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Tips for skiing hardpack?
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Updated 4 days ago
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11 days ago

Hey all,

Been out several times so far this season and I think I’m getting the hang of the shaped skis.  Had a great day at Roundtop last week on the soft snow before it iced up in the evening.  Took a lesson and I got some good advice on turning.  Once the snow got hard and icy though, I found myself reverting back to my older straight ski methods for dealing with the hardpack.  I ended up skidding a lot and pushing down hard to try to hold the edge. Found myself in the back seat more too. Of course, it tired me out pretty quickly. I ended up faceplanting on Upper Exhibition and had a mini yard sale on Susquehanna.

Do you guys have any suggestions for dealing with the hardpack?

FWIW, I’ve only been on these skis twice so far this season (Elan Amphibio XTI 88s) and they were supposed to be edged, waxed and ready to go when I bought them.  I’m also wondering if a stiffer boot would help too - bought used Atomic Live Fit 90s but will likely replace them for next season after I have my surgery.

11 days ago

superguy wrote:

Hey all,

Been out several times so far this season and I think I’m getting the hang of the shaped skis.  Had a great day at Roundtop last week on the soft snow before it iced up in the evening.  Took a lesson and I got some good advice on turning.  Once the snow got hard and icy though, I found myself reverting back to my older straight ski methods for dealing with the hardpack.  I ended up skidding a lot and pushing down hard to try to hold the edge. Found myself in the back seat more too. Of course, it tired me out pretty quickly. I ended up faceplanting on Upper Exhibition and had a mini yard sale on Susquehanna.

Do you guys have any suggestions for dealing with the hardpack?

FWIW, I’ve only been on these skis twice so far this season (Elan Amphibio XTI 88s) and they were supposed to be edged, waxed and ready to go when I bought them.  I’m also wondering if a stiffer boot would help too - bought used Atomic Live Fit 90s but will likely replace them for next season after I have my surgery.

Your straight skis most likely had a much narrower sidecut which allowed you to get them up on edge sooner.  The Elan 88’s offer you more of an all mountain ski which has versatility but will underperform on hardpack.  I went out today with my 66 sidecut skis which allowed me to turn on a dime on the fast hardpack we had today.  Here on the east coast we find ourselves needing to keep an edge more often than not so you might consider a second frontside ski before you opt for boots.

When in the backseat you cannot control the front of the ski so faceplanting can happen.  I teach efficiency while skiing inorder to prevent backseat skiing.  You will need to keep your shin pressed against your boot at all times only then can you fore weight the ski and stay in control.  Once you find yourself backseat skiing you might as well call it a day as many self inflicted accidents occur during this time.   

10 days ago

Sharp edges are #1 - better if you have them tuned  1 degree on the bottom and 3 on the side. Make sure you have good core strength  and good hamstring strength to pull your feet back under you and keep that pressure up all through the turn and be able to deal with corrections. Be gentle on your skis and edge up gradually and see if you can get them to bite. Stay neutral on your skis and try to keep them tracking. Try not to pivot or throw your body around - realize that the snow will only support so much side-force. Make sure to use a lot of hip angulation to put as much vertical weight inside of your turn instead of banking. Make sure you start each turn on your tip-toes and then try to get your tail to bite - when finishing pull that inside foot back hard as you can. Avoid the urge to skid and accept speed in exchange for getting the skis to bite better and longer. And never give up - keep on top of each turn and hang tough.

10 days ago

Ditto Crush. Advice I need to follow too. Also, get properly fitted boots before you buy new skis. The 88s should be fine if edges are sharp. I demo the new Volkl Mantras, 96 mm underfoot. Those babies rail frozen cord the day I tried them, seemingly effortless.

10 days ago

Last weekend I was the only person in our group skiing mid width ski on the icy hardpack trail.  It was an 85 waist but it was also 186cm long and full, beefy cambered. Everyone else was on carvers. narrower skis would definitely be easier to manage on hard surfaces  But,  it does soumd like your skis likely had proper sharp edges and tune. The shop likely did do a 1/3 on them or at least checked them.  I’d guess your dipping your hands back late in the turns and not pushing the tongues of your boots and arches to drive the middle edges if you’re winding up on your tails.  Next lesson ask to go find some proper ice and have a second set of eyes diagnose if its more of a gear or user issue.

Denis - DCSki Supporter
10 days ago

I hate ice.  My advice is, call it a day and go to the bar.  If you’re stubborn and insist, do what Crush says.  I do better with a task approach, rather than a detailed recipe for different body parts.  For ice, I try to make the ski go forward, not sideways.  By that I mean, make rounded C shaped turns, without the edges breaking loose into a barely controlled skid.  To do that requires staying forward.  By trying to do that, I may not be far forward, but rather, centered, which is really where you should be, on any surface.  Both extremes, ice and powder, will quickly punish mistakes.

