Haluk in Col Pers

Getting ready to drive up to Tignes to collect Haluk, this was the early morning view that greeted me at my doorstep. I believe the moon’s orbit is so close at the moment that it is 14% larger than usual.

Haluk’s last day of skiing in March so we set out to try to find some decent off-piste. With an avalanche risk of level 4 (out of 5 max) we would be staying high altitude and finishing early. Apart from that the main aim was to stay away from any heavily loaded steep and convex slopes that were catching the sun directly. Most of our skiing was done on East facing slopes which had maximum protection from the prevailing wind and the afternoon sun.

North West facing slope on the descent from Col Pers. This avalanche is much bigger than it looks!
Notice – no people – only wilderness!!!
Haluk’s skiing has improved a lot technically this year so despite having a back problem he was able to negotiate the very tricky snow conditions without it being detrimental to his back. A year or two ago this would not have been possible in such conditions. The snow was wind packed and sun crusted with big changes every few meters so it is very easy to get caught out in this. Haluk used strong dynamics to ensure his turns but also tried to use a small amount of pivot in the start of the turn so as not to jam the skis on edge too early. He was definitely softer in the hips as a result of his improved technique and the smoother skiing kept him out of trouble. For many years I’ve been saying that when skiing is done skilfully and correctly then it is very therapeutic for the back – when it is done badly it is very dangerous for the back. 
For me, instead of resorting to powerful dynamics to ensure stability I chose to work on pivoting – the challenge being to pivot smoothly in seemingly impossible conditions for any ski to pivot. Several times I gave up and returned to dynamics just to be safe. My legs were a bit tired too from an intense cycling workout the previous day so they were not 100% cooperative. During the descent one clear solution came to mind and it was to accelerate the feet and legs ahead – from the level of the stomach. This forced the skis even further downhill than normal and increased the length of time they could remain on their uphill edges – enhancing the pivot effect. The effect was very powerful and reduced the need for an overtly strong push up or dynamics regardless of how variable and difficult the snow was. 

For a long time I’ve been telling Haluk that people who take risks on the mountain for adrenaline are generally focussed that way because they are not developing in other ways – i.e. technically. As your skiing gets better it also becomes more interesting and there is more than a lifetime of creativity to explore within this – without risking cutting that lifetime short. Today’s challenge of negotiating very treacherous snow – and making it fun and enjoyable – was a perfect example.  However you need to have a certain level of skill to appreciate this.

After two different routes down Col Pers it was time to head away from our peaceful national park wilderness and join the others for lunch and the slightly contrasting ambience of the local rave party!

Notice – no wilderness – only people!

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