Steps: All Mountain Answers

All-mountain Answers

The lowdown from some of today's top riders.

Preparing for big lines.

You don't completely get over your fear, you just try to control it. If you're not afraid anymore, then it becomes dangerous.

I try to control as many variables as possible so that the element of danger is minimized. This means scoping the line I plan to ride with binoculars or from the heli–I usually take a Polaroid.

I also try to gauge the snow conditions prior to taking a line. Nonetheless, everything can change on you halfway down. In reality you can't control everything in the mountains, so I stay really focused on the line and don't think of anything but my riding. I always keep an exit in mind–Where's the safest way out?–in case something goes wrong.–Axel Pauporté

Sticking landings off cliffs.

There are a couple things that will really help you to stick landings off cliffs. One–pump iron until you're built like Tex Devenport; lose weight until you're as light as Peter Line. Two–use a longer, stiffer board. If you can't afford another board move your bindings farther back on the one you have. Three–take the time to look at the landing and visualize sticking it.

Land with your weight on both feet, and depending on the snow–powder, crust, crud, et cetera–maybe put a little more weight on your back leg so you don't go over the bars. Also, try to keep your shoulders almost parallel with your board, just slightly facing forward. Good luck; don't get broke.–Noah Brandon

Surviving steeps.

First, know your fall-line–it's the path a snowball takes down the mountain. To control speed, complete your turns across–perpendicular to–the fall-line. When you get more comfortable or onto a wider, more open slope, you can open up your turns to go faster.

The steeper it gets, the more important it is to release your edge, or unweight, so you can make a smooth and quick transition to the next turn. This is not to be confused with jump turns! The idea is to keep as much of your board as possible on the slope at all times, the tip of the board being the most important.

And look where you want to go. My brother always told me, “If it looks too steep, you're looking too far down the hill.” Look exactly where you're going, to your immediate right or left.

–Julie Zell

Reading terrain.

Use common sense when reading terrain. I never fly blindly down a line without knowing what the snow and avalanche conditions are or where I'm going. I take a good long look at the face I want to ride and try to imagine what it's going to look like when I'm standing on the top peering down. I pick out visual markers like rocks and trees to guide me in the direction I want to go. I only go for it once I've memorized my route, because the scariest thing is being lost on a line. Ride it safe, ride it fast.–Brian Savard

Rhythm and flow in powder.

It's important to find your own flow and timing. Don't try to copy someone else's style. On a powder run, the steepness will determine what size turns you make. As always, fast, big turns are the best!

Ride a long board so you don't miss out on the floating feeling. Small boards in powder are too much work. If you're fortunate enough to get an untracked powder run, look back at your tracks to see if you do indeed have rhythm.

You can change your rhythm to adjust to the terrain–small turns through a chute and then let it rip in the open powder fields. I sometimes sing songs in my head on the way down. Maybe that's where I get my rhythm. Hey, as long as you're having fun.

–TTina Basich