For expert skiers, anticipating the fall by skiing a slope is a thrill. But beginner skiers at the top of their first steep slope often give in to fear. Seeing down is scary. So check my beginner’s guide for information on how to ski steep slopes to learn the essential steps to success.
My goal is to help you explore the steepest slopes of the winter sports resorts. With the steps in your head and practice, you will be able to explore more terrain. Steep slopes should no longer be intimidating. You can approach them with confidence and enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with them.
1 STEP 1: STACK YOUR BODY PARTS CORRECTLY
1.1 SCALE ON THE FEET
1.4 UPPER BODY
1.7 SKELETAL POSTURE
2 STEP 2: MASTER THE PRIOR SKILLS
2.1 DYNAMIC PARALLEL
2.3 THE TURN WITH A SHORT RADIUS
2.4 STOPS WITH SKIS IN PARALLEL
2.5 TURNS WITH JUMP
3 STEP 3: DEVELOP FOR STEEP SLOPES
3.1 STEEP, GROOMED SLOPE
3.2 STEEP OFF-ROAD SLOPE
4 STEP 4: ADD STEEP DESCENT TECHNIQUES
4.1 LEANING FORWARD
4.2 B-TONE PLANTS
4.3 SKI JUMPING
4.4 SPEED CONTROL
4.5 ADJUSTMENTS OF THE TURN SHAPE
5 STEP 5: LEARN FROM A PRO
STEP 1: STACK YOUR BODY PARTS CORRECTLY
Balance and body position are essential when skiing on steep slopes. Starting with the feet and working up the body, let’s see how to stack the parts of your body for correct posture. When skiing on the slopes, it’s no different than the first time you learned to turn on skis.
BALANCE ON THE FEET
Fear drives many skiers to sit on steep slopes. The weight goes up to the heels. But this is exactly the opposite of the aggressive attitude needed to ski steep slopes.
The weight should be balanced at the feet, with an equal distribution between the soles of your feet and the heels. The feet should be centered under the hips and shoulders.
Knees must remain bent to allow mobility on steep slopes.
Push your hips forward. On steep slopes, it seems safer to sit in the back, but this is not the case. Balancing the hips on the soles of your feet allows you to ski and control their direction.
Focus your eyes and upper body on the slope. The lower body should make the turns, but the upper body should remain in a stable position.
The upper body should be perpendicular to the slope and slightly inclined at the bottom of the hill, rather than on the slope.
To ski on steep slopes, hands must remain in front of the body. Don’t let them get lost in your hips or worse, behind your hips.
If the hands stay forward, you will maintain a more correct body position. In fact, look for your hands on the periphery of your vision. If you can see them, they are well located.
Keep your head high up instead of looking at your feet. Look down the slope and aim for where you want to go rather than a few centimetres in front of your skis. Keeping your head up high promotes better balance.
A balanced posture is essential to your success. Maintaining a stacked posture is done with your skeleton. Getting out of a stacked posture requires muscle support and muscles tire quickly. Bones don’t get tired, so trust the skeleton.
STEP 2: MASTER THE PRIOR SKILLS
Before throwing on steep slopes, plan to master several skills on easier groomed trails. Once you can perform these manoeuvres, only then is it time to raise the slope of the land.
To make parallel turns work more efficiently and widely on varied terrain, skiers add more dynamic action. You can recognize dynamic parallel turns by moving up and down. Hip, knee and ankle flex more, and between turns, bodies stretch more during the pressure change.
Dynamic parallel turns also have rhythm. Stick plants help set the pace for turning.
Carving is skiing on the edges. If you look at a slope where a skier makes carving turns, you will see thin “S” shaped lines in the snow from the edges of the ski. Carving turns go from one edge to the other with very little time spent on the ski base.
Carving turns require strength on the edges. This means bending the hips, knees and ankles. The application of force causes the ski to flex, which makes it turn in the snow. Different skis rotate differently depending on the shape of the ski. The size of the sidecut affects the turn.
