What follows are parts of the first book
on Freestyle Skiing I wrote and self published in 1972 (cover--first picture)
following my first season as a national Freestyle skiing competitor.† I revised it in 1976óbut the
by Matt Broze† ††††
© 1972 & 1978
††††††††††† What is freestyle skiing? Doing tricks, jumping off bumps, and skiing the moguls are part of it. So is showing off. You canít define freestyle skiing exactly; itís an attitude, an outlook, or maybe even a philosophy that shows itself in how a person skis.
††††††††††† In the past few years freestyle skiing has boomed in popularity. This doesnít surprise me; freestyle skiing is exciting for the performer, spectacular for the onlooker, and is the fastest road to better skiing for the skier who wants to improve. It is also the perfect way to break the monotony of doing the same old things on the slopes. Freestyle skiing is fun and you never run out of different things to do.
††††††††††† Freestyle skiing would undoubtedly be more wide-spread today if many skiers didnít think that only the most advanced skiers are capable of it. This just isnít true; certain tricks are easy enough for novices, and many more can be performed by intermediates. In fact, as soon as an intermediate skier has learned a couple of tricks in this book, heíll have advanced beyond the intermediate stage. Any skier who learns tricks will notice a similar improvement in his overall skiing. For example, practicing skiing on the uphill ski on a gentle hill for a few hours will help a skier whoís been struggling to get down the moguls; heíll be able to ski them easier and faster. Try it yourself.
††††††††††† This book begins with simple tricks. Basic techniques are built upon, one step at a time, until you are doing tricks you never thought youíd be able to do.
††††††††††† The quickest way to improve is to experiment with tricks and push yourself to go faster. A good teacher can help by encouraging you and supplying new techniques to experiment with, but donít let yourself be pushed into a particular style of skiing. If one skier uses rotation to start a turn and another uses counter-rotation, you should practice both methods and then try to turn without using either. Experiment! Then if a situation calls for a quick turn and youíre in an awkward and unbalanced position that makes one kind of turn impossible, you can use another. Donít limit yourself to anybodyís idea of perfection.
††††††††††† A beginning skier falls all the time, but soon he learns how to make the simplest turn without landing in the snow. He finds out he can move along without taking a spill and decides that a snowplow in the hand is worth two stem turns in the bush, because if he tried stem turns he would risk falling. He doesnít want to fall and is therefore tempted to use only those maneuvers he knows he can do without falling. Unless his desire to be a better skier is stronger than his fear of falling, he stagnates. This goes for everybody: if youíre not willing to risk a fall, youíll improve only at a snails pace. Skiers who wonít try something new because they are afraid to fall arenít decreasing the number of falls theyíll eventually have to take; theyíre only delaying their progress. Every time you chicken out, you lose a chance to advance.
††††††††††† But donít be discouraged; this book will help you fall more. Even when your ability to recover your balance approaches the remarkable, you can still coax a few more falls from your reluctant body by telling yourself that the fall is part of a new trick you are going to try.
††††††††††† Freestyle Skiing was first written and published in the fall of 1972. This is the first major revision of that book. This edition has been greatly expanded to include many new tricks and refinements developed since 1972, a discussion of the new and much safer methods for learning inverted aerials, plus hints for competitors from a judgeís point of view.
††††††††††† There is also a greatly expanded section on high speed mogul skiing describing a technique that abandons many long-cherished rules, rules which could be holding you back from skiing the moguls like the fastest hotdoggers.
BALLET SKIING AND ASSORTED TRICKS
(72 pages in 1978 editionóNot included here)
JUMPING AND AERIAL ACROBATICS
(32 pages in 1978 editionóNot included here)
HOT DOG SKIING AND SPECIAL SNOW CONDITIONS [including Mogul Skiing]
††††††††††† Mental attitude is the most important factor in learning to ski well. The best attitude is: ďI can do it, Iím going to try it, I wonít give up, and I wonít even think about falling down.Ē Skiing with this attitude is necessary not only to learn quickly, but also when youíre in difficult situations and might be tempted to hold back. For example, when I find myself in ďunskiable conditionsĒ, such as heavy crust that breaks in big slabs, I usually begin timidly by trying to ride on top of the crust. The crust breaks at unpredictable times, throws me off balance and traps my skis. Then I remember my own advice and move twice as fast. I jump up and come down hard so I break through the crust at each turn. The footing is more predictable here and I can break through by being aggressive.
††††††††††† Once you feel comfortable skiing down the packed runs, seek out the unpacked areas which most skiers avoid. Practicing these slopes will teach you more about balance and stable positions than all the skiing youíve done on the smooth, packed slopes.
††††††††††† Deliberately skiing out of control is the quickest way to improve. Many of todayís best skiers canít accurately tell you what they do because they never had to think about it. They react in ways their body has learned by having been in the situation before. They donít need to know what they do because whatever worked best before theyíll naturally (subconsciously) use again. Suggesting that you ski out of control may be heresy; but if you keep pushing yourself to go faster than you think your limits are, youíll learn to handle the speed even if you donít know how you do it.
Safety Precautions [somewhat dated]
††††††††††† ďBut I m-m-m-might hurt m-m-myself,Ē you say. True, you might: but until you can ski with the real daredevils, your chances of being hurt are greatest when you are overcautious, uptight, stiff, and a beginner. Slow twisting falls break the most legs. The quick shock of a fast fall almost always releases your binding before your leg has been twisted too much. Skiers who can handle most terrain with relative ease have the fewest injuries. Take precautions in advance and you can be relatively secure even though youíre skiing out of control. Here follow some ways to minimize the dangers.
††††††††††† Be in good physical shape. Make your
equipment as safe as possible. Bindings should release evenly to both sides
(you can get this checked at most ski shops). You shouldnít have a runaway
strap that attaches at only one point; the ski can windmill with this kind of
††††††††††† Before going all out down a run, ski it easy at least once. This will give you a chance to discover conditions and obstacles such as stumps, rocks, holes, etc., that might catch you by surprise at high speed. Donít ski fast near trees. Donít jump or ski fast over or around anything that blocks your vision. Ski so there is no possible way to hit another person. If ski areas get many complaints about fast skiers, they will stop all fast skiing whether it endangers other skiers or not. Some areas have started to use radar. Itís safer for everyone concerned if you wait until a run is well cleared out before letting it all hang out.
