Learn to Ski Steep Terrain in Portillo with Pros

| June 6, 2016 << Back

By: Chris Fellows of North American Ski Training Center

What’s your steep skiing game plan in Portillo? The professional instructors at NASTC pass along 4 tips for navigating steep terrain in Portillo!

The North American Ski Training Center has been running off-piste skiing clinics in Portillo Chile for 22 years led by some of the top ski pros in the United States.  The tips and drills that have been most useful for managing the terrain and conditions in Portillo relate to line management, speed maintenance, adjusting to changes in terrain, and adapting to varied snow conditions.

Skiing an effective line down a steep slope demands execution of a prepared descent plan.”  — Chris Fellows

Steep Skiing


Descending steeps with a plan is the first step in precise steep skiing. Here are four things—from the professional instructors at the NASTC—to keep in mind when skiing steep terrain:

1.) Entry plan– A good plan will include a solid entry into the slope.  This is where you decide if you want to charge into the slope with all caution to the wind or carefully slide into the slope to keep your speed at a minimum.  The cautious option lets you check the snow and feel the pull of gravity on that specific pitch.  Then ask yourself: Will my plan work here?

2.) Commit to your line –Next the body of your run on a steep slope will require planning line of descent, overall speed and shape of your turns.  A direct line down the slope with turns that feed into each other will generate speed and momentum.  Speed is managed by a rhythm and turn symmetry resulting in a flowing and continuous descent.   Be honest, does your run feel choppy and indecisive?  If yes, get focused!

3.) Crux -Set up for the difficult section- Every run has a crux or difficult section.  Be prepared to set yourself up for success by anticipating and adjusting to the terrain or snow that could trip you up.  If you can see an exposed rock or avalanche debris up ahead, make a move that allows you to keep your momentum consistent and your speed regulated.  The crux of each run should be considered and planned for.  This tactic can be improved by keeping your head up and not being distracted by the surrounding extra stimuli.

4.) Exit Plan– The finish of your run can be the most important segment of your plan.  Finishing a pitch like a runaway train is dangerous to you and other people.  Plan for your exit with an eye to the landing zone.  This will give you time to gradually shut down the engines and come to a complete stop before you launch off a hidden snow cat track or blind cliff band.  When skiing in groups with NASTC at Portillo its common to have your trainer ask you to stop above her in case she has identified a hazard and has stopped above it.  Keep your head up and act like an airplane coming in for a landing.  Lower the landing gear and float in to a gradual stop.

These tactics are examples of some of the tips and drills that have been used for greater success by many NASTC clients over the years. NASTC has built a reputation for helping skiers acquire a tool box of off-piste tactics that open up the terrain and conditions that Portillo is so famous for.

Want to learn more about the ski camps offered at Ski Portillo? CLICK HERE!