Charge the Bumps


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(SKIING Magazine by Katie Fry and Megan Harvey) — Bumps. Ya either love ’em or hate ’em. Either way, you know that skiing the moguls gracefully separates the truly great from the merely good. Master the bumps and runs that once eluded you become little playgrounds. Suddenly you are in charge of where your skis take you, not vice versa. Friends look at you differently when you ski the bumps with ease.

The biggest change you must make when you move off the groomed and into the bumps is to adapt your body position and your skis to the constantly changing terrain. On groomed slopes the forces in a turn are predictable-you tip the ski up, resist the forces as you arc a big one, and change edges for the next turn. But in a bump run you encounter shifting faces of pitch and angle. Each mogul presents you with a mound that your skis can glide up, over, down, and around, as well as troughs to go through and across.

When playing in the bumps, there is not much time between terrain changes, so the potential for getting pitched around is high. You need to keep your upper body flowing smoothly down the hill while letting your legs alternately extend and then compress. Get control over your movements and you will be in charge of where your skis travel in the bumps.

The key to bumps is to get your legs pumping up and down under your body. The action is similar to, though not quite as easy as, walking down a flight of stairs. It is a rare occasion (maybe if you have a full-length cast on your leg) that you walk down stairs with straight legs, and yet that is how most people choose to ski the bumps. So, why not treat a mogul field like a bunch of stairs? When stepping down, you bend one leg to lower yourself as you reach the other foot down to the next step. You are constantly shortening and lengthening your legs to deal with the “terrain” of the stairs. Use the same action in a bump run, but do it with both legs together, making them short or long at the same time.

The idea behind changing the length of your legs is to make sure that you stay in touch with the snow. When your skis are on the snow, you have the most control, and that, after all, is the goal.

So, you have your legs moving up and down underneath you, but you have to turn, too. And aside from turning left or right, you have another choice to make: to slice or to smear? Turning controls not only your line, but your speed. Think of being the passenger in a car on a warm sunny day. You put your hand out the window and snake it through the air at 55 miles per hour. You could tip your hand on its side and make it slice cleanly through the air, or you could turn the palm up and feel a lot of resistance from the wind. You have similar choices when skiing the bumps.

Slicing your turns in the bumps encourages a rounder, smoother line. You cannot purely carve your skis in the bumps, but there is time to make the movements that create the activity of carving. Just like you tipped your hand on an angle to slice it through the air while riding in the car, you can tip your legs to slice your skis through the snow. Simply roll your ankles into the sides of your boots to get the skis on edge early in the turn.

A round turn is easy on the body, but some bump runs don’t allow that luxury. You might find yourself in a mogul field that does not offer much room between bumps, or the pitch is so steep that you don’t feel safe letting the skis run into the fall line for any amount of time. At this point in the game, pivoting the skis quickly and smearing the turn can help you get your skis around quickly. And smearing can slow you down, giving you time to find your line.

You can have all the right moves, but if you ain’t got the line, you ain’t got the time. Think about an everyday situation such as driving. Every few seconds, you judge the distance to the cars around you before making the neext move. Sometimes you cut corners to take a straighter line, or slow down to get in a particular spot for an exit. You are constantly looking ahead and anticipating what the next move will be. You need to do the same in the bumps. Look for places to slice your skis, places to skid your skis, tops of bumps to get short on, troughs to get long in, and obstacles that might get in the way (like other people or rocks or trees or ugly bumps). Just like your choice of slicing or smearing, you have a choice of what line to take as you move down the hill.

Knowing and using your options for bump skiing gives you choices. And that’s good, because you need a full bag of tricks in the bumps. Any given mogul slope consists of bumps of all shapes and sizes, and you’ll need several different tactics on each run. Make choices based on how you feel and what best suits the snow conditions for the day. And always, always be ready to improvise. Moguls require constant adaptation. But that’s what makes them so much fun. Moguls are not obstacles that get in the way, they are simply opportunities for new places to turn.