††††††††††† Sometimes the slopes are crowded, and it is boring to hold back. This is a good time to practice skiing in crud, where your obstacle is the snow and not people. When youíre tired of that you can always find a gentle hill and work on your tricks.
††††††††††† The main difficulty of steep slopes is psychological. The fear of the steepness or ďwhat might happenĒ causes most skiers to look for gentler slopes. Even those who work up the courage to try a steep slope usually do it so cautiously that they hold back, and this causes them to fall against the hill on their backs. Most skiers notice that a fall forward downhill would be much longer than a fall backwards against the hill and thus favor leaning into the hill all the time. When their skis turn into the fall line, most skiers keep leaning into the hill; as a result, their skis shoot out from under them and they fall over backwards.
††††††††††† To turn on a very steep slope, you should plant your pole as far downhill as possible and lunge headfirst downhill with your weight on the pole. Only then do your skis come around and catch you on the new traverse. If while practicing you fall backwards or against the hill, youíll have to plant your pole even further downhill and exaggerate the lunge. Donít worry about bringing your skis around; if first you lunge downhill, youíll naturally bring your skis back under you. [2010 Note: these days, with high backed boots, Iíd ignore this paragraph and go with the alternate windshield wiper technique below.]
††††††††††† Another way to turn on a steep slope is called the windshield wiper turn. From a traverse you sit back and then pivot your skis around on the tails (your feet in the air) until you are on the opposite traverse. The idea behind both these techniques is to insure making it to the next traverse without picking up too much speed in the fall line.
Skiing on Ice
††††††††††† First, sharpen your edges. Second, donít edge your skis as steeply as usual or they will chatter and bounce.
††††††††††† Skiing on ice is like driving on ice. Both require a delicate touch and its easy to spin out by over controlling. Skiing on ice calls for easy and subtle motions to prevent spinouts. Snow with patches of ice will hardly slow your down because you can generally ride out the ice and check or turn in the softer snow. If the entire hill is glare ice, you can still have a lot of fun. If you learned 360ís, you can do one every time you turn too much and spin out. A 360 will transform an awkward spinout into a graceful trick.
††††††††††† Itís almost impossible to catch your tails while skiing backwards on glare ice, which means that you can go backwards at a good clip without much danger. Surprising as it seems, youíre not as likely to spin out on ice if you ski backwards, and this means you can probably go as fast backwards as forward.
Once I was night skiing when the whole ski area was glare ice. I was having trouble keeping my tips pointed downhill and was making a lot of forced 360ís; but as soon as I began skiing the entire hill backwards, I had no more trouble with spinning out. Although everyone else was bitching about conditions, I had the time of my life. My conservative estimate is that I was moving at least twenty-five miles per hour at times. 360ís and skiing backwards are easiest to do on ice, so donít complain, just give it a try.
Crust and Crud
Crust and crud are the most difficult snow conditions you can run into, because itís hard to anticipate whatís going to happen. In moguls you have a good idea of what will happen to you and can compensate in advance. In crust and crud you can still do this a little, but there are many surprises you can react to only after they happen.
One problem with crust is that since your skis canít slide sideways, you canít use edge control for balance. You must lift your skis completely off the snow to turn, and you must land in a balanced position because you canít sideslip. All this leaves little room for error. If the crust is weak and has more than a few inches of soft snow under it, it is slightly easier to ski on because you always break through and can sideslip a bit. You may be able to ski it as you would average deep snow. If the crust is strong, you have to jump on it hard to break through. Conditions in which the crust sometimes breaks and sometimes doesnít provide the supreme test of your ability to recover.
By crud I mean fresh snow that has been partially cut up by skiers, or old snow that has hardened into icy ruts. When you cross a ski track in fresh snow, your skis accelerate and tend to shoot out from under you. When your skis hit uncut snow again, they decelerate and trip you forward. You must learn to anticipate these effects. Once youíve learned what to watch out for, skiing in cut up new snow is no more difficult than skiing in moguls. In all cruddy conditions you must edge only where it is safe and hit the worst conditions head on. You wonít want to sideslip parallel to icy ruts, but they are easy to get across at a forty-five to ninety degree angle. The same goes for any place that could grab your skis or suddenly catch your edges. Other problems in crud are crossing your tips or having them pulled apart.† To avoid crossing your tips, hold your feet at least 8 inches apart, keep your ankles tensed to hold your skis parallel, and use both skis equally or your uphill ski slightly more. If you start to do the splits, you should throw all your weight onto one ski and lift the other back to parallel. Many times when your skis are being controlled by the snow instead of by you, you can retreat into the air, touching the snow only long enough to jump again.
Skiing on light powder snow with a good base is similar to skiing on soft packed snow. The powder simply moves out of the way to form a beautiful plume behind you. Thereís nothing tricky about it, so if you live where this condition is common, consider yourself lucky.
Iíve heard much talk about bottomless powder and have searched longingly for it everywhere Iíve been. Iím beginning to regard it in much the same way I do the abominable snowman. I want it to exist but Iím becoming skeptical.
Average New Snow
††††††††††† This kind of snow, called powder in some areas, is light enough to ski in easily, but heavy enough to trap a ski and make you do an involuntary Royal Christy, and then a headfirst imitation of a submarine. The normal way to turn is to sit back to lift your tips out of the snow and then twist your skis over to the new direction. You now come upright, and your skis sink back into the snow to complete the turn. Your turns should compose an even rhythm.
††††††††††† Another technique for skiing new snow, called dipsy doodle, isnít much used today. Dipsy doodles are done in the fall line by shifting your weight from one inside edge to the other with quick little jumps. As the edged ski sinks into the snow, the other ski rides up and you shift your weight to it. Your skis should be slightly toed in.
††††††††††† Once when I was trying dipsy doodles, I accidentally stumbled onto another way of
skiing new snow. You weight your outside edge of one ski while the other ski
rises up. It is sort of like skating. The motion is quick like a
Heavy Wet Snow
††††††††††† Skiing in heavy wet snow is like skiing in molasses. It can be done, but it is a struggle. The technique used for crust skiing, where you jump completely out of the snow to turn and land without sideslipping seams to work. If the snow is deep, you might be able to sit back and jet your skis forward to get them out of the snow where trying to jump might only sink your skis further in.
