Ski Tips that Rip

Ski Tips by Dan Egan.  Learn the secrets of All Terrain Skiing from one of the Pioneer of Extreme Skiing.  With over 25 years of experience of skiing the most remote regions of the world.  Egan is considered one of the leaders in adventure  and backcountry skiing.


The Big Chute at Big Sky Mt

Jimmy skis the “Big” off of Lone Peak

Speed control in the world of new ski design – By Dan Egan

Ski design has changed again recently, with the introduction of “Early Rise” tips and “Rockered” skis. When skiing on these new skis, it’s all about being centered when it comes to speed control.

First lets review what these terms mean, what the designs allow skiers to do, then talk about how to control speed.

“Early Rise” skis may or may not have camber under the foot. When choosing a model first decide what percentage of groomed slope skiing do you do? If its 40% or greater a ski with camber might be for you. Camber skis will provide more grip because as the ski flexes in the middle of the turn and de-flexes at the end of the turn the edges to bite into the snow and thus provide a bit more grip like a traditional shaped ski.

“Early Rise” skis without camber under the foot will still edge well on groomed trails but will preform better in the woods and in deeper snow because they will pivot under your foot easier. And finally “Rockered” skis will be best for skiers who ski 20% or less on groomed snow because they are designed to float in deeper snow and will provide more stability at higher speeds than “fat” skis with camber.

The benefit of these new skis is that when the ski is on edge the tip and tail are pre bent in the arc of the turn. This predetermined shape takes less body movement to initiate the turn once the ski is on edge. Plus a ski with no camber (flat under your foot) or a ski with reverse camber (tips and tails bend upwards just before and after your foot) will pivot or skid easier and this is helpful off of groomed slopes.

Traditional shaped skis allow us to edge early in the turn and decelerate through edge pressure and turn initiation. To accomplish this you need to create pressure on the edge early in the arc and this is initiated through pressuring the tip. Also with the advent of shaped skis, we saw shorter skis introduced to the market.

Now with these new designs skis are getting longer again, because with the early rising tip we need more ski in front of the binding for grip with both cambered and no cambered skis.

Here is the key, the skis want to tip and grip and the sweet spot is in the center. On a traditional shaped ski we can ski with a bit more forward and aft motion. But because with these new skis the tips and tails are pre bent fore and aft motion can create instability.

To gain stability stand solid in the center of the skis and create edge angle and ride the arc this will create the desired controllable acceleration with little or no fore and aft motion.

With the new reverse camber and early rise skis, the sweet – or balance – spot on hardpack snow is smaller. In deeper snow, the sweet spot is larger because the softer snow supports the arc of the ski. If you adjust your balance points on these newer skis, you’ll grow to love them.

Solid ski technique still remains the same and a centered stance is the key to controlling your speed.

Extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan has appeared in 12 Warren Miller Ski films and is the host of New England Ski Journal television on Comcast Sports Net Tuesday’s at 9pm. He also teaches clinics and guides trips at locations around the world including Killington, where he’ll be teaching January 23-14, February 20-21 and March 19-20. Other locations include, Big Sky, Val D Isere France, Valle Nevado Chile and Iceland.

Balance is the issue for all terrain skiing – By Dan Egan

The more I teach backcountry and big mountain skill to skiers the more I realize that for most advance skiers rarely a talent issue rather it’s a balance issue. When it comes to turning a ski the dynamics doesn’t change much from groomed slopes to steep powdery pitches but few realize that to be the case.

Fear and apprehension equal lack of balance. For nearly two decade traditional ski schools have taught minimized motion when it comes to technique and focused too much on tipping skis rather than turning skis. The result have been when intermediate skiers enter into difficult terrain such as trees, moguls and steeps they have no idea on how to decelerate and that results in fear which equal lack of balance.

Skiers can conquer apprehension and fear by practicing speed acceptance and slowly building on their run on new terrain.

Speed Acceptance – Skis are made to accelerate and deceleration happens over a series of turn. So rather than skiing to slow down, practice skiing to accelerate and then slowdown in the last three turns of your decent. You can practice this on a groomed slope and then gradually move to steeper terrain with cut up snow or moguls.

Maximize Motion – When it comes to skiing powder, trees and steeps its important to maximize motion. You can do this by reaching further down the hill with your pole plants and or standing taller between turns. When you maximize your motion you unlock the your balance and can control the speed you are generating.

You go where you look so look where you want to go – The key to all mountain skiing is looking down the hill and past obstacles. Too often skiers will tell me what they want to avoid but rately do they tell me where they want to turn. Focus your eyes beyond the mogul, tree or rocks and see the path around obstacles then decelerate over a series of two or three turns.

A balanced skier is a thing of beauty and as skiers our main job is to complement the terrain we ski. Breathe deep, relax and remember it’s a balance issues not a talent issue.

The Breakthrough Zone – By Dan Egan

Every year people come to my camps and clinics with the same goal, they want to “breakthrough” to the next level in their skiing.  That may include moguls, trees, control, speed, and hard pack snow.  Over the years what I have discovered that the best way to inject your skiing with new energy and skills is to take a step back from your current skiing comfort zone and enter into the “Breakthrough Zone”.

The “Breakthrough Zone” (BZ) is the equivalent of reprograming your computer’s hard drive.  We have to update and reboot our physical and mental approach to skiing.  This starts with how and when you arrive at the mountain and to whom you ski with and beyond.  Many of the ruts we fall into have to do with who, where and when we ski.  Remember BZ skiing is all about busting wide open in to a new realm of experiences.

