How To Ski Steep Slopes
Written by G. Tadj Hemingway
Steep is defined
as the change in elevation divided by measured distance:
a 1° to 5° is a gentle slope; 5° to 8.5°
is a moderate slope; 8.5° to 16.5° is a strong;
16.5° to 24° is a very strong slope; 24°
to 35° is an extreme slope; 35° to 45°
is Steep and 45° + is very steep. This page is
instruction on skiing a slope of 30° or steeper.
If you are considering skiing the steep and deep there
are some prerequisites. First you need a good stance
with your weight forward like a boxer as discussed
in other pages on this site. You need to be able to
ski in control with short radius turns and good rebound
to initiate the next turn. You’ll also need
good pole swing down the hill. A 30° slope may
not sound steep but looking down that steep of a slope
may be fear inducing to some and exciting to others.
The degree of a slope’s steepness usually isn’t
posted, so read our tips below on skiing the steep
slopes or what you may consider steep.
|Making Turns on the Steep Slopes
are three key principles you need to use when skiing
the steep slopes. First you need a strong confident
stance at the beginning of each turn. Second as you
turn keep your body weighted forward down the mountain.
Lastly make your turns quick.
To have a confidant stance
position your skis across the hill with your weight
on the downhill ski. Your upper body (head, shoulders
and hips) should be facing downhill. Your hands will
reach downhill with the downhill pole planted in the
Don’t let the steep
angle intimidate you. Some people lean back to feel
closer to the hill behind them. This will put your
weight back which can lead to falling. While skiing
the steep slopes, keep your body perpendicular to
the slope angle and extend down the mountain.
The time it takes to make
you turn is critical, you don’t want your skis
pointing straight down the hill for too long because
that is when your speed accelerates the most. Acceleration
ends when your skis are across the side of the hill.
While on a long section you may need to stop after
several turns to take a break and catch your breath.
|The Side Slip
side slip is a great maneuver to use when you have
gotten yourself in over your head on a slope that
is too steep for you to confidently make turns. The
side slip is a valuable maneuver that will allow you
to get down safely in one piece. Find a safe area
to tryout the side slip, a short yet steep pitch on
a roomy hill. Stand in the traverse position across
the hill so that your skis are perpendicular to the
fall-line, with your hands in front of you.
Stand on the hill across
the fall-line with your weight on the inside edge
of your downhill ski, roll your feet, ankles and knees
downhill so your skis are off their edges and onto
their bases. Your skis will begin to slide down the
fall-line. Keep your skis across the fall-line as
they slide. When you’re ready to stop, roll your feet,
ankles and knees back into the hill again. Dig your
uphill edges back into the snow.
hop turn maneuver is just as the name implies, but
it’s not that simple. When you have your gear
and skis on standing in deep snow a hop turn will
take a great deal of strength and effort. First try
it in the flats. Start with your upper body facing
downhill with your legs twisted 90 degrees, your skis
across the fall line. Hop up, keep your upper body
stationary. Twist your hips and legs 180 degrees so
they land across the fall line with your skis facing
the opposite direction. Absorb the landing by bending
your knees. Plant your downhill pole. Hop up again
and twist your waist and legs in the other direction.
Once that feels comfortable try doing it repeatedly
linking hop turns and creating a rhythm. Try making
hop turns on gradually steeper slopes.
is a small drop off made of snow at the top of the
slope created by wind. It takes some nerve to start
a run by dropping off a cliff so prepare yourself
mentally. Once you’re mentally ready you’ll
need an entrance. It’s not safe
to go directly
off of a full cornice. Reduce it by poking the edge
with your ski pole breaking free anything that is
loose. You’ll want an opening big enough to
see where you’re going.
There are two ways to start
off from a cornice depending on how step the landing
is. First, if the landing isn’t too steep just
push forward and bend your knees just before you go
over the edge. Or if it’s a steeper slope hop
up over the edge, this will bring your legs together,
knees bent and abdomen flexed. While you’re
out in the air you must turn to bring your skis across
the fall line when you land, especially if it’s
a steep slope. Set your downhill ski inside edge upon
landing. Keep a good stance with your weight forward
and hands in front of you.