††††††††††† Skiing fast in the moguls requires the ability to anticipate and recover. The best way to learn is to do it, but if you want specific directions, hereís how I do it.
††††††††††† First I keep a level head, which means, among other things that my head moves in a plane parallel to the slope. I do this by bending my legs when I come to a mogul and straightening them in the hollow, sometimes almost scraping the top of the mogul with my butt. I edge to check my speed or to turn but only on the soft front or sides of a mogul. The steep downhill side (back) of a mogul has usually turned to ice because most skiers try to edge there and thus pack or scrape off the softer snow. Besides being level, the front of the mogul usually collects all the scrapings from the back of the one above it, which means the front is a good, solid place to make a hard, quick edge set. The sides of a mogul also provide a generally non-icy platform to turn on. Because I only edge on the fronts and sides, I sit back in anticipation that the bumps and hard edge sets will trip me forward. If I tried to edge on the downhill side of a mogul while sitting back, I would fall over backwards or against the hill as my feet slid out from under me. When I edge hard on the flat front of a mogul, I shove my feet forward as if to slice the snow; by hitting and slicing the snow. I donít sideslip. The slicing movement starts me sitting back and down. The skis shoot straight ahead across the top of the mogul, and as my feet clear the lip I drop the tips into the hollow while I twist my skis in the new direction. I stretch out to prepare for the shock of edging again on the front or side of the next mogul. Avoid sideslipping in the moguls. Edge sets should be quick, hard, and solid.
††††††††††† If I come to a bad spot (a heavy pile of snow, sharp rut, or anything else that could catch and hold my skis too long), sometimes I try to hit it squarely, shoving my skis forward to meet it. Other times I jump over it by jumping off one mogul onto the back of the next. If I get off balance for too long and get going too fast to slow down, everywhere becomes a bad spot. I can usually hang on by going straight ahead until I find a safe place to check, but occasionally I havenít been able to find one until the bottom of the hill.
††††††††††† I donít worry about where to plant my poles; I just plant them quickly and often, using them to hold myself up. However, this means that most of the time I plant my pole to serve as a pivot for the turn.
††††††††††† I hope my description of how I ski the moguls has given you a few pointers, but trying to imitate me exactly will only hold you back. Go out and find a mogul field with a gentle outrun and storm down those moguls from progressively higher and higher starting points. The gentle outrun should ease your fears about what might happen if you get out of control.
††††††††††† Skiing the moguls is like karate. You spend most of the time guarding yourself from your opponentís attacks (you retract your legs to avoid the worst bumps), but when you get an opening you strike out hard and fast (you straighten out to set your edges, you stab with your poles), and then you retreat just as quickly.
††††††††††† Under difficult skiing conditions, the ability to recover is what separates the hot doggers from the experts. A hot dog skier bombing down the moguls is in balance only briefly; usually he is trying to regain his balance. When he begins to fall, he doesnít give up and let it happen; he fights and uses everything he can to recover his precarious balance. Falling backwards, he might use a pole to hold himself up for another split second so he can get a ski around to edge in the snow and jerk himself upright. Falling sideways, he might spring up, giving himself a chance to bring his feet back under him. If in spite of his effort he falls anyway, heíll try to get his skis below him while still moving so he can edge them and use his momentum to pop back up to his feet. A hot dogger is always falling, but he is like a cat: he twists, stretches, bends, crouches, and does whatever else it takes to land on his feet.
††††††††††† The limits of how fast you can ski through the moguls are determined by your strength and reaction time. Donít worry about what you should do in a certain situation; just do something and do it fast, and before you finish that, do something else. If you do enough things fast enough, youíll usually have done enough of the right things to keep you on your feet. The next time the same situation crops up, your body will remember the right things to do. Donít think; move! Assume that youíll do the right thing, and donít worry about what the right thing might be. Thinking about what to do next is almost as bad as thinking: ďWhat if I fall?Ē Both are distractions and break your concentration. You should be looking out for whatís ahead rather than watching what you are doing now or planning what to do next.
You have probably heard that a skier should flow with the mountain and not fight it. In the moguls you should fight the mountain the way a champion fights and opponent. Flow over the strengths (such as the icy backs of moguls) but strike aggressively when you see an opening (such as a solid platform to set your edges on). ďFloat like a butterfly and sting like a bee.Ē
Moguls II: The Way of Mogul Bombing
TECHNIQUES BEYOND TEACHING
††††††††††† Imagine for a moment youíre an expert skier able to parallel with your feet together and wedel down through moguls. Youíre an instructor and are known for your perfect skiing style. Right now youíre picking you way down some pretty mean moguls, remembering to always keep your weight forward. You are exhilarated by the speed.
††††††††††† Suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, a skier explodes off a mogul and goes past you travelling at least twice as fast as yourself. He is apparently completely out of control. His skis have gotten away from him; they are far in front of his body. His skis are sometimes three feet apart and seldom on the snow at the same time. He appears to be literally falling down the mountain. Itís obvious those first aid classes you took are about to get a test.
††††††††††† Youíve come to a stop and watch, fascinated by the prospect of a fall like youíve never seen before. As the seconds tick by, you marvel at how long this yo-yo is managing to delay it. Then the run flattens out and the lucky devil breaks into fluid snake-like carved turns with his feet locked together. At that moment the thought enters your mind that the mogul run you just witnessed might have been intentional. Later you discover that this turkey skis like that almost every run and you have yet to see him fall.
††††††††††† The following will attempt to explain how the mogul bomber does it and why it works. He may have never taken lessons or at best not more than a few when he was a beginner a good number of years ago. If asked how he does it, he would probably say that he just gets going faster and faster and then is so afraid of falling down he does everything he can to stay on his feet. He might be able to describe some of the things he does, such as keeping his body low and back with his skis a foot or so apart, but he will admit he doesnít think about these things as he is skiing.
††††††††††† Alternately he may have had many years of lessons and been an instructor for several seasons. He might tell you he skis the American technique and give you a description of it that is right out of the book. But you were watching him and could see that what he was doing had little in common with what he thinks he does.
