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You probably know Glen Plake as the guy with the mohawk crushing bump turns in movies like “Blizzard of Ahhhs”, but in addition to being a hot-dogging, hair-did movie star, he’s also a world-class ski mountaineer who has taken down multiple first descents, and spends a chunk of his year on the steeps of Chamonix.
I got to ski with Plake on his home turf: the Sierras outside of Bishop, California. We spent a lot of time going uphill. A lot of time. And Plake, with his constant drive to find something cool to ski, isn’t the kind of guy who’s going to wait around if you’re slow on the skin track.
Not surprisingly, his backcountry traveling technique is super dialed and one of the skills he’s particularly concerned about is kick turns. He says almost no Americans can do them correctly. Here are his steps for doing a safe, efficient uphill kick turn.
Get to the switchback in your skin track. Both of your skis should still be facing in the same direction.
Swivel your uphill ski and plant it in the direction you want to be going. It helps if, like Plake, you’ve got a ski ballet background, and super flexible hip joints. If not, try to get your skis at least 90 degrees apart.
Bring all of your weight onto your uphill ski. Get stable.
This is the tricky part, and the part that Plake says is the most important. It’s where, if you try to fudge it, or swing your leg around, you risk losing your balance and sliding downhill, which would be a total waste of all the energy you put into getting uphill.
With your weight on your uphill ski bring the toe of your downhill ski to the heel of your uphill ski. Get them as close together as possible. Like, almost touching.
Pivot your downhill foot so it’s parallel to your uphill one. If the slope is steep, or you’re having trouble getting your ski around, bring you feet even closer together and bend your knee.
Plant both skis and start heading in the other direction. Commence trying to keep up with Glen Plake.