By Mikaela Ruland
There is nothing so humbling as your first mogul run, except maybe your second. Or your fiftieth.
Moguls are hard.
Watching someone who knows what they’re doing, it looks effortless, flawless.
You think to yourself, it’s just turns. I can turn on the groomers, I can turn in the bumps.
But then, you take your first turn and suddenly you feel like you’re driving too fast down a washboarded dirt road.
No matter how hard you try, your feet won’t go where you want them to, you hit every bump straight on and, eventually, you fall. And of course, bump runs seem like they always have to be right under the lift.
You get back up, brush yourself off, find your pole and look down the slope.
How in the world is there still so much run left to ski!?
I was eleven or twelve the first time I tried a bump run. It was miserable. But I was determined. I spent the next eight years throwing myself down mogul run after mogul run, jarring my body around, embarrassing myself under the lift and trying to get the hang of it.
And then, my dad decided it was finally time to share a single piece of advice that changed my mogul skiing forever.
I’m still not an expert. Every time I think I have it down, I’ll miss a turn and hit a bump the wrong way and again, I’m humbled.
There are many things I’ve picked up over the years that make mogul skiing easier.
First, is strength.
If you’re a relatively fit person and know how to ski, groomers don’t take that much strength. But when you get into the moguls, you start to realize just how out of shape you really are. Leg strength is a must. Hit that stairclimber.
Cardio, too is important. You don’t want to be wheezing halfway down the run.
Lastly, don’t forget your core. You drive from your core, so you need to make sure your core is strong.
Next, there’s form.
It feels so counterintuitive, especially when the run is steep, but you must lean forward. It’s easy to start to lean back when you start to pick up speed, but leaning forward is key to keeping control over where you’re going.
Your knees are your shock absorbers. Keep them bent, more than you’d think, so that they can absorb the energy of slamming into moguls, instead of sending shock waves through your body and throwing you off balance.
The goal is to keep your upper body still. Keep it pointing forward and try not to let it move around. Your hips, knees and ankles should be doing all the work. Your core is your guide. Keep it trained on the target.
And lastly, your arms - and more importantly, the extension of your arms.
Oh yeah, those poles do have a purpose.
Using your poles in the moguls is vital. Do you remember when you learned to ski and your instructor taught you how to make “S” turns by planting your pole and turning around it? Yeah, it’s time to tighten up that pole work.
Keep your eyes trained on where you want to go, plant your pole ahead of you, and turn around it. This will help with balance and transfer of energy. This is probably also a good time to put those straps on. When you inevitably fall, you won’t have to hike back up the run to retrieve your lost pole.
Fitness and stance is great and all, but that doesn’t solve the problem of getting thrown around. You can have the best form ever and still feel like you went through a washing machine at the bottom of a run.
Here’s where my dad’s golden advice comes in.
The key is where to turn. I had spent years and years trying to turn around the mogul. I wasn’t aiming for anything at all, just a turn. I’d start to pick up speed, slipping off the back side of the moguls and inevitably end up out of control, going up and over several bumps before coming to a stop, either by design, or by ending up on my butt.
The place to aim is the uphill side of the downhill mogul.
A mogul run is made up of bumps and troughs. You want to turn around the first bump, and then aim for the place where the trough just starts to turn upwards again into the next bump. This will allow you to bleed off your speed and change direction quickly.
You won’t learn moguls in one day. Ten years from now, the moguls will still be humbling you.
Start off slow. Study the slope before you set off. Envision three to four turns, ski them and then stop. Pick another three to four turns. When you start to feel confident, you can start linking together more and more turns, until you’re slamming the run.
Be kind to yourself and beware of the conditions. Warm, spring days are the ideal time to ski moguls because they’re soft. Nobody likes an icy bump run. Less steep runs, with smaller moguls will be easier to start learning on. Save the huge moguls on steep slopes for another day.
If you’re skiing at Copper, try Trail #22 (Hallelujah). It’s not too steep and it’s short, so you can practice without burning out. Always remember, if you start to feel fatigued, stop and catch your breath. If your legs feel like jelly, it’s time to call it quits for the day and cruise some groomers. When you get tired, you get sloppy, and when you get sloppy, injuries are more likely.
And lastly, stay humble - the mountain’s in charge.