Get Schooled: Relax and Wobble

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...the way your skis harness the forces of gravity and motion to smoothly propel you from one angle into the next. The problem comes when you lose flow in ugly conditions.

On the groomers, skiers make effortless turns all the time. But as soon as they go off-piste and feel their tips getting deflected by the crud, they freeze up and start muscling their skis. Their weight is back, so they have to jerk the ski around. With all that tail-whipping, they fall into survival mode. They get down the hill, but they're totally cooked.

The key to cruising through crud is relaxing your knees and ankles and allowing your tips to wobble a little as the crud deflects them. You'll want to do the opposite—to go rigid—but try to work against that tendency. Think of mountain bikers letting their bike bounce around underneath them as they come through the whoop-de-doos. They keep their core strong and tight, but let their legs and arms go loose as the bike ricochets through. They actually let go a little to gain more control. Same with skiing. Keep your core strong, but let your legs go loose. The skis will react to all the little terrain changes—but if you keep up your speed, they'll keep coming back to center.

Jenn Berg

Age: 28 Height: 5 feet 8 inches Weight: 135 pounds Home Area: Squaw Valley, CA Accomplishments: 1999 U.S. National Freeskiing Champion, featured skier in three Warren Miller Entertainment films. Worst Learning Experience: "In 1997 I took a pair of 178 carving skis to one of my first big-mountain competitions in Alaska. My first time out of a helicopter, and I was on these little, shaped skis. This was full-on breakable crust, and I was on a super-steep run. Instead of going down the fall line and using gravity, I froze, traversed, and tried to make a gorilla turn across the hill. The snow grabbed my skis, slapped me to the ground, and flipped me down the hill. Of course, it was so steep that I couldn't stop tumbling. I was OK, but I learned that the wrong equipment and a timid approach can hurt.