More and more it seems impossible to get first tracks on a powder day. By the time the kids are geared up, the car cleared off, and the harrowing drive up the mountain completed, all that’s left is crud. But to make the most out of these trips, it helps to learn how to ski crud or choppy snow.
10 tips for skiing choppy snow are:
- Stay in the fall line
- Make round turns
- Turn with your legs
- Keep your weight forward
- Keep your hands up
- Use counter rotation
- Relax your lower body
- Keep your core tight
- Look ahead and plan
- Use a pole plant
Skiing crud can be a real challenge and a serious workout. It can feel like a battle for every turn, making you exhausted and frustrated. But with a little know-how and a little practice, you can enjoy crud days instead of dreading them. These tips for skiing choppy snow are a great place to start!
Crud in skiing is skied out, tracked up powder. It consists of ski tracks mixed with chunks of untracked snow. Imagine a powder face that has been chopped up by skis, and that’s what crud snow is like. Crud snow is a result of lots of traffic on one stretch of snow.
Crud snow is tougher to ski on than powder, as the resistance you’ll feel on your skis is constantly changing with the uneven terrain underneath. Knowing how to ski crud properly is therefore key if you want to tackle these parts of the mountain.
Like most resorts, yours is probably getting busier and busier every season. Even if you manage to beat the crowds for first chair and fresh tracks, it’s only a matter of time until the conditions turn choppy. You can either call it quits or learn to ski the crud. Don’t limit yourself to just groomed runs when there’s a whole mountain of off-piste waiting, if you can just conquer the crud.
In crud skiing, one of the big keys to success is momentum. Hitting a patch of untracked snow can stop you dead if you don’t have enough speed. The best way to gather and maintain speed is to stay in the fall line. “Fall line” is just fancy lingo for downhill. So, as you ski crud, you want to move downhill as much as possible. Try to avoid moving across the hill.
How much time you spend in the fall line depends on your turn shape. An ideal turn is a round, c-shape, with three equal phases: initiation, shaping, and finish. A lot of skiers do zigzag or z-shape turns and leave out the shaping phase. The shaping phase of the turn is the downhill part of the turn, the part where all the momentum comes from.
A z-shape turn often comes from rushing the turn. Instead, slow down and be patient in the fall line. Don’t forget the middle part of the turn. To achieve a c-shape turn, it’s important to spend some time in the fall line. Sometimes it’s helpful to do a three count with your skis in the fall line. This gives you a specified time to be facing downhill and can help round out the turn.
In all skiing, but especially in crud skiing, it is essential to turn with your legs. Turning your upper body first will eventually turn your skis but it’s a far less efficient or powerful way to turn. When the snow is choppy, inconsistent, and unpredictable, you need power to get through.
Every turn should come from the rotation of the femur in the hip socket. Steer with your feet and legs first. You can practice leg rotation by pivoting one foot in place, as if trying to draw a bow tie with your ski. This same motion should be how you turn the skis. Remember to practice on both sides!
If your quads are burning after a few turns, you’re probably “in the back seat” or “aft.” This just means your weight is too far back. An aft skier pressures just the tails of the skis, so therefore has less snow/ski contact and less control. You need good control when it comes to navigating choppy snow.
To keep your weight forward your shins should make constant contact with the front of the boots. Do this by reallyflexing your ankles. Imagine trying to close the distance between the top of your foot and your shin. If your weight is forward, the whole ski will be on the snow, helping push through the crud.
Having your hands in the proper position can do wonders in choppy snow. It helps keep your weight forward and keep your momentum moving downhill,both things we need for skiing choppy snow. Your hands should be out in front of you, elbows slightly bent, and wider than your ribcage.
Pretend you’re holding an exercise ball on your belly. This is the correct shape for your arms. Focus on not dropping the imaginary exercise ball. Even this simple change can help bring the weight forward into a more athletic stance.
Another good way to keep your momentum headed downhill is to counter rotate. In other words, your upper body faces downhill the entire time, even as your legs turn beneath you. This helps you continue moving downhill. Counter rotation also makes each turn more powerful. Twisting your body creates torque which creates more rotational force.
One way to practice counter rotation is to look for a specific object at the bottom of the fall line. For example, a lift pylon, a strange looking tree, or any stationary object. As you head down the run, focus on keeping the zipper of your jacket pointed at the object.This will give you a good visual for where you should be pointing your chest.
Imagine riding a mountain bike trail without shocks. Skiing crud with stiff legs is the same thing. You will get thrown around if you aren’t ready to absorb the bumps. Keep your knees, ankles, and hips slightly bent and relaxed, ready to react to whatever weird snow is next.
Practice this by traversing a mogul field or some choppy snow. As you go, think about keeping your head at the same level the whole time. This means your lower body has to flex and extend through the ups and downs of the terrain. It may seem exaggerated, but your legs need to be this dynamic for successful crud skiing.
As your legs need to be relaxed, your core needs to be tight. Keep your abs and lower back a little flexed.This will help stabilize your upper body while your legs absorb the inconsistencies of the snow. A tight core combined with shock absorbing legs will prevent you from flopping forward or getting thrown back with each new snow type.
In choppy conditions every turn will be different. You might hit a patch of ice and then go straight into a bit of deep powder. Looking ahead can help you prepare for what’s coming next. Maybe you’ll need to flex more for a big bump or get some speed for some deeper snow. Having some idea of what snow you might be turning in can give you a big advantage.
Always look two or three turns ahead and plan what kind of turn or body position you’ll need to use. This skill allows you to be proactive in your skiing, instead of being surprised by sudden changes in the snow.
An effective pole plant can tie all the other skills together. As you turn around the pole, it can help create a rounder turn. The pole plant reminds you to keep your hands up and your weight forward. It also helps you plan your next turn, while keeping your momentum headed downhill. A pole plant is a great tool when it comes to skiing in choppy snow.
Remember that a pole plant is just a small movement in the wrist. A tight core keeps the arms and upper body stable and quiet. The pole plant should happen between turns. It’s best to think about it happening at the end of the turn, not the start of the next one. This way the pole plant isn’t an afterthought.
There are skis out there that are made with choppy snow in mind. They are usually a stiffer ski with a medium underfoot width. They have a bit more rocker than an on-piste type ski and usually a classic camber through the middle of the ski. They are built to be strong and stable in a variety of conditions.
You might be thinking you should just get the right ski and not worry about these tips. It does seem like a lot goes into being a proficient crud skier and it takes practice to master choppy snow. But while the right ski can help, it will be pointless if not used correctly.
Pressuring just the tails of a crud ski still produces the same problems. Turning a crud ski with your upper body is still inefficient. However, correct technique paired with the right ski is a recipe for success. Focus first on getting the basics down before shelling out for a new pair of skis.
Untouched powder is too often elusive. What we’re left with is inconsistent, unpredictable choppy conditions. But when life gives you crud, you can either sit in the lodge or you can learn to power through. With the right skills and a little practice, skiing crud can become a welcome challenge!