Skiing down narrow, steep, switchbacky hiking trails

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hrishi

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Skiing down narrow, steep, switchbacky hiking trails

Postby hrishi » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:17 pm

The trails I am referring to would have these characteristics:
1. These are steep, approximately 10 deg slopes
2. These are narrow: there isn't enough room to snowplough, or go off-trail (at least at my skill level)
3. As these are hiking trails, there are often switchbacks at the end. This requires slowing/ stopping/ turning almost 180 deg
4. Mostly packed by skiers and snowshoers

I had a hard time going down such patches along Grand Tetons National Park's Taggart Lake trail:
IMG_6254.jpg

IMG_6252.jpg

IMG_6242.jpg

We took skis off once, and later used climbing skins. Other skiers we saw also did the same (but their skill level was also comparable to ours).

What would your techniques be while tackling such slopes? If you were to know the trail terrain beforehand, what ski/binding/boot setup would you choose for such hikes?

phoenix

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Re: Skiing down narrow, steep, switchbacky hiking trails

Postby phoenix » Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:13 pm

I did a lot of that sort of skiing in the Adirondacks; ski up the hiking trails in the High Peaks, and a thrilling dowhill run. I have strong alpine skills, so I was usually able to cruise 'em pretty fast, and a hard speed check on the tight turns or switchbacks. A very narrow snowplow can sometimes be done, but you have to really exaggerate pressuring the inside edges. If things are really iffy, resorting to the old drag the poles between your legs and behind you was emploed a couple of times, maybe once or twice going down with skins on, but I never liked the loss of turning you give up that way.
Ski of choice, without doubt, are my old (like 20 years old) Karhu XCD-GT's. Leathers and 3 pins.

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Re: Skiing down narrow, steep, switchbacky hiking trails

Postby Lo-Fi » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:01 pm

This maybe obvious, but I try to ski those narrowest of trails like that early telemark ski lesson drill where you do “garlands” of linked uphill turns on a traverse. Straight run or side slip for a moment down the trail and then turn uphill off the trail into the soft stuff, and repeat,,,

Image


Also, just try to ski the soft shoulder when you can. At the switchbacks, if they’re really tight, you get to practice the long lost arts of the step, kick or jump turns. Steep, narrow trails with switchbacks are tricky and often amount to survival skiing. Scream a lot too on your way down so you don’t take out hapless snowshoers coming up!

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Woodserson

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Re: Skiing down narrow, steep, switchbacky hiking trails

Postby Woodserson » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:36 pm

Do whatever you have to do to make it happen. Drag a ski in the soft snow on the side to keep your speed down. Jump off the bobsled chute with both skis to slow down. Drag your poles. Grab at trees. Check a hip into the snow and get up and continue at a much lower speed. The nice thing with being out west is that you get less of everything solidifying into a solid ice run with much more space between the trees. Ski down the slope between switchbacks.

In the end, whatever it takes. Sometimes, let the skis just run and commit yourself (as LoFi said, make noise).

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Re: Skiing down narrow, steep, switchbacky hiking trails

Postby Telerock » Mon Jan 08, 2018 7:56 am

These look like the trails in the Oregon cascades where I learned back country on wood birke beiners. I agree with the suggestions above; I often left one ski in the deep powder, and turned into the hill when it got too fast.
A kick turn, where you lift one ski vertcal [while stopped] reverse it into a pliea [so the skis are in opposite directions on the ground] then swing the other ski around, works well for switchbacks in tight areas.
Note; it is usually best not to remove both skis without first checking snow depth; I have stepped off my skis into 3-4’ powder, and it can be difficult to climb back onto them.

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Woodserson

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Re: Skiing down narrow, steep, switchbacky hiking trails

Postby Woodserson » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:50 am

It ain't about looking good, that's fo'sho'.

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Re: Skiing down narrow, steep, switchbacky hiking trails

Postby teleclub » Mon Jan 08, 2018 3:13 pm

hrishi wrote:The trails I am referring to would have these characteristics:
1. These are steep, approximately 10 deg slopes
2. These are narrow: there isn't enough room to snowplough, or go off-trail (at least at my skill level)
3. As these are hiking trails, there are often switchbacks at the end. This requires slowing/ stopping/ turning almost 180 deg
4. Mostly packed by skiers and snowshoers

What would your techniques be while tackling such slopes? If you were to know the trail terrain beforehand, what ski/binding/boot setup would you choose for such hikes?

Consider trying Altai Hok skis for trails like that. They are good climbers and take on steep trails better than most XC skis I've tried. Then descend off the trail through the trees. Hoks are quick easy turning. They also have lots of stable float and where it's not steep enough to continue turning down through the powder, you can still stride down the hill through the powder. (As long as there is enough snow coverage off trail on this weird snow year.) You may find it's more fun and maybe safer and easier to control your speed off the trail in deeper snow, than it is to rocket down the tight packed trails with minimal or no turning.

I live in mountains with tight canyons, mostly up and down like your photos show. I've also skied in the Adirondaks on hiking trails in the Mt. Marcy area so I know about that "thrilling" ride down. It was fun and was lucky and escaped injury so I was able to wait and save my broken bones for motorcycle crashes :shock: I admit nowadays I wouldn't be willing to ski down those trails in your photos without any room to turn, although that garland idea is a good one. That's why I'm considering Hoks for trails like that.

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lilcliffy

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Re: Skiing down narrow, steep, switchbacky hiking trails

Postby lilcliffy » Tue Jan 09, 2018 9:35 pm

Hoks are amazing XC and downhill skis- if the snow is deep and soft- I find them virtually useless on dense, consolidated snow.

Another technique to consider is using a single wooden pole- "tiak"/"lurk"- a single wooden pole can be used as both an outrigger and to create a tripod of balance- as well as be used as a brake. With a "tiak" I can ski almost extreme terrain with nothing but soft XC boots on. When the slope is moderate I stride and surf my way thrugh step turns and telemarks- when the slope gets extreme- down goes the "tiak" outrigger!

You ask what gear would we use- but what gear are you skiing on these trails? Skis? Boot? Bindings?
The pursuit of XCD balance: cross-country AND down-hill skiing in the backcountry

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lowangle al

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Re: Skiing down narrow, steep, switchbacky hiking trails

Postby lowangle al » Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:35 am

Trails packed by skiers are usually wide enough for snowplow turns and herrirgboning where needed. It's the snoeshoe trails that get you, when they get too deep and hard to ski in and out of like what Lo-fi recommends it might be time to take your skis off.

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hrishi

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Re: Skiing down narrow, steep, switchbacky hiking trails

Postby hrishi » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:33 pm

Very helpful advice folks!! Will reply more later. I look forward to using these suggestions to a hut trip this Sunday (Harry Gates Hut of 10th Mountain Division hut system)! :)


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