Survival -- alternative non-ski techniques
Sometimes you may encounter a downhill slope which is too risky for
you to go down with skis on -- for various possible reasons:
- the snow is too hard or icy.
- the slope is too steep for you.
- there are trees or rocks or other obstacles which you could hit
and be harmed by.
- there is a drop-off or cliff you might fall over.
Usually there are several alternatives for handling a downhill
slope -- without skiing down it.
Here are some . . .
Slide down on your butt
Keep your feet below you as you slide.
Sometimes there might be less risk of harm if you take your skis off --
especially if there are obstacles which you might slide into (since
then there is the possibility that the skis could twist or lever on your ankle or knee joints). But holding the skis may
add the risk of dropping them or hitting yourself with them in other
Walk down on your ski boots
Take your skis off your feet. If the snow has a hard surface, try to stomp down the heel of each
boot so that it breaks through the surface and deeper into the
If you cannot dig your boots deep enough into the surface of the
snow to be sure that you will not slide down, you should probably not
use this technique (see more alternatives below) -- because you might get hurt from the impact of
your head or upper body or arms hitting the snow surface -- and
because you might fall into a body position (e.g. head-first downhill)
which is more risky if followed by a slide further down the slope,
perhaps into an obstacle.
Crawl down backwards
Take your skis off and hold one in each hand. Crouch down on
the snow with your head uphill and your feet downhill. Crawl
backwards down the slope with your elbows and knees and boot toes
touching the snow. Each time you place the toe of your boot
against the snow, kick it down into the snow so that it breaks through
the hard surface and deeper into the snow. If necessary kick
harder and kick multiple times.
The key advantage of this technique is that if you think that you could slide, then
this position of head near the snow with feet
down-slope from it often would result in less serious injury from
hitting an obstacle (or even going over a little drop-off). One disadvantage is that it's harder
to see where you're going.
Turn around and go back an easier way
Sometimes there is no low-risk way to go down, so it is better to
find a different route.
But sometimes this strategy does not help, because the risk of the
re-tracing the route going back is greater than going forward. So
another alternative to consider -- earlier -- is . . .
Do not even start out on that trail or slope
Sometimes the low-risk choice must be earlier and more radical: Do not
even start out into that trail or area that contains that
potentially-risky downhill slope.
Often the safest choice is not to get anywhere near a downhill
slope which might be more risky than you can handle -- especially on a
day when the surface of the snow is hard or icy.
The difficulty ratings at a cross country ski center can help decide
which trails are within your capabilities. But use these with
intelligence and care:
- Sometimes a trail whose difficulty you could handle in
normal snow conditions turns out to be significantly risky for you if
you try it in icy conditions.
- Sometimes the trail ratings at one cross country ski center
are much harder or easier than those at another ski center.
So before you start on a trail, check the condition of the snow on a
flat or gentle slope -- both in the sun and in the shade -- to see how
hard or icy it is. For more on this, see Assessing
Snow Conditions on the main
Downhill techniques page.
back to main Downhill
back to Top
| Classic motions | Classic
index | Skating