††††††††††† The point I want to make is that there is no school for mogul bombing. As in anything else, the best taught themselves (at least since they surpassed their teachers). Another point I want to make is that you donít have to consciously know what you are doing in order to do it. Reading the technical description which follows probably wonít help much in your learning to be a mogul bomber except that it might release you from some ĒrulesĒ that get in the way of learning. Consider this an argument to get you to abandon planning what to do and let your body take over and find its own technique. Donít tell you body what to do, just push it to go faster. Forget the rules you ďknow.Ē They will only limit you.
††††††††††† All ski techniques have limits. These are determined by the terrain and the range of speed in which they can be successfully used. For example, in the anecdote above, the mogul bomber could put his feet together and make quick carved turns at high speed on the smooth slope at the bottom of the moguls. His technique for the flats would have been beyond its limits in the moguls. The pitfalls and traps our mogul bomber had to deal with at high speed dictated his technique. Any skier going that fast down the moguls would probably have a similar technique, just as most successful slalom racers have a technique much like that of other top slalom racers. Since the task of skiing down the moguls is different from that of skiing through slalom gates, the most successful technique is not the same for both. Our expert observing the mogul bomber was near the limits of his slalom technique when he was passed.
††††††††††† When mogul bombing, anticipating how the terrain ahead will affect you is the major activity of the mind. It is full, yet empty of conscious thought. No rules, no worries, there isnít time. You are fully in touch with your body, completely involved in the task. There are no doubts or second thoughts. You are centered and all around you is chaos trying to unbalance you.
††††††††††† Anticipating the terrain, the mogul bomber begins to compensate in advance, adjusting his body so that the effects of the terrain will be to move him into a more balanced position. He also takes up the slack in his muscles and joints so his brain is in closer contact with his skis. This speeds up his reaction time in preparing to recover from his miscalculations in, or lack of time for, compensating for the terrain.
DISCOVERING WHERE YOU WANT TO BE BY LEARNING WHERE YOU DONíT WANT TO BE
††††††††††† The techniques I will discuss are not intended to make obsolete or replace any that you now use. Donít believe anybody who tells you your technique is wrong. There are no rights and wrongs in technique. There is only that which you have learned works for you. More experience will increase the number of techniques you have available to use and will make you a more versatile skier. Right and wrong are only applicable if your goal is to imitate a technique that has been discovered and defined. The following is only an analysis of some of the techniques you will probably learn to use if you ski moguls at speeds few experts can handle.
††††††††††† Iíll start with positions the mogul bomber tries to avoid. These are all positions from which it is difficult to recover. They lead to falls because they limit your maneuverability and leave you vulnerable to the further effects of the terrain. After each position Iíll list the ways I know to recover if things havenít already gone too far.
††††††††††† This position is vulnerable because it limits the number of skis you can use for balancing to one. This is not a very solid stance, and any terrain that would normally deflect you skis closer together will discover that they are already as together as they can get and the force will serve to trip you. A recovery can usually be made by quickly lifting up the top (almost always the uphill) ski. If you skis are crossed and youíre off balance tilting downhill, your lower ski will catch an outside edge and you might be able to ski across the front of it and go into a Royal Christy to recover. (See jump-over in the ballet section.) If you succeed it will only be because the terrain gave you a break and allowed enough time. This recovery usually fails because you are tripped forward and also must be forward to get into the Royal Christy position. Anything which then slows the ski your weight is on will trip you onto your face, assuming youíre not there already from catching the outside edge of that bottom ski. The most likely result of skiing across the bottom ski, however, is the release of its binding. The above discussion also pointed out why you want to avoid our next problem position.
Too far Forward
††††††††††† Anytime you are in danger of having your skis braked beyond your ability to correspondingly slow your upper body, you are too far forward. You brake your upper body with pole plants or, if youíre far enough back, you can use your edges and resistance to the compression of your legs. If you are too far forward, there is no way to use the combination of forward momentum and ski edging to bring you back into balance. If you are tipping over backward or to either side, an easy recovery can be made by edging either ski or both to bring them back under you.
††††††††††† Think about this; it is important. Once your center of gravity is ahead of your feet, you can no longer use you edges to return to balance. At this point you can do two things; use pole plants to brake your upper body before the terrainís friction sweeps your feet out from under you, or a much less effective method of regaining equilibrium---windmilling your arms in as near an approximation of a hummingbird as you can manage. Donít laugh! If you are in the air too far forward and your poles canít reach the ground in front of you, this is all you have left so do your best.
Over-Rotated and Facing Uphill
††††††††††† Another difficult position to change is this one, the spinout so familiar to beginning mogul skiers. This situation generally results from any of four causes: (1) your weight is mostly on the front of the skis while they are edging and skidding. This brakes the tips more than the tails, turning you into a spinout; (2) catching a tip or tips on terrain or softer snow while side slipping; (3) holding a pole plant too long, or having it stick in the snow and not come free as easily as you expected, which twists your body into the hill; and (4) missing a pole plant needed to brake the downhill side of your body and face you downhill again.
††††††††††† Being over-rotated and facing uphill is a difficult position to get out of, but if you donít you will soon be sliding backwards down the hill. If youíve slowed down enough and the terrain isnít bad a quick 360 might keep you on your feet. If you are going really fast and get turned around, I only hope you have bindings that release upwards at the toe. (a few seasons ago this very tails-into-mogul fall turned me from a competitor into a judge with bone bruises. It also made me a firm believer in toe pieces capable of releasing upward.)† To get out of a spinout you must either use your poles to twist your upper body back where you want it or get at least one of your skis straight in the direction of motion and on the opposite edge. Essentially, you must be able to make a turn.
††††††††††† I have saved myself by planting my pole on the opposite side of my skis and even between my skis. (You have to do this quickly or you will run into your pole.) At other times I can rotate my upper body further uphill so as to torque my skis (counter-rotation) enough to enable me to change edges on at least the downhill ski. From there I can skate off on the opposite traverse and use my over-rotation to counter-rotate the next turn back to the original traverse. Sometimes shifting my weight to the tails so they are being braked more than the tips will turn the skis back in the direction Iím going.
