Speed Control In Deep Heavy Snow?

Can't Twist the Skis, & Can't Run Straight!


Hi Rick,

Hope you don't mind the email. I have followed read some of your comments on Snowheads and  skied with Charlotte Swift in LdA a couple of years ago and she introduced me to your DVDs - only got the first two so far.

I am OK when the snow is flat and groomed - but really struggle when it gets steep, particularly when the snow is heavy and soft.

If I try and rotate the skis - they won't twist - or they start and then I trip up. My friends say just point more downhill and go for it!! But I gain too much speed and end up doing sudden brakes to control speed. 

When it is steep and soft I usually end up transversing across the piste - taking a deep breath and doing some type of snatched turn to get round.

I know there must be a way out of this, but try as I might I'm stuck

Can you point me in the right direction?

Best wishes


Hi Garth,

Sure, I'm happy to help if I can.  

You have my first two DVDs, so you know from the Basic Edging DVD that your two primary speed control tools are skid angle and turn shape.  On groomed snow you can use both of them, and the full spectrum of possibilities within each.  You can steer a turn as tight as you desire, and you can inject as much skid angle as you like, to the degree of being able to ski very steep terrain at extremely slow speeds.  

That luxury does not hold true in deep and/or heavy snow.  Trying to inject significant skid angle in that type of snow is a futile endeavour.  It's very hard to twist your skis into much of a skid angle, because the snow fights your efforts to do so.  If you do manage to achieve much skid angle, you promptly become a virtual snow plough, and come to a quick stop.  Your only practical options are to steer using a very small skid angle (what I call narrow track steering), or to use no skid angle at all (called carving).  

When it comes to turn shape, your options are more limited there too.  Remember, there are two means of shaping your turn;  radius, and degree of turn.  The smallest radius turns are only achievable through steering, but as you've discovered, steering a small radius turn in deep or heavy  snow is very difficult.  The snow resists your efforts to aggressively twist you skis and turn sharply.  It fights back.  You're therefore rather resigned to employing turns longer in radius than those possible on groomed trails.   

Fear not though, Garth, all your speed control tools are not gone.  I said there are two means of shaping your turns.  Degree of turn was the second, and in heavy/deep snow you still have full use of it.  Remember, degree of turn refers to the angle you are to the falline when you finish your turn.  The bigger the angle, the more you control your speed.  In a 90 degree turn, you finish your turn with your skis pointing perpendicular to the falline.  In turns that are over 90 degrees, you actually continue turning until you're pointing somewhat uphill.  The bigger the degree, the more you turn up hill.  Degree of turn, is the tool you must fall back on when skiing heavy/deep snow.  

When using degree of turn to control your speed, expect to experience the roller coaster effect.  Through the first half of the turn, until you reach the falline, you will feel yourself accelerate.  It's that feeling you get as a roller coaster crests the top of the track, and begins to drop.  Your stomach migrates to your mouth.  Through the second half of the turn, after you've past the falline, you'll begin to slow down.  It's similar to the feeling you get when the roller coaster has reached the bottom of the drop and is starting to climb again.  The longer you continue to turn, the more you increase your degree of turn, and the more your speed drops off.  

Bottom line is, you have to be patient.  Don't struggle and fight, trying to tighten your turn, beyond what the snow wants to yield.  Go with the flow.  Go with what the snow will allow, which will be a bigger radius turn than you may be used to, and expect to experience the roller coaster sensation.  In time you will come to like it, just as people come to enjoy roller coasters.  Like on a roller coaster, you will come to trust that the acceleration will be followed by a slow down period, taking you back to a speed you find comfortable.  When you understand that, and know you have the skills to create that slowdown after the falline, anytime, and to whatever degree you want, you'll come to enjoy the acceleration phase of your turns.  It's the "wheeee", sensation, one of those things that make skiing fun.

You can somewhat experience the roller coaster effect on the groomers.   Do you remember the part in Basic Edging where I present the "start long radius, finish short radius" drill?  If not, go back and have another look.  Doing that drill will produce the roller coaster sensation.  The longer radius at the start of the turn allows the skis time to accelerate more, and the shorter radius at the end of the turn quickly bleeds the gained speed off.  Doing that drill will allow you to get a taste of the sensation you'll be experiencing up on the steep and deep, in a more comfortable environment.  

Hope that helps, Garth.  If you have anymore questions, don't hesitate to write.  I'm always happy to help.

Best Wishes,