Lou Dawson and Steep Skiing: Episode 9
Dustpocalypse and more than you ever need to know about skins
Its April and Lou Dawson is back in the shop. In case you could not tell, totally deep is a completely unscripted unrehearsed podcast on backcountry skiing. That being sad we usually have a cocktail napkins worth of notes for where we want our freeform conversation on touring to go. With Lou we really wanted to unlock the secrets to steep skiing, but in the process we went all over the map. Luckily Lou is the most knowledgeable guy in the business both from a skiing Colorado peaks standpoint and from being as big a gear nerd as us.
My biggest question is "how do I get better at steep skiing?" It has always been much the same thing that holds me back from being a better, or even descent climber. The physical skills are there, dare I say, even the technical skills are hiding under there somewhere as well. The problem is the deficit of the mental game to combine the two when you need it most. I have known skiers whose traditional form looks just awful when skiing ice or bumps at the resort. Even in powder they are not much to look at. But then when the going gets steep they focus and it go to work. Suddenly, the no fall zone they are skiing melts away and they are completely in control of the situation.This is not me! When I enter a zone where a tumble won't be fatal as much as a huge bummer sliding 1000+ feet to the run out I feel myself start to freeze up. Its true with mental training and focus I keep my composer and maybe even some spectators, if they were perched a mountain top away, would not even know how bad my knees are shaking. But how could you possibly take on all the steeps of Colorado's 14ers.
Lou's answer is just practice. He recounts finding the steepest turns he could make, even if it is only just a handful of them and practicing over and over your jump turn until the muscle memory takes over when you need it most. Randy and I's advice, repeated many times throughout the episodes, is put down the search for the Holy Grail of powder turns and go find yourself some shitty snow. Ski Mountaineering rarely goes as planned so get out their and find some icy windblown breakable crust and get your suffer on.
Looking for real resources on steep skiing. Check out Wildsnow's D rating system and all of the amazing resources on the Wildsnow.com site.
The real piece of edification comes from our thorough discussion about climbing skins. Since we already bored Chris in the recording session and you are sure to have TMI by the time you listen, I will be brief. Get yourself some mohair! Producer Chris Kalous seems to be very worried about the humane treatment of goats, but in the end we can never fully emulate natural fibers. 100% mohair will be faster, 70/30 blends will last longer and just put the thought of a 100% synthetic skin out of your mind forever. If you have a pair of nylons throw them in the heap with your snowshoes in the garage.
The biggest problem with getting Lou talking about steep skiing is that he is incredibly humble. He as the bad ass of the 70's and 80's and is satisfied now to sit back and tell the tails of the next generation. He remains a well of knowledge and we will continue to squeeze him for the secrets of skiing 60 degree wild snow on long straight skinny skis way before his time.
Now its time to beg once again for reviews on iTunes. Most of all tell some touring buddies about the show and lets keep this thing going.
- Doug Stenclik