††††††††††† Remember, this is not advice, only an analysis based on my experience. When you get in this position, the last thing you want to do is waste time trying to remember what you once read in a book. My advice is just scramble and fight to stay on your feet. If you give up and fall you will never learn. And if you try to think or remember, your chance to learn will have passed.
††††††††††† Other less common positions that end in falls include being beyond easy recovery either to the side or too far back. I would define too far back as being when your feet are higher than your hips and your ski tails arenít touching the snow. Too far to the side means almost laying on the snow. Even if youíre laid out on your back or side, recovery is usually easy as long as your skis are below you. You simply edge them and pop back to your feet.
††††††††††† The predicament that causes me to fall most frequently is called ďtry and stop with only one ski on,Ē also referred to as the ďpre-release black and blues.Ē Those who use safety straps rather than ski brakes with a variation called ďsee if you can stop before you ski trips you and beats you to death.Ē
WHERE I WANT TO BE
††††††††† My basic ďreadyĒ position for mogul bombing is (a) weight mostly on the ski tails; (b) body held low in an upright position as though in a chair (high-backed boots or jet-sticks are necessary); (c) skis apart a foot or so with the tips slightly further apart than the tails (reverse of snow plow) and legs slightly bowed; (d) hands held in front of the body and shoulder to head high, two or three feet apart with a firm grip on the poles.
††††††††††† By now the technical experts should be sneering in disgust if not tearing their hair out in frustration because they canít tell you or the other readers how full of baloney I am. Please bear with me and Iíll defend my heresy.
††††††††††† A person could run down a flight of stairs with his body held either vertically or perpendicular to the slope (with weight forward on toes). Both methods would work equally well until he came to the next landing. At that point the vertical position would allow him to absorb his momentum by flexing his legs, while the forward position would cause him to be tripped on his face.
††††††††††† You might argue that the forward runner might make it if he were wearing skis. He might, because the length and flex of the skis would make the transition less abrupt.
††††††††††† The difference is that, unlike the forward leaner, the vertical runner does not have to slow down his upper body or speed up his feet to get in position to absorb the shock of landing. When skiing at high speed there is only a limited time for altering the body position in anticipation of the terrain. The technique which requires the least body motion will have an advantage.
††††††††††† The vertical sitting back position has additional benefits. It puts more weight on my heels and ski tails which makes it easier to lever up the ski tips in order to decrease the angle at which they glance off a bad mogul. This in turn reduces the amount of shock I must absorb, which could mean the difference between making it or being flung high into the air with who knows what kind of rotation.
††††††††††† Also, at high speed my skis are bounced around and deflected by the terrain. With more weight on the tails than on the tips, a weather vane effect keeps the skis pointed in the direction I am going and helps prevent them from crossing or catching a tip. This weather vane action works even if only the ends of the ski tails are in contact with the snow. When flying low I use the tail dragging to insure that my skis are headed the same direction I am when my weight slams back down on them.
††††††††††† From the sitting back position it is an easy matter to get further forward if need be. For example, if I want to jump off a mogul (where it is best to be vertical in the air) I can lever myself forward with my high-backed boots. I can also get into position by braking my skis slightly, either by edging or by letting the tips ram into the mogul, which moves my upper body forward.
††††††††††† Basically a mogul bomber stays low to the ground. This means low enough so his feet can easily reach the snow in the next hollow when stretched out, but high enough to be able to absorb the moguls.
††††††††††† One advantage of staying low is that I donít drop from so high when I run into the next bump. This means I have less vertical momentum to absorb and will glance off the mogul at a shallower angle. Another advantage is that staying low keeps my skis in contact with the snow longer, allowing greater control. Less time in the air also gives rotational moments less time to act on the body. In addition, from this low position I can stretch out to slow down any unwanted rotation.
††††††††††† Still another advantage of getting down is that it decreases the angle from my feet to ski tips to center of gravity. This makes me less vulnerable to the tripping force acting on me when the skis are slowed by ramming straight into a bump. Sitting back also puts my feet in front of my center of gravity, allowing the use of leg strength to keep my upper body from being tripped forward.
Feet Apart, Bowlegged, Reverse Snowplow
††††††††††† Keeping my feet well apart provides a wider base which makes me more stable side to side. I can push off one foot or the other to move my upper body laterally and maintain balance. If my feet are together I am dependent on my poles or edging for lateral adjustments. At high speed, edging cannot be subtle enough to be of much use for this function.
††††††††††† Skis are often deflected sideways by the terrain and edging. If one ski is deflected more than the other, the result might be crossed skis, unless my feet are far enough apart to allow for a certain amount of play. Also, I tense my ankles to minimize this play and allow me to straighten out my skis as quickly as possible. (Skis are most commonly crossed when the inside edge of the downhill ski is edged harder than the outside edge of the uphill ski and you donít get your weight off of the downhill ski quickly enough.)
††††††††††† When you reach that point where crossed skis are a problem, even when you hold them well apart, it is time to add a new technique which will overcome the limits of the old. My method, at this speed, begins to resemble a reverse snowplow. My tips are slightly farther apart than the tails and I get a little bowlegged. In this position, edging is done more with the outside edge (uphill ski) than with the inside edge (downhill ski). Even blowing off a mogul Iím in this position. I can bend deeper this way, and in a severe compression my knees wonít break my jaw.
††††††††††† Here is the real advantage though: As my body decompresses after cresting a mogul my skis will automatically be moving away from each other into a sort of spread eagle. First, this keeps my skis from crossing. Second, straightening out and spread eagling slows the action of any rotational force I may have picked up while collapsed at the crest of the mogul and gives me more time to get an edge or ski pole in the snow to tilt me back toward balance. If Iím coming down tilted to the side, I will position the ski Iím tilting toward so that I land edging the outside edge. This tilts me back the opposite way. My ski tips will be apart in a reverse snowplow and, as the edge set trips my body toward the other foot, I have the other ski already in position to land going straight ahead (actually landing slightly on the outside edge again to trip myself back to the middle).
††††††††††† By using the outside edges and reverse snowplow Iím always being flung through the upright position from one side to the other. If I were using more inside edges at this speed each edge set would tend to throw me further off balance to the outside with no way to recover. At these speeds any edge set is hard. Even though the edge is released as quickly as possible, the momentum of your upper body will leave whichever foot edges far behind. If you weighted your outside (uphill) edge, youíll be able to land on your other ski. If you used your inside (downhill) edge, as you most likely have been told (which would work fine at slower speeds), you will land on your face or side.
