By Martin Bell
We've been working with former Ski Olympian Martin Bell for over 15 years and he created our unique PB Martin Bell Ski Academy, which runs every year in Zermatt and, from this winter in Arosa too, for children aged 11 to 15. In this series of blog posts, Martin shares his extensive knowledge and valuable expertise. This is the fourth post of the series, he gives us his expert advice on mastering the art of skiing moguls.
If you can only ski on pistes that have been groomed to a perfectly smooth surface, you'll always be limited as to the areas of the mountains that you can explore. If you want to progress towards becoming an advanced or expert skier, you'll need to learn how to handle unprepared surfaces: off-piste snow (which may or may not be powder) and bumps.
Bumps, or "moguls", are created when lots of skiers make turns on a slope where there is soft snow. Each turn gouges out a small amount of snow, creating a hollow with a small pile of snow below it. Eventually, these piles are noticed by other skiers, who start to deliberately use the piles to start their turns. As soon as they start doing that, the process immediately becomes amplified; each skier starts a turn on top of a pile or small bump, and finishes in the hollow beneath. This scrapes even more snow out of the hollow, which is then deposited on top of the next bump.
If you encounter an unexpected mogulfield, you'll have to do the same: start your turns just as you go over the top of the bumps. For a split second, your skis' tips and tails will be off the snow, making them easier to pivot. A pole plant will also help you to pivot your skis. Then finish your turns off in the hollows beneath the bumps.
Every time you go over a bump, remember that you're going from a small flat platform to a small steep "slope", i.e. the lower side of the bump. As always, when skiing from flatter slopes on to steeper slopes, you need to rotate your body forward, so that you remain perpendicular to your skis. If you do nothing, you'll end up leaning back relative to your skis.
When the moguls get really big, and the gaps, or "ruts", between them very narrow, it is sometimes necessary to adopt a different route down the mogulfield. Instead of turning over the tops of the bumps, you can turn from "rut" to "rut", linking the ruts by starting your turns on the little "saddle" that can always be found between the ruts. This is known as "skiing the zipper line", and is very difficult, for four reasons:
1. You have to able to turn your skis very quickly; the only way to do this is by turning just your legs underneath you, while your upper body remains facing down the mountain. Solid pole plants are a must.
2. It's tough to control your speed because there's so little room to finish your turns. You have to actively skid your skis down the downside of each bump to slow yourself down.
3. As you get faster, the little saddles between each turn will give you an upwards "kick". Unless you can “swallow up”, or absorb this kick, by bending your ankles, knees and hips, you'll be thrown into the air, where you'll have less control of your skis.
4. Not only do the saddles kick you upwards, they're constantly pushing you backwards. You have to fight constantly to stay forward on your skis, or once again you'll lose control.
Skiing the zipper line down a whole slope like they do in World Cup and Olympic moguls competitions is tough technically and physically. But in the real world, there are no rules, so you can always do a few zipper line turns and then cut out, by doing longer turns that take you over the tops of the bumps. Controlled, strategic side-slipping is also a useful skill in moguls, because it can take you down to exactly the right place to start a turn on top of a bump.
Skiing bumps remain one of skiing's great challenges; if you can nail a steep zipper line, right underneath a busy chairlift, you can win a lot of praise and respect from other skiers.
For more information on the PB Martin Bell Academy, click here or call 020 8246 5300.
For more expert advice from Martin, read the next post in the series on ' Off-Piste Skiing'
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