213 Tactics for Steep Hard Snow

213 Tactics for steep hard snow

Timing is everything.  That, and some degree of trust in your equipment.

Assume adequate trail width, as cross-over is primary means of edge change.

In order to ride on steep terrain, speed control is a priority.  One difference between steep and shallow terrain is the amount of energy involved.  Acceleration due to gravity is closer to free-fall, which means momentum downhill builds up rather quickly.  With more energy in the system, it is desirable to dissipate it over a much greater area.

On flatter terrain, one can get away with late edge engagement from turn to turn, and sloppy turn connections.  On steeper terrain, these problems interfere with speed control, such that the rider will pick up speed with every turn.  As far as edge engagement is concerned, an observer uphill of the rider should be able to see the base of the board at the start of every turn.

If a rider initiates their turns from the hip, such timing will not be successful, or at least not sustainable.  Ideally, the fine movements from one edge to another will be made with the feet, or at least the knees, at a time in the turn when the loads are minimal.  Assuming the shape of the turn is roughly c-shaped and consistent from toe to heel, this ‘window of opportunity’ could be described as being roughly 60 degrees before the fall-line, until 60 degrees past the fall-line.  Past this ‘window’, the loads on the body are more than can be sustained by the lower extremities; the board will simply roll off edge unless properly supported.  Also, if the hip is moved toward the heel edge to begin the turn, it is likely that the shoulders will move first into the toe-side turn.  This will create unequal edge angles from turn to turn, resulting in one turn (the toe-side) that has a much larger radius than the other.

Returning briefly to an earlier section, the feet achieve edge contact, with the larger body parts reinforcing the development of the turn.  Given that the snowboard, on edge and de-cambered, effectively creates an embankment much like a velodrome, the rider simply has to stand at right angles to the embankment.  Ideally, the rider would be able to stand relaxed and mostly ‘erect’ as though standing on a level floor.  The more supportive the boot-binding interface, the closer a rider can come to this ideal.

If the gear is maladjusted, or insufficiently supportive, the rider will take on a more complex posture, and may sacrifice agility for momentary stability.  For instance, if the bindings have too much forward lean, the rider will have to sit further into a heel-side turn to avoid high-siding.  Sitting further into the turn will delay toe-side turn entry, or at least toe-side stability.

Assuming that the rider is employing ‘cross-over’ as a means of changing edges, it is important that the edge change be properly anticipated.  When the board is pointing down the fall line, the rider should consider the notion of toppling across the board, in a form of free-fall.  (Rider falls across the board as the board moves across the hill under the rider).  Failure to do so will result in a delayed edge change, and an accumulation of momentum.  If a rider has command of ‘cross-under’, correct utilization in this context can create a smoother edge change.

(Refer to section 210 on identifying rebound.)  Before the moment that the board begins to push back hard enough to lift the rider back up the hill, the rider should be moving across the board to the next edge.  If the rebound is not anticipated, the rider may not be able to get out of the turn (edge lock) or the board may break contact with the snow, again delaying entry into the next turn.

Assuming at least some forward angle on both bindings, if the inside shoulder is higher than the outside shoulder, the above will be more easily accomplished.