Friday, February 8, 2013

Best Off Piste Day of the Season


I had just one intention today – scare myself! That was all too easily achieved! Too much time spent teaching on the nursery slopes has a detrimental effect on your own skiing. I just wanted to get out and ski some of my old haunts and blow away some of the cobwebs.

Lacking the habit of skiing couloirs I found myself a bit too tense to ski the entrance properly (at least to do so willingly). Experience teaches you that any mistake can mean cartwheeling all the way to the bottom  - so as you get older (and hopefully wiser) you naturally get more apprehensive. It’s annoying because you know it’s easy to ski but the risk just doesn’t seem worth it at the time. This is why those things need to be practised regularly. I’ve noticed several times through my life that fear of height disappears completely with familiarity.  I will now make a point of skiing much more steep terrain so as to recover the necessary relaxation and composure. Technique isn’t an issue here – psychology and attitude are.

Seen here from another view point…

Almond Magnum Ice Cream Snow

This next pitch was scary too because of avalanche risk. Just a few metres above was a “gasex” unit that sets off explosions so for the snow to still be there it must be relatively stable – but it was deep and being North East facing there as a layer of depth hoar far below that I could feel with the ski pole when probing. The snow however was phenomenal to ski. Being so steep it means that you sink in at an angle and the snow comes half way up your body. The surface of the snow had nutty texture like the coating of a Almond Magnum ice cream and it was then soft and deep inside – Great! The first two turns gave me the feel for the snow then it was just playtime.

Another viewpoint – my tracks on the right…

Chi Skiing

After this lot I developed an appetite and so went for lunch and then later decided to just stick to safe off-piste for the rest of the day – up near the glacier. This was fantastic because with no clients to worry about I put my headphones on and the extreme cold seemed to vanish with the warm tones and rhythms. I could also stop and photograph anything interesting – as long as the gloves weren’t off for too long. Making circuits one after the other in virgin powder (Almond Magnum flavour) is fantastic. I experimented with the chi-hips and found that it often seemed to cause too sharp a turn initiation for this type of snow so the apex of the turn had to be brought to the side and not so much below – which is good. There is still a lot to be found out about this move. It must not be confused with “counter rotation”.

On the last run of the day I went back on some very steep terrain but with deep broken up snow. Normally I ski that sort of stuff comfortably with pressure and no jumping – but today I deliberately wanted to practise jump turns. I was surprised to find that I was not so good at them in this type of snow. The skis needed to be swung around more than expected in the air to guarantee the turn completion – so I reverted to applying pressure instead. I’ll have to go back and work on this to iron out any remaining issues. It could just be rustiness. Once again – too much time on the beginner’s slope doesn’t do a lot for agility and technique on the steep.




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