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Controlling your speed

Elizabeth Eber
Daily file photoElizabeth EberPowder Lines
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The most obvious way to control your speed when you are skiing down a mountain is to make more turns. But there are also other, more subtle, ways to slow down and stay more in control.Skiing speed is essentially about how you work with and against gravity, which is to say it’s about how you deal with the fall line. One major factor is how use your skis; another is how you use your body.One way to use your skis to slow down is to position them at the widest possible angle to the fall line. Another way is to increase the frequency with which they cross the fall line. Thus, wide arc turns slow you down, as do a lot of quick, short arc turns.

A more subtle way to use your skis to slow down is to edge harder with your downhill ski each time you make a turn, whether it is a wide or short arc turn. Not only will the increased leverage of your downhill ski against the snow dissipate some speed, but the extra weight on your downhill ski will allow you to transfer more quickly to the new downhill ski when you turn. This will create more leverage more quickly in the opposite direction, and thus slow you down even more.The most obvious way to use your body to slow down is to stand tall, as opposed to dropping into a tuck, so you create wind resistance. But since skiing requires you to always keep your knees bent, you should never stand so tall that you straighten out your legs.What you can do, however, is keep your head up and shoulders back rather than looking down near your ski tips or hunching over. This not only helps with speed control, but it is good technique for skiing in general.

A more subtle way to use your body to slow down is to absorb speed with your knees and legs. Particularly when you are on a steep slope, you can absorb speed every time you turn by bending your knees a few extra degrees as you go into the turn and going back to your regular stance as you come out of the turn.When the going gets rough, and you forget about all of the above, there is of course the age old remedy for slowing down: The snow plow, also known as “the wedge,” which everyone pretends not to use.And when, in the midst of too much speed you even forget about that, you can always fall down and use your body as an anchor. But, of course, nobody pretends that there is anything subtle about that.

Elizabeth Eber is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Vail.Vail, Colorado


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