Jimmy's Ski Tips and Tricks

Punch Your Way Down The Slope

Thursday March 22, 2018

I took some time to free ski this weekend, before an annual ski instructor party. It was a wonderful day of hard charging down some wonderfully steep and gnarly slopes, in very questionable heavy snow conditions. Exactly the sort of skiing that would have most people running for the lodge and a nice cup of hot cocoa. But then again, I've never been accused of sanity.

So when faced with a slope like this, it's absolutely critical that you keep your body facing down the hill. You're going to want to turn quickly, and not spend any time with your skis facing directly down the fall line. To turn quickly, you need to turn the legs under the body, rather than rotating the entire body with each turn. Remember, roughly 35% of your body mass is in the legs and feet, so turning the entire body takes about three times as much energy and just turning the legs!

So you know to keep your body facing down the hill, and you know to use your poles to make blocking pole plants, but you have a problem. As soon as you start the turn, you quickly pass the pole basket in the snow, which draws your arm back, and causing you to rotate the upper body across the hill. What to do? The answer, as you might have guessed from the title, is to punch!

Next time you're on steep gnarly terrain, make a pole plant as usual. As soon as the pole enters the snow, immediately punch that fist downhill, in the direction of travel. The pole basket remains on the snow, and the pole itself now angles against the surface. This punch will draw the upper body forward and down the hill, helping keep your balance forward, while also preventing excessive rotation of the upper body.

To the right is a photo I took this weekend of Adrenaline, a ski run at Alpental, and one of the steepest marked inbounds ski runs in North America. (Yes, there are many steeper places to ski, but not many marked on trail maps as runs) It's a wonderfully fun run, but you've absolutely got to keep your upper body still to make those turns, especially this late in the season as rocks start poking through in places. Do you think you're up to the challenge? Punch it and find out!

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