Heliskiing Vacations: Piste to powder and your skiing technique
As much as we would like everyone to be taking heliskiing tours, we are not afraid to say that they are not for novices. A certain level of skill and confidence is required for the terrain we will be skiing. While our guides will endeavor to find the best conditions the mountain has to offer, you can expect a variety of terrain and snow types. Terrain can range from wide-open alpine bowls and glaciers with moderate pitches, to steep and narrow tree skiing, and snow conditions from chest deep powder to wind swept crust.
At Last Frontier we ask that our guests are comfortable skiing from piste to powder, and have a solid skiing technique. You would have considerable skiing or riding experience in resort settings, predominantly choosing blue or black runs, and be able to handle conditions through flat light to dust on crust, and even a combination of the two in the most extreme example! Some experience of multi-day skiing trips is beneficial, and although you may not have tons of powder skiing experience, you will maintain control in backcountry conditions.
Assuming all of this doesn’t sound to demanding, here are a few pointers on improving that performance.
Improving your skiing technique requires a lot of practice and at least a basic theoretical knowledge of the physics and biomechanics of skiing. According to the Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance (CSIA) – regarded as a top authority on ski instructing – physics is “the foundation of ski technique.”* With gravity providing the primary motive force, a skier balances and interacts with the forces provided by an ever-changing ski environment. An understanding of practical biomechanics links ski technique to physics, and helps to describe efficient and effective body movements.
The CSIA breaks physics and skiing down into three parts. The ‘forces in skiing’ include gravity as the primary motive force, both pulling the skier down the slope, and also holding them on the slope. The two initial opposing forces are air friction and snow friction. With the initiation of turns, two more forces are added. The first is centrifugal force, pulling the skier away from the centre of the arc of the turn. The second, centripetal force, is the result of the resistance of the first ‘pull’.
‘Maintaining balance while sliding and turning’ and ‘moving on an arc’ are the other two, and to find more detailed explanations of these, take a look at the CSIA’s website.
Briefly, the seven basics of biomechanics and skiing, as described by the CSIA, are stability, maximum force, velocity, impulse, direction, angular motion and angular momentum. An understanding of these notions, and the application of the mechanical and physical principles to body movements, will improve your technique when heliskiing powder and on the piste.
*CSIA, Skiing and Teaching Methods Manual