Aside from skiing fluffy virgin powder…
…skiing bigger turns in bumps and chop has got to be one of my favorite pastimes…. especially as I get older and lazier (read: too lazy to do short radius turns in moguls).
It is a maneuver required for the CSIA level 4 exams where many seem to crash and burn, but to be honest it’s actually pretty simple, you just need to adapt your technique to the terrain and enbrace a tactical aproach that at first may seem counterintuitive.
Below are a few tips to make it happen:
Just Starting Out
This may seem obvious but until you’ve got the hang of it I recommend starting off with some smaller bumps on a fairly mellow pitch preferably with soft or slushy snow. You will need to be aggressive in your approach so if you are already scared of the terrain then it’s not going to happen.
Keep a tight core and loose legs. Keeping a tight core will help keep your upper body stable and will allow you to recover faster when one of those nasty bumps pushes you off balance. It will reduce the ‘chicken plucking’ effect! The ‘Chicken Plucker’ is that maneuver when you suddenly break at the waist and nearly kiss your ski tips.
You will need to be aggressive with your legs, resisting the pressure but releasing when the need arises by bending the knees. This will be required several times throughout each turn.
The knees and hips are the big joints that do the majority of the flexing and extending but to fine tune my balance and pressure control, I like to think about keeping some tension in my ankle through much of the turn. I tend to keep it a little straighter than normal, feeling more of the ball of my foot and my calf on the back of the cuff. This way the ball of my foot acts like a little sensor. Whenever I hit something during the turn I can flex my ankle to make fine tuned adjustments and stay in balance.
Yes a wide stance may be more stable and allow for better lateral movements… but this is one of those situations where it can be helpful to narrow it up a bit. A narrower stance tends to be more agile and allows for better range of motion when you need to move a lot vertically like in bumps. It also simplifies things when both feet are hitting similar terrain. If the stance gets too wide both skis end up doing to very different things.
Change your Tactics
Traverse less and commit to the fall line a little longer. Even though it may seem like a scarier choice of line this is the time to ignore your instincts. A faster rounder line will actually be smoother. Many folks will try too hard to control their speed by adding in a traverse at the end of their turn. Not only will they lose rhythm but they will also be forced to hit each and every bump from its steepest aspect…. It will be a rough ride!
Look ahead and see what’s coming – Where is that path of least resistance? Sometimes you will need to absorb a bump by flexing. If the bump is too big or you are going too fast you may need to pre-jump it. If the bumps get too close together or the walls too steep you may need to act quickly and pop over a trough. Mileage and experience will help your decision making here.
Now go out and scare yourself at least once per day.