Don’t ski around them, ski through the devils! Here is how to ride the roughest terrain in the smoothest and most Plake-esque way possible
Look, there’s no getting around it. Moguls will only ever be ‘cool’ to a small group of headband-sporting Greg Stump-worshipping yahoos. That’s to say, before freestyle, freeride, urban and deep powder skiing really took off (fuelled by snowboarding and ski design), moguls were the only place to really get rad (besides steeps), and it was this era and this era only, epitomised by Sir Glen Plake, in which the mogul skier was idolised.
Why don’t mogul skiers enjoy the glory of gangster/hipster Olympians throwing triple corks over 120ft table tops, or slarve-to-cliff-pseudo-hippy helicoptor-riding huck-rockstars on some powder-coated spine in Alaska? Well, because, they’re kind of… well… geeks. They’ve chosen something which is hard to master, not so much because the technique is hard, but hard because, really it’s much easier just to ski around moguls these days. And the only girl who fancies a mogul skier is probably 60 years old by now. So, here’s your chance to impress absolutely no one and, if you’re lucky, add 20 years to the age of your knees.
On a more positive and serious note, there is no better way to improve your skiing. Moguls are a training ground for every reflex, change of balance, weight distribution, absorption, you name it. Essentially, if you can figure out how to get down them, then everything else – and I mean everything – will be easier. They will save you YEARS of trying to improve your technique elsewhere.
Not to mention, when you get the rhythm going, you get a hysterical reward of being able to ski the roughest terrain in the smoothest and most frickin’ awesome way possible. Get it right and they are addictive. Follow these six tips and you’ll be blasting that nasty-looking mogul field back to the eighties in no time.
1. Pick your line
Moguls are like people. That’s to say, there are lots of different shapes and sizes. Start on small, widely-spaced moguls, on not too steep a run, and in favourable snow (slush or powder moguls are a darn sight more friendly than ice or crud ones).
Watch out for instructors’ training courses who build ‘rut lines’ to train on. Thoroughly unpleasant things. They’re too regular and angular to be much fun for us hot-doggers!
2. Control your speed
The biggest issue with mogul skiing is controlling speed. Every single mogul skier ever has been in the situation where they are picking up too much speed on a bumpy run and bailing is the only way to stop the ever-increasing velocity. Don’t let this be you.
The biggest pointer here is to be careful where your balance is. To control your speed, don’t sit back. Of course, when nervous, the recourse is to sit back. This will only reduce control and increase speed. So, counterintuitively, the best way to stay slow is to stay neutral-to-forward in your boots at all times. In fact, once skiing in the fall-line, I often point my ski tips into the oncoming mogul as a means of braking.
So, we’ve talked about staying positive and forward in your boots. A great way to do this – much like in steep skiing – is to get that upper body facing down the fall-line. Commit, you maggots! Separate your upper body and legs. You aren’t here to carve.
You can’t hit the brakes if you’re in the air! Keep the skis in contact with the snow at all times. Think about diving both tips down into the trough, then sucking your feet up as you go over the bump to absorb, then diving your feet down into the next trough.
The aim is to keep your hips at a constant height, using your legs as suspension. Keep your skis close together. Not essential, but Plake did/does, and he’s the man, so…
5. Eyes ahead
They come thick and fast! Don’t look down at the mogul you’re on; keep your head up and look directly down the fall-line, several moguls ahead. This will also help keep your upper body open and calm.
6. Pole planting
Underestimate the mighty pole plant at your peril. It is a tragedy to see a good skier not committing to the pole plant in situations where it is essential, such as steeps and moguls. Not using it correctly can really upset your rhythm and balance in these two scenarios.
Best piece of advice someone said to me was: “harpoon the fish!”. Basically, get that pointy end of your pole in the top of the oncoming mogul. Don’t reach out and get it by punching the air, but rather keep your arms slightly out and just cock your wrist forward and stick that mogul. When you’re passing it, you should be planning on harpooning the next one. A precisely-timed pole plant is essential to keeping a steady rhythm.