Throughout the season we will be sharing top tips in Coach’s Corner that will help with some of the common issues skiers face on the mountains. Here is a taste of the topics still to come:
Skiing in poor visibility
Negotiating narrow paths
Coping on crowded runs
This article will look at dealing with the dreaded ice.
Who needs grip?
The belief that you should try to grip on ice is a widely held misconception. Trying to grip will usually result in you skidding, whether you mean to or not. Deliberately skidding is what you must do. Learn to love the ice, by choosing to skid, this way you can control your speed and direction. Remember, skidding is the correct technique for skiing on ice, so take control and choose to skid.
Tensing the upper body often causes you to lean back up the hill unbalancing you in the process. To stay loose and balanced, consciously relax how tightly you grip your poles. It is likely that you grip them very tightly when you encounter ice. Consciously loosen your grip and you will feel your entire upper body relax; maintain this as you tackle the icy sections.
Search and conquer
To improve, you need to seek out the ice and practice (where you are comfortable to do so). Although reading the terrain is something that comes with experience, everyone can stop and assess what lies ahead. Focus on what you can control. The route you take is your choice, so look for the ice and enjoy.
The TDC expeditions trip to eastern Kyrgyzstan this February was a fabulous success. The team flew from Heathrow/Gatwick/Geneva to Bishkek via Istanbul. Then transfered around the Issyk Kul lake, to within 100km of the border with China and Kazakhstan. The area is dominated by mesmerisingly white snowy hills/mountains visible into the extreme distance through broad valley clefts. The ski touring terrain here is dichotomously friendly and gradual whilst maintaining an aura of dramatic remoteness.
“I would unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and skiing ability who would like to experience something beyond the “everyday” off-piste / tour experience. It’s something I will always remember.”
– Mark, 2019
The trip is 10 days in total, with 1.5 days travel at either end. On arrival at the yurt camp, around noon, the designated Kyrgyz chef provides hot vegetable and meat (beef, lamb, chicken) stew for lunch. The food is extraordinary and cooked on a wood burner, camping gas stove, and portable oven, with dutiful competence by the chef. Breakfast involves milk porridge of ground either milllet/buckwheat/oats/wheat depending on the morning and availability. With eggs (4 for Ian), fresh bread and coffee/tea. Lunch was usually stew based, although occasionally the chef knocked-up some battered sausage hotdogs, or fresh apricot jam doughnuts!
Dinner frequently involved more stew to start, followed with exeptional rice dishes somewhere between fried rice and biriyani. Then at other times involved almost British meat and vegetables, with delectably dressed salads.
The days in Kyrgyzstan revolved around the ski touring. Mornings can be bitterly cold, with the mercury plummetting to -25 at night. Therefore languid breakfasts, coffees and plans are maintained until around 9:30 AM, ensuring the suns rays and temperatures are sufficient. From the main ‘village’ camp, slopes are immediately accessible, touring from 1.5-3 hours to reach summits through ever-green spruce trees. The snowpack is unconsolidated in Winter and therefore requires gentle slopes (<25 degrees) for descents. This also maximises the number of powder turns to walking time ratio.
On return from the morning skin up and ski down. Hot lunch is prepared by the chef, and glycogen partially restored to any wanting muscles. After lunch is a chance for another daily exploratory, or known skin up one of the bountiful tributary valleys. It would be hard, and sometimes impossible not to get fresh tracks in this area. The snow is cold and unaffected by wind in the widely spaced forest areas, it therefore remains powder for effectively the whole Winter. This year we saw another team on a peak 2-3km away one morning, we felt gridlocked.
The advanced camp of 2 yurts (one cooking/dining and one sleeping), requires a 30min transfer via snowmobiles. This is exciting. One puts one’s ski pole through a loop in the rope tied to the rear of the skidoo, and hangs on. The journey percolates through some of the most dazzling alpine glades, cols, and plateaus imaginable. This year with a low orange sun, and long shadows creating a majestic light. This journey facilitates the use of the advanced camp.
From the advanced camp, a non-intrepid sense of isolation prevails. Rich and Terry carry Sat-Phones and GPS locators for safety, receiving weather updates, and occasional updates from Penny, Rich’s daughter. But otherwise, this location is truely remote. The ski touring descents here are possible in a 360 degree vista. So that’s what we do. The same daily format ensues with a longer morning skin, and optional afternoon outings after lunch. One of the journeys on this years (2019) trip involved a 600m ascent through another stunning wide-spaced forest, and along a broad ‘knife-edged’ ridge to a shoulder of a mountain looking down our valley. From there a slightly steeper descent led the group 3 kms back to the yurts. That’s 3km of 20cm cold fresh powder on a smooth base.
The trip involves ski coaching throughout. On day one we provide, transceiver training, skinning/touring techniques, and some navigation awareness. Throughout the trip there are 2 tdc coaches per group of 6 to assist with the skinning up, the transitions from touring to ski mode, and to provide technique and tactical instruction on the ski descents. The camp dog also followed us each day, providing joy for all as he bounded through powder on the descents.
