By Dan Egan EBS COLUMNIST
There has been a big push in the last 10 years to wider skis. “Fat skis” or “Powder skis” have changed the perspective on what skis look like, because some have lost camber, some are flat with no camber, some have reverse camber, some have camber under the foot and tips and tails that turned up or so called “early rise.” All of this has allowed skiers of all abilities explore more of the mountain because the ski floats and glides on and through the snow easier.
However, wide skis of more than 88 millimeters underfoot have significantly more surface area and don’t track well in a straight line. Rather, they wobble in deep and cut up snow and chatter and vibrate on hard pack and groomed snow. If you have ever felt your ski wobble under your foot while traversing, or on the cat track, you know what I mean.
This has resulted in many skiers feeling like they are doing something wrong, but they are not, it’s an equipment issue not a performance issue as I like to remind skiers. Here is the dilemma, the increased surface area of the ski due to the width causes the ski to scoot forward, this puts the feet of the skier in front of their hips and puts skiers out of balance. The result is a lack of control, and it is exhausting on the legs.
Let’s talk about the length of the arc of a turn. The most stable part of skiing is the turn. If you want more stability with your wide skis lengthen the arc and shorten the length of the transition between turns. After I make this statement in my camps and clinics most skiers instantly think that a longer turn will mean going faster and result in acceleration that they don’t want.
In general, when skiers turn to slow down, they make short turns and a long transition. The issue with this method is that they are spending more time standing on an unstable ski and are spending a short period of time on a stable, turning ski. To gain stability lengthen the arc of your turn and shorten the transition between turns. So, if you have purchased “fat” skis to float over the snow and then make a short turn you are not gaining all the stability the ski is designed to provide.
There will be a slight increase in speed however you will be more stable, be in balance and the result will be more confidence. A stable ski will be easier to control, and the speed will become less of an issue because of the stability.
Start on a slope you are comfortable on, ski down the fall line, tip the ski on edge and let it find is designed arcing radius down the mountain. Be patient. Don’t twist your feet, let the ski turn on its own. Keep your hands just below shoulder height and push them forward to keep your shoulders, over your feet, as the skis come out of the turn. Roll your feet quickly over to the new edge and let the skis arc down the fall line in the new turn.
Please note that I am talking about fall line skiing, not cross hill skiing. By keeping the ski in a long arcing turn in the fall line you should be making a series of “S” turns that are long and short transitions so the skis go from edge to edge. This will shorten the length of time the ski is flat and unstable.
When we ski, we want to be efficient and intentional with both our motion and our route down the mountain. Learning to stabilize these wider skis will result in more confidence, it will allow you to have a longer day and help you to master more of the mountain.
You’ll be amazed at how effortless it is to keep the skis turning under you in long stable turns. When you add the slowing method of decelerating over a series of turns, allowing the skis to arc between your slowing turns you will be gaining a level of mastery that will be extremely rewarding.
Extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan coaches and teaches at Big Sky Resort during the winter. His 2022 steeps camps at Big Sky Resort ran Feb. 24-26, March 10-12 and March 17-19. His newest book, “Thirty Years in a White Haze,” was released in March 2021 and is available at White-Haze.com. Visit Dan-Egan.com to preorder “All Terrain Vol. II.”