How to ski steep terrain? A common question asked by beginners when they are about to try their first steep slope. When you ask the same question from a pro skier, their answer will be different. For them, skiing on a steeper slope elicits thrills. However, beginners indicate it with fear. For many, just peering down is scary. However, with the right techniques and practice, one can approach steep slopes confidently and ski on them successfully. This article is a beginners’ guide on how to ski steep terrain to help beginners learn all the basics about skiing on a steep slope.
How to Ski Steep Terrain
Freeskiing entails the possibility of encountering different types of snow and surface. Sometimes you will be facing vertigo slopes, with an impressive slope that, in principle, seems impossible to ski. Let’s first discuss the types of slopes:
- The deep slopes: Of course, they are scarier than any ski slope, but they are not dangerous.
- The Steeper terrains: These are much more dangerous than the previous ones, where a mistake can have fatal consequences. These terrains are what give rise to what we normally know as “extreme skiing.”
Skiing on a Deep Slope
To ski on a deep slope, a skier should be able to make short impulse turns. Short impulse turns are small radius turns with strong retention. You need to practice these turns before you hit such a slope. The first thing is to look for a slope that allows you to simulate the sensations, and it is practically possible for you to ski on it. For example, look for a slope with a 35º gradient, if possible with soft snow. As for the length of the terrain, it should not be too long. A 20 meters terrain will be more than enough for you to try for the first time.
Below are some techniques that can help you ski on your first deep slopes successfully:
- To make a turn of a deep slope, you need to move your thigh inward and edge with your skis.
- Apply load on your heels and adjust the heel lift to match the slope. You must feel the pressure build-up under your heels. This is the most important part of the trick that enables you to balance on a deep slope. It allows you to create the necessary base to make a small jump and land a little further down the slope or in another direction.
- Skiing on a deep slope requires you to land softly whenever you make a jump, making your skis slide until you repeat the exercise.
Skiing on a Steeper Slope
The most important tip when skiing on a steeper terrain is to apply an even load across the sole of your foot and adjust the heel lift to match the slope. The step length depends on the terrain. On a flat section or with a little incline, you usually walk faster and more fluidly, almost like in cross-country skiing. If the slope becomes steeper, shorter steps are taken.
Use the Heel Lift for Steeper Slopes
If the slope is steeper than 25%, use the heel lift, which helps optimize the skis’ position and less fatigue the legs. Ideally, you should always stay with the weight in the center of the skis, which means that you put the weight on the entire foot sole and not just on the tips.
If the terrain is steep, especially if you are a beginner, you tend to instinctively lean forward, but this is a mistake because this shifts the entire body’s weight towards the ski’s tip and slides backward. Therefore, always ensure that the entire sole is loaded evenly and that the heel lift is adjusted according to the slope’s inclination.
Inversions Work on Steep Terrains
A very important technique when skiing on steeper slopes is mastering the right inversion. It is best to train it first on flat ground. As long as the terrain is relatively flat, you can proceed in a straight line. If the slope increases, it can be compensated for with curves and serpentines: that is, you move perpendicular to the slope, making curves go up and change direction.
When the slope is steeper, the radius of the curve becomes noticeably narrower and the stride length shorter. The skis are raised slightly with each step. Yes, you can lift the ski now and turn in the direction of the turn before even starting it. About five steps are required for a 180 ° turn.
In theory, you should stay perpendicular to the slope and help yourself as much as possible with sticks. However, if the slope is greater than 35°, it will not be possible to continue in this way. In such a case, it is essential to use the “kicked” inversions, which work like this: You proceed to the end of the track or to the point where you want to change direction. The flatter the track, the easier it is to turn around.
To start, you shift your weight onto the downstream ski, lift the upstream ski and turn the tip in the new direction. You are now with your face up, your legs open, and you have to bring the second ski in the new direction as well. Then put your weight on the already turned ski and lift the other ski. The ski can be turned much more easily in the new direction by swinging the toe down and kicking with the heel. Plus, you don’t get stuck in fresh snow.
All you need is to practice learning to change direction uphill repeatedly, preferably on flat ground at first. Practicing on a flat track enables you to master the direction technique and gives you more confidence in your movements. You will notice how easy it is to change direction uphill and how safe you can stand on skis, even on steep terrain.
How to Use Ski Poles Correctly on a Steeper Terrain?
You use ski poles alternately with the steps during the ascent, i.e., right ski with left pole and left ski with the right pole. The poles help you to stay balanced. On steep terrain, you can unload some weight on the poles that help you move forward. If you are crossing a slope or the terrain is steeper on one side, shortening the pole downstream allows you to stay straight. Do not bend your hips and shoulders while doing this. For both ski touring and freeride, an important tip regarding ski poles is never to put your wrists in the poles’ laces. Poles can make falls worse and act as an anchor in a fall. If you tie your wrists with the laces, you won’t be able to get rid of your poles in case of an emergency.