The trip will be running next February 2020, with limited space to keep the instructor to client ratio low. This helps ensure safety, speed across the terrain, enjoyment, and escalates learning curves.
tdc in Val d’Isere, Tignes and the 3 valleys are continually running ski touring and off piste skiing lessons and groups. Please visit the lessons section of our website for more information around those coaching sessions either in view of joining a future tdc-expedition, or simply to learn and enjoy a new genre of the skiing world.
7 night holiday & 5 day ski clinic – package price £949 pp – saving £276
We are passionate about helping people really improve their skiing in an enjoyable and relaxed environment. Our Clinics are adapted to fit the goals of the group and the conditions on the day.
CONFIDENCE CLINIC (on request) – for strong green run skiers…improve and consolidate on the basics of ski technique, learn to make easy flowing turns in control
DISCOVERY CLINIC (on request)
– for strong blue run skiers…discover more of the mountain, make
skiing easy, learn how to ski more challenging terrain, increase your
speed whilst maintaining control, learn to carve
– for strong red run skiers…improve your technique, take on steeper
slopes, ski more runs with greater confidence, take on different snow
types to develop your performance
DEVELOPMENT PLUS CLINIC –
for strong red run /ok black run skiers…use the skills you already
have to take on more varied slopes, start to learn the basics of skiing
bumps and skiing off the piste
CHALLENGES CLINIC – for strong black run skiers…take on new goals in the bumps, on the steeps, in difficult snow, on the piste; challenge yourself – there are always ways to get better…
INTRO TO SKI TOURING – for skiers with some off piste experience, no touring experience required. Ski Touring is called “Ski Randonnée” in French, and it requires some specialist equipment. The first essential is ski touring bindings that lift at the heel when walking uphill but lockdown when you are ready to descend. You will also need skins that are fitted to the base of your skis when climbing. Skins prevent the skis from sliding backwards but allow the skis to slide forwards.
Except for the hard-core ski tourers, most skiers spend a lot of the time on the pistes. To make the most of your time on the pistes you need equipment in first rate order. Then allow the skis to do what they are designed to do. With rockered skis, fat waists and twin tips, it is easy to forget that carving skis revolutionized skiing and piste skiing is where that happens best.
Can your tools handle the power?
Some of the best feelings in skiing are found on the pistes. The power of a carve turn can be incredible, and generates up to 4G in force. Any ski can carve a turn, but to maximise the experience you need a ski which can handle the power. Dynastar’s WC Master series have serious pedigree, coming from their race factory and the Speedzone series make the carve turn easier to achieve.
Are your skis sharp?
The key to carving is tilting the skis over and balancing against the forces generated by the turn. The more you can tilt (and stay in balance) the greater the forces will be. In order for the skis to grip when tilted over on firm pistes the skis need to be in good condition. Sharp edges and a smooth base is essential to build confidence in your ability to tilt over. Get your skis serviced before heading to the alps and at the minimum take a diamond edge tool to keep the skis in great condition whilst you are out there.
If you want to turn tighter in a carve, tilt over more and allow the skis to move further away from the body. Balance through the outside ski and tilt both skis the same amount. High speeds are the result of carve turns so only practice when and where it is safe to do so. You’ll definitely need goggles (not glasses) to stop your eyes from watering and a helmet completes the racer ready look.
As with everything in skiing, deliberate practice in a suitable environment will see you improve your performance, and carving is still one of the great unused techniques in skiing. For more help book yourself some lessons on your next trip.
Giles Lewis is an ambassador for Dynastar skis and Lange boots. He is a ski Instructor with the development centre, who operate in val d’isère Tignes and the Three Valleys, France. He is a trainer and examiner of Instructors for BASI and a member of the British Demo team.
OK, “surviving” might be a bit strong, but keeping warm on the slopes in the middle of winter can be a challenge. As well as the main clothing like jackets and trousers, there are other things that can make a big difference for people who struggle to stay warm:
Extremities get cold first. It is what the body does to protect itself from cold. So, if your hands or feet get cold, it might not be down to the gloves or boots, but because you haven’t got enough layers on. Wear good thermals, and if your hands and feet are still cold, wear another jumper.
Helmet and Hat
Helmets can expose the neck to cold mountain air. Neck warmers, thin balaclavas or multipurpose tubes keep you toasty warm. Like scarves, but better.
Get your feet out
Particularly for skiers: if your feet have been cold and numb for more than an hour, you need to warm them up. Get inside, take off the boots and get the feet warm again. This will allow you to ski again afterwards, rather than developing serious cold injuries.
Dry your boots
Damp or wet boots are bad news. You need to dry your boots overnight, so if the hotel or apartment doesn’t have specific boot heaters, you need to make your own arrangements. Portable boot dryers work really well and are easier than balancing boots on radiators.
