Bump skiing, part I: It’s all in the pole plant
Some people just say, “Uncle” at the mere mention of skiing the bumps. Others take one look and instead go to lunch. But if you’re a true diehard, you secretly admire those battle-crazed bumpers and want to be one of them.So you start down the fall line of a double-black diamond bump run, just like all the expert bumper skiers you see. And what starts out as one or two smooth turns, all of a sudden transforms into a body-jarring, teeth-chattering launch as you pick up too much speed and go careening off to the right or left, traversing the fall line, and skiing perpendicular to every bump in your path.
And, you’re lucky if you can stop it all there. Is there something those real bumpers know that you don’t?Well, skiing the bumps does require a number of skills in a somewhat complex process, and it takes many miles of bumps to perfect the technique. But since you have to begin somewhere, there is one skill that starts the whole thing off. That is the pole plant.Although not unique to bump skiing – pole plants start the turn on every type of terrain – on bumps they have a rather mandatory flavor. Unless you are snow-plowing, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to ski down the fall line of a black double-diamond bump field and stay in control for more than two or three turns without using your poles. By the same token, the better your pole plants, the easier it is to stay in control.This is because one of the main ingredients for staying in control is keeping both shoulders facing downhill at all times. It is the first pole plant that puts you into this position and each subsequent pole plant that keeps you this way.The best pole plant is one that is made before your turn, on the fall line, as far ahead as you can reach. If you open your hand at each plant,, grasping mainly with your thumb and forefinger and let the pole travel forward, you will be able to reach even farther ahead.
The very act of reaching ahead and planting the pole gets your upper body in the correct position and starts the turn. Immediately reaching ahead with the other hand to start the next pole plant will keep your upper body facing and leaning downhill, and will therefore help you complete the turn and start the next.What’s more, if you concentrate on reaching forward with your poles, one after the other, you tend to forget to worry about everything else you are supposed to be doing, thereby allowing yourself to turn more naturally.If you’re like most advanced skiers, you probably know all of this about pole plants and think you’re doing it. But if you keep in mind that with pole plants, you can never reach too far, you may be amazed at what that extra reach can do.Or can’t do. There is more.
Part II in this series on bump skiing will deal with speed control.Elizabeth Eber is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Vail.Vail Colorado