Wednesday, February 1, 2006

skiing: get down, stay down in a pure carve

It's easy to finish a turn on skis in a pure carve. Traverse across the hill on edge with your hands in front and facing slightly downhill. Then just move your hips hard sideways up and into the hill. Hey presto, your skis turn up the hill and lay down two righteous grooves. By moving your hips you can vary the turn shape, making "garlands" across the hill.

But doing an entire turn in a carve is hella hard (well, after 30 years of Austrian ski instructors' "Bend ze knees!", French ski instructors' "Swivel zose hips!", and Americans ski instructors' "Anticipate, counter-rotate, plant, up-unweight, weight shift and ride the new outer ski").

I taught myself to do a pure carve by doing "pencil turns" at the end of Squaw Valley's Mountain Run. With feet apart, just pull up on one side of your feet to tip your skis onto edge and don't do anything else: no rotation, no turning, no skidding, no weight transfer. On modern shaped skis you'll start to turn. You lay down parallel tracks like drawing with two pencils in your fist. Once you get used to using sets of leg muscles you never knew you had, you can put some meat into it with side-to-side hip motions, and really load up the skis to feel the g-forces rocketing you across the hill. Eventually you're mach-ing down the Ramp Run next to East Broadway making "VRRRRRMMMM!!" jet engine noises and almost looking like a racer.

Until you hit a steeper slope and it all falls apart. Standing tall, tipping edges, then moving hips into the turn just doesn't work on a steep and/or chopped up slope. You're too far from the snow, your weight is in the wrong position, it takes too long. I really noticed this skiing Shirley Lake with a taught-by-racers local like Larry Lawrence. I fall back to skidding parallel turns and he's still ripping parallel carved tracks.

I've been working on it all season since I got schooled. Obviously you have to stay down all the time through the transition from one set of edges to the other, but just moving your hips downhill to change edges leads to your weight on the wrong ski and blown turns. The key seems to be keeping hard pressure on the tongues of your boots to make your skis work during the transitions. Just like the racers. It's hard and tiring. I'm practicing staying far forward, and drilling with "munchkin turns" (hold your poles halfway down the shaft to keep you down during pole plants).

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