How to ski steeps the APSI way
By Mark Mc Donald APSI
Skiing steeps is in. The steep skiing celebration is flashed up at every turn by our industry ski movies. There is a push towards riding our own mountain wave and finding our own steep line signature. Whether you decide to make your sign inbounds or out in the backcountry, here are some good tips to have in mind.
If you are starting out, to learn your first steep decent make sure you are able to execute a strong hockey stop style turn. This means that you can twist both skis firmly across the hill and use your ankle, knee and hip to flex and bend inwards to set an edge that holds and brings you to a complete and absolute stop. Use the pole plant at the end of the turn to ensure that you have one more anchor and block any upper body rotation. As any rotation of the upper body may bring you around too much, making it easy to fall and the steeps is not somewhere you want to fall. Practice these to the left and right, then slowly link a few with hardly stopping on some blue to black marked terrain.
The next step is to try on a steep slope. Firstly, select a slope like a secret agent, always have an escape plan. Therefore, a small steep section no more than four or five turns that has a flat run out is a wise first choice. Places that spring to mind around Australia are Ruin Castle cornice in Falls Creek, Balls to the Wall in Thredbo, The Cornice race hut, Mt Hotham, the side of Macglocklans shoulder, Mt Buller and some of the steep parts of center valley in Perisher provide some great places to pre-test your skills.
Once you are comfortable down a steep short slope and also can stop at will, its time to move on to longer steeper pitches. This is where at times you will need to have the skills listed below to potentially get you through and out of obstacles or icy sections that may be on your signature line.
- Edge set checks. Being able to jump and set on the same edges to safely move down a steep section where a turn may be too tight or too steep to risk making a complete turn at this time.
- Sideslips to maneuver around a rock or past an area to reach a more desirable line.
- Develop the comfort to be able to hop the start of the turn. Use a strong extension in the legs to get the skis of the snow and then be able to land strongly and softly by bending all the leg joints equally while moving the ankle, knee and hip inwards towards the slope to ensure that you have a solid edge platform to secure yourself with comfort on your new favorite steep line.
- Remember, choose a line that is with in your ability and that has no surprises. A classic example would be the Rock Gardens at Blue Cow during early season, where the low snow and rocky outcroppings can put you in over your head.