What To Do During The Long Dry Summer?

What to do during the long, dry Summer?

Well, of course, there are all those wonderful Summer activities. Still, some of us just don’t know when to give up, yes? My last turns were taken June 23 on Hiram Peak. I picked my way down a 20 turn patch, twice, then walked down to catch 10 more on what remained on the steeper bit above Highland Lake. The end.

I’m sure I could have found more snow in California. I could have hiked all the way in to Leavitt Peak or up on Mt. Lassen. In August, I played the 4 & 20 Blackbird Festival in Weed, CA. As I passed Mt. Shasta, the leftover snow was calling, for sure. But I didn’t have skis with me, so, no turns.

Still, my Spring adventures did reward me with more information about the technical changes that I started working through at the Bear Valley Telemark Festival at the end of March. After the perfect corn snow starts to wither under the intensifying sun, sun cups  develop. It can be challenging to ski well developed sun cups.

sun cups

Well developed sun cups

Even if the snow is relatively soft, the skis bounce around on the edges of the cups. If the cups are big enough, my skis have even bounced from cup edge to edge. I have found it especially difficult to get from one turn to the next. My skis will bounce around, getting knocked so that each ski is going in a different direction. And these effects are most especially pronounced between turns, that delicate moment when the skis are light and being rolled from one edge to the next. Those dips in the snow will throw my skis around, willy nilly.

In the past, I’ve passed on skiing well cupped snow (as in the image, above). But not any more! Victory! Success! Free heel fun!

If you’ve been following my telemark turn lead change adventure, you’ll understand that dramatic changes have occurred in my telemark skiing since I started this blog. I’m chronicling my journey, here. Readers get my discoveries once I have come to understand them enough to explain.

I continued exploring my new lead change technique from mid-April through my last turns towards the end of June. I skied every weekend at least one day. During those runs, I ran into Spring snow conditions from frozen solid to mush, smooth to crumbly to (ugh!) well cupped. And here’s what I discovered.

An old trick becomes new again.

In modern skiing on shaped skis, telemark or parallel, all one need do to shift from one turn to the next is to roll the skis onto the new edge. This is ever more efficient than the old days with longer, straighter skis. In those days, it was “down-up-down”, with strong emphasis on the unweighting of the skis. Those straighter puppies would hook if you didn’t move them while they were really light.

Today, such gymnastics aren’t necessary so long as the snow is relatively consistent or well groomed. If a skier, expecially at speed, reaches down hill to start the turn and let’s his/her body follow, the skis will roll over to a new edge. The trick is to get into the angulated form (the ‘C’) as soon as the skis are on the new edge. Voilà, new turn starts, no big unweight required.

That said, there are conditions that benefit from unweighting and even turning the skis while light. Watch great skiers. The do come up between turns, at least a little bit.

And that’s what I added to defeat those sun cups baking into the California late Spring snow fields: a big unweight. My working theory is that the force of coming back down hard on my edge right at the start of the turn pushes into the snow with enough force such that the cups uneveness doesn’t have a chance to work the skis. And then, since I’m on edge right from the start of the turn (no sliding), I cut right through. It’s a theory. More importantly, it works.

telemark lead change

Sequence demonstrates starting turn with inner ski

  1.  I’m edging strongly to finish my turn. At the same time, I reach downhill with my pole to start the next.
  2. I allow the pole to bring my body up and off my skis while also projecting me a bit downhill towards my next turn. This is something I learned when I was a kid in alpine racing. You pass your pole and that automatically begins to raise the body off the skis.
  3. My skis are flat; I’m already starting to roll into the next turn. Note that my back ski from the last turn is still in back; While my stance has collapsed, I haven’t really begun to change lead skis. And also note how erect I am.
  4. The new turn is begun. You can see that I’ve edged the new inside ski quite a bit. I’m already starting to angulate into the new turn though I haven’t reached the fall line yet (the camera is directly downhill from me). Interestingly, my outside ski, still trailing, is still flat on the snow and going in a different direction. But since I have all my weight focused onto the inner ski, this “mistake” doesn’t actually cause any problems. That inside ski is already turning hard. The outside is just along for the ride at this moment.
  5. Both skis are now on edge and parallel. The outside ski has moved forward just a bit; it’s in motion. My body is angulated into the new turn. And, I’m finally in the fall line.
  6. You can see a plume from the inner ski. But there isn’t one from the outer (now, lead) ski. That’s because that outer ski still doesn’t have a lot of weight on it; it’s just beginning to come into play. Finally, I begin to get the magic of telemark: both skis working for me.
  7. And, I’m just about at the end of the turn. Both skis are turning, both are edged. I’m reaching out to start the next turn.

I’ll note that there’s one huge mistake in this sequence. I’m going to have to break my habit of skiing on my back foot’s toes. “On the ball of the back foot, the ball”. Next year! Watch this space.

Here’s the sequence of turns as I made them:

Lead Change on Sun Cups Turn Sequence



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