How Extreme Skiing Works

Extreme Skiing Techniques

Proper technique will come in handy.
Proper technique will come in handy.

You don't want to engage in any extreme skiing until you've mastered the standard version. Advance slowly, and don't get impatient -- you have to have a comfort level before you can push yourself out of it. Skills like being able to make tight swing turns and linking turns (basically zig-zagging your way down) should be second nature to you. Become proficient at skiing on slush, deep powder and debris. If you've got your eye on a big jump, start out with very small jumps and take your time working your way (and your nerve) up to the task.

As with any kind of extreme skiing, the learning curve for off-piste (off-trail) stunts and tricks is steep -- there isn't much in the way of a practice backflip, for instance. You're either doing a complete backflip or you're not. Once you decide you're going to attempt a flip or any other stunt, it's important to commit yourself to the stunt -- success will only be had by seeing it through.

A good run is also dependent upon the extreme skier's ability to read the snow. Snow conditions can change not only from day to day, but also from hour to hour. Some extreme skiers prefer fresh powder, while others like a firm base beneath a softer surface, as is found more often with springtime snow. Less welcome is icy snow or slushy mix of debris and trouble.

The many forms of extreme skiing carry their own specialized techniques. Ski-BASE jumpers, for instance, must get enough distance from the jumping surface to ensure that they won't be carried back into it once their parachute deploys. Snow kiters must learn to steer their giant windfoils using a bar that operates much like a bicycle's handlebar. Ski gliders use collapsible poles that can be packed away once the hang glider is in flight.

Extreme skiers who perform long jumps borrow technique from ski jumpers and sail through the air with their skis forming a "V," increasing the height and distance a jumper can achieve. Studies performed in wind tunnels have shown that the "V" arrangement increases lift by as much as 28 percent [source: United States Ski and Snowboard Association].

But there might be danger ahead. More on that on the next page.