Downhill discussion

Skiing: Your most basic questions, answered

Julie Norman cruises down Cow Camp run at Powderhorn Mountain Resort recently. Powderhorn is a great resort for those seeking a good place to ski. There are plenty of runs for all levels and abilities and it is more affordable than other resorts in the state. For those who are new to skiing, some of the most basic questions need to be answered before hitting the slopes — like where to ski.



Suzanne Foster Porter keeps an eye on her son, Elliot, 4, during a recent run at Powderhorn Mountain Resort. Elliot is showcasing the wedge, the best way to stop on skis.



Whether skiing or snowboarding, the most important thing to do is stay safe. That means controlling your speed and wearing a helmet.



I was researching content marketing for my “real” job here at The Daily Sentinel and found this interesting tool called “Answer the Public” (askthepublic.com). It’s a way to use keywords to identify questions that have been asked online about a particular topic. Since it’s winter and I’m not mountain biking, I used “skiing” as my keyword and discovered that most of the questions people seem to ask are very basic ones.

That makes sense to me because, well, sometimes you don’t want people to think you don’t know things; that’s what makes the internet great. So here are the answers to some of those questions I found. I hope those of you reading can find them useful or put them in the hands of those who will.

When skiing, how do you stop? I saw this in several variations. To stop when skiing, you can either wedge your skis (push your heels out) to form a “pizza” slice, or you can use a “hockey stop.” This requires knowing how to turn. If you can turn, do that and then push your heels down and the edges of your skis into the hill. If neither of those options works, just sit down, but make sure your skis are pointing across the hill, not down it!

Why is skiing so much fun? I think that answer probably differs from person to person. I like the challenge of it and I enjoy the scenery. If you’re skiing, chances are you’re in a beautiful place! It’s also exhilarating to swish down a slope (staying in control of course) or glide through untracked powder. It’s also a great digital break; I cannot ski and text at the same time. Honestly, it’s just fun! If you need to ask the question, maybe it’s not the sport for you.

What is the fall line? The fall line is the direction of the slope or, the direction gravity leads you as you’re skiing down it. Sometimes portions of slopes can have a “double fall line” which means that it has a standard downhill slope, but also that part of the run may be angled to one side (Maverick and Red Eye at Powderhorn have this feature in places).

What is carving? Carving refers to a type of ski turn. When you tip your skis onto the edges, the sidecut of your skis causes them to bend and an arc to form. The ski then follows this arc to produce a turn.

How do I control my speed? Make another turn. You can also slow your turns by making wider turns (though this can cause more harm than good sometimes because if you turn too wide and slow down too much you won’t be able to make the next turn).

Where are the best places to ski? This is a totally subjective question based on where you live, the type of terrain you enjoy, and how long you’ve been skiing. If you live here on the Western Slope, the best place to ski is Powderhorn. It’s easily accessible, has beginner, intermediate, and expert terrain, and is more affordable than large resorts.

If you don’t mind traveling a bit, Snowmass is another great option but again, that’s my own opinion. If you’re looking for unique places to ski, do some online research to learn about different resorts. You might check out other Colorado Gems (coloradoski.com/gem-card) to find small, family-friendly resorts across Colorado. To look for resorts with great deals, try Liftopia.com.

Which muscles does skiing use? Downhill skiing mostly engages your quads and gluteal muscles. However, I can tell you that after a long day of skiing, your quads, calves, and even arms may be sore.

Your arm muscles get used more than you might think when you’re skiing. If you have to push with your poles down a long cat track (think: heading to Tenderfoot at Powderhorn) you’ll use arm strength to help with that. If you fall and have to push yourself up, you’ll again be using arm muscles to assist you. Mostly though, your quads are getting the biggest workout. If you want to start training for ski season in the fall, try squats, lunges, and cycling.

Which is safer, snowboarding or skiing? Either can be dangerous if you aren’t in control and aren’t paying attention to your surroundings. Ski or board at a speed at which you feel comfortable; don’t let friends talk you into going faster than you want. Make sure you’re on terrain that is suited to your abilities. Don’t go down an expert run if you just took up the sport last week. Be aware of who and what is around you (trees, other skiers or boarders) and always wear a helmet.


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