could a steep be described as were you have to do jump turns rather than just short radius skidded turns - although the width of the run is probably more of a factor?

Or is it only steep when you have to braquage down?

Or is it only really steep when you have to side slip down & live to ski another day?
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I'm sorry, but none of those Wengen photos looks what I'd call challenging (or even would have at 6 weeks experience) - although it's generally fairly difficult to get a good idea of how steep something is from a photo. They just look standard blackish (or even some Argentiere reds) to me. I'm sure the top of BlueSky Basin at Vail (which I skied, sometimes with style, at that experience level) were easily that and more. The slopes are so wide and look a pretty easy surface, so there's plenty of width to make pretty much whatever turn you like - from jumping straight down the fall line or wide sweeping carves over the full width. Kit Wong's photo looks fun and a bit more challenging, although leaning into the slope in the stance makes it look a bit more extreme. Touching the slope with your inside hand on a traverse always adds a little frisson to the trip! Actually, as your arm is normally about half your height, and your shoulder is about 80% of your height, to touch the snow when you are standing upright requires a slope of about 56 degrees - although I very much doubt you'd be standing bolt upright on such a slope. The Whistler photo is a different story though...respect to those who can ski that with style!

Of course I could be talking complete rubbish...and not for the first time.

As for how to ski steeps. The main things I've found useful are: 1) commit to the turn, i.e. launch yourself out from the slope down the mountain, to get your skis parallel to the snow, at which point they can turn at whatever radius you feel like; 2) don't panic in the drop, so staying loose for the turn and 3) bend the knees deep on the completion of the turn (or landing), so lowering your CoG, improving your balance, and making a better connection with the snow in the landing area. 1) and 2) are primarily matters of the head rather than the legs. My main problem is remembering to do 3, and the resulting headplants offer inconveniently tardy reminders.

I also got a couple of tips last year when jumping tight turns on a steep slope, both obvious when you think about it. 1) You start with the weight on the lower ski, but as you rise up into the jump your lower ski will leave the snow first, so finish the jump from the uphill leg, otherwise you're missing out on maybe 6inches of possible push, and the jump takes much more effort. The weight transfer is actually the same as in a normal on-snow turn - ie. transferred to the outer ski - but just in slightly more extreme conditions 2) Once the lower ski has left the snow it can start turning while the upper ski is still in the snow, and so get around the turn quicker, and this is also the ski that will hit the snow first in the landing if you're doing a really tight jump. Just make sure the tip stays down, and tail is above that of the upper/outer ski before they cross, or you're in trouble.

One of the routes down the Pas de Chevre in Chamonix (Grands Montets to bottom of Vallee Blanche), called the Rectiligne is about 55-60 degrees and quite narrow. I've not done it, just looked at from the the 40ish degree easier options.
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Isn't it amazing that whenever a thread is started about how steep is steep, there's always someone who thinks it isn't and has skied something much steeper! Oh God is pretty steep (which is why it was called Oh God in the first place). However as it's wide it's not such a problem as a couloir of the same degree. It also depends on how the steep section ends as to how hard it is to ski.

Also, one should remember that it's easier to ski steeps in deep snow than on piste because of the braking factor of the snow. I don't personally know of any regularly groomed pistes that are more than about 35/6 degrees, and even these now require winches to groom them. Of course avalanches start at around 34 ...........

I suspect that the degrees of steepness are like the speed one skis at - not as much as one thinks!

Having said all that I couldn't open most of the photos 'cos they took too long on dial-up. Sad
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GrahamN, generally I agree with your post. One little quibble; when you mention 'how to ski steeps' you state:

"3) bend the knees deep on the completion of the turn ..."

whereas I'd say that the ankle is what needs to flex instead. Beginners especially suffer from being told to benzee knees and because simply bending your knees results in sitting back. As I said though, a minor quibble.

Kit Wong, you mention that the pitch tails off after 50 metres or so. Given that there seems to enough width to the slope then one long turn would the trick. Go for it Wink
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Sorry easiski, since that seems directed at me, but the first post was asking about how to ski a steep slope (although I did miss that it was specifically that steep slope), not a general invitation for bragging rights, into which this thread transformed almost immediately - with no further reference to the question. The second asked
Quote:
Does this look steep?
to which my answer if pressed is not particularly, although I picked my words "[not] what I'd call challenging" very carefully. Someone, somewhere, will of course have skied far steeper slopes than the majority of us will ever contemplate.

