VIDEO: How to Ski a Spine

Skiing a spine, with fall-away turns on both sides of it, isn’t easy. But it’s a great way to sharpen your technique.
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What’s in It for You › Spines, where adjecent slopes meet to form a peak like the roofline of a giant house, often come with different exposures and even snow conditions on either side. Ski right along the spine and you can sample the goods on each side before you commit to one slope or the other. And it’s fun. You’ll have to contend with variable snow and light, with ground that falls sharply away from you after each transition, and with unpredictable, ever-changing pitches. But the greater the challenge, the sweeter the reward.

With continually changing conditions (pitch, light, snow, debris), you need to anticipate the unpredictable as you crisscross the ridge. Keep both ankles flexed and supple so your hips stay over your feet. As you move from dark to light, your eyes might not adjust as quickly as you’re moving. Drag your inside pole to get a feel for the terrain and snow as they change. Always keep your other pole in front of you so you’re ready to initiate a new turn.

Check out both aspects from the top of the ridge. One might be windward or sunbaked with exposed hazards, the other wind-scoured but firm.

Flex, Extend › Keeping your upper body steady and aimed down the spine, let your legs absorb the terrain as it falls away on either side and rises between turns.Pole-plant on the top of the spine at each transition to establish a rhythm.

Stay Grounded › As the pitch gets steeper, the ground drops out even faster on either side. When it does, quickly extend your legs to maintain contact with the snow.

Get Out in the Open › When the ridge ends or becomes unskiable, aim for the open slope. Anticipate the new slope’s pitch. Swing your pole to start your next turn, and let ’er rip.

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NASTC Clinic

How To Ski: Clinics

A single-day lesson always helps, but to truly transform your skiing takes a commitment of time and energy. Here are our favorite multi-day immersion clinics that will finally take you to the next level. From Vail to Vermont, the list includes a resort near you.