Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

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Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby JohnMoore » Thu Dec 23, 2010 10:39 am

In preparation for my first ski trip of the year, I've been looking through the videos I put up for MA here last year, so that I can work on the stuff which was pointed out to me. One thing is obvious to me is that my skiing was a little weird because of fear of the snow I was skiing - clumpy, heavy, slushy spring snow. I recall being very wary of this stuff, thinking that it would be all too easy to bury a ski in it and say goodbye to an anterior cruciate ligament. Now, I just wonder was I being fearful over nothing? Or is there a good technique to dealing with it? I'm aware that the fearfulness actually harms my skiing - in this case I was actively trying to pull my skis up out of the snow when turning, causing some odd movement patterns.
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby milesb » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:02 pm

Tactics? We don't need no stinkin' tactics!
Just the basics- alot of tipping, flexing and pullback and make sure you keep those movements going through the whole turn.
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby JohnMoore » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:21 pm

OK, maybe tactics isn't the right word, then. Perhaps a psychological approach? Some people fear ice. I fear the heavy stuff (actually, I'm not keen on ice, either, but that's less of an issue). Do I just treat it as normal snow? Is there nothing special to fear?
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby h.harb » Thu Dec 23, 2010 2:20 pm

In the Performance Free Skiing video I have some runs in heavy nasty snow. I don't do anything different then the rest of PMTS skiing. If you are stomping on the ski hard on groomers, you're not skiing PMTS, and that sure won't work in heavy snow. If you are nailing the stance ski without inside ski tipping, you are not skiing PMTS and it won't work on heavy snow either, and the story goes on just like this. There is no need to change good technique, if you have it. If you don't have good technique it will show up immediately in those type of conditions.

Skiing in these conditions it's a matter of tricks, it's a matter of the right PMTS thoughts and actions. You do have to be more sensitive to what the snow will do to you. If the snow pulls your skis back because it sticks, you have to push forward to balance it out. Spread the load over both skis in transitions, and definitely don't rotate your torso.
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby kirtland » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:18 pm

John,
As a Skier of the southern Cascades heavy dense snow is about all we get, most of the time. I joke that they don't have real snow in Utah or Colorado it is full of air. They don't know what real snow is.
I'm not sure what kind of heavy snow you are talking about. Heavy bottomless or heavy snow on top of a base. I'm going to assume you're talking about heavy on top of a base. Because until you can handle that, your probably not going to try bottomless.
First of all regarding an ACL injury, getting back on your skis is more likely to cause you and ACL injury than going head first. Read the information at this site, to understand the risks of getting back. http://www.vermontskisafety.com/kneefriendly.php Unfortunately I have first hand experience with this.
As far as skiing heavy snow the two main differences are that you are constantly decelerating and wanting to be pitched forward and it wants to pull your feet apart. So to deal with the deceleration and wanting to be pitched forward it is imperative that you have a strong core. So hopefully you have been doing your abdominal and lateral crunches and back extensions. Focus on keeping your feet pulled back. This will co-contract the muscle both fore and aft and help to stabilize your upper body. Ideally, you then have what I refer to as a dynamic tension, that is both stable and flexible and allow you to go through clumps of snow without getting pitched forward too much. If I am skiing in my Head Raptor boots, which are stiff, I unbuckle my top two buckles and use just the BOOSTER strap to hold the liner of my boot to the cuff of the boot. http://www.boosterstrap.eu/english/booster.asp
This lets the ski ride up over the irregularities, your ankle to flex more without pressuring the tip and smooths the ride out. If I am using my Alpine Touring boots I don't need to do this, they are already flexible. You will be amazed at how much you can flex forward without your skis diving, by doing this. Kind of like Dick Durrance skiing powder. (Google images of him, I think his Dipsy Doodle was the first retraction turn). This will tire your quads out and takes more strength, but I find it worth the trade off. I like to warm up skiing, with my boots unbuckled and the booster strap loose. It makes me more sensitive to being right on top of my feet, first thing and it is a great work out for the quads.
In regards to the snow wanting to separate your feet, it is helpful to do adduction and abduction exercises, to make sure you have sufficient strength to help hold your free foot in. I focus on keeping my feet together and not letting snow get between them and when it does pulling them back together. This is covered in the PMTS material, look at the Phantom Drag exercises also.
The last thing I focus on when the snow is heavy, is counteracting earlier in the turn. After I touch my pole, relax my stance leg and raise my inside shoulder (see ACBAES 2 book page 118), I also add, exaggerating raising my inside hip and letting it drop into the new turn. Everybody seems to have a tendency to project or rotate their hip into the turn when the snow gets heavy, or hard to turn in. By focusing on this, it eliminates or reduces the tendency for me to rotate into the turn and put me off balance.
I hope you have fun in the heavy snow. It is great for improving your skiing, it will exaggerate any mistakes in your skiing. When you have all the Essentials working, it is more fun than the groomed, in my opinion and it is easier on my arthritic hips and back. And often I have an entire run to myself, because nobody else wants to ski it.
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby Max_501 » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:21 pm

Heavy wet snow...