4thefunofit, correct - I should have been more careful with my words there. It would seem the important thing is to be centred on the skis, so the ankle flex has to combine with the knee bend. Although normally when I stay sufficiently compos mentis to stay forward and not sit back I forget to bend the knees enough to stay low and end up doing a somersault over my tips.

Back to the original question, not being a "decent slalom skier" I'm not sure what one of those would do. The main problem would be the "refrozen, rock hard" nature of the snow. I'd probably try a single up-weight/jump turn to start with and see how that went, then if that felt OK (and I was still near the top of the slope!) start stringing a few of them together, as I'm happier with short turns than big (high-speed) carves at present. If it went badly (and I hadn't resorted to Mark Hunter's solution) there would probably be some rather full width traverses attempting to control speed picked up on "gentle" skidded/carved turns.
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GrahamN, My comments weren't aimed specifically at you, but we had a thread not long ago about steeps that went the same way......

anyone who wants to know how to ski steeps should watch Glen Plake, Mike Hattrup and Scott Schmidt in slo mo - nothing else to say.
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Lets get this whole "when is a steep a steep" sorted out:

A steep is steep when both the gradient, the available space for turns, and the snow cover make it difficult, if not impossible, to carve the slope with adequate safety.

I skied the Face in Val D in good snow, and happily managed it with breaking turns in spite of the fact that with only 5 weeks skiing I can't braquage to save myself. On the other hand, I had real gutwrenching trouble on a normal gradient red in bog-easy Plagne because the run was narrow & with extensive hardpack/rock underfoot. Similarly a wide consistent gradient black in Plagne was easy (to the extent that I was stemming my turns and traversing the whole width of the piste) compared to that red, because the sun had melted the hardpack on the black by the time we skied it. If I'd tried it an hour earlier on the same black run it would've been quite literally the death of me (just proving easiski's point....)

Steep isn't about gradient. Steep should really be called difficulty, where difficulty = snow cover+slope gradient+slope width.

I agree with GrahamN. Couldn't work out what y'all were getting worked up about, cause NONE of those runs look steep. Or icey. Or even mildly cruddy. Of course photos usually fail to conclusively tell you what the snow condition was.
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Manda, I think your point is very valid, but the discussion has been about gradient mainly. Mostly people do look at "steeps" as only a question of gradient. We actually have a green path (le Chemin de Demoiselles) which is a classic example of flat not necessarily meaning easy!

I think extreme starts when you're afraid the tails of your skis will get caught on the slope behind you. (They won't, of course, but it can feel like that). I think steep (in terms of pistes) starts around 30 deg. Anything more than this and the average skier cannot get down without putting other piste users in danger!
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Manda, but the Face isn't steep which slightly undermines your point Very Happy

easiski, reasonable definition. Mrs Ise describes steep as when you can reach and touch the slope without bending down.

mmm. ... those photos then .....

Kit.. Not steep, but the bloke looks like he's about to fall over Very Happy

The Wengen Slalom course... turns out we all don't think that's steep rolling eyes

WTFH... err, what slope? The ones in the background? They look steep. Looks good snow though.
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With regards to the photos, things look MUCH different in real life. A 45 degree angle actually looks like it's strainght down. I'm not joking; it looks like a wall. In photos, 45 degrees just looks like 45 degrees.
Also, I have to agree with easiski here: a steep is defined only by the gradient. It's not called a "very hard," it's called a "steep." And I would agree that the clasification starts at 30 deg, or low 30's.
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To me steep/extreme is all about "if I fall, will I carry on sliding and not be able to stop" so it's about exposure and snow conditions rather than just gradient - sometimes you might get a blue run with appalling ice, and it's scary. I also agree with Manda that if you feel like you can't carve on a slope, ie if you have to start skiing defensively and more slowly, then to you the slope is "steep". And the Wengen race courses definitely ARE steep for European pistes - steeper than the VdI Face and the Argentiere blacks - but the steep bits are very short!
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Steep is toatlly relative. To a beginner, a red run is steep while to Davo Karnicar 50 degrees probably doesn't seem very difficult. Its the same when looking at the "exposure" aspect of a slope. All the "if you fall you die" stuff is again relative. The late Giles Green skied down the frozen waterfall on the road into Val D'Isere (in between the tunnels where people ice climb). He fell but managed to self arrest while I know if I had done it, I would have slid to my death. Width of slope also makes a big difference.

