I learned to ski in a Norwegian resort where the mountains were more like steep hillocks, and the longest runs were half a mile, cutting narrow swathes through the birch trees. Doing short turns and slalom ski racing was the order of the day. Arriving in the European Alps I was amazed to find huge open pistes rolling down the mountainsides for miles. Here we spent the time doing a lot of giant slalom ski racing and long fast turns.
Speed, however, is as potentially dangerous on a piste as a loaded gun in the hands of a five year old, unless we know how to use it. How many times have you been run into? How many times have you run into somebody else? How many times have you seen people totally out of control careering headlong down the mountain?.How fast do you think you ski at the moment, excluding the time you get into the tuck at the bottom of the blue run? 10, 20, 30 mph? You are probably not going much more than 30 mph, but have you thought how well you would be after hitting a tree even at this speed? Even at 30 mph you have to look out for people, rocks, and snow machines, etc, but how will you anticipate these problems at 50, 60 or even 70 mph? The fat lady in the lilac shell suit may be two hundred metres ahead, dithering, but how do you avoid her at 60 mph? It may be hysterically funny in the bar afterwards, reminiscing on how you went straight over the front of her skis in the air for God's sake, shouting 'Banzai'.An alternative, which does happen, is that you both end up in a wooden box.It is now standard practice in some Stateside ski resorts to breathalyse those who ski dangerously, so this suggests a direct comparison with driving a car: Be aware of your speed - Keep your distance - Watch out for others - Know your reaction time - Know your stopping distance - Reduce speed in heavy traffic.
As responsible skiers we must file these comparisons away so that they become instinctive and do not need thinking about again. We can then safely apply ourselves to the technique.Before you attempt to ski fast you must ask yourself this, 'Am I competent enough to make fast controlled turns without endangering myself and anyone else in the vicinity?'.
If you have not already read the article that discusses your level of ability ('The Five Ages of Skiing'), do so after reading this. If you feel you qualify in the 'conscious competent' category, then have a go!.For all the fast turns choose a good wide empty blue run on a Monday when the weekenders have gone home.
Make sure you can see the whole piste you are going to practise on before stopping. It doesn't need to be more than 25 degrees to start with. There are no stray weekenders hiding behind those hillocks, nor snow machines chugging up round blind corners? Good. Unless it's warm put some goggles on.
There's nothing worse than being blinded by tears at speed.And finally, remember the most important rule. Never ski fast on a crowded piste or wherever there is a chance of colliding with someone...
Simon Dewhurst has taught downhill skiing in North America, Scandinavia and the European Alps for 35 years. He currently runs a ski chalet agency in the French Alps. His book "Secrets of Better Skiing" can be found at http://www.
ski-jungle.com. If you have any comments about the above article, he will be happy to answer them.
By: Simon Dewhurst