Between a Rock and a Hard Place: How to Manage Rocky Terrain in Portillo

| junio 17, 2016 << Volver

Skiing Between a Rock and a Hard Place
-How to Manage Rocky Terrain-
It’s safe to say much ofSkiing Between a Rock and a Hard Place
-How to Manage Rocky Terrain-
It’s safe to say much of the skiing population avoid terrain with rocks, walls, and cliff bands. Then, there are just as many—like myself—who venture beyond the groomers, past the moguls, and above the tree line. What compels us to flirt with danger in challenging terrain?
We gravitate to that dramatic environment that demands skillful movements and total awareness. It’s that kind of alluring, adrenaline-filled descent that you boast about to your friends after a summer ski trip to Ski Portillo (but not to your mom).
Narrow chutes, boulder fields, and rocky surfaces in your ski line always pose navigational challenges. Skiing this type of terrain requires visual preparation, quick decisions, and mindful tactics. Want to learn how to up your game when the going gets rocky? Here are three tips NASTC (North American Ski Training Center) teaches guests during the annual Adventure Ski Training Vacation in Portillo:
Plan your route- Scout your line from the bottom or from a lift ride, if possible. Visualize a smooth, fluid descent. Often times, critical sections in our line choice will force changes in our downhill tempo. Identify the crux or difficult zone and anticipate the changes needed. When planning your line, ask yourself these questions: How will the obstacles effect my fluidity? Will I be more successful with a shorter turn? Longer turn? Straight line? Air or hop turn?
Quick tip: Remember that changes in rhythm do not have to mean interrupted flow down the fall line.
Judge your distance- Think of an exposed rock as the tip of an iceberg; there’s more of that beneath the surface. Snow conditions will regulate how close you can efficiently ski. Fresh powder and sun effected snow mean your skis will be traveling beneath the surface a few inches or more; its best to keep those travel margins wide. Firm snow conditions, however, make for a supportable surface; here it’s fair to keep the line tight. Rule of thumb: Soft snow = greater distance between you, and the rocks.
Quick tip: Skiing near rocks can be an effective tactic in low visibility conditions. The contrast in color and shadow is a helpful visual cue to measure pitch, speed, balance and prevent vertigo.
Be light on your feet- The finish of the turn is typically where most skiers feel the heaviest through the turn shape. Pressure gradually increases and that’s where we receive the most feedback from our skis. It’s also the part where we can do the most damage to the base and edges of our skis when we hit a rock. Instead, focus on consistent and sensitive pressure throughout the entire turn. Anticipate rocks and thin snow cover by rolling to a flat ski, lighten the load on your boards and create a “floating” sensation through the transition to the next direction change.
Quick tip: Damage to our gear is inevitable when we are literally skiing the boundary of snow and rock. Have your local shop “hot box” your skis. It will improve the durability of the bases.
These tactics are a few examples of “calculated risk” elements we teach clients of NASTC to become more comfortable in rocky terrain. Come prepared with a strategy and a bag of tools. Stay sharp, be adaptable, and enjoy. See you this summer in Chile!
-Ben Brosseau, May 20, 2016
the skiing population avoid terrain with rocks, walls, and cliff bands. Then, there are just as many—like myself—who venture beyond the groomers, past the moguls, and above the tree line. What compels us to flirt with danger in challenging terrain?
We gravitate to that dramatic environment that demands skillful movements and total awareness. It’s that kind of alluring, adrenaline-filled descent that you boast about to your friends after a summer ski trip to Ski Portillo (but not to your mom).
Narrow chutes, boulder fields, and rocky surfaces in your ski line always pose navigational challenges. Skiing this type of terrain requires visual preparation, quick decisions, and mindful tactics. Want to learn how to up your game when the going gets rocky? Here are three tips NASTC (North American Ski Training Center) teaches guests during the annual Adventure Ski Training Vacation in Portillo:
Plan your route- Scout your line from the bottom or from a lift ride, if possible. Visualize a smooth, fluid descent. Often times, critical sections in our line choice will force changes in our downhill tempo. Identify the crux or difficult zone and anticipate the changes needed. When planning your line, ask yourself these questions: How will the obstacles effect my fluidity? Will I be more successful with a shorter turn? Longer turn? Straight line? Air or hop turn?
Quick tip: Remember that changes in rhythm do not have to mean interrupted flow down the fall line.
Judge your distance- Think of an exposed rock as the tip of an iceberg; there’s more of that beneath the surface. Snow conditions will regulate how close you can efficiently ski. Fresh powder and sun effected snow mean your skis will be traveling beneath the surface a few inches or more; its best to keep those travel margins wide. Firm snow conditions, however, make for a supportable surface; here it’s fair to keep the line tight. Rule of thumb: Soft snow = greater distance between you, and the rocks.
Quick tip: Skiing near rocks can be an effective tactic in low visibility conditions. The contrast in color and shadow is a helpful visual cue to measure pitch, speed, balance and prevent vertigo.
Be light on your feet- The finish of the turn is typically where most skiers feel the heaviest through the turn shape. Pressure gradually increases and that’s where we receive the most feedback from our skis. It’s also the part where we can do the most damage to the base and edges of our skis when we hit a rock. Instead, focus on consistent and sensitive pressure throughout the entire turn. Anticipate rocks and thin snow cover by rolling to a flat ski, lighten the load on your boards and create a “floating” sensation through the transition to the next direction change.
Quick tip: Damage to our gear is inevitable when we are literally skiing the boundary of snow and rock. Have your local shop “hot box” your skis. It will improve the durability of the bases.
These tactics are a few examples of “calculated risk” elements we teach clients of NASTC to become more comfortable in rocky terrain. Come prepared with a strategy and a bag of tools. Stay sharp, be adaptable, and enjoy. See you this summer in Chile!
-Ben Brosseau, May 20, 2016