Hands High, Forward, and Apart
††††††††††† Ski poles are the next line of defense. They can be used to manipulate the upper body to get it back into a balanced or ready position and try to keep it there. If you donít rigidly follow any rules youíll probably evolve the most useful methods of using your poles. I think you will end up keeping your hands well apart, high and forward in a position which allows you to bring them rapidly into use where you need them and provides sufficient leverage to quickly move your upper body.
††††††††††† I mentioned before that each technique has its limits which are determined by speed and terrain. There are both upper and lower speed limits. We are more concerned with the top end, which I will define as the fastest you can go in a given terrain without your technique causing you to fall. Iíve spent the last several pages discussing body positions which I think maximize the chances of surviving at extreme speeds on rough terrain. I will now discuss the problem of staying within the speed limits of those techniques.
††††††††††† The technique with the highest speed limit is travelling straight downhill while prejumping and stepping over the worst bumps. Unfortunately, even this method has its limitations, such as how fast you can move your feet. If you donít make it to the bottom before reaching those limits it is probably going to hurt. It is also unfortunate that if you go beyond the limits of your speed control techniques your only options are going straight (and faster) or falling. When faced with this choice you are in an excellent position to learn something. Heís how: Donít just fall, go down fighting to slow down. The more you can check your speed the easier the fall will probably be, and who knows---you might not even fall.
††††††††††† The speed control technique with the highest speed limit is the long gradual turn off to the side of the mogul field. This is because it requires very little edging. Other methods that donít involve edging† include dragging the ends of your ski tails down the backsides of moguls and absorbing energy with your legs as they flex against the face of the next mogul. These techniques are not usually effective enough to slow you down but they do slow the rate at which your speed increases.
††††††††††† Edging and turning are the most common and effective methods of controlling speed. Compared with going straight, their limit is rather low. This means that to be effective they must be used only where the terrain is better. I go straight into the worst bumps and hollows always looking for a safe place to throw in an edge set. The uphill face and side of a mogul are where I usually find a non-icy, relatively flat surface which allows for a solid and predictable edge set. I avoid the backs of moguls because they are steep and often icy. The steepness makes the angle of your edges to the snow too great (the skis chatter and bounce and you risk catching the side of your boot) and icy spots make edging unpredictable. You canít anticipate and adjust your body in advance if you canít predict the effect of your edge set.
††††††††††† Sideslipping is strictly a low speed or smooth terrain technique. The hard fast edge set on the front of a mogul is the most effective method Iíve found for slowing down if the speed and the terrain allow the time. Iíll elaborate. By hard I mean I kick the edges into the snow by straightening my legs. Then I try to straighten them further. This means that the force applied to the snow is several times greater than my weight. My edges hold solid rather than sideslip. As the limits of this technique are approached, I can no longer straighten my legs after kicking the edges into the snow. Iím using all the strength of both my legs to push against the snow and absorb the momentum of my body, but it is not enough and my knees flex under the load. As I sink below a sitting position I must now jet my skis forward and release the edges or I will collapse. This is the case anytime I canít stop completely with one edge set. By jetting my skis straight forward I clear the crest of the mogul and can then turn them as I straighten my legs to repeat the process against the next mogul.
††††††††††† This all happens very quickly. The greater the speed, the less time there is to hold an edge set and the less braking power each edge set will have. At that point they are merely slowing the rate of increase in speed, and the limits of this technique have been reached. Here I go relatively straight using edge sets for balance, small changes in direction, and whatever braking I can get while looking hard for terrain with a higher speed limit so I can slow down.
††††††††††† I suggest you take some time here to review the body positions I discussed earlier in light of the need for speed control, because speed control (rather than turning) is what mogul skiing is all about.
MOGUL BOMBING EQUIPMENT AND ITS FUNCTIONS
††††††††††† The function of the ski tips in mogul bombing are mainly as shock absorbers and feelers. They are rarely used in turning and therefore do not need to be as longitudinally or torsionally stiff as slalom ski tips. Further, a torsionally stiff tip tends to hook or over-steer which makes it easier to inadvertently spin out. A longitudinally stiff tip increases the initial shock received on hitting a mogul. Ideally you are looking for a ski that decreases the initial shock and also spreads the direction change your feet must make over the longest time possible. A rigid ski would have high initial shock while a wet noodle of a ski would be like having no ski at all, the shock coming when your feet hit the mogul. What you want is a ski that will allow your feet to take the longest, smoothest curve possible at your highest speed. A ski which would be ideal for slower speeds would be too soft for a mogul bomber at his maximum (where things like this really count). A longer ski will have a longer curve and be relatively more stable, but will be more difficult to turn through todayís moguls (made by 160 to 180 cm. skis) without catching tips or tails too often. A certain amount of compromise is indicated.
[Note: (written in 2010) Iím leaving the following dated paragraph here in order to include the full text written back in 1975 (during the short ski GLM revolution) when the best skiers had been commonly using 210ís, although Iíd suggest shaped skis of 180 or less today. Shaped skis enhance these techniques and the broader tips float better over bumps and soft snow than the old short narrower skis did.]
I would suggest 190 to 200 cm. skis for almost any mogul bomber, including short ones. Those of lighter weight should use a softer ski, but will gain no advantage using a shorter one. The light, shorter skier gains stability that those heavier and taller lose in order to fit their skis through todayís moguls.
The ski tails are where most of the edging is done. This edging is hard and solid. The ski tails should be longitudinally stiff to support the skier using them as a lever to hold his weight in the low sitting back posture. They also must be torsionally stiff so as to not wash out.
With relatively softer tips and stiffer tails, skis tend to under steer. This acts to help keep them pointed forward and helps prevent spinouts. Another way of achieving this weather vane effect is to dull the edges further back from the tip than usual.† An extremely fast mogul bomber will be using stiffer tipped skis and can help prevent hooking tips by dulling the edges in this manner.
I suggest slalom side cut (narrower waisted) skis because they are quicker turning and if they are as described above (downhill flex pattern) they wonít lose much stability from the narrow waists.
