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Outside Online Archives

Outside magazine, November 1999 Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Bumps are a bitch. This is why some folks spend entire ski careers in mogul-avoidance mode. But that's no way to live. It's time to reckon with those pent-up feelings, and besides, like climbing a 5.11 route or running a sub-40-minute 10k, being able to handle a sustained pitch that's bumped up separates the dabblers from the truly committed. A few universal rules: First, keep your knees flexed and strive for that loosey-goosey feeling from the waist down. Your knees are your shock absorbers; get tight and the bumps will get you. Second, stay forward, with your hands in front of you and your chest pushing downslope. Third, have a plan. Look for a line through the bumps that you can see yourself handling with confidence. Fourth and perhaps most important, don't practice any of this on a run directly under the lift, unless you happen to thrive on public humiliation.

Alpine Skiing

"You don't want to find yourself 'shopping' for a place to turn, traversing across the hill," says Reichhelm. "Find a line that has a nice rhythm you can see in your mind."

The cardinal sin in bumps is dropping your hands. "When you plant your pole, plant and then punch the arm down the hill," she instructs. "This helps you stay forward. If you feel like you're throwing your body down the hill, you've probably properly centered yourself on your skis."

To avoid the ignominy of crossing your ski tips, be sure to apply enough pressure to the uphill ski to keep it tracking alongside its partner. You'll probably want to keep your feet a bit closer together than in turns on groomed slopes. Think about keeping both tips on the snow at all times. Think about Gumby.

Telemark Skiing

With tele gear, bumps demand a springy position. The key is to narrow your stance so you can react more quickly. White offers a drill as proof: "Get in a 'long' telemark position and try to jump. Now get in a tight stance, with less than a foot between the leading heel and the trailing toe, and try to jump again. The tight stance is much more dynamic, and it helps to keep your skis from getting tangled."

Another detangler? Concentrate on flexing your lead ankle—a feat you can't accomplish without properly bending your knees. Position your lead knee over your lead toe. If you feel like you're being pitched too far forward, you most likely don't have enough weight on the trailing ski, White says. "Try to put all your weight on the trailing ski," he says. You won't be able to do it, but you'll tighten your stance and get your hips between your feet—exactly where you want them.


OK, if it's a snowboard you're riding, maybe you should avoid the moguls. The way that big slab of wood gets whacked around in the troughs, it can feel like you're piloting a cigarette boat in 15-foot seas. Alas, bumps are inevitable, so listen up. "Moguls are the most challenging aspect of snowboarding," Palmer says. "You've got to fight to keep your shoulders ahead of your hips and your hips centered on the board." You'll need strong abs and lower back muscles to keep yourself over the board and driving forward. As Palmer notes, you'll lose all control as soon as you are in the backseat. "Be prepared to be on top of your game," he says, and then cheerfully adds, "Depending on the conditions, bumps can be a blast." Easy for him to say.

Photo: T.R. Youngstrom

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