Bumpy Skiing

I wrote this piece back in March of 2007 and republish here and now. Enjoy, and I hope will register and add your comments!

Do you like to ski powder, bumps, and crud?

Being a Midwestern skier most of my skiing is on groomed and hard pack snow (sometimes ice is the word). Rarely do I ski on bumps. In addition, the area where most of my up-&-down time is spent keeps their runs groomed.

Now, I have taken the view world cup racers do not race in crud, bumps, or powder but rather on a more even surface. However, we all know what that is – a humorous rationalization. In truth, crud, powder, and bump skiing is more difficult not just in terms of ski technique but also in terms of the physicality bump skiing requires.

While given a choice I tend to ski the groomed run, but I have had fun with bumped runs in the past. Some years ago the region had a good dump of snow and we were at Ski Brule. The runs were on the bumpy side especially the run known as Log Jam at least on the sides (center was a smooth and icy chute) of the run. I was skiing the outsides and would only be in the center when I had to bleed speed and this is when I discovered a number of critical things.

  1. I could carve
  2. Carving through crud makes the crud and bumps less bumpy
  3. In order to slow down while carving you must turn completely out of the fall line to slow down
  4. I demo’ed some shorter skis and and found out I could ski the crud better on them than my 192 cm K2-3s

I would want to slow down to ski around people and I would turn out of the fall line but not across it and I found I did not slow down much at all. Previously I would be skidding instead of carving and of course skidding slows you down even when going down the hill. I quickly learned in order to bleed the speed (as opposed to hemorrhage it) a carving skier needs to to turn and travel perpendicular to (or even up) the fall line. Of course, I still have the skid stop in my repertoire (and I can skid stop from higher speeds than previous) but only use it when I need to rapidly stop.

Carving is an all-mountain/all-condition technique. However, I restrict pole-planting to bump & crud skiing. I usually use my poles as whiskers and balance aids seldom do I plant my poles. However, when skiing bumps I do find myself from time to time executing pole-plant turns. Very little thought about the whens & whys, bump skiing is much more instinctual than skiing groomers.

One last discovery. Bump skiing is fun! I had a good time running the bumpy snow that day, but it also seemed to me that day I was skiing rather well (sometimes I ski well sometimes I do not) and was skiing aggressive lines despite the conditions. Also, the intensity of focus is rather enjoyable.

The short and intense focus you have on the terrain immediately in front of you, the need to make quick adjustments, the need to use a variety of turn maneuvers, and just the plain joy of skiing. Whereas in skiing groomers you can pretty much set a course of action well in front of you and not have to alter it, its more robotic than bump skiing.

This was all reinforced to me on our last Indianhead run. Once I loosened up and started to let my skis run downhill I was starting to have fun. I find skiing bumps similar to skiing gates in that your attention is extremely focused. A person on the other side of the run is invisible to me and only becomes a concern when they start getting close to me or I start to ski up on them. However, since I am skiing within my abilities it is not a problem.

My brother and I were skiing down together and he was on my left and we both were skiing fairly tight lines and keeping even. He then started to work his way over towards myself and I found it no problem to deal with his change in course. A tight turn out of the fall line and behind him and I was back to my tight line, only with our positions exchanged. However, a bit later I had to perform some of the same tricks to ski around some other people.

Bump skiing is a more demanding workout too. Even on short runs you must be in good physical shape. Fortunately, I have been working out lately and weathered the Indianhead bumps well, my legs definitely felt it for the next week or so, but my legs did what I needed them to do when I needed them to do it.

Problem is though unless its forced upon myself (and this is is usually after a snow dump when the area either is choosing not to groom or hasn’t had a chance to groom)I keep to the groomers. I will hereby resolve to take the bump run the next time a bump run and a groomer both invite me to ski on them.

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  1. Most skiers don’t complete their turns, or turn until their skis are perpendicular to the fall line. As you discovered, if you aren’t turning until your skis are across the fall line, you have to skid to slow down.

  2. Dave, thanks for the comment. Yeah, that was a magical moment when I had to turn completely across the fall line to bleed speed and it took a bit to realize what was going on. Obviously I was just getting carving down, at least the basics of it.

    What is more at the end of last season I finally started to harvest speed from my carves! A buddy of mine told me to over-emphasize a up-motion as I change my edges, I suddenly found myself getting bucked into the back seat on a regular basis. It was the last day I skied last season and I’m really looking forward to this season. My main aim this year is to narrow up my stance.

    Thanks for reading and the comment!

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