- Ian Mckellar
Reds & Black Runs - how to ski steeper slopes
Skiing or snowboarding on steeper slope gives you quicker and more instant access to speed. Essentially your superpower becomes amplified, and if you have the right techniques then you can potentially have access to more fun.
However, as a general rule, steeper slopes become more dangerous so you must be aware of how to deal with steeper terrain if you are to have fun and avoid accidents
Now steep skiing is a particular passion of mine, and this has extended far beyond the black runs in ski resorts. I have had the pleasure of exploring and skiing in some pretty stunning locations around the globe and learnt from some of the very best steep skiers in the world today.
So I have taken what I have learnt from my own voyages into the steeper realms and blended it with my findings of years of teaching skiers to progress from blue to red to black runs and come up with my 5 top tips for skiing on steeper slopes in ski resorts
1) TIP NUMBER ONE – stay balanced over your downhill ski.
As intermediate skiers progress onto steeper slopes, your natural reaction is to lean into the hill and away from the steep slope which is intimidating you. This then breaks golden rule number 1 of intermediate skiing and puts you in a position of lesser control.
Don’t forget your downhill ski is your best breaking ski, so balancing your bodyweight over it gives you better control.
2) TIP NUMBER 2 - Don't lean back!
On the scale of toes to heels, tips to tails, we want to be balanced in the middle. Leaning back is a common and easy to make mistake, especial when your skis are sliding away from you down a steep slope.
Leaning back puts your weight over the tails of your skis and takes your control away when you need it most.
Balancing in the middle gives you easy access to the entire edges of the skis which gives you better brakes for less effort.
Now, we understand that not leaning back and balancing on the downhill ski is much easier said than done, so here’s a little tip to help you stay balanced over your downhill ski on steeper slopes:
Reach your pole plant forward and down the hill as you initiate each turn. This will bring your body weight forward onto the middle of your skis as well as down the hill which will give you better control of your downhill ski. As you practice this, you will realise that this posture gives you more control and confidence will come as a result.
3) TIP NUMBER 3 – try to make round turns
On steeper slopes your tactical choices are just as important as your techniques. Performing rushed, jolted and jagged turn shapes will condense the forces coming at you into shorter sharper bursts, making for a rougher and more unpleasant ride as a result.
Generally, rounder turns will make for a smoother ride, since you can spread the frictional forces out around the arc of the turn. So think about turning all the way from 12-6 around a clockface, rather than rushing the turns and overly relying on side skidding
3) TIP NUMBER 3 - Progress progressively.
This one is common sense but ending up on slopes too steep for your ability is an easy mistake to make. On many occasions I have helped build confidence in someone’s skiing only for them to then be guided down something beyond their level after the lesson. The next day, they come back with confidence levels far worse than where we had left off. So progress onto gradually steeper slopes, not only as you first build your ability to do so, but each day as well. Go for some warm up runs and turn up the steepness gradually, rather than starting off throwing yourself down the steepest slopes early in the morning.
4) TIP NUMBER 5 – control your speed.
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean to ski slowly. It means to try to maintain a consistent speed as opposed to gradually speeding up and losing control as you descend. Complete your turns and control your speed before starting the next turn. For some reason, a lot of skiers seem to panic and rush into the next turn before completing the last one. You then accelerate as you descend and soon lose control. So aim to maintain a consistent speed that you are in control of.
A BONUS TIP is to get your mindset right. Take a moment to breath and assess your run before diving into it. When skiing, I often have a couple of words or short phrase that I repeat in my head over and over before and during a run. For example, I might say ‘shins forwards/reach pole plant’ through every turn. This will help you to avoid distraction and remember and implement what you are working on
So bear these tips in mind as you progress from blues to reds to black runs. You’ll be amazed at how much control skiing equipment can give you in increasingly steep terrain. As you build confidence, you’ll be able to explore more of the mountain, and have more fun whilst doing it.