THE TURN WITH A SHORT RADIUS
Most skiers first learn to make medium to large radius turns, but you will need to make smaller radius turns on steep slopes. When there are trees in front of you, you will have to make a short radius turn to get your arsenal out.
Short-radius turns are faster. After pressing your skis, release them quickly to start the next lap.
The fast, short-radius turn hooks onto the snow to control speed and immediately switches to the opposite turn. Rather than waiting to gain speed, these turns use fast movements from one edge to the other.
The turn uses all the same movements, only condensed in half the time it takes to make a medium or long radius turn.
STOPS WITH SKIS IN PARALLEL
A stop with the skis parallel digs the edges of your skis in the snow to stop. It’s like the quick stops of hockey players on the ice.
TURNS WITH JUMP
When you cannot turn but have to change direction on a steep slope, the turn with a jump is taken into account. With skis placed sideways on the slopes, place both poles on the uphill side to promote balance. Lift the toe and heel to reverse its direction.
STEP 3: DEVELOP FOR STEEP SLOPES
Although we all love thrills, you will be more successful on steep slopes if you develop gradually.
Don’t start by daring to go into the most formidable hill. Instead, go to more difficult terrain with practice on a less steep terrain. Use a gradual approach and leave steep slopes for the end.
STEEP, GROOMED SLOPE
If you almost throw the contents of your stomach at the top of a groomed blue slope, you are not ready to go any steeper. Practice leads to perfection, and you can gain the confidence you need by skiing trails in your comfort zone over and over again.
With the exception of runways where all terrain is bulldozed, most runways vary in height from top to bottom. Instead of skiing on the least steep centre of the slope, choose the steep slope to build your confidence.
Make sure you can ski on the steepest intermediate groomed runs before going to the black or off-piste runs.
STEEP OFF-ROAD SLOPE
Once you have the confidence to face all the blue groomed trails on the mountain, you are ready to move on to steeper, uncompacted black trails and off-piste terrain. Leave the slopes with trees and narrow falls to the end.
STEP 4: ADD STEEP DESCENT TECHNIQUES
By learning to ski steep slopes, many skills will help you. Experiment with the following techniques on softer slopes before moving on to steeper slopes.
Leaning forward is against common sense. However, when skiing the slopes, that’s exactly what you want to do. Fight every urge to lean back into the hill and move your hips and upper body forward. Regardless of the orientation of your skis, stare at the top of your body and your head where you are going.
To descend steep slopes, plant your stick on the side towards the descent to initiate turns. By doing this, your body will be correctly positioned.
Expert skiers have a variety of poles in their arsenal for steep slopes. Planting your stick properly instead of having it touched quickly helps to reduce the speed of the turn.
On steep, narrow slopes, you may have to jump to turn. It takes an exaggerated extension at the top of the bend to remove the skis from the snow. The trick is done in the air. The landing uses bent knees. Stick plants are an essential part of ski jumping…
Knowledgeable experts often read the field to find places to control speed. A short climb on a slope is a good place to slow down a little bit their speed.
Learning to read the terrain will help you find many ways to manage your speed. Enjoy the adrenaline, but keep the speed under control.
ADJUSTMENTS TO THE SHAPE OF THE TURN
The shape in turns can help you ski the slopes. Rounded turns can be adjusted to slow down or accelerate. The longer you press the upstream ski at the end of the turn, the more the ski will slow down.
Trying to climb slightly slows down your speed. On the contrary, a quick changeover at the end of the turn to the beginning of the next turn will speed up the skis.
On ultra steep and narrow slopes, such as trunking, fast and pivoting side slides work better than rounded bends. This type of turn maintains slow speed and turns within the narrow limits of the chute.
STEP 5: LEARN FROM A PRO
Rather than trying to overcome steep slopes by trial and error, which could end with a visit to emergency rooms, hire a professional instructor. Many ski resorts offer courses in steep slope skiing techniques.
You can take a group or private lesson to familiarize yourself with the slopes, but you will progress faster and faster with programs of several days or weeks of skiing that consolidate the techniques. Look for certified instructors.