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50 Things Every Skier Must Know

Features
posted: 11/20/2002

1) Self-arrest With a Ski Pole
Even French ski mountaineers don't often descend steeps with ice axes in hand-it's too awkward, and potentially lethal. Nope, to put the brakes on when you're suddenly rocketing downhill on something other than your skis, you need the ski-pole self-arrest. To pull one off:
1. When you're on sketchy slopes, keep one hand out of the pole strap so it's easier to manipulate the arresting pole. If you don't, you have to yank your wrist out.
2. Get the pole tip pointing uphill, with your left hand grasping the shaft just above the basket.
3. Roll over, face down, and jam the tip into the snow while pushing the pole shaft uphill with your right hand and levering the tip in.

It's sounds easy. It ain't. It's actually dicey and horribly inefficient at best, but the alternative is biting and clawing the snowpack like a rabid marmot as you slide toward the rocks.

2) Read A Slope
"Ability is one third of what makes a good skier. Aspect is the other two thirds," says Dean Cummings, owner of H2O Heli Guides in Valdez. "Once you understand aspects, you won't waste time trying to find good snow all day. When you look at a mountain, determine your south-facing slope. These are the slopes that get hammered by the sun. You want north-facing slopes, but you need to understand that even slight changes affect how much sun exposure they get. For wind, just look at summits for the wisping snow that we call "flags" to determine the direction the wind is blowing. The slope that faces the wind gets the snow stripped away (windward); the opposing slope is where the snow is deposited (leeward)."

3) Avoid an Avalanche
First, know what causes them: 90 percent of the time, it's the victim. You've got that digital transceiver, but do you know how to read snowpack and terrain? "With avalanches, everyone vastly overestimates their skills," says Bruce Tremper, director of the Utah Avalanche Center. "Most of the time, even a small amount of avalanche education can help you avoid accidents." Take a course or, at the very least, read his book, Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain (Mountaineers, $18). For course info, go to avalanche.org.

4) Take a Run in the Pipe
1. Start in a small pipe.
2. Take one run, making turns down the pipe and banking wall to wall to get comfortable and find rhythm.
3. Hike back up and drop in, riding up the walls perpendicularly.
4. At each takeoff, turn your head and look back into the pipe; re-enter perpendicularly (or as close as possible). Maintain speed across transition.

5) STOP Gaper Gap
If your goggles don't marry seamlessly with your hat or helmet, you'll look like a loser. Push your hat down, buy better-fitting goggles, or wear a thin helmet liner like the Hooded Gaiter from Merkley ($20; merkleyheadgear.com).

6) Throw a 360
Travis Mayer: "Start by picking a spot 180 degrees uphill. As you approach the jump, you should be in a sort of a half-squat position-that's how you generate the power for takeoff. At takeoff, pop up and add rotation by driving with your outside hip and shoulder. Lead with your eyes, and look for that predesignated spot. As you spin toward 360, look down the fall line and press your hands forward at the landing."

7) Wax your skis
Preheat iron (one with no steam holes). Press appropriate color wax onto iron, leaving drips of melted wax along length of ski. Slide iron slowly down the base to distribute wax evenly. Keep iron moving-avoid bubbling of wax and don't let iron smoke. Leave for five minutes. Scrape with 1/4-inch acrylic scraper. Brush from tip to tail with hard nylon brush. Voilà ! (Tools available from Sun Valley Ski Tools, svst.com.)

8) Ski geezers you don't know but should
Howard Head
Known as the inventor of the modern ski, he introduced plastic bases and steel eds.

Andrea Mead Lawrence
In the 1952 Olympic Games, she became the first and only U.S. skier to win two gold medals in Alpine skiing.

Tom Sims
On a modified skateboard and a New Jersey sledding hill, he was a pioneer of the concept of the snowboard-39 years ago.

Emile Allais
A French skiing legend, he became the godfather of extreme in the 1950s by breaking the confines of conventional skiing and heading off-piste in Chamonix.

Peter Markle
A former member of the U.S. Hockey Team, he's responsible for directing the Hollywood classic, Hot Dog...The Movie.

9) Split Wood
Winter is cold. Fire is warm. The trick to perfect kindling: Aim not at the stick of wood but through it. As you swing the ax, aim for the chopping block under the log. Whatever you do, do not look at your big toe.

