Steep vs Deep – Turn Shape

Snow tends to sluff off steeper slopes and they often become wind scoured, so although there is some loose snow on top, it tends to be much shallower than the deep stuff blown into in the bowls below.

Up On The Steep

My primary objective will be to control my speed.

To do this we’ll have to create a large steering angle, pivoting our skis across the fall line as quickly as possible, then create a strong edge set so our skis grip that steep slope. 

Essentially, we need to create a short turn vertically…

Spiess Exercise - A Pop Retraction

Spiess - The ultimate drill for vertically short turns

Turn Shape - Vertical Distance

A Vertically Short Turn minimizes time in the fall line whereas a Vertically Long Turn maximizes it.

With your skis perpendicular to a steep slope, your edges will be on a relatively high edge angle, making them difficult to release. Plus you’re off piste, so even though the snow isn’t terribly deep, your skis are still sinking into the snow.

In order to twist your skis quickly you’ll need to get them out of the soft snow. There are a couple options here:

#1 - You could POP, or jump up out of the snow.

Pops are powerful, but the disadvantage is they usually involve a lot of hip which has a tendency to move the massive shoulders back, and they move your centre of mass further away from your feet increasing the chances of getting thrown off balance. 

#2 - You could RETRACT, or pull your feet out of the snow.

Retraction with a lot of knee bend brings your tails up, freeing them from them steep slope, and it releases your mass to move down the slope and keep up with your feet. It’s also much less scary as you stay closer to the snow. Retraction is great for quick transitions on the steeps, but you need to have a fair bit of pressure built up under your skis before it works.

#3 - You could POP then RETRACT. 

A Pop-Retraction requires a quick extension to compact the snow under your feet before retracting. This may be they way to go when you don‘t have enough speed, or the platform under your feet is too soft for a retraction alone. It’s often useful on your first turn before the momentum builds up.

Retraction - Gets the skis out of the snow so they are easy to twist and helps clear the tails from getting caught

A retraction move gets the skis out of the snow so they are easy to twist and helps clear the tails from getting caught on the steep slope.

Setting an Edge on the Steeps 

The steep slope will create a pretty high edge angle on it’s own, so to set the edges all you really need to do is stay balanced over your downhill foot. Every instinct in your body tells you to shy away but you need to ignore those instincts and put yourself out there. As your skis begin to steer across the fall line. Reach down the hill for you next pole plant and keep your head out over your downhill foot.

If the snow is soft allow this to happen more progressively, so you don’t go over the handle bars:)  

A vertically short turn to control speed on the steeps - Retraction… a big steering angle… and a quick but progressive edge set.

A vertically short turn to control speed on the steeps - A pop-retraction… a large steering angle… and a quick but progressive edge set with the upper body reaching downhill to balance over the feet.

Steeps Scenario #1 - Your skis are stuck under the snow. You begin to turn, but instinct takes over and as you point your skis into the fall line you lean back into the slope… your tails engage and you your skis take off like a rocket down the slope.

Steeps Scenario #2 - You pull your skis out of the snow, freeing them to quickly twist in the air, you commit and allow your mass to topple to keep up with your feet. As your skis begin to steer across the fall line you progressively set your edges to slow your descent.  The crowds go wild in amazement of your superior skill!

Tobin Engelberg Powder Hero 1

Down In The Deep

Down in the bowls where the snow starts to get deep, tactics need to change and you’ll want to lengthen things out. 

You’ll still want to get your skis out of the snow to get some steering started, but the twisting effort becomes much less. 

Remember, deep snow is very good at slowing your speed, and you’ll need to keep some momentum to keep linking turns together. Speed is your friend because it allows the snow to compress underneath you rapidly and spring you out of the snow.

As you sink back in, you don’t want the snow to slow you down so quickly that you get tripped up. So use a small twist and keep your skis in the fall line longer.

Turn Shape - Vertical Distance

A Vertically Short Turn will slow you down on the Steeps… A Vertically Long Turn will keep your momentum in the Deep!

Deeper snow requires a longer turn vertically to maintain momentum

Outsmart your ski instructor and troubleshoot your own ski technique

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