How to Ski Moguls

These days with the advances in piste making technology, skiing moguls (or bumps) is pretty much a choice rather than a necessity. There was a time when resorts simply did not flatten the pistes for weeks and huge moguls would form on every grade of slope. Know how to ski through this minefield of overturned Volkswagen Beatles or perish!

I can’t remember the last time I was actually forced to ski down a bump field, there always seems to be an easy escape route available. Still, probably a good thing. Of course there are the black runs left alone high up on those steep facing slopes. Classic descents like Mt Fort & Tortin in Verbier, the Swiss Wall in Avoriaz or the infamous Triftij in Zermatt will always form moguls and often the gradient is just too steep for a grooming machine to flatten them.

The truth is that skiing moguls can actually be good fun and you don’t have to be an expert skier to enjoy them. The key to skiing them is to understand that you need to adapt your technique and forget about some of the ways you’ve been taught to turn on flat terrain (by flat I mean without moguls).

Most skiers today use ‘carving skis’ that are shaped to encourage the ski to turn on its edge. They are much easier to turn than the straight skis many people learned to ski on pre around the year 1998. If you want to make a smooth ‘carve’ turn on flat terrain you apply pressure to the edge of the ski and the ski does much of the work (it’s a little more complex than that but you get the idea). If we did this on a relatively steep mogul slope we’d pick up speed very quickly and lose control, often getting thrown over the tails of the ski and ultimately falling over.

So we need to control our speed and here’s the secret (well not really, it’s just not many people realise this)…..rotation. Yes, one word but it’s crucial if we want to control our speed in the bumps.

Here are a couple of exercises to improve your rotational skills:

  •  Side slipping – It’s not glamorous, exciting or much fun either, but it works. Practice side slipping down slopes of all grades (blue, red and black). Feel the difference between the edges gripping in the snow and the skis bases sliding. The key is to be able to remain traveling directly down the hill. Keep your feet apart.
  • Side slipping and changing direction – Yes more side slipping. Once you have mastered going down the hill sideways then start to rotate the direction of your skis 180 degrees. Note, you should not change direction, you are always travelling directly down the hill in a sideways position and simply rotating the skis underneath you. It’s not easy but if you can do this without turning then you’ve mastered rotation. If you can do this at quite high speeds and link your directional changes together, whilst never actually ‘turning’ then you are definitely ready (this is sometimes known as Brackage).

Another crucial aspect of skiing moguls is the ability to use your ski poles correctly. Planting your ski poles in the right place, at the right time is essential. If this is something you are not comfortable with then practice this until you are. Practice making short turns on a flat piste and initiate each turn with your ski pole.

To be continued,next week……

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Robert Stewart

Ski Editor at Snow.Guide

Robert has extensive knowledge and experience of winter sports and has been qualified to instruct and teach Alpine Skiing for over 20 years. He is also an experienced off-piste and backcountry skier and has competed in freestyle and freeride events around the world. Now a full-time ski writer and Director of Ski Press, Robert is Snow.Guide’s Ski Editor and contributes to many other snowsports, national and lifestyle publications.

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