Here's a question to consider...does it take more or less speed to ski this type of snow when compared to a groomed run?

Slight edit here...can one ski heavy wet snow as slow as they can ski on a groomed run (all other things being equal).
Last edited by Max_501 on Thu Dec 23, 2010 5:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby kirtland » Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:16 pm

You'll be skiing slower than on groomed, because the snow is slowing you down, but you need to make shallower turns to maintain as much speed and momentum as needed to make it easier. In my opinion most people turn to quick and too much, essentially linked recoveries, in heavy snow.
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby h.harb » Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:52 pm

I like to ski it faster because you get more float. But you'd better have your core under control when you do.

People tend to panic when they go faster in this stuff, you just can't leave all the pressure of the arc to the end, just like any other good turn. Late pressure will spit you out, this stuff really shows up the mistakes. Once you get it, it's really fun, that's all we had in Alaska. We skied 50 degree pitches in the stuff and it still holds. I remember one Demo Team guy coming up there and all he did was hop turns in the stuff. He was dead after three runs. Must not have been blending his skills?
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby JohnMoore » Fri Dec 24, 2010 2:40 am

kirtland, thanks very much for that, there's certainly plenty of food for thought there. The kind of heavy snow I was talking about is really slush, where a few days of high daily temperatures have melted the piste and it gets piled up into mounds by skiers. I feel better equipped to deal with it as a result of the posts here! (Not that it should really be an issue until the spring anyway, but I was just raising the subject while it was fresh in my mind).
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby HighAngles » Fri Dec 24, 2010 7:13 am

h.harb wrote:Must not have been blending his skills?


Thanks for my morning chuckle!
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby HighAngles » Fri Dec 24, 2010 7:17 am

So we got some of that "real" snow in CO over the past week. The heavy snow definitely separates the men from the boys. If there are any flaws in your PMTS movements the heavy snow will seek them out and make you pay!

For me it really came down to the releases - serious concentration was required for performing totally complete retraction (flexing at transition) and ONLY utilizing tipping with foot pull back. Any degree of active rotary/twisting/pivoting and you would be hopelessly trapped in the mank.
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby Max_501 » Fri Dec 24, 2010 9:36 am

Follow up on my earlier post.

In heavy snow the skier needs a certain amount of speed/momentum to get the skis moving so they can cut/plow/blast through the heavy stuff. Speed also helps to create a stronger release/float which makes getting into the new turn easier. Another benefit of speed is to get the ski planing higher up in the snow which reduces resistance against the ski/boot/leg. When I ski heavy snow I'm attacking the run. Each run has an "attack, float, attack, float, attack, float" rhythm and feeling. As Muhammad Ali would say, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."

Ski surface area adds another variable. With a fatter ski I can ski a bit slower because the skis don't sink as far into the snow so there is less resistance to deal with (this would be a benefit in skiing tight trees). On the other hand, with some burly fat skis I feel more comfortable going faster because the extra width helps to keep the ski from diving under the snow and helps to keep the ski from getting caught in the high resistance clumps we run into when skiing the heavy stuff.
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby h.harb » Fri Dec 24, 2010 3:54 pm

The worst mush snow experience I ever had, was in 1971 in the Bugaboos. We were heli skiing until noon, it was a warm spring day, the last run to the lodge was sun facing. I was on 210 GS skis. When I hit the slope, my skis went to the bottom, three feet down in mush. I tried and tried to keep them on top, but there was not enough time to get the speed I needed, before I went to the bottom again. So we struggled our way to the bottom. Not one skier there, guide or racer, could stay on top of the snow that day. It was like skiing in something with no bottom, and the snow on top was sticky to boot. I don't know if wide skis would have been effective in that stuff either.
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby l2ski » Thu Feb 23, 2017 7:12 am

Bouncing this thread because it's February and I'm already skiing in these conditions
in NJ / NY. I'll have to start driving 2+ hours in one direction to ski for a couple of hours
because my local mountain may not survive past the weekend.

When the snow is heavy, soft, sugary, and somewhat deep, which is what happens
to the groomed trails by the afternoon, should I still seek to have most of my balance
on the stance ski after transition? I'm probably also trying to ski too slowly in this stuff
because it's intimidating.
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Re: Tactics for heavy, slushy snow?

Postby Max_501 » Thu Feb 23, 2017 7:49 am

l2ski wrote:When the snow is heavy, soft, sugary, and somewhat deep, which is what happens
to the groomed trails by the afternoon, should I still seek to have most of my balance
on the stance ski after transition? I'm probably also trying to ski too slowly in this stuff
because it's intimidating.


How deep is the snow and is it sticky?
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