Giles Lewis is an ambassador for Dynastar skis and Lange boots. He is a ski Instructor with the development centre, who operate in val d’isere Tignes and the Three Valleys, France. He is a trainer and examiner of Instructors for BASI and a member of the British Demo team.
You want to go skiing, but your partner is not so keen – “what else is there to do on a ski holiday apart from ski?” they keep saying.
Well once you are out there on the slopes, ripping it up here are a few ideas from our friends at Ski Bonjour.
Not a Keen Skier? Here’s What Else You Can Do on a Skiing Holiday…
So you’ve somehow found yourself being roped into a skiing holiday with family or friends, despite the fact that your idea of an active holiday is one that involves more than a minute’s walk to the bar. First things first, don’t panic! Whether you’re a ski connoisseur or ‘can’t-oisseur’, we’ve got your back.
If you’re about to jet off very soon, we’ve put together a few things you can add to your to-do list to ensure you don’t find yourself feeling too bored when everyone else is hitting the piste.
Of course, you could join them; there’s nothing wrong with starting out on a small slope after all. But if you can’t think of anything worse than the prospect of a tumble in the snow, go for one of the following options instead…
Check Out Your Resort’s Spa
Love to kick back and relax? You might just be in luck if you go skiing then, with many of the resorts having a spa on site. In the chalets themselves, you might find everything from hydro-massage baths fed with thermal water, or even a Jacuzzi or hot tub outside.
The resort spas will no doubt offer everything from facials to mud wraps, and even Turkish baths. And what could be better than the chance to enjoy a soothing massage when your skin’s feeling cold and tingly following a day facing the elements?
Make the Most of a Quiet Chalet – If you’re someone who’s constantly dashing around, you’ll probably appreciate the chance to kick off your shoes and relax. And if you’re joining family or friends on a skiing holiday, the good news is there will most likely be out on the slopes for the majority of the day. With that in mind, treat the break like you would a relaxing beach holiday; start the day with a lie in and grab a good book or two to get stuck into. Later, take a hot bath while watching a film via your in-bathroom TV – many ski resorts have them, so make sure you check the brochure or website to check before you go!
Try a Husky Ride – You might not like the sound of hitting the ski slopes but that doesn’t always mean that, as a non-skier, you won’t enjoy other snow-based activities. So why not let man’s best friend show you around in the snow and experience dog sledding? Husky rides are one of the most traditional ski break pastimes and nothing beats the chance to enjoy the scenery without having to hobble around in the ice and snow.
Thrill Seeker? Give Paragliding a Go – If snow’s a no-no for you, try soaring above the mountains – tandem or solo – with a spot of paragliding. It’s fast becoming a must-try non-ski activity in a host of skiing resorts and it’s one of the best ways to make the most of the gorgeously wintry surroundings
Join the Others for Après-Ski Socialising – Have you spent the day on your own, mug of coffee in hand and roaring fire lit? By the time the others make their way back to the chalet you’ll be crying out for some company, we bet, so think about taking advantage of the party atmosphere many ski resorts offer. There are plenty of things to do and places to go after a day’s spent on the slopes, so feast on some of the area’s delicious foods and order a local beer to wash it down with. It’s right about now that you’ll realise exactly why your friends and family were right to persuade you to join them for the break!
Ski Bonjour www.skibonjour.com
OUTSTANDING AFFORDABLE CATERED CHALETS
VAL D’ISÈRE • TIGNES LES BRÉVIÈRES • TIGNES LE LAC
This Summer sees a lot of work going on around the 3 Valleys with 3 new lifts going in.
In Mottaret the old fixed chairs of Arolles & Table Verte are removed along with the Combes 4-man chair. A new Combes 6-seater routed to the right of where it is now and with a mid-station exit to a new floodlit green run is being constructed. A new beginners area with a short Arolles drag lift are also being built.
Over in the Belleville Valley the occasional bottleneck of St Martin 2 is to be relieved with an upgrade to a 6 seater hi-speed detachable hooded chair with the old 4-man being moved to replace the old Bettex 2-man chair to now give access to the bottom of the Gros Tougne piste for direct access in to Les Menuires.
Watch La Société des 3 Vallées video animating some of the new upgrades
Are you Skiing in Courchevel, La Tania, Meribel, Motteret, St.Martin or Les Menuires?
Why not try a Private Development with TDCski in the 3 valleys this winter ?
There’s no better way to hone old and new skills than to take a 3 hour private development lesson with one of our BASI 4 coaches.
We can tailor each lesson specifically to your requirements and concentrate on your strengths and weaknesses to produce a better performance all over the mountain.
Lessons start at 9am or 1pm and are available at just 250€ for 1-4 people.
We can meet you in Courchevel, La Tania, Meribel, Motteret, St.Martin or Les Menuires.
To book contact [email protected] or call +33 6 85 88 05 91