10) What to Throw Away
1. Rear-entry boots
2. Anything neon
3. Poles with molded wrap-around grips
4. Any hat with bells, antlers, or a nose
5. "Cat Eye" sunglasses
6. Stretch pants (men only)
7. White, green, blue-hell, any color-cotton turtleneck
8. Any ski on which the sidecut is not clearly noticeable
9. Headbands
10. Boot Tote, Ski Tote-anything "tote"

11) Turn on Ice
"Most people tense up. Be loose and relaxed. If you have a stiff muscle on a hard surface, you're taking away your shock absorption," says Eastern ginsu John Egan. "Just ride the edge-and the ski will carve like a razor blade."

12) Telemark
Dan Gilchrist, Tele Freeskier: "Sure, telemarking makes it easier to get into the backcountry, but it also creates this whole other layer of challenges. You can feel a lot more of the turn, and when you see steep chutes that you'd just hop in on alpines...you know, now you have to think about it a little more."

13) Prevent Blisters
Use duct tape. Apply directly to skin on heel and instep. Never, ever take it off.

14) Keep Your Goggles From Fogging
1. Never push your goggles up onto your head-melted snow and sweat will condense onto the lenses.
2. Don't wipe the inside of your gogs. The antifog coating on the inside gets soft when wet. Wipe it and you'll get permanent scratches.
3. If you're going to sweat like a pig, put your goggles in your pack before you start hiking.
4. Use napkins to soak up moisture from the foam because saturated foam doesn't breathe.

15) Carry Your Gear
Please, people: Bindings behind shoulder, tails up. Is that so hard?


















16) Operate a Motor Vehicle While Wearing Ski Boots
Buy an automatic. After that, the key to success is angulation-think duck feet. Point your toes out so you don't catch your heels on the floor mat. Get jiggy using your entire leg-foot, knee, hip-for braking and accelerating.

17) Look Cool Skiing Bumps
Hands forward, ass out of the trunk. See Private Lessons, page 80.

Field Guide

18) De-tune a Ski:
If your edges are too sharp, you need a gummi stone-or a couple firm passes of each edge across the trunk of a tree (or tree-hugger).

19) Repair base damage:
To remove hanging hunks of base material that cause drag, use the other ski's edge like a cheese slicer to shave it off. If the ding's near your inside edge, just swap left and right skis.

20) straighten an Aluminum Pole:
Don't put it across your knee and hurk on it. Instead, find a tree (or tree-hugger) with thick bark (or a thick beard) and knock the trunk with the pole. The bark softens the blow and lessens kinkage. Be patient-each tap progressively takes some bend out.

21) Mend a Stripped Binding:
Keep a wad of steel wool and some Krazy Glue in your pack. Mix them, pack the stripped holes with the mixture, run the screws back in, let it set for about five minutes.

22) Call in Sick on a Powder Day
1. Go into work sick and ski when you get your boss sick.
2. Leave voicemail at 5 a.m.
3. No family emergencies-you'll get busted when your dead mother walks into the office.
4. Act like you're on a cell phone with bad reception. "I'm not...ksh...make it today...sick...ksh...home...fluids...tomorrow...kshhh." Turn cell off.
5. Hide the evidence. Glob on the SPF 40.

23) Alternate in Lift Queues
It's a simple thing you learned in kindergarten. Take turns.

24) Keep Your Hands Warm
Keep your core warm so your blood doesn't rush away from your extremities. (Wear a hat and stay hydrated.) Swing your arms in circles to send blood to your fingers, but make sure you've got a tight seal between glove and sleeve, or you'll billow away precious body heat. If your digits are still chilled, wear a waterproof insulated mitten like Marmot's Randonnée ($100; marmot.com).

25) Calm Down Before a Scary Descent
Aleisha Cline: "Close your eyes, visualize your favorite ski hero, and then point 'em like they would do."
Jeremy Nobis: "First I take a pee...then I just roll with it."

26) Change Out of a Sweaty Base Layer Without Exposing an Inch of Skin
Pull your arms out of all sleeves so you've got skin on skin. Hold the waistline of your top layer while putting your arms back through the arms of the top layer only. Pull your clammy shirt over your head and toss into your pack. Boom, done. Any of you guys get that? Didn't think so.

