Feather the Tail

Private Lessons
Get Schooled, Feb 2005

The hill is blanketed in what looks like deep powder, so you charge ahead of the masses to get first tracks. But instead of boot-deep fluff you find hard crust, spotted by pockets of wind-deposited skiff. As soon as you hit the ice, your skis shoot out from under you; when you dive back into the chalk, they stop abruptly beneath you.

To ski consistently in unpredictable conditions like these, you have to master two tricks-stay centered, and learn to feather your tails at the end of every turn. But before you try this tip, remember: Since you can't see what lies beneath that thin layer of fluff, you have to focus on the sensations created by variable conditions. If the snow is soft, let your skis float. If it turns to crud, be ready to react quickly.

First, carve into the start of a turn as you would on a groomed run. But once you cross the fall line, press down with the pinkie toe inside your downhill ski boot, release the edge, and let the ski slide a little. By matching (flattening) the angle of your ski to the angle of the hill, you add a small, controlled slide to the end of every turn. This technique may not look pretty, but it'll help you keep both skis under your hips and stay centered in variable conditions.

Two-time World Extreme Skiing Champion Wendy Fisher stars in Warren Miller Entertainment's latest film, Impact.


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