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Iglu ski expert and former Veriber ski instructor, Scotty, takes us through his guide to bumps, offering tips and advice in preparation for taking on the likes of Val d'Isere's Le Face, Avoriaz's Swiss Wall and Verbier's Chasseure.
Skiing bumps is, without doubt, challenging — some are attracted to that challenge, though many prefer to just find an alternative route. They are like Marmite, you love them or hate them.
For those that feel the love, would like to some understanding, or to be inspired here you go.
Firstly mind, then body.
Body and Posture
Absorb vs extending
Practice traversing across the ski field. Low speed, keep your upper body still and let your legs move up then let them fall down as you go over each bump, keep your arms out and forward, in the goal keeper position. Try both directions so you get a feel for each leg being low & high on the slope.
Absorbing: Normally done at the start of the bump. Hit the bump like you're skidding to a stop, when you hit the bump you can let your knees buckle up to your chest and by absorbing you, you can maintain your speed — plus you'll have a smooth transition over the bump. Pushing your feet against the bump will enable you to slow down.
Extension: As you come up to a bump it's possible to extend your legs rather than absorb. This will project you up in the air. The amount you do this depends on the speed that you're going and the steepness of the bump. If you do this it's possible jump over a following, awkward bump.
Turning on a bump
So, you've hit the bump! As you ride over, your tips will be pointing out in the air, your foot and the tail end of your ski will still be resting on the bump. You'll reach a pivot point, pole plant, rotate your skis and scrape the other side of the bump like you're grating cheese. This will also help you control speed.
Control is key, if you feel like you're out of control then slow down! If you're out of your depth, find an exit and join the piste. Start off with hero moguls — small bumps where you can't fail to look good.
Technique: It's hard to teach via the written word, so instruction in resort is recommended. You need to be able to feel and see the same as what the instructor is seeing and feeling. Every mogul is different.
Avoid: South facing monsters — if the ski field goes through regular daytime melt and night time refreeze [freeze-thaw conditions - Ed] the moguls are likely going to be hard under the foot. It's often a one way ticket you'll just have to endure untill the end, unless you find an escape route(!), a compulsory foot massage will be needed at the end of the day.
If you're feeling confident and you're coming up to a long, oval shaped mogul it's possible to rotate your skis 90% and grind across the top of the mogul with just the middle of your ski. You'll find the tip and tail of your ski in the air at this point and you'll kill your speed so remember to rotate your skis back to facing down hill or you'll come a cropper.
Get creative, use the mountain... there's more than one way down.... choose the cool one.
Can you get from the top to bottom in one hit? Three Tortins [Scotty's favourite run in Verbier - Ed] a day, keep the doctor away. Can you beat your mate? Can you get down a single channel? Zig zagging across the mountain is cheating a bit. Can you fit in a few tricks on the way? There's always time for that!
Make sure you don't get yourself down, most people find bumps a challenge.
Two Important Points
Safety: If the terrain is too steep for you then don't do it! Start off on slopes that you feel most comfortable on and work your way up. Bank it for another day... something for you to look forward to.
Most ski schools will offer a ski bumps clinic, though you may have to shop around to find a keen instructor. Most instructors have a disliking for bumps too.
Enjoy yourself: It's supposed to be fun, if you don't like them then try carving, cruising around the rest of the resort or sitting in a restaurant having a long lunch . If you're skiing with a friend or partner don't make them do bump skiing, you may find that your relationship will come to an abrupt end! Just meet them at the bottom and let them choose a route down they're happy with on the Piste.
Last week Iglu's Sales Manager, AJ, was out in Tignes enjoying spring's finest sunshine and snow.
I love spring skiing!
All season I've been reading in the media about poor snow in the Alps. I knew from reports from mates still doing seasons that this media ranting was pretty wide of the mark and pretty irresponsible. I had to get out there to see the snow conditions for myself.
I stayed in the well facilitated Chalet Arktic, with its outdoor hot tub & sauna, in Tignes Le Lac for the week starting 20th March 2011. My first impression when the transfer bus turned into the Vallée de la Tarentaise was a little worrying. The lower areas of the valley as we drove passed the Trois Vallées on the left, and the Paradiski on our right, looked like they were a little low on snow. However, in March anywhere below 1800m is susceptible to freeze/thaw conditions.
The conditions started to look a lot better as we climbed higher towards the Espace Killy and drove passed Tignes Les Brévières. I could see there was plenty of snow as far down as 1550m. As we approached Tignes Le Lac at 2100m I could see that the north facing side of the Tovière was covered in fresh powder tracks and there was plenty more to raid, the moment I could get my Stöckli Corall Snakes on (I'm still in the honeymoon period with my beloved skis).
On our first day we went high to see if there were any powder trails left for us latecomers. Up and up we went to the highest cable car in the region, Le Téléphérique de la Grande Motte, on a blue bird day. From the top we took the first piste on the left and cut high back under the cable car to find ourselves in thigh deep pow. My ski buddy and I exchanged a quick grin before the inevitable race for first tracks commenced. There are no friends on a powder day — fact!