27) Get a Hangover
Ski hard. Have a few pints. Skip dinner. Do tequila shots. Spend 90 minutes slurping beers in the hot tub. Pass out.

28) Cure a Hangover
Plan A: Orange Gatorade, semi-flat warm Coke, cheese fries, Vitamin I.
Plan B: Keep drinking.

29) Put Liners Back Into Boots Without Losing a Finger
Don't take them out regularly to dry them-get a boot dryer. Otherwise, hold the upper boot and tongue together in a tight roll with one hand and pinch the heel with the other. Push the liner from the heel and drive downward with the upper hand. Mind the bottom hand's knuckles and get it the hell out before releasing the top hand.

30) Ski Roller-Coaster Traverses
"Do double jumps: Pop the front side, and land on the far side of the next bump," says Kim Reichhelm, two-time World Extreme Skiing Champion and founder of Women's Ski Adventures. "It's aggressive, but it's way better than hitting every one. And never, ever snowplow. Throw 'em sideways on the outside if you're in a jam."

31) Say "Beer, please"
French: Bière, s'il-vous-plaà®t
German: Ein bier, bitte
Italian: Birra, prego
Spanish: Cerveza, por favor
Japanese: Biru, kudasai
Swedish: à–l, snà¤lla (ull, sna-la)

32) Pronounce
Blizzard
li-ZAHRD

Dynastar
DEE-nah-starr

Kastle
KES-lee

Kneissl
kuh-NIGH-sul

Stockli
STOKE-lee

Voile
VOH-lay

Volkl
VOH-kul

33) Get Out of a Tree Well
When you've fallen and you can't get up, make an X with your poles and put your hands in the middle of it. Press down. Stand up.

34) Ski Breakable Crust
Mike hattrup: "First, try to stay on top of the crust-weight your feet evenly and make rounder turns. Choppy turns will just make you punch through. Try to keeppack the stripped holes with the mixture, run the screws back in, let it set for about five minutes.

22) Call in Sick on a Powder Day
1. Go into work sick and ski when you get your boss sick.
2. Leave voicemail at 5 a.m.
3. No family emergencies-you'll get busted when your dead mother walks into the office.
4. Act like you're on a cell phone with bad reception. "I'm not...ksh...make it today...sick...ksh...home...fluids...tomorrow...kshhh." Turn cell off.
5. Hide the evidence. Glob on the SPF 40.

23) Alternate in Lift Queues
It's a simple thing you learned in kindergarten. Take turns.

24) Keep Your Hands Warm
Keep your core warm so your blood doesn't rush away from your extremities. (Wear a hat and stay hydrated.) Swing your arms in circles to send blood to your fingers, but make sure you've got a tight seal between glove and sleeve, or you'll billow away precious body heat. If your digits are still chilled, wear a waterproof insulated mitten like Marmot's Randonnée ($100; marmot.com).

25) Calm Down Before a Scary Descent
Aleisha Cline: "Close your eyes, visualize your favorite ski hero, and then point 'em like they would do."
Jeremy Nobis: "First I take a pee...then I just roll with it."

26) Change Out of a Sweaty Base Layer Without Exposing an Inch of Skin
Pull your arms out of all sleeves so you've got skin on skin. Hold the waistline of your top layer while putting your arms back through the arms of the top layer only. Pull your clammy shirt over your head and toss into your pack. Boom, done. Any of you guys get that? Didn't think so.

27) Get a Hangover
Ski hard. Have a few pints. Skip dinner. Do tequila shots. Spend 90 minutes slurping beers in the hot tub. Pass out.

28) Cure a Hangover
Plan A: Orange Gatorade, semi-flat warm Coke, cheese fries, Vitamin I.
Plan B: Keep drinking.

29) Put Liners Back Into Boots Without Losing a Finger
Don't take them out regularly to dry them-get a boot dryer. Otherwise, hold the upper boot and tongue together in a tight roll with one hand and pinch the heel with the other. Push the liner from the heel and drive downward with the upper hand. Mind the bottom hand's knuckles and get it the hell out before releasing the top hand.

30) Ski Roller-Coaster Traverses
"Do double jumps: Pop the front side, and land on the far side of the next bump," says Kim Reichhelm, two-time World Extreme Skiing Champion and founder of Women's Ski Adventures. "It's aggressive, but it's way better than hitting every one. And never, ever snowplow. Throw 'em sideways on the outside if you're in a jam."