††††††††††† High-backed boots are essential for
mogul bombing. If you donít have this type but those you do own are okay by the
other criteria and you have some reason for wanting to keep them, I strongly
suggest trying some type of jet stick or making high backs for your boots.
††††††††††† I prefer to be able to clamp my boot down tight (across the arch as well as at the ankles to eliminate as much slop in the system as possible. This means I generally have to unfasten them when riding up the chair to restore blood circulation in my feet. I would like my boots to be comfortable, but if it comes down to a choice between comfort and tightness, Iíll take them tight.
††††††††††† Ankles arenít strong enough laterally to hold their position during the hard edge sets required by mogul bombing. A boot that allows as little of this ankle play as possible will give you more control. In addition, I suggest a boot that doesnít allow your ankle to flex as far forward as it can normally without boots. This will help in getting yourself back when youíre too far forward.
††††††††††† Most boots have a built in forward lean, some slalom boots extremely so. This helps the slalom skier stay forward so he doesnít have to come out of his forward posture to use the tails of his skis. By simply straitening his legs he can use his built in lean and high backs to lever some pressure onto his tails. If I were a slalom racer thatís what I would have. But since Iím into mogul bombing, I find that if my boots have a lot of forward lean I canít sit back as much as need be or Iím riding the ends of my tails and my skis are very squirrelly. I prefer a boot where I can just stand up straight without having to flex my knees. Boots like this have the added advantage of being more comfortable when standing in lift lines.
††††††††††† Although some bindings are better than others, Iím still looking for the one that: (1) releases every time I need it to and (2) doesnít release when I donít fall. Iíd like to tell you which bindings I donít like and those I relatively happy with but Iíll remain silent because by the time you read this I may have changed my mind or the bindings may have been improved.
††††††††††† I would like to say that I feel the so-called safety straps are the biggest danger in mogul bombing. Unless they can keep a ski from windmilling in a fall or after a pre-release, throw them away and get a ski brake. Iíve got the scars to back up what I say.
††††††††††† I want my poles light and strong; light so I can quickly plant them where I need them and strong because I abuse them. I also abuse my wrists with vicious pole plants. ďskiers wristĒ is a hazard of mogul bombing. I donít like those grips that have a platform under the hands, they only serve to transmit even more shock to the wrists. (If I hit so hard I canít hold on then I donít want to hold on.)
††††††††††† Recently there has appeared on the market a pole with a shock absorbing grip. Since I once considered rigging a pair of my poles in this fashion, I intend to give these new poles a try.
HOW TO PRACTICE
††††††††††† My mogul technique is the result of my blundering in the darkness of higher speeds with nothing on my mind except recovering my balance. Most of my desperate experiments conceived in panic did not work. Those that did, my body naturally tried again the next time I blundered into areas where I hadnít become relatively comfortable. I didnít figure out the mechanics or read about them in advance. If I had I would probably be trying to fit myself into a technique which may not fit me or one that I may be misunderstanding. You have read my description of mogul bombing and it has been processed by your brain. So my description has been interpreted in light of your experience and what you ďknow.Ē (You could be interpreting this entirely differently than I meant it.) Remember, I stated that my goal was not to teach you how to do it but to get you to doubt what you ďknowĒ and believe about technique.
††††††††††† Your mind only interferes when it attempt to control your body with rigid rules. If you want to do something physical, just watch the experts and then do it. Try not to analyze and then verbalize your own rules to trip over---just watch, then do. Your body is a good imitator and learns only from experience. Let it alone to do its job. In mogul bombing there isnít time to check yourself out to see how you compare with the ďrules.Ē Rules are rigid and your body is dynamic. Rules are unnecessary limitations. FREE YOURSELF OF NEEDLESS RESTRAINT.
††††††††††† Fear is another restraining factor. Overcoming fear is one of the pleasures of all risk sports. If you want to learn to ski faster in the moguls, I suggest getting a bit out of control and therefore anxious. The adrenaline you produce will help you by giving you greater strength and quickness. You will also be overcoming some fears as you learn the techniques needed to handle the higher speed.
††††††††††† Usually you can push your normal technique to higher speeds than you are comfortable in. You will only be caught in a situation you canít handle occasionally. It is what you learn to do when you get into one of these predicaments that will become the basis for your new technique. This isnít to say that the old technique is abandoned or is inferior. You have only added a few tricks that enable you to handle those situations that made you hold back for fear of getting hurt.
††††††††††† Many mogul techniques have a minimum speed below which they donít work. For example, you canít jump over a bad trough if you donít have sufficient speed to carry you across it. This bottom speed limit means that many times you must be going fast enough to learn the technique you need to go that fast. This seeming paradox means you have to go faster than you feel comfortable skiing, and must get out of control so you can learn to control the greater speed.
††††††††††† Things happen fast at high speeds and it is probably only after you have mastered a new technique that you will have the time to notice what you are doing and be able to analyze what your body has learned. This is certainly the position from which Iím writing this. Iím also sure that I do many things of which Iím completely unaware that are important to my technique.
††††††††††† If someone had told me about mogul bombing techniques, I probably could have practiced many of them at more comfortable speeds. After all, many times ballet skiing moves have saved me from falling in the moguls. However, there are hazards in practicing one thing in preparation to using it in a different situation. I found this out when I practiced high speed 360ís on the ground to prepare for helicopters in the air. I learned some things that were necessary on the ground (shifting my weight to keep it over the tips for the first half and over the tails for the second) which cased me to fall backward on the landings of my first nine or ten helicopters. I gradually overcame it with practice in the air. I didnít understand until later why I had been having trouble getting far enough forward so I didnít fall on my butt upon landing.
HAZARDS OF MOGUL BOMBING
††††††††††† If you are getting into fast skiing, I urge you to study the safety precaution section of this book. When you are at a ski area use common sense and be on the lookout for dangerous situations.
††††††††††† Most skiers are safer at fast speeds in the moguls than if they were practicing jumps. Of course, as speed increases so do the chances of injury. (However, many more professional freestylers are hurt in the aerials than in moguls.)† These are not the twisting injuries normally associated with skiing but are more like those caused by blows. I recommend that first you fight to avoid falling. If you do fall forward tuck your head and roll into a tight ball, placing your arms up along side of your head. Tumble until your speed is down to where you can maneuver your skis or feet downhill and stop. If you fall back or to the side, you probably wonít tumble and may be able to edge and use your momentum to lift yourself back to your feet.
