How to change edges in the air

Practise spring-loaded turns on-piste to maximise the fun in pow or crud – and you may even end up ‘porpoising’

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Please bear with me on this one. I know it sounds like a BASI exercise (it probably is) but hang in there. If you can change edges in the air, then you can make crud easy, and you can make powder downright transcendental.

Of course, I’m on the piste in these photos, not in powder or on a steep, crud-riddled face. On-piste it’s hard not to look like one of those instructors who has his clients lifting one leg at a time as they follow like lemmings (“Here, follow me, ski on one leg. Close your eyes. It’s all in the name of improving balance and feel!” etc etc).

But, despite how it may look, this sort of exercise teaches you much more about your skis than another wafty linked turn will. It’s all about arsing about and getting your skis in less predictable situations.

A quick back story. I realised recently that, when skiing a particularly lovely powder face, I was diving the skis so deep, before tilting them upwards for a lofty mid-air turn, that it dawned on me that I was skiing the vertical axis more than the horizontal. I was, to borrow a 1980s term, ‘porpoising’, and it was awesome. I reckon the skis were going a metre deep at the completion of each turn, and mid-way through the next, they were a metre above the snow. Two metres of vertical movement in a turn. So fun! Why does no one ever talk about maximising the up and down travel? It’s always about how well you are going from side to side.

On-piste, the same principal applies. You build pressure (spring loading the skis), you release pressure. While weightless, you initiate your turn. You land and rebuild pressure. A lot of skiers will be doing this naturally, searching for little moguls or rises, which naturally can provide a little unweight to aid the initiation of a turn.

So here, we are basically looking to maximise that moment; the loft in between the edge change

1. Set your rhythm 

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You are linking turns. A pendulum-like rhythm will help maintain a constant building and releasing, bending and stretching. As your turn completes and you are loading and bending the skis, begin looking for your take-off point. It could be a little bump, or a rise, anything really, that is enough of a marker for you to release that pressure.

2. Spring!

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Reach your mark. Flatten your edges. Plant your pole. Spring up and simultaneously start looking down the fall-line into the arc you are about to create. Simply looking for the next turn with your eyes will mean your knees automatically roll across as they would for a normal turn. Enjoy the lightness of your skis. Edge changes have never been so light!

3. Reconnect with the snow

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Don’t worry about the ‘landing’. You will barely have left the ground. You are forward. Your stance is as it will be when it reconnects with the snow. Your skis and lightly bent knees will look to re-engage with the surface of the snow. You are already focusing on finishing on the second half of this turn by pre-empting the build-up of energy as the edges start to grip again.

4. Lock and carve

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The skis lock in. You can now follow the carve and begin looking for the next little lump off which to make your edge change. Be sure to maintain serious facial expression all the way.

Take it to the Crud

When doing this in crud, the arcs will not be as smooth, but the same principle applies. Bend those skis like springs! In powder it gets really fun. There are no little distortions in the terrain to unweight on. However, the skis will bend a fair amount in soft snow, meaning they will naturally try to re-surface. To help them along, try subtle changes in the angulation of the skis, tilting backwards to help them rise up, and getting forward in your boots to get them to dive. See if you can leave a track in the pow with gaps between the turns. Then you know you are flying!

Photos: James Geen

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