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How to Survive a Nasty Traverse

Rachael Burks offers tips for difficult traverses.
posted: 11/12/2008

Lined with rocks, ice, variable snow, and high traffic, traverses can be some of the trickiest runs in skiing. Use your edges, relax your knees, and let the force be with you.

Suck it up. Make like a mogul skier and let your legs go loose. If you hit a roller, rock, or stump, absorb the shock and glide over it. Don't lock your knees or you'll get bucked into the backseat.

Don't be afraid to go fast. Speed can help you hop over a couple moguls at a time and avoid the snot-jerking thud of consecutive bumps. Go too slow and you'll end up stuck half way and awkwardly poling along like a Nordic skier. The only exception: If the traverse is really gnarly, approach slowly and with caution.

Take the path less traveled. If the traverse looks like a luge run, opt for higher or lower ground, which usually has softer snow and is less trampled. If the thoroughfare looks like a goat path zigzagging along a rocky face, ditch it. Sidestep down, point your skis toward softer snow, make a quick jump turn, and off you go.

Watch out for traffic. Stopping the middle of a traverse is like jamming your brakes on a highway at rush hour - not a great idea. If someone's itching to pass you, step aside and let him go.

Clues the traverse sucks: Snowboarders are setting the track. You'd rather be in a bobsled. There are bumps bigger than you. A guy in orange is directing traffic.

When not hucking 50-footers or harvesting grapes in France, Utah-based Rachael Burks attempts to stay upright on Alta's High Traverse.

- Skiing Magazine, December 2008

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