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Approaching a steep trail while skiing

Skiing a steep trail has taught me one very important lesson about approaching steep terrain, never stop at the drop off, unless it is an emergency!  There is a better technique to handling the entry to a steep trail safely while maintaining a high level of comfort skiing.

You know when you are skiing and approaching a steep drop off, what do you see; a line of skiers going "Oh my god, that's steep".  It is the equivalent of looking down when you are climbing a cliff, you might fall!  When you see a drop off like this on a well maintained ski slope you know it is relatively safe.  A better approach, if you are going to stop, is to stop 30, 40, 50, even 100 feet above the entry to the steep trail.  "That's nuts, what good is that you say", well here is what you do.

Please see my Ski Trip Tips.  They could make for the BEST trip!

Ski Videos

Ski Videos have really helped me improve, and they are truly entertaining, great with friends!  

Stop well above the drop off !

Now that you have stopped you can examine where all the skiers are standing, you pick a large enough gap between skiers for safety then begin building some speed before reaching the gap and drop off.  Make some noise so people know your coming, yahoo!  As you get very close to the gap make absolutely sure you are in the arc of a turn.  When you are this close to the drop off of a steep ski trail you can begin to see what is on the slope below, since you are turning you have many choices.  If you do not like what you see below you can immediately throw in a hard "check" dumping almost all your speed, but now you are light as a feather and can do anything with your skis!  You can just check harder and stop, or start your next turn at very low speed.  The most important thing is having enough speed when you hit the drop so you can do almost anything with your skis.  Do not jump off the drop, fall over it, moving your weight forward aggressively and confidently perhaps even pulling your heals back, a very powerful balanced position.  The next most important thing about this approach is you really will not have time to go "Oh my god that's steep terrain"!

A remarkable experience skiing in the fog

When this experience occurred my wife was an easy intermediate skier.  We were skiing at Killington on Bear Mountain, a mountain known for difficult terrain and bumps.  We had warmed up some and decided to at least do the upper part of Wildfire.  It was a very foggy day, you could not see more than 20 or 30 feet at best.  So we skied, non-stop, Upper Wildfire down to the intersection to Lower Wildfire, great run!  You say, "OK, so what"!  The next day was bright and sunny and clear, we were heading for Bear Mountain again and decided to ski Wildfire to the lodge for a break.  So we are cruising on Upper Wildfire and reached the steep drop off and my wife stopped dead at the drop off and said "Oh my god, I can't ski that"!  I said "But you skied it perfectly yesterday", see says "We did not ski this run yesterday".  I said "Yes we did, you just could not see how steep it was because of the fog"!  We made it to the lodge but it wasn't nearly as good a run as it had been in the fog!

So the same is true when you approach a drop off or any steep terrain on a clear sunny day, approach with moderate speed, turning, and handle whatever happens you will ski it way better, and more safely, because you will always be in control!

When you stop at a ski trail entry with a steep drop off, it is very difficult to start down again and maintain control.  All your weight is on your skis making it very difficult to turn, in essence you are out of control even when you start.  Plus you will build up the subconscious fear factor looking down when you should have just skied down.  Just enter those steep trails aggressively!

I am just a skier and what I write here is my opinion alone.  It is what works for me.  Please use these suggestions at your own risk.  Talk about these crazy thoughts with your ski instructor and have fun.

Hope this helped, Thanks!









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BHT Created: 21 Nov 2003

BHT Revised: 03 Apr 2017


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Copyright 2003-2016 Robert Matheson.  All rights reserved.  Email Bob at BobsHowTo.com - . 

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