Beware: It’s out there – the chaos of crud
Then, there is the chaos of the column of humanity rising around you to the top of the mountain, suddenly to disperse in all directions like a swarm of bees bombarded from their nest.
But finally, there is the calm – the swirling, pristine powder enveloping you in silence, run after run after run, until both it and your are spent.
Such is a powder day in Vail. And the day after? All too soon, it’s back to chaos–the chaos of crud.
Although it would be heresy to choose these scraps over smooth powder, there is much to be said for becoming proficient at skiing crud. For one thing, it lasts a lot longer than powder these days. But all sour grapes aside, if you ski it well, crud does have its own cache. Due to its difficulty, crud definitely ranks in the higher levels of skiing expertise. And at those levels, the more difficult the challenge, the greater the fun.
One reason skiing crud is so challenging is that in most other types of conditions, including smooth powder, you can make the snow your ally. In crud, there is no such thing. Simply put, crud must be overcome. You must ski through it in spite of it, with no luxury of “going with it.”
Thus, the most important skill you need in skiing crud is assertiveness. You must pick the line you want to ski and then stay with it no matter how much the snow under and around your skis wants to buffet you around and deter you from your course.
The easiest way to withstand the snow’s chaotic shoving is to stay evenly weighted on both skis. This gives you twice as much power as you have when one ski is more heavily weighted than the other. And, it prevents the uneven snow from succeeding at “divide and conquer.”
Assertiveness, even with both skis working together, also means you must ski with strength. Crud is not a medium for weak quads. You must power your way through it, as if your skis were a knife cutting through cold butter.
Another important skill you need to ski crud well is visual. You must not let the grooves and clumps of snow tempt you into looking for the “best” or “right” place to turn. There are no such things. In crud, you are actually skiing the base that is under the visible terrain, so there is no way to be able to see a best or right place. If you try, you will end up shopping for turns which will interfere with your rhythm and thereby lessen your force. In crud, you must ski with an internal rhythm.
A few days after a powder day, the grooming machines have been known to tidy things up with orderly corduroy, and the bump skiers and boarders have by then re-sculpted all the bumps.
When you find yourself looking instead for that chaotic, tracked up powder they all left behind, you’ll know that — even though you still will always try – you will never need to be first in line.
Elizabeth Eber is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Vail.