Skiing: Moguls are not your enemy

By Kimberlee Hutcherson

SUN columnist

I’m going to start out by stating what is obvious to most regular skiers, but plenty of people are not quite sure what a mogul is and how they are formed.

Moguls are not made by a machine. Moguls are bumps in the snow that happen naturally (like washboards on dirt roads) as people make turns and carve out the snow with their skis, gradually piling up snow into these bumps. The more turns that are made in the same spot, the bigger the bump becomes. That’s why, when it hasn’t snowed in awhile, the moguls can become quite large. Every time it snows, the moguls get covered up and the process starts all over again.

I remember early in my skiing career I would avoid mogul runs like the plague. Why? Because I simply didn’t have the basic techniques to ski them adequately, let alone ski them with finesse.

Avoiding moguls did not make me better at them. At some point, I knew I was going to have to face them in order to be an all-mountain skier. So do you. Avoiding mogul fields at Wolf Creek is pretty easy, but if you ski anywhere else, eventually you will end up in one. So, it would be a good idea to know how to safely navigate them.

Moguls are not your enemy. In fact, once you start to get the hang of it, you will love the feeling of successfully conquering a mogul run. There’s great satisfaction in utilizing all your skiing skills and making it work.

Of course, I’m going to recommend that you start out with a good lesson to get you on the right track, but here are a few tips if you are already skiing them and would like to quickly have some success.

First off (and I can already hear the groaning), you must slow way, way down. At least until you can link six turns staying in balance and in control. People tend to groan at this first step because they are used to going fast and don’t want to slow down, and it is more challenging to finish each turn to control your speed, which allows you to stay in better balance. Staying in balance and control through the whole mogul field is the goal for success and for a lot of fun.

Second, soft, flexible legs are much better than stiff ones. If your joints are tight and your legs are straight and stiff, you will have the sensation of being launched off of every bump. This will result in quickly losing balance and control. Fear brings about the stiff legs. That’s why slowing everything down helps. It reduces the fear factor. Get your legs soft by skiing across the slope, rolling up and over each mogul. Your head stays even as your legs get short on top of the bump and extend over and into the “trough.” Your legs become shock absorbers.

More about skiing moguls next week.