Ask the Professor: Tough Combo

Fall Line

Steeps, groomers and powder never bother me, but why is it that when moguls meet trees, I get all nervous and eat it? And what can I do to improve?

Stephen Schnupp

Garden City, N.Y.

I'm with you. Steep tree runs littered with moguls can be intimidating. The combination is a double-whammy: uneven footing and slalom poles so rigid the only thing likely to "break away" is one of your extremities. To make matters worse, light and shadows in such places can be deceiving.

When pitches or snow are uniform, you can go where you please, when you like, without paying the consequences of your mistakes. But where trees meet moguls, there's little margin for error.

Prepare for such situations on groomed runs. Look ahead, pick out spots on the snow, and hit them exactly with your ski tips. Continuously pick out a few spots ahead of you, but never let them be such that you fall into a steady rhythm. Vary turn shapes and sizes, and vary your speed often. The goal is agility.

Then graduate into small, later medium and finally large bumps. Don't ski the "zipper line." Instead, try to ski arrhythmically, exploring all faces of the bumps-fronts, backs, tops, bottoms, as well as the sides. Frequent imbalance and lack of a consistent line may frustrate you, but this training will pay off.

Another way to train for treeskiing is to run slalom. This forces you to look ahead and maintain a precise route. Practice this without hitting the poles.

Finally, move into widely spaced trees where the terrain is smooth. Focus on the openings between the trees, never on the trees themselves. After a while look for tighter glades.

When you finally get back to the moguled tree runs, you'll be more confident, which is half the battle. If you find you're still tentative, don't worry: Such places deserve respect. Either way, I bet you won't eat it anymore. -The Professor

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