I think its safe to say that if the inclination of the slope makes your adrenalin pump and you are near the limit of your ability, then in your elative terms it is steep and if anybody knocks you for that, its their problem not yours.
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Great post SimonN, !
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SimonN, yep, it is entirely relative. That's the whole point. A so-called steep slope with reasonably good snow cover very often does not require "steep" skiing techniques. Even if a slope's gradient indicates it is so-called steep, but the available snow cover provides sufficent braking friction that a reasonable skier wouldn't need to use "steep" skiing technique, then that slope is NOT steep.

So steep IS a relative description, and it really is a synonym for difficulty.

(ise, wots that black coming off the glacier? That's the one i meant)
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Manda, I'm going to guess we're still in Val D'Isere? Very Happy There's Liesse on the Gd Motte but it's not steep, Epaule du Charvet is fairly steep I guess, 3000 up on the Solaise is fairly steep, Tunnel also I guess, don't know the names of man runs really. The Face is a great run though, I prefer it on the days it's not moguls from top to bottom personally Very Happy
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What does braquage mean??
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This time last year steep was the bunny slope! It's all a matter of perception! snowHead The bunny slope is now flat, and steep is now hard blacks, especially if they are bumped out. Although there is still one easy black that is steep - the pitch is weird at the top and it seems difficult to get into!
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The Wengen slalom slope isn't a piste (or wasn't last time I skied in wengen). It's very steep (but not all the way down), and I only skied it in deep snow - not on the pure ice of the race. Shock
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easiski, It's pisted now as is Oh God, in deep snow it's ok but last year I made the mistake of going down it fairly early in the morning and it was frozen solid top to bottom Shocked not nice rolling eyes But yes only the middle section is really steep
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Quote:

There's Liesse on the Gd Motte but it's not steep,

Mid December I saw an ESF istructor fall down on it. Sheet ice at the time. There's steep when conditions are good. And there's steep when conditions are not.
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I still think a steep has to actually be steep (low 30's or higher). I totally agree that a less steep run can be much harder than a steeper one if it is narrow, icy, etc., but this does not change the grade of the hill. The word steep is a reference to how steep a slope is, not how difficult it is to ski. If an amazing skier can ski a 50 deg slope with ease, it doesn't stop being a steep. And a 10 deg slope does not suddenly become a steep because someone has alot of difficulty with it.
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Ponder
But steep is a relative word. There is no definition of it that says "a slope is steep if it is greater than XX degrees. For instance, I would argue that low 30's isn't steep at all and steep doesn't begin until 40-45 degrees. But that's because its relative. You think low 30's is steep, I don't. Neither of us are right and neither of us are wrong.

maggi
You can slip on a slope of only 20 degrees and due to ice ended up sliding a fair old distance. Still didn't make the slope steep.
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maggi wrote:
Quote:

There's Liesse on the Gd Motte but it's not steep,

Mid December I saw an ESF istructor fall down on it. Sheet ice at the time. There's steep when conditions are good. And there's steep when conditions are not.


It was glacier ice last time I was there, the angle hadn't altered in any way though.
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I hope you lot agree what is steep soon, then we can start to tell Kit how to ski it Laughing
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marc gledhill, irritating isn't it - so far I'm the only one who has tried answering Kit's question, with a bit of support from 4thefunofit. Looks like easiski's trepidation was justified rolling eyes .
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marc gledhill wrote:
I hope you lot agree what is steep soon, then we can start to tell Kit how to ski it Laughing


That's not too difficult, side slip down until either a) you're fairly near the bottom or b) you fall over; then slide the rest of way of way on rear, then either wait for someone to hand the skis back or try and and climb up/down to them.

Embellish story to a) eliminate fall, b) blame someone else, c) increase speed and gradient and decrease width and snow cover.

I think that pretty much covers it.
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D G Orf, the Wengen slalom run certainly wasn't pisted last year at Easter Shocked
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Elizabeth B, hmm ok maybe they only piste it occasionally Confused
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marc gledhill wrote:
I hope you lot agree what is steep soon, then we can start to tell Kit how to ski it Laughing
. Even if we agree on what is steep, we could never agree on how to ski it. Every slope needs a different technique and that will also vary depending on conditions. I would use a toatlyy different type of turn on the same slope depending on whether it was powder, firm, crusty, spring etc

ise wrote:
That's not too difficult, side slip down until either a) you're fairly near the bottom or b) you fall over; then slide the rest of way of way on rear, then either wait for someone to hand the skis back or try and and climb up/down to them.

Embellish story to a) eliminate fall, b) blame someone else, c) increase speed and gradient and decrease width and snow cover.

I think that pretty much covers it.


rofl - About the best post I have read today Laughing Laughing
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