Heading to Plattekill for Shoulder Season

Spring was sure to make an appearance at some point this month, but it was hard to believe that hot on the heels of one of the biggest dumps of the season we’d be skiing without our shells.


After devouring the pow harvest from my desk on Friday, my brother and I were champing at the bit to ski. Our enthusiasm spread, and we ended up back at Plattekill with several others who came to the mountain for the first time.

I didn’t have to look in the rearview mirror to see the quizzical looks as we drove past Belleayre. I could feel the lasers bouncing off of my neck and quickly pointed out that when skiing, going the extra mile is often worth the effort.

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The Physics of Skiing

physics of skiingLast month I made a connection between intermediate skiing and geometry.  This applies to advanced skiers and to take it a step further, I’ll add physics to the mix.

There are two ways to put your skis on edge. The first method, inclination, uses the whole body. Angulation, the second method, creates angles by using our hips and knees joints.

When skiing at speed we can tip our whole body relying on centrifugal force to hold us up. These banked type turns can be fun in a cruising type mode but will not allow for very good edge hold as the edge angle created can only be as large as the amount of body tip.

When we tip using our hip joint and keep our upper body upright so that our shoulders are level to the horizon, we can create a much larger edge angle. In this way we utilize our most powerful joint which is surrounded by a web of powerful muscle.

This allows us to resist the forces that want to both tip us up hill while pulling us off our round turn shape and ultimately hold a better edge.  Angulation in your knees should only be used to fine tune things as those joints are much weaker and fragile and offer less range of motion than our hips.

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What is an Expert Skier?

I started skiing in 1989 at age 40 and early on I wanted to be an expert. I wasn’t sure what defined an expert other than some vague idea about being able to “ski anything.” What is an expert skier?

Expert Skier

I recently skied with my six-year-old for the first time on a black rated trail. Gore’s Sagamore is essentially a long blue trail with two black pitches. Skiing it doesn’t make my daughter an expert. She’s an advanced beginner who skied expert terrain. Expert status is about how you get down not what you get down.

I did a little research and found a definition: “Expert skiers are adept at handling varied terrain and different snow conditions. The terrain may include steeps, trees, and moguls, or a combination of the three. Snow conditions might include hard pack, ice, crud, or powder, as well as groomed or ungroomed snow. Expert skiing requires quick adjustments to speed, turn radius, and balance to maintain control at all times.”

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