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During an unusual hardpack spell in the Tetons in 1992, I followed Doug Coombs around the tightest and steepest areas of Jackson Hole. Coombs is a master of tough steeps: He’s able to ski sheer, rough, technical lines easily. His effortless transitions from turn to turn enable him to be both in control and aggressive at the same time.
I learned from Coombs to shift my hips and upper body over the front of my skis to initiate a turn on ragged, steep pitches. With my upper body putting pressure into my tips, I can react quickly to obstacles and terrain changes without upsetting my balance.
As I bring my hips forward into the new turn (Fig. 1), I keep my upper body facing downhill. This movement brings me to a more upright position and transfers my weight into the shovel of the skis, improving the beginning of the turn (Fig. 2).
If you don’t drive your hips downhill into the next turn, you’ll have trouble initiating the arc quickly at the top of the turn (see “wrong”). With a slow transition, your skis will take too long to come across the fall line and will accelerate downhill. The result is survival skiing instead of smooth skiing.
Gordy Peifer was the 1998 Canadian and 2000 U.S. freeskiing champion and has been the star of 14 ski movies. Living in Salt Lake City, Utah, he remains one of freeskiing’s most prolific athletes.