Gareth joins the Simpsons

After our previous adventure we decided that Gareth has honorary membership of the Simpsons – with images of him heaving his gargantuan belly around and cartwheeling down the mountain etc.  Today he only had his pole “taken by a branch” when skiing through the trees – but nothing stranger than that.

Avalanche Risk

We had intended to go to some steep high faces to ski, but fresh windblown snow put paid to that. Slabs had built up over a hard surface and there were slab avalanches just about everywhere. Looking at the rock face with Pisteur’s couloir on the Rocher du Charvet I counted 5 small but significant avalanches there alone. We still went over the south side of the Charvet and went into the valley over a steep south facing pitch. There had been serious avalanches and snow creep during the warm spells – so we had to look out for crevases going right down to the ground. The snow was windblown on the surface with hard snow at varying depths underneath. Anywhere a small slab had formed it was very likely to slide.  This slope was steep but not uncomfortably so. We looked for the most stable looking section to ski down on.

Steeps Technique

I wanted to experiment with technique and worked on using a wide stance and independent leg action. This definitely gives the tightest control by far when being used on-piste for very short pivoted turns – so I wanted to determine how useful it is off-piste. The technique still requires good dynamics and a commitment to come out over the lower ski to end the turn and enter into the next one. After rebounding and using the energy of the skis then leg retraction is necessary on the steeps to avoid popping up too high with the centre of mass and to ensure that the timing stays clean (down/up through a single turn). Central to the turn is the use of chi-hips (pulling back the hip associated with the outside ski). The skis need to be separated in the fore/aft direction too – the uphill ski being placed ahead before starting the turn. Ideally there is very little turning of the body so the feet remain both about the same altitude on the mountain. The chi-hips cause the spine to rotate in the correct direction and thus create an integration of the upper/lower body instead of the classic “separation” – but this is next to impossible for someone to see unless they are already very aware of it. Later in the day we tackled some very steep and deep off-piste with a hard base beneath. That particular descent made our day! Using this technique I was slightly hesitant because of experimenting – but there wasn’t a single unstable turn the entire day despite the feeling being very “one legged”. It felt very secure and very controlled speed-wise. Next time I’ll try it on a hard surface in a couloir. .

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