The Shaped Ski Non-Revolution |

The Shaped Ski Non-Revolution

For all the talk of shaped skis over the past couple of years one would think every skier out there would be riding the shapers. Not the case by any means. A quick check at the lift lines shows that yes, shaped skis are there, but a lot of skiers are hanging on to their old trads.

I suspect that one of the reasons the predicted stampede to shaped skis hasn’t materialized is that all too many who have bought them haven’t been impressed by them. Watching skiers on the shaped skis, it’s easy to tell why.

Those skiers on shaped skis are simply skiing them as if they were trad skis. In other words, concentrating on steering rather than edging. And that’s perfectly understandable. We do what we know how to do and what has worked for us in the past. We’re comfortable with steering, some pressure and maybe a bit of edging.

But the excuse for the shaped ski is what the edges can do for you. With the deeper arc of the edge, just putting the ski on edge will make a turn easier. In the pre-shaped ski era, you had to pressure the ski a lot to get anything like the shaped ski cut. Pressuring the ski, in the turn, forced it to bend longitudinally, thus achieving a greater apparent sidecut.

Now just by rolling the knees into the hill, the edges come into play and carve the turn. But you can’t carve if you aren’t getting that angulation. An easy way to get the feel of the carve is to find a moderate slope without a lot of traffic.

Start in a traverse, and as you gather speed, roll your knees out uphill and let the skis make the turn for you. Do that until you can see groove marks from your skis in the snow.

Then try making “railroad” turns. That is, on a moderate slope let the skis run down the fall line. Push your knees away from the skis and let the edges bite. Keep it slow until you get the feel of it, then let the skis roll.

The next step is pure fun. Again on a moderate slope, follow the fall line with your body, but swing your skis back and forth below you. You’ll want to feel a kind of “pinch” where your lower rib comes up against the pelvis. That “comma” position, as it used to be called, automatically sets the edges.

The fun part comes from being able to ski the fall line, where most skiers panic and start making “Z” turns, while keeping your speed tightly under control. You can do this on just about the steepest pitches without having to make those wide, sweeping turns that put you in harm’s way.

Of course, this isn’t the answer. The way to learn how to switch from trad skis to shapers is to take a lesson from a pro who has worked on getting the most out of his or her shaped skis. You can do this at many resorts, but particularly at Heavenly where two demo tents have been erected. There you can try a shaped ski with an instructor free.

Another reason that some experienced skiers haven’t taken to shaped skis is that they have been skiing on the same ski for years and have completely adapted their skiing to that ski. No other ski is going to work for them until they take a lesson to clear out those bad, old habits.


A friend asked me the other day where she should go to buy new boots. I suggested one local shop and she said, “Oh, but they don’t sell ‘Brand X,’ and I’ve been told those are the best.”

Boot buying is one of the more complex purchases in skiing. I think you can safely say that there is no one boot that is the best. They’re all good. But we’re all different with different feet, so it’s not the brand as much as the match between your foot and the boot. Some makers offer “high volume” boots, others “low volume.” Your foot determines which is right for you.

I happen to ski in a Raichle boot. The reason is simple: When I bought the boots several seasons ago, Raichle offered a Thermo-Flex lining that would accommodate a large cyst growth on my left ankle with a nice dimple. After several years of use, I recently had to have the dimple enlarged after a day of pain on the hill. The Thermo-Flex lining can go through repeated remoldings and in this case worked fine!

But while I’m happy with what I have, that by no means is the boot for you. Talk to the ski shop techie. Tell him or her your innermost foot secrets. Be honest with the techie about how you ski; don’t claim to be a black diamond fanatic when you really just love blue cruisers.

And don’t try on boots with a thick sock. Over the years I’ve gradually moved from thick sock to the thinnest possible. You can do that in the Sierra as you never could in cold Colorado. Thin means better sensitivity and better skiing.

End of lectures.

Don’t miss the Bumps & Jumps

This is the weekend for the next big show of the season at Heavenly with the annual Bumps & Jumps Friday and Saturday. This is a fine chance to see the best bumpers and jumpers in the world at play. Well, maybe not play since money is involved, but with Jonny Moseley involved you can be sure of some good humor as well at tough competition.

You can get a preview of the action in the March issue of Sierra Ski Times elsewhere in this weekend edition. Plenty of action for spectators at the base of the California lodge and it’s all free. See you there!


April is the time for all hot-tub lovers to ski or board SQUAW VALLEY. As of April 5 a lift pass was all you needed to enjoy the High Camp Swimming Lagoon and 25-foot-diameter hot tub at 104 degrees. If you can’t wait until April 5, then cough up $7 and you can dip to your body’s content. Hours are 11-9 P.M. Stay until closing and then ski down to the base. What fun!

Also this weekend at Squaw, the Jimmy Huega Snow Express races to benefit MS.

ALPINE MEADOWS will host the Lord of the Boards championship this Saturday and Sunday. Call 800) 441-4423 for details. And the Alpine POWDR card is still available. Cuts lift ticket prices from $48 to $30 on specific days.

OK, so the skirt gets in the way, but guys who go drag get a $15 lift ticket at MOUNT ROSE Saturday March 20. Also at Mount Rose, winding up this weekend, is the Mount Rose Spring Cup, a Level II race sanctioned by Disabled Sports USA. Gold Medalists from the Nagano Paralympics will be on hand. Able-bodied skiers are also welcome.

At SIERRA-AT-TAHOE this weekend is the finals in the fun event of the season, the Karving Klassic. This is that race where you have a choice of gates with a handicap of some sort tacked on. Local impresario Curtis Fong put this together along with Camp Richardson, where the trophies are awarded. Also at SAT this weekend: a skier/boardercross to benefit the Tahoe Snowboard Team, which is heading for Telluride for the USASA national championships.

Good old DONNER SKI RANCH has lowered midweek lift prices from $23 to $15 for adults every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Donner is also selling season passes at very good prices. Check it out!

Also at Donner April 11 will be the third annual Legends of Snowboarding reunion in conjunction with the Heckler Magazine reader appreciation party. Donner is such a neat, laid-back place that any party or event there is worth taking in.

KIRKWOOD completes its North American Freeride championships Saturday with winners in the four classifications going on to Alaska for the ESPN World Cup of Freeskiing in Alaska.

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