31) Say "Beer, please"
French: Bière, s'il-vous-plaà®t
German: Ein bier, bitte
Italian: Birra, prego
Spanish: Cerveza, por favor
Japanese: Biru, kudasai
Swedish: à–l, snà¤lla (ull, sna-la)

32) Pronounce
Blizzard
li-ZAHRD

Dynastar
DEE-nah-starr

Kastle
KES-lee

Kneissl
kuh-NIGH-sul

Stockli
STOKE-lee

Voile
VOH-lay

Volkl
VOH-kul

33) Get Out of a Tree Well
When you've fallen and you can't get up, make an X with your poles and put your hands in the middle of it. Press down. Stand up.

34) Ski Breakable Crust
Mike hattrup: "First, try to stay on top of the crust-weight your feet evenly and make rounder turns. Choppy turns will just make you punch through. Try to keep up a constant speed. And make sure you keep your stomach and lower back tight-skiing crust is a fore-aft rodeo, and you don't want to go over the bars. If you're struggling, you should actually find a steeper slope; by making turns in the air, you can get your skis out of the snow and change direction."

35) Handle Climbing Skins
To store: Fold each skin in half onto itself without letting the adhesive touch the hair. Continue to fold until the skins are the right size to fit into your pocket or your pack.
To Ruin: Encourage dog to sit on skins. Soak skins. Drop skins in dirt. Rub skins on fleece vest.

36) Understand Why They Ride
Jeremy Jones: "When I switched from skiing to snowboarding, I was living in Vermont way before I'd ever ridden big mountains. Snowboarding turned a mountain I was bored with into a terrain park, and every feature into a wave. Later, when I got to Alaska, I'd wait at the top as my guide made 6,000 hop turns on skis down the face, ending up in a pool of sweat. Then I'd blast by him not even breathing hard. Watching skiers make the transition to fat skis has been amazing, but they still tend to stick to traditional lines. I look for double fall lines and ride them frontside, facing the wall, the slough falling away. It's a different sensation, surfing a 1,500-foot wave."

37) Read a Topo Map
Know contour lines. Even more important, know contour intervals-the space between the lines, which represents the elevation change from one contour line to the next. Small circle=summit. Close lines=steep shit. Really close lines=cliff.

38) Build a Snow Cave
1. Pick a spot with snowpack at least four or five feet deep.
2. Dig deep, then tunnel. You want a low entrance that won't let out heat.
3. Dig up from the entrance until you have the space you need, but keep the walls and ceiling at least 12 inches thick.
4. Make a vent hole through the ceiling and a raised platform for sleeping where the warm air rises. Light a candle. A single flame can raise the temp 20 degrees.

39) Drive on Snowy Roads
Some tips from the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat:
1. Test road conditions often. Hit the brakes until the wheels lock up (when no one is behind you!).
2. Know your brakes. With traditional brakes, pumping is okay, but with ABS, the computer pumps for you.
3. Learn to read the road. Bridges and overpasses ice up faster; shady areas and shadows can cause slick spots.
4. Don't overestimate your SUV. Four-wheel-drive does not improve braking effectiveness.
5. Take a bus. Or take a class. $285; winterdrive.com

40) Drop a Cliff
Tips from Gordy Peifer
Reconnaissance: "Scout. To hit shit blind is asking for trouble. Every season tourists launch Germania Rock at Alta only to break their hips on a boulder that's just beneath the surface."
Missile Launch: "I prefer to treat takeoffs like kickers, and pop 'em. It's easier to regain composure as you go up or out to a zenith than it is free-falling."
Guidance system: "Keep your hands forward, but not rigid. If you need to move them to keep your balance, move 'em."
Target in Crosshairs: "Always go farther than you think you need to. Aim for the pillow of snow that deposits just beyond the base of the cliff."
Impact: "Use your ass like it's the bottom-out bumper on a mountain bike shock. I let my butt touch to the left of and behind my bindings-it lets you absorb everything without going over the bars." (See also #45, Avoid Blowing Your ACL)

41) Take a Photo in the Snow
1. Snow reflects light, so compensate by underexposing the film by one stop. Do this by halving your ISO (film speed), setting the exposure-compensati

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