10 days ago

Super-lots of good advice here.  If I remember one of your posts you mentioned the goal was to loose some significant weight before the purchase of new boots.  Your current boots might be packed out so one inexpensive way to get added performance might be adding a power strap.  Once you get your new boots you could transition the strap over.  In the mean time make sure you buckle the Atomic boots as tight as you can without cutting off your circulation.

Making the move from straight skies to shaped skies can be like going from a stick shift to automatic transmission.  Your use to driving your old skies.  Newer skies do much of the work for you but you will need to learn the feel of the ski.  I think you may have been over driving them.  Go slow especially on hardpack and work on completeing your C shaped turn perpendicular to the fall line.  If your not balanced and find yourself moving into the backseat you are over weighting the ski from the midfoot to the tail putting too much energy there and skidding out rather than completing your turn.  Turn initiation should start with pressure on the ball of your foot just behind your big toe also keeping pressure on the tongue with your shin and the rotation of femur head in your hip. Much can be expressed here about turning and finishing the turn and we all have varying degrees of knowledge.  Take in the good advice given by many here apply it while you getting familiar with the new skis.  Good luck and let everyone know how things are progressing for you.

 

9 days ago

I had a clinic at Stowe many years ago. The running joke was, there is no ice at Stowe, along with the adage there is no such thing as bad snow, there is good snow and then there is snow that’s good for you. Our instructor that weekend was a PSIA Examiner, next step up the from Level 3 instructors who are qualified to teach experts. Examiners teach he teachers and run the clinics for advancement in the professional ranks. The best tip I had was to begin your turn before the ice so you’re already on your edge then flatten your ski and begin the next turn in the softer snow after the ice patch. That works if conditions are as described, of course. Sometimes it is just ice everywhere and here in the east, best to get out early before all the groomed snow is skied off. If you can make short turns then stick to the side of the trail where all the loose snow has been pushed. If your technique isn’t working then ski it tactically, turn on the best snow.

9 days ago

Along with edging, “pressure” is important for me on ice or steeps. Especially pressuring the whole edge through the whole arc of the turn. Something I will keep working on. Along with the suggestions above, I’ve found these stem-step turns good for showing me how to get on the new outside ski early and have full pressure on it through more of the arc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRB9saJqLJc

 

9 days ago

camp wrote:

Along with edging, “pressure” is important for me on ice or steeps.

I should have done a few of these at the top of Lower Wildcat last week to get the rhythm before dropping down. My pressure was less than great last weekend.

 

9 days ago

superguy wrote:

Hey all,

Been out several times so far this season and I think I’m getting the hang of the shaped skis.  Had a great day at Roundtop last week on the soft snow before it iced up in the evening.  Took a lesson and I got some good advice on turning.  Once the snow got hard and icy though, I found myself reverting back to my older straight ski methods for dealing with the hardpack.  I ended up skidding a lot and pushing down hard to try to hold the edge. Found myself in the back seat more too. Of course, it tired me out pretty quickly. I ended up faceplanting on Upper Exhibition and had a mini yard sale on Susquehanna.

Do you guys have any suggestions for dealing with the hardpack?

FWIW, I’ve only been on these skis twice so far this season (Elan Amphibio XTI 88s) and they were supposed to be edged, waxed and ready to go when I bought them.  I’m also wondering if a stiffer boot would help too - bought used Atomic Live Fit 90s but will likely replace them for next season after I have my surgery.

Good advice by some good skiers. My two cents.

The permafrost base that you get in high traffic areas such as the Mid A is the worst surface you will ever ski on.

You need expert level skills, stiff boots (120 flex or so for an adult), and skis that are torsionally stiff - most likely found in ski widths 70 mm or less.

They key is turn initiation. IMHO, it is the most important part of any turn - don’t get it right and the rest of the turn is toast. You can write a book on starting a turn - most imp parts are proper pressure release of old turn, progressive edge control, getting on new downhill ski early, early shin pressure, carving the upper half of the turn. You can skid the bottom half of a turn, but not the top half. And when you start to skid the bottom half of the turn,the turn is over. Start a new turn, overcoming the feeling of trying to save the turn. And you’ll have to overcome where your body is heading in a lost turn,

9 days ago

And if you are losing it in the bottom of the turn, you are likely not accepting gravity and leaning into the hill. Your skis can only accept progressive edging and a certain turn radius without breaking out of the carve. Force it too quickly or try to make too tight a turn, and you’ll skid out. Good tune and torsional stiffness of equip helps lot here. That turn radius is larger than most feel comfortable with - it takes some getting used to.