Which Ski to Choose for the Steep Slope?
To ski on a steep slope also requires having complete confidence in the skis under your feet. Long reserved for “extreme skiers,” the steep slope has opened up to many beginners. While it is always necessary to have an excellent technical level to ski in passages at more than 45 °, the equipment has evolved and makes the descent less difficult. There is no longer any question of making skipped turns on boards of 2 meters, but to descend with suitable skis, close to touring skis, and better control the parameters.
Some of the features of the best skis to take on your descents are:
A hard ski, not very flexible, will have better grip in all types of snow, an essential aspect for steep slopes. A rigid ski will deform little despite the curvature of the slope. It will not budge, giving confidence to the one who handles it, especially in hard snow conditions.
Design and Shape of the Ski
The classic camber is preferred: it is the one that will offer maximum contact with the snow because the entire surface of the board almost touches the snow. This question of contact with the snow also leads to eliminating skis with a significant rocker, which deliberately prevents part of the front of the ski from touching the snow. The ski as a whole must be a little cut; that is, that the difference between the width under the tip, the skate and the heel must be minimal for a uniform grip of the edge. Consequently, the radius will be long, greater than 20 m.
Length of the Ski
No one is ever favoring a small ski to take on a steeper slope. However, its usefulness is recognized to promote maneuverability in narrow passages. The steep slope ski should not be too small to keep stability. It should be chosen as a ski touring, which is most of the time according to the formula size of the skier – 5 cm.
This component depends on your style of steep slope skiing. If you have to do short climbs and engage strongly on the descent, it is better to choose a heavy ski (more than 3 kg), not made of carbon, which will vibrate little and be more stable when landing the turn. In contrast, many pro skiers have been seen skiing a summit at 6,900m near Everest, with a pair of skis weighing only 1.3 kg. Light skiing has the advantage of requiring less force in the thighs on the way down. Let’s leave it to each skier what they want to take with them in the steep.
Some of the best skis you can find to ski on steeper slopes include Summit Easy Rider 31 ” Ski Ski with Atomic LR6 Release Bindings, Sporten Stringer Fun Carver 39 ” Ski Blades and
Among the best poles you can find online, which are rigid and strong to help you slide on steeper slopes, are Salomon x North, 110, Negro, Retrospec Solstice Ski Poles for Men and Women, WINGET XA-50 Carbon Fiber Alpine Mountain Ski Poles and WSD 7075 Adult Adjustable Telescopic Ski Poles 45.3 ”.
Some Important Tips for Steeper Slopes
Before entering a steep hill, every second retains a taste of exercise in style that should not be missed. Without belonging to the field of extreme skiing (passages at more than 55 ° or average slope exceeding 50 ° on an imposing drop), steep slope skiing (passages at 45 ° or slope exceeding 40 ° on average on a large descent) requires certain faculties. Falling on a slope inclined at 40 ° or more can have dramatic consequences. At best, you can get by with a few scratches; it can be fatal at worst. In fresh snow, the danger of falls is more likely, but the slope alone cannot lead to giving up. Experience often makes it possible to enjoy perfect powder conditions in lanes at 45°.
You must first evaluate the terrain to be covered. It is necessary to interpret the different rating scales, their homogeneity not being guaranteed from one collection to another. It is advisable to gradually familiarize yourself with more inclined slopes so that the descent does not turn into a disappointment. You must also consider the exposure and do not exercise over rocky bars or in narrow corridors. Conditions are of paramount importance. A passage in hard snow at 40° is more difficult than another in powder at 45°. Today, many sites allow you to glean information on the routes traveled recently. However, these assessments are subjective, and a person used to the steep slope will not assess things in the same way as a beginner.
For the beginner, it is wise to avoid the heart of winter. Spring generally offers the easiest conditions to judge. The schedule will be calculated according to the orientation of the slopes and the temperatures at the time. You should also not neglect physical preparation. You have to have enough reserves so as not to end up on a 45° slope with your legs wobbly after the third turn! Unlike extreme skiing, where it seems necessary to go up the route you plan to ski to judge the conditions, on a steep slope, you often prefer to follow another access to the climb for questions of comfort.
Our Final Thoughts
We hope the information above has answered the question, how to ski steep terrain? With practice and the right tips and techniques, you can slide on the snow on steeper slopes successfully. Do not forget to share this with your friends, and let us know how this information worked for you!