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"SKIING IS A SLIDING SPORT"--a skiing web manual: contents (topics at page bottoms of manual)

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 Tactics for Terrains and Snow Textures and Racing--
 Skiing Steeps    ♦♦   ♦♦♦   !  
by Bill Jones, Ski Instructor

Certified Professional Ski Instructor (Registration #110478), Level III
How To Reserve Private Ski Lessons with Bill Jones
Caution Double Black Diamond Photo

Slope ratings. Black diamond, double-black diamond, triple-black diamond and even yellow exclamation point are the "flavors" steep ski slopes come in. (See Skier Skill Levels 1-9 & Slope Ratings.) You can usually avoid such slopes if you want to. Use the ski resort's trail map to guide you. Recall, however, that slope ratings are unique within a resort and similar slopes at another resort may be ranked differently. One ski area, for instance, that had gentler slopes and that catered to a gentler clientele, had slopes ranked black that almost seemed to match the green slopes of another resort with more challenges.

Steep slope characteristics.   Ski areas provide access to steep slopes within their boundaries because advanced skiers enjoy the challenge they pose as they ski them successfully. On steeps an exhilaration a bit like that of skiing fast can be felt, and a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction can reward a successful descent as a skier looks back up what has just been skied down. Some black-diamond slopes are groomed. Quite often, however, the black-diamond ranked steeps are not groomed but are skied enough that moguls develop and remain. These bumps may make skiing such slopes easier than skiing a smoother slope at the same gradient, for the uphill sides of the moguls provide somewhat leveler spots on the mountain to perform turning movements and speed management from turn shape and/or skidding and turn frequency.

Skiing steeps. Theoretically, steep slopes should be easier to ski than gentler ones. There is a greater elevation drop with each turn and therefore more force from gravity to pull you into the turns. However, that also generates more speed and more force to deal with at the end of the turn. Expert skiers can still ski round turns using ski edges and little skidding on many steeps, but a gradient is finally reached for virtually all skiers where the skis simply cannot be maintained in that down-the-hill line in the middles of turns for long lest control is lost. Then skis will be pivoted swiftly from one direction across the slope to the other, sometimes with a hop into the air so the skis can be swung even more rapidly around, each turn having the skis land farther down the slope. In this, the body still must tilt forward out into space so the ski tails will be up off the slope, else they will catch the snow behind and upslope on their swing around. Extreme-slope skiers sometimes advocate a tactic of transferring pressure to the uphill ski with a sort of step there, thus anchoring the uphill ski before making their leap out into space; this differs from the normal idea of always maintaining a down-the-hill flow of the body, but for a good reason. And the force of this weight redistribution must be gauged against the hardness/softness of  the snow so one does not punch in too deeply and have a ski stick or have one skid out.

Should a skier fall on a steeper slope, a long descent may start with no way to stop as speed builds. Because steep slopes may be marked with trees, rock outcrops and even cliffs, if a fall occurs, get up right away. Get the skis downhill if they are not already there, by rolling on your back and quickly swinging the skis down the hill, then engage the edges as progressively as time allows so they will not just skid or dig in, and stand as quickly as you dare, for your edges may be all that will hold you in place. If this maneuver sounds a lot like the ice-axe self arrest of the mountaineer, it is. A ski pole or both can be used in the same way as an ice axe in the self-arrest, but will be much less effective. Of course, rapid edging can produce dangerous forces on knees, but the risk from that may be less than allowing a slide to become uncontrollable. Neither do you want to lose a ski in this situation, and the hazard from a binding setting that is tighter than normal may be less of a risk than if a ski came off..

Steep slopes may have as much snow on them as gentler ones, but steeper mountain slopes often are rockier and uneven. Thus steep slopes may require more snow depth to render them skiable, and even when the snow deepens, quick course changes may be necessary as obstacles come into view.

Avalanches of snow may descend from upper slopes onto ones below, and skiers may start them when they cut the snowpack with their skis. Ski patrols at many resorts attempt to control the risk from avalanches by several means. They may ski steep slopes in cross patterns to produce artificial "fracture" lines in the snowpack, breaking it into blocks that are less likely to start slipping than would a larger connected mass. They may also use controlled skiing across tension points to bring down avalanches. And they often toss hand grenades into snowfields that could slide or fire projectiles from "avalauncher" guns that explode on impact and either shake the pack and stabilize it or bring it down so it is no longer such a threat. If you ski steep slopes, always consider the possibility of avalanche of the slope you are on or onto it from above, understand the situation so you can assess the hazard, and know what you should do to avoid it or deal with it. See Skiing Environment for more information on avalanches.   

Additional tactical choices for skiing steep slopes are found in Skiing Moguls and Pole Usage.

A final word: Eventually, after selecting the tactic to apply, you must "Point the skis down the hill; let them buck; the mountain will teach you!"

Skiing Groomed Snow
Skiing Hard Snow/Ice
Skiing Among Trees
Skiing Narrow trails
Skiing Moguls
Skiing Powder Snow
Skiing Cold Snow-Warm Snow/New Snow-Old Snow
Skiing "Spring" Snow
Skiing Steeps--you are on this page
Skiing Gates/Racing

"SKIING IS A SLIDING SPORT"--a skiing web manual:    Skiing Web Manual Contents   Why Read This Skiing Web Manual That First Skiing Lesson   A Little Skiing History  A Little Skiing History   Motion in Skiing  Conventional Skiing Wisdoms  Skier Excuses   Fear in Skiing  Conditioning for Skiing  How Skis Work   Equipment and Technique  Skiing Equipment  How to Develop Balance on Skis  A Skiing Turn Simplified  The Final Skiing Skill: pressure management TACTICS FOR TERRAINS and SNOW TEXTURES and RACING  Skiing Tips and Tales--a potpourri    Exercises for Developing Skiing Skills   Children and Skiing  Age and Skiing Gender & Skiing  Culture & Skiing  Skiing Ethics and Slope Survival  Slope Safety  Skiing Environment  Videos and Apps  Glossary  Acknowledgements SkiMyBest Website Contents  

This "Skiing Spring Snow" page last modified November 17, 2021. Did you come here from a link on another website? For latest version of this page, copy to your browser: http://www.SkiMyBest.com/skisteep.htm. Copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022. William R Jones.