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Be honest, when has avoiding a problem ever served you well? It may seem counter-intuitive, but most of us have learned by now that facing intimidating situations head-on often leads to the path of least resistance. And so it is with skiing the steeps. On steep terrain, natural instinct will tell you to lean into the hill, hold on and never let go. But leaning inside and uphill actually reduces edge grip, compromises your balance and halts your momentum—putting you at the slope’s mercy. To truly conquer the steeps, you need to play offense, not defense. Show the hill who’s boss.
Whether you’re tackling a 35-degree groomed slope or a 45-degree pitch off -piste, there are few things that can make or break your ability to ski the steeps more than this simple concept: face down the hill. Your entire upper body—head, shoulders, torso, and arms—should be oriented down the hill while your legs and skis turn beneath you. Simple to understand, less so to achieve, but it’s this ability to move your lower and upper half independently that separates the intermediate skiers from the experts.
Keeping your upper body facing down the hill requires an athletic stance, pressure on the outside ski, and moxie. There are a lot of elements involved, but a disciplined upper body will enable strong pole plants, cat-like balance, and rhythm and flow straight out of Justin Timberlake’s playbook.
How To Ski The Steeps
1. Eyes Down the Fall Line
Your upper body tends to follow your eyes. So if you want your upper body to face down the fall line (and trust us, you do), be sure to look and focus down the hill—not across.
2. Stabilize the Upper Body
Bring your shoulders forward and reach downhill with your pole in preparation for your pole plant. This will set you up beautifully to release into your next turn.
3. Plant and Release
Plant your downhill pole (like you mean it!) just before releasing your edges. Tip your upper body towards your outside (downhill) ski, pinching the “love handle” between your upper and lower body.
4. Drive Arms Forward
Through the turn, drive your elbows ahead of your torso. This will keep you balanced as your skis accelerate through the turn, and prepare you for whatever lies ahead.
Shot on location at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, B.C. With 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, Kicking Horse is renowned for its jaw-dropping steeps, annual snow totals, and hike-to powder bowls.
Video: How to Ski The Steeps—PSIA Tips
Ready to conquer expert terrain? SKI Magazine and AIM AdventureU teamed up with the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) to design the online course Mastering Steeps. Enroll and get in-depth instruction on techniques and tactics that will help you tackle adrenaline-pumping lines. Get the goods at skimag.com/masteringsteeps.