Ask The Experts: December 2002

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The Professor

I like to ski fast, but I'm always on the edge of control. How do I slow down?
Robert March,
Rogers, Ark.

Your question goes to the heart of skiing. We get so focused on the mechanics (and aesthetics) of turn-making that we lose sight of why we make direction changes: to control speed.

In very basic terms, we turn our skis uphill to slow down; we turn them downhill—toward the fall line—to speed up. Controlled skiing is a constant balancing of gravity (which causes acceleration) and friction (which causes deceleration).

Modern skiers have become so good at the direction-change part that many try to slow down as little as possible in a turn. The anti-slowing mania, called "carving, is fashionable now, partly because shaped skis make carving so easy and fun.

The only way to kill speed in a carved turn is to stay with it for a long time—"finishing it so far the skis are pointing back uphill.

Carving requires that the skis be tilted onto a very high edge. The new boots and the shape of the new skis promote this. But many "forget—or never learned—to release a carving edge by flattening the edge angle and letting the ski drift into a skid, which scrubs speed. Flatten your skis by relaxing the feet, ankles and legs.

Also, press forward, pushing your shins into the boot tongues, which applies leverage to the front of the skis. Then, when the edges are released, the tip (wider) grabs the snow, while the tail (narrower) speeds up. The result is a wider, skidded turn that slows you down. Learn to make this work. —The Professor

Have a question for The Professor? Write Stu Campbell at stucski@aol.com.

The Gear Geek

I use a file on my skis, but after a few passes, it doesn't seem to bite. What gives?
Chris Casey,
Middletown, Ohio

If you're flat-filing the bottoms of both edges by scraping a file down the base, don't! Base edges should be gently filed one at a time and infrequently. Just take out the dings. (I do it with a diamond stone.) The sides of your edges is your focus. You'll need a side-edge tool that holds your file at the proper bevel (2 degrees for most people). After repeated filings, sidewall material gets in the way. Use a sidewall planer to expose more edge. By touching up your side edges between ski-shop tunes, you'll make the most of your sidecut; a joy on early-season manmade. —The Geek

Have a question for The Gear Geek? Write Joe Cutts at jcutts@skimag.com.

The Trainer

What are the best warm-ups before skiing? And what should I do at the end of the day?
Tom Beers,
Dixmont, Maine

Warm up with five to 10 minutes of cardio exercise. Try the rowing machine in the hotel gym or take a vigorous walk through the parking lot. This boosts your heart rate and literally warms you up by increasing blood flow to your muscles, which prepares them for activity. This is increasingly important as you get older. Then, take five minutes to stretch key muscles: calves, hamstrings, quads, back. It's key to stretch again at the end of the ski day. But first do a short bout (five to 15 minutes) of cardio exercise to flush out lactic acid. —The Trainer

Have a question for The Trainer? Write Kellee Katagi at kkatagi@skimag.com.