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.
- When standing at the top you'll need to take a deep breath and stay calm.
- Choose your route carefully, there will be an easy way down vs a route with bigger bumps, a steeper gradient, or generally more awkward — you choose.
- The bumps may be soft or hard, look for clues — are they icy or powder?
- Have they formed in a predictable grid or not?
- Mental speed — you're going to have to make quick decisions, there's no time for faffing.
- If you get spat out, stop... get your breath back... refocus and keep going, don't be a quitter!
- Look ahead — your goal should be to look three bumps ahead, start off with one then two and work towards three — you've already decided what you're going to do on the bump that you're on!
- Make sure you're heading to the next bump at the best angle.
Body and Posture
- Arms forward and no leaning back. If you lean back you'll find that your body frame will be rigid and you need to be attacking moguls in a confident forward position.
- Your upper body needs to be calm, let your legs do the work. Upper body calm, legs flexible is very important.
- You need to be fit, this is a high impact and endurance activity! Running, sit ups and cross trainer are all good — smokers will struggle.
- Let your legs do the work, if your upper body is moving around your head will also be bouncing about. It's very hard to see where you're going if your head doesn't stay level.
- Use pole plants for timing.
Here's the Technical bit
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.