9 days ago

John you make a number of very good points in your reply. To become a good to great skier intuition starts to fade and a cerebral approach and a more technical process in your evolution takes over. There are so many things to keep in check and remember when trying to perfect your line down the mountain.  Many if not most of us started without the benefit of high level teaching myself included. We may take a few lessons and pick up things over time but time on snow and skiing with people who are more advanced allow us to think about what we are doing. Any feedback is appreciated as we power down the mountain are we aware of the many flaws or bad old habbits that are clearly apparent to others? Yes, we all want to have fun and be safe but what are our goals out there?  Skiing is a very serious recreational activity.  High risk but very high reward!

I have skied in many different snow conditions starting on the east coast then making my way out west with 200+ days on the snow a lot of them on powder and in the trees.  For the past 30 years I have made my home where I started in the mid-Atlantic.  We get all kinds of weather here but ice and hardpack show up frequently.  Somehow when I started skiing 40+ years ago I had a need for speed and this condition gave me what I wanted.  I had to learn to ski on this surface to survive.  A few of the friends I met from New England while in Tahoe also learned how to ski in these conditions so when on one the few rare occasions when ice/hardpack developed it was no problem but for the many western skiers.

Those of us who started skiing on straight skies used this in all conditions.  Ski manufactures make so many different skies suited to various conditions they are now like clubs in a golf bag (there are 14 in the bag) use the right tool for what you want to do.  If your goal is to ski and it happens to be on a icy/hardpack day choose the right ski to maximize your day.  If you only have one ski know it’s limitations and your limitations/ability to get that ski to do what you hope and want it to do.

 

9 days ago

Denis wrote:

I hate ice.  My advice is, call it a day and go to the bar.  …

I like Denis’ technique - works for me!

9 days ago

I really hate this computer. 2 replies lost due to issues. :/

At any rate, I had a better night on Satuday. I hit Roundtop with some friends. I was able to read some of the tips mentioned here and they helped. I had a better night and wasn’t as tired.

I’ll be reading over the thread more and taking notes.  A few things that helped me Saturday were about skidding, ice, and getting into the back seat.  Others I’ll look at are tuning, tighter boots, and a lesson.

Most of my skidding is on the bottom half of the turn. That make sense - it seems like I’m hanging too long on to the previous turn before starting a new one.  I think starting the next turn sooner was helping as I tried to keep that in mind.

Ice and flattening the skis - this is one tip I remember reading in a ski mag while back on my straight skis.  This still applies on the shaped skis. No edge holds well on solid ice and I felt the slip as soon as I was on it.  Helps that the patches are easy to see too. Using those to turn into the next turn is very helpful.

Getting thrown into the backseat - I focused on this and was more cognizant of it. When I found myself starting to sit back, I quickly adjusted and pushed forward again.  Quite helpful.  I think my boots contribute to this (which I’ll get into).

I’m taking my skis in for a tune up this week. I think that the tune wasn’t as good as can be, and since I bought them from a Colorado shop, they may be tuned more for western snow than the crap we have hear. I’ll ask for a beveling as suggested here.

Lesson - I think my next lesson will be later in the evening when the conditions are “optimal” for focusing on hardpack techniques. May hit Liberty for this one as it tends to be the iciest I’ve found of the 3 at night.

Boots - I think my boots feel sloppy overall, and I tend to agree that they may not be stiff as needs be, but I’m stuck with these for the season.  They tend to start the day loose, as I can’t buckle them very tight when I first get them on.  For some reason, after a warm up or two, I’m able to tighten them down more, and sometimes even more as the night goes on.  Even when they’re at the tightest I can make them, they still feel a bit sloppy though not as much.  Not sure if it’s because I have a wide foot, or they’re too long (again, thanks to my foot width). I’ll get new boots for next season - was just waiting until after my surgery as some have suggested they’ll fit differently afterward.

As for width, my rock skis are narrower (76mm width I believe) but I hate them. They won’t hold an edge worth crap on the blues. Shop I got them at said it was due to the lack of a sidewall (the guy skis Amphibio 88s as well), so they just won’t bite. He suggested bringing them in and exchanging them for something that’ll work better for me.

We’ll give things another whirl this weekend and hopefully things will get better.

Thanks all for your tips!

Super

8 days ago

If you do get in the back seat, it is easier/faster to recenter by pulling your feet back, as opposed to trying to move all the mass of your upper body forward. Practice that on the flats.

7 days ago

Hmm.  I’ll have to try that.  Never thought of that.

7 days ago

That is a good tip, and one that I managed to stumble across myself.

Does anyone here seek out opportunities to practice on hardpack? I feel like I probably should, but given a choice between hardpack in the center of a trail and softer snow on the sides I will tend to go for the softer snow. Cupp this past saturday was a good example of this.