Matching motivation – It’s important to find some ski friends that match you motivation for improving.  You don’t have to ski all day with these people but at least two hours of your day will be very helpful.

Skills and drill time – You have to be willing to practice.  If you want to be better at steeps you have to focus on the basics of steeps, such as upper body, pole planting and quick edge to edge transitions.  Or maybe bumps is your thing you have to willing to start on medium grade bumps and build up to the steep rad lines. This is going to require practice time and patience for again two plus hours a day.

Turn the “Oh No” into the “Oh Ya” – We are all driven by some form of inner voice.  Its best to flip the switch of this conversation into the positive reinforcing language such as, “I can”, I will, I am progressing, Its going to happen, there is progress happening here.

Visualization – Skiing is a visual sport.  Find images, videos or other skiers that model your goal.  Watch them and embed those images into your mind and duplicate the images as you ski.

Burn to learn – Remember we all fall.  Falling is not negative if your are going to push past your limits there are bound to be a few yard sales along the way.  Be safe and smart but be bold in your exploration of the Breakthrough Zone and go for it!

Never stop learning!  Explore the possibilities of all terrain skiing and expand your horizons as your confidence grows so will your adventures.

The perfect Powder Day – By Dan Egan

We all want to wake up to the perfect powder day, it’s the “Holy Grail” of skiing and if you are in resort on that day, there are a few skills that will help you find powder paradise.

Early Bird – I know it’s a cliché but if you think its going to snow all night, wake up and head to the mountain to be there two hours prior to the lifts opening.

Be prepared – Call the resort, find out if there is a first tracks program that provides early access to lift opening.  It’s worth every dime to be on the first chair.

Have a plan – On most decent powder days, there can be delays in chairs and trails opening.  You will have to move across the grain and be willing to risk being caught up in the herd.  Think hard about where you will go.  It might be worth  letting the first pack go and pouncing on a delayed trail opening.

Keep a sharp eye on Patrol – Ask lots of questions to patrol, watch their movements and listen to any radio chatter that might give you the edge on conditions and locations.  If possible grab a chair lift ride with a patroller and pepper them with respect and questions.

Set expectation – Talk over your plan with your ski pals and be clear about the “Keep up and meet up” policy. Discuss your plans and be honest about what your goals are.  If you are showing people around, be patient.  If you’re a selfish powder hound state the obvious and buy the first round of drinks at happy hour to make up for any hurt feelings.

Breathe – Most skiers burn out on powder days because they hold their breath while skiing.  Make breathing a priority as you “shred the pow” to insure you’ll have some gas in the tank to ski buzzer to buzzer.

Mind over matter – Remember often on deep days the powder can be wind blown, crusty or inconsistent.  Don’t get caught up in the quality of the snow rather focus on the experience and go for quality of runs.

Island hop – On certain days cut up powder snow is better than fresh tracks.  You can find lots of joy in skiing the islands of snow between the tracks.  Island Hop your way to powder turn to powder turn

One good powder day will drive most skier’s addiction to deep snow for years.  Ask most skiers about their best day ever and settle in for a good story that happened one day a few years back.  Over my ski career I have seen all types of snow all over the world.  In the past thirty years I have had my share of perfect powder days and I allow that definition of “perfect” to be wide open.  Some days it’s the people I am with, other days it’s the texture of the snow or the location.

Keep an open mind, be prepared, patient and focused on the weather patterns at your favorite ski area.

Kick Turn, “A lost art” – By Dan Egan

At my camps and clinics I like to take a quick review of some basic skills and one of them is the “Kick Turn”.  As a boy I learned to kick turn in my back yard.  This was one of the first skills my older brothers drilled into me.  Over the years I have used this valuable skill to reverse my direction in a variety of situations.

Unfortunately many people have never learned the kick turn and your skiing agenda is limited if you don’t have this basic skill.  The Kick Turn allows you to peer over the edge, around the corner and gather information.  It also empowers you to retreat to safer ground, better snow and change direction on a dime.  This skill is as important as pole planting, edging and stopping.

The skill requires commitment.  Remember… K.I.C.K your way around to the Kick Turn.

Kick – Kick your downhill ski up and onto the tail

Inertia – The move is a fluid motion, once you start the kick turn you have to finish it

Commitment – You have to be totally committed to the kick turn or the mountain will reject your effort

Keep – Keep your skis across the ill and stay on your feet, do not lean into the hill or sit.  You have to stay on your feet kick your edges into the snow and slide down the mountain.

There are three key moves to a good kick turn.

1)     Kick your downhill leg and up and forward so the tail of the ski hits the snow by the tip of your uphill ski.

2)     Once the uphill ski is up and vertical, start to rotate your shoulders down the hill and swing your uphill hand down into the fall line and let your downhill ski 180 degrees across the hill.

3)     Finish by having your old uphill ski swing instantly with your uphill hand so that it comes 180 degrees across the fall line and become the new downhill ski.

You will want to practice this move on a slight incline which will make your movement easier.  Become a “switch kicker” by practicing this to the left and the right.  As you start to progress increase the incline of your slope and the conditions under your feet. Mastering the kick turn will pay benefits in the deep snow, on steep terrain and in the trees, plus it will build your confidence on where you go and allow you to go there safely.