††††††††††† By far, most injuries are caused by the skis themselves. Iíll say it again: Get ski brakes and throw away your safety straps. You may have to hike back up the hill now and then to recover your ski, but it will be well worth it. (And youíll be amazed to see how far youíve fallen.)
††††††††††† The sitting back technique is reputed by doctors to be very wearing on the knee joints, because of the extreme pressure at which the kneecap is pressed against the joint as the knee is being flexed in this position. Iíve been warned that this may affect me as I get older because my knee joints might wear out before the rest of me does. [late 2010 update: Iíve skied sitting back for the 35 years since I wrote this and it hasnít happened yet. Iíll be 65 in a few months.]
††††††††††† I mentioned skierís wrist. This is caused by the pounding the wrists absorb during pole plants. If the wrist is injured and that injury is aggravated by more abuse, painful calcium deposits could be the result.
††††††††††† Skiing is a risk sport and although I advocate pushing your limits to learn quickly I caution you to do this pushing in as safe an environment as possible. Donít try to keep up with the fearless mogul bomber when the moguls are hard, icy peaks. His apparent lack of fear probably stems from expertise rather than foolhardiness. As a learner, expect to fall and exercise your good judgment. Most people tend to be overly cautious, but I include this section as a warning to those who will blindly try anything once.
FORWARD DOGMA EXPLAINED
††††††††††† Advocating a sitting back position still seams to be heresy in the ski world. For the sake of clarity Iíll define sitting back as having the bodyís center of gravity behind a vertical line rising from the balls of the feet. I consider anything in front of that line as forward, although some technicians donít call a skier forward unless his center of gravity is forward of a line perpendicular to the slope.
††††††††††† More simply, if your weight is more on the tails of your skis, you are sitting back; if more on the tips you are forward. Actually this isnít quite the same thing as using the center of gravity because you can use the muscles (especially in the ankles) to change pressure back and forth from tips to tails. I donít mean sitting back to be a well-defined and rigid posture to which you should conform. I mean the faster you go in the moguls the less time you will be forward. You will still be constantly moving around in anticipation of the terrain but mostly your center of gravity will be behind your feet and any edging of the ski tips will be with your muscles or terrain and speed rather than by shifting your weight forward of vertical.
††††††††††† Many authors are now claiming that the best skiers are still forward even when they look like they are leaning back. Some are claiming that those pictures we all saw showing the best skiers sitting back (world class slalom racers included) were taken by a very inconsiderate photographer just at the point when the skiers were momentarily out of control, and published by one equally perverted editor of a popular magazine. It also mentioned that some not very expert and lazy hotdoggers rest by leaning on their high-backed boots. (No doubt of the same ilk we see leaning against walls and loitering on street corners.)
††††††††††† Recently I read and article on powder skiing by a well-known skier and writer stressing that you should be forward on your skis. He also explained that while all the pictures of him looked like he was sitting back, he was actually forward. I can only assume that his definition of forward was that if he tensed his ankles so as to press his shins against the front of his boots that meant he was forward, even though his center of gravity was over the ski tails (which had even more pressure on them caused by his lifting the tips with his ankles). In my book, this is called sitting back. I suggest that if you sit back you will be able to ski at higher speeds than your technique-conscious buddy trying to force himself into a vulnerable, even if venerable, forward position.
††††††††††† I think the insistence that the best skiers keep their weight on the fronts of their skis comes from observing and listening to slalom racers. The best racers have most of their weight on their tips only at the beginning of a turn. They then carve the turn by increasing the weight on the tails by jetting their feet forward. From this position they must get forward again for the next turn, a major problem for slalom skiers because it decreases the amount of time they have to get through the next gate. They can make it through a gate for which they are late by slowing their upper body and jetting their skis forward through the gate. But if they do this they are then so far back that they canít get forward again for the following gate and they miss it altogether or fall. I hope you can see why getting forward is so important to slalom racers.
††††††††††† Slalom racers are the worldís greatest ski turners so ski teaching systems pay close attention to what they say they are trying to do, which is to get forward. To prepare their students for the ultimate purpose of slalom racing, ski instructors try to teach their students to ski like slalom racers and the command to get farther forward rings throughout the land. Instructors are the judges of ski technique and have been trained to watch for errors such as sitting back. AHA! Here comes another lazy out-of-control hotdogger resting on his high-backed boots.
A PROPOSAL FOR A NEW MOGUL CONTEST
††††††††††† A brief history of hot dog competition: enter the original contests. The winners are the wildest, fastest, most fantastic recovering skiers on the hill. But wait shouldnít we be judging hotdoggers on technique and control rather than excitement and recoveries? Enter technique-conscious judges. The new winners donít go quite as fast but they make nice jumps, their skis are parallel and not flying off in every direction, they are in control and look more like slalom skiers. Exit rubber-legged mogul bombers to go back to skiing with their own style for the fun and excitement of speed. Enter (hopefully) a new mogul contest which rewards function (speed and control in the moguls) rather than imitation of a predetermined ideal technique. Since all judges (including myself) have prejudices, we will eliminate them and substitute a clock. I envision a DUAL MOGUL ELIMINATION RACE down the meanest moguls on the mountain. The finish gate would be at a very steep place and would have to be entered from BELOW. This would mean the skiers would have to demonstrate they were still in control or could get back into control on a very steep section of the course, otherwise they would have a long hike back up the hill to finish. The best sixteen or thirty-two times would then compete head to head each down his own side of the moguls with the same type of finish. Since the winner would have to compete in several races this would be the ultimate demonstration of control. A fall, while not necessarily eliminating a competitor would most likely mean defeat.
††††††††††† I think that with this type of contest you could truly discover the best mogul skier, rather than the one most pleasing to judges encumbered by tradition. Iíd like to organize this type of competition and invite all comers, including pro racers and pro freestylers. I think it would be the perfect format for a grudge race---the freestylerís moguls and the racerís clock.
Haul ass, kid