Solid skiing on rocky slopes

By Dan Egan Explore Big Sky Contributor

In big mountain skiing you often have to get through bad snow to find the good snow. Here in Big Sky, there are often rocks above or near the surface of the snow waiting to trip up skiers and snowboarders. This calls for a strategy and using specific tactics to ski the slopes. Here are a few ways I break down a run when it appears rocky.

The entrance. If the entrance is not perfect, simply side step down until you can make turns. Make sure to have a good solid stance on your side step with your shoulders square to the hill, and don’t be afraid to use your poles for balance and as braces. Move quickly down the slope because taking too long with a difficult entrance can throw off your mental game for skiing the slope below.

Have a plan. I like to ski rocky areas in sections. I move from snow pod to snow pod with a clear vision in my mind of where I’m going to stop and start. This allows me to link a few turns together with confidence before I stop again.

Dan sometime the best way is overSpeed. Once you have a plan and are through the entrance, move at a steady pace with a focus on two to three turns at a time. You don’t want to move too slowly through the rocks, as a bit of speed will help you avoid obstacles, but don’t move at a reckless pace.

Power slide. If you can power slide past the obstacles, do it. Execute a good power slide with your feet shoulder width apart, hands and poles facing down the mountain and with your eyes looking down, not across the slope.

Turning. When skiing though rocky areas, keep your skis in the fall line. If you’re going to nick rocks it’s better to be in a skiing position than with your skis sideways. I like to use hop turns in these situations.

Finding the way. Your eyes are key to navigating through a minefield of rocks. Remember: you go where you look, so look where you want to go. Keep your eyes focused down the fall line, concentrate on the snow and try not to look at the rocks.

Repetition. Skiing the same runs several times has many advantages. The first time you ski a run, you learn where the rocks are and what path to take. The second time you can gain a bit of confidence, and by the third of fourth time you can start to really ski the slope. More importantly, going back to the same run the next day or later in the week you can see how the slope has been changed by skier traffic as well as new snow and wind. This will give you more and more confidence throughout the season.

Extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan has appeared in 12 Warren Miller Ski films and countless others. Today he teaches clinics and guides trips at locations around the world including Big Sky, where he’ll be teaching Feb. 26-28, March 5-7 and March 12-14. Find more ski tips from Dan Egan at skiclinics.com/education/skitips.