By Dan Egan EBS Contributor
These days people are skiing and riding faster than ever before. Whether on groomed slopes, bowls, glades and off the trails, the average speed of skiers and riders has increased due to better ski equipment, snowmaking and grooming.
Add to that skis and snowboards are now built to float and make turning easier in the powder and the crud, and you have a population of riders of different abilities ripping around the resort.
Unfortunately, many of these skiers are distracted by headphones, mobile phones and helmets hindering the riders hearing and attention to their surroundings. It is safer to assume that other skiers don’t hear you coming than it is to assume they’re listening and paying attention to others.
This makes for a combination of challenges for both riders overtaking slower skiers and slower riders being overtaken by faster ones. It’s important to remember that the rider downhill of you has the right of way. The obligation to stay clear falls on the uphill skier or snowboarder.
The obligation of the skier or snowboarder downhill is to stop in view of uphill traffic, and to enter slopes and intersections by looking up the hill and avoid oncoming uphill traffic.
When it comes to overtaking a slower skier or rider on a groomed trail there are a few basic techniques to do it safely.
The first step is getting the slower skier in your line of sight as early as possible. This will give you awareness about how they’re skiing, their ability, style and how much of the trail they are using. Try to get a sense of their turn shape, rhythm and pacing.
Keep in mind: it’s the obligation of the uphill skier to keep clear of the skier below and overtake them in a safe manner.
If the trail is crowded, come up behind the skier and sync your turns with theirs, and when ready to pass, break out of rhythm and turn above them and in the opposite direction—this will provide some time and distance from them. As you make your next turn in their direction, open up the radius of your turn and increase your speed slightly. Now you’ll be in their sightline and passing them downhill of their next turn with room to maneuver, if needed, for a clean pass.
This allows them to see you and it does not startle them or interfere with their run.
If you’re on a steep run, off piste or in a narrow place, never overtake another skier until they stop and give you the OK to pass. Few skiers or riders follow this advice these days, but it’s very important, especially here at Big Sky with steep terrain and narrow rocky areas. Here there is great potential for skiers and riders falling and sliding long distances.
There is plenty of room out there for everyone. If you’re an expert skier or snowboarder riding faster than others, have respect for others traveling more slowly and remember the rider below you has the right of way. Give others time and space to descend at their own pace and when passing, don’t startle them, cut them off or impede anyone’s path. This will make for a safer day on the mountain for all.
Extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan has appeared in 12 Warren Miller Ski films and countless others. He was inducted into the U.S Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2016. Today he teaches clinics and guides trips at locations around the world including Big Sky, where he’ll be teaching this season (contact Big Sky Mountain Sports for availability). Find more information on Dan Egan camps and clinics go to skiclinics.com.