We were enjoying the snow so much we nearly fell into the trap that deep powder causes. As we sprayed our rooster tails left and right we almost missed the last chance to turn off for the lifts. We nearly ended up flying down a valley that had no lifts and no way back to resort, apart from a long hike in four foot of powder. That's a workout I could do without on my first day. After the powder morning we had, we needed a good nosh up. We headed over towards the Folie Douce, where I like to spend my sunny afternoons in the Espace Killy. However, I don't usually eat at the Folie Douce, as the prices at the famous Fruitière restaurant are enough to make even an Oligarch choke on their cuisses de grenouilles. Instead I like to head down towards La Daille, where just off the red piste you will find a little gem called Le Trifollet. This place has the best Tartiflette on the slopes and a charming wind protected deck.
Due to the lovely sunny days we had all week, the snow below 2200m did get a little slushy in the afternoons. Higher we were finding little pockets of powder right up to the time we left, along with fantastic piste conditions. The conditions were even good enough to do the 'out of bounds' tour from the top of the Grand Prix chair down into the Vallée du Manchet. That's a great run that can also be reached by doing a high traverse from the top of the Borsat chair. These are tours that I have not done in the past due to the snow but last week it was fine and Tignes just got hit by another 30cm this week.
So much for this lack of snow malarkey the UK media keep harping on about. There's plenty of skiing left in this season but make sure you go to a resort with lots of pistes above 2500m.
Igluski's Sales Manager and former Whistler ski instructor, AJ, has offered us his top tips to skiing. Seems a little odd to hear an Aussie giving ski tips, but what the heck, it's worth a go.
1. Be a sloucher.
The perfect stance for skiing is like slouching in a car. You must bend your spine and push your rear slightly forward and hunch your shoulders. Otherwise you will be skiing in the classic duck-ass stance. Try keeping your spine straight and sticking your butt out and bending down to touch the ground. Then try bending your spine and doing the same thing. See how much easier it is. You need that same flexibility when skiing.
2. You should always be able to see your hands.
Imagine you are driving an old style bus with a huge steering wheel. That’s where your hands should be at all times.
3. Tuck in your elbows.
You are not a bird and you do not need wings to ski. Make yourself compact rather than large and flappy. The less movement in your upper body, the better.
4. Punch through your pole plants.
When you do a pole plant you must push your fist through it so that your shoulder is not thrown back. Remember rule two, keep your hands forward and always moving so that you are always looking for the next turn.
5. Your knees are your headlights.
Instigate your turns with your knees and not your upper body. Imagine your knees are lighting your way and turn them before you make other movements.
6. Always put your downhill ski on first.
Before putting your skis on always line them up across the slope and start with your downhill ski.
7. Never look at your skis once you are moving.
This is one of the biggest mistakes that intermediate skiers make. Your skis are at the end of your legs. Trust me on this. If they fall off, it will be immediately apparent. Your eyes should be focused at least five metres ahead and if you are going fast then at least ten metres ahead.
8. Thin socks are warmer.
Don’t believe me right? Boot technology is extremely advanced. By putting on thick socks you are fighting against the manufacturer who has spent millions in research and development. Thick socks keep moisture around the foot making you cold on chair lifts, they reduce your fine touch, and worst of all, they create shin friction that will hurt like crazy. Thick socks tend to bunch on the shin which brings me to another very important thing.
You want as little as possible between your shin and the boot so never wear two pairs of socks or put anything else apart from your sock in the boot including long underwear. This is the cause of the most severe pain problems most new skiers experience. Spend the money and get a decent pair of ski socks. Your woolly winter socks for hiking are the worst thing you can wear.
9. Always stop on the high side of the piste.
This is especially important for snowboarders. By staying high you give yourself more options. You don’t want to be hiking or side stepping if you don’t have to, so stay high until you know your line.
10. Take the path less trod.
A common trap for new skiers is to follow everyone else’s tracks. This puts you in the slippery zone that has been flattened and scraped by hundreds of other skiers. It will make you go too fast and slam into bumps that are created by this ‘Pied-Piper’ like phenomenon. The powdery edges are slower and easier on your knees.
11. Don’t turn on ice.
If at all possible, wait until you are past the ice before you try to turn. Some of the worst accident happen when skiers see ice and try to panic stop. Even the very best skiers struggle to turn or stop on ice. Take the speed build up and wait for a slightly softer spot to turn.
12. Goggles during ski and sunnies après ski.
If you never ski faster than you can run then keep your sunnies on, but who really skis that slow? Goggles protect your eyes in so many ways and are vital should the weather turn nasty. Skiing in sunglasses in fog, snow and low light is suicidal. Keep your sunnies with you for when you hit the aprés ski sun decks. Make sure they are trés-fashionable and have 100% UV protection. Experienced skiers use goggles in all weather, including sunny days.
13. Always check your carry-on list before you leave the chalet.
I like to carry a back pack but most jackets can handle this small list of important extras: Water!!, chap stick, glasses and goggles and lens wipe, suncream 50+ (don’t worry, you’ll still tan), piste map, phone with Ski Patrol’s number already stored, and a tool like a Swiss Army knife or one of the many specialist ski/board tools out there.
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