7 days ago

My opportunities are more forced as Roundtop and Liberty are smaller and tend to get skied off later in the day, with Liberty seeming to ice up more than RT in my experience.  This last time at RT wasn’t as bad as they had the snow guns going there was at least a decent top layer of snow that kept refreshing.

I think I tend to do more what you do - look for the better snow on the sides and hit that.  I don’t get out as much as a lot of the folks here (I usually only get out once a week), so I tend to spend more of my time trying to enjoy and less on practice.

6 days ago

wgo wrote:

That is a good tip, and one that I managed to stumble across myself.

Does anyone here seek out opportunities to practice on hardpack? I feel like I probably should, but given a choice between hardpack in the center of a trail and softer snow on the sides I will tend to go for the softer snow. Cupp this past saturday was a good example of this.

Yes, when I do loose the edge somewhat and find myself skidding I will alter my turn shape.  Sometimes I will finish out the turn less perpendicular to the fall line and really open up the turn more GS like.  Of course this will accelerate your momentum down the slope.  If you have the room to go side to side the hardpack should factor in less provided the run has that softer snow on the outside. You can also slow down and work on your technique over hardpack.

Ran the spine on the left side of Upper Shay’s on Sunday. It was as good as you can get while firm underneath on the drop off the snow that was blown earlier allowed for soft landings and easy turning back up and over the spine.  On Lower Shay’s took a 10m wide fall line channel down the slope.  It was also firm hardpack but about half way down the earlier blown snow I encountered made for soft easy turning.

6 days ago

superguy wrote:

My opportunities are more forced as Roundtop and Liberty are smaller and tend to get skied off later in the day, with Liberty seeming to ice up more than RT in my experience.  This last time at RT wasn’t as bad as they had the snow guns going there was at least a decent top layer of snow that kept refreshing.

I think I tend to do more what you do - look for the better snow on the sides and hit that.  I don’t get out as much as a lot of the folks here (I usually only get out once a week), so I tend to spend more of my time trying to enjoy and less on practice.

When my daughter had race training weekday evenings at Liberty I would ski by myself.  That was a perfect time to work on things.  When the nights were at or above freezing I would ski the upper bump runs on the backside.  Although short they were fun.  When you got to the lower part it was more of a GS glide going side to side and feeling each turn.  When things got a little sloppy I would repeat the run and try correcting whatever I had done.  Many times it was a lack of concentration when things don’t go how you expect them to.

Super-work on your turn shape slow things down and feel how you apply pressure inside your boot and against the tongue.  Count how many times from the beginning of the run to the end you back off pressuring your shin against the tongue.  Try to reduce this on subsequent runs.  See how this helps out. 

6 days ago

Shotmaker wrote:

Ran the spine on the left side of Upper Shay’s on Sunday. It was as good as you can get while firm underneath on the drop off the snow that was blown earlier allowed for soft landings and easy turning back up and over the spine.  On Lower Shay’s took a 10m wide fall line channel down the slope.  It was also firm hardpack but about half way down the earlier blown snow I encountered made for soft easy turning.

Did the same Sat & Sun. I favored Saturday, lots of fresh snow on LS if you fought your way through the first snowmaker.

6 days ago

Hate to be a broken record but I did the same. Sat and Sun were both top notch.

6 days ago

I skied Mount Snow last weekend. Vermont was hit pretty hard by the Wednesday/Thursday rain storm. As a result, there was ice everywhere. Mt. Snow made snow and tried to groom out the frozen corn, but we were essentially skiing on the rock hard base. Some of the worst hard pack I have ever skied on. You would be skiing on piles of skied off sugar snow, then hit the slippery boiler plate. It was not fun and tiring. My ski buddy suggested getting my edges sharpened. It made a big difference. By Sunday, they had made enough snow to dramatically improve conditions on some trails. On Monday, I stopped by Windham Resort to ski for a few hours. They had conditions similar to Mt. Snow. Except one black trail where they stockpiled man made snow. Conditions on that trail were great. I did laps on that trail until my legs grew tired. The only snow I got on this trip was on I95, starting as I got to southern Jersey and continued on home to MD. The rain is providing plenty of hard pack to practice on!

6 days ago

JohnL wrote:

If you do get in the back seat, it is easier/faster to recenter by pulling your feet back, as opposed to trying to move all the mass of your upper body forward.

Been trying that lately.

 Count how many times from the beginning of the run to the end you back off pressuring your shin against the tongue.  Try to reduce this on subsequent runs.  

But this seems tough to count since so many other things are also in play.

6 days ago

Good video on fore/aft balance with pulling the feet back near the beginning of the video. Pretty soft looking ice there, but good content regardless

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_Xp7zVHnP0

4 days ago

This has been an excellent thread!  Thanks to the op and everyone who took the time to offer feedback.  :)

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