Many inexperienced skiers think that skiing is quite literally smooth sailing down a hill or a mountainside. And while this is the case in some instances, in other cases, it is anything but smooth sailing. Just think about it now: have you ever looked down the ski slope and you were daunted by the ebbs and flows of waves that seem to run over the snow? You know very well that it is just the snowy slopes, but it looks more like an ocean than a mountain. These highs and lows that you see as you head down the slopes are known as moguls.
What Are Moguls?
Before we get into how to ski mogul slopes, let us first dive into what exactly moguls are and how they form. When you consider skating, the longer you are on the ice, the more the surface of the ice begins to change. Thanks to the good old trusty Zamboni, the ice can easily be smoothed over to change the skating experience.
Much in the same way as a skating surface is groomed, skiing slopes also take on a specific formation based on the movement that happens on the surface. As mogul skiing has gained more traction and popularity, even becoming an Olympic sport, it was quickly realized that this unique shape that the surface of a slope takes on doesn’t necessarily need to be groomed but instead occurs almost naturally with the movement of skiers as they make their way down the slope.
When a skier is coming down at a high speed, they are maneuvering and swerving, leaning into the turns, and trying to maintain control of their movements. In so doing, with every turn, snow gets kicked up behind them leading to the formation of multiple little mounds along the snow.
Moguls are far more noticeable later in the day, or even later in the ski season, when multiple skiers have followed the same or similar path down the slope and their route adds to the already-forming mounds.
However, as skiing moguls have increased in popularity, there have been entire sports and competitions created around them. So, what happens when you need moguls on a slope that hasn’t been skied on yet? Well, you simply make them.
By definition, it would probably be safe to assume that all moguls are manmade, however in competitions and at some resorts, the moguls are created with snowcats which are vehicles that are specially designed to operate, drive, and move on snow.
In many competitions, moguls actually need to meet specifications in terms of the inclines and the degree of the slopes. In those cases, the moguls are almost hand-crafted to meticulously meet the specifications. It isn’t all about waiting for nature to take its course at ski resorts. If there isn’t enough snow, they will actually use a snowmaker to add snow to the surfaces. A snowcat will even out the surfaces and mounds will either be formed by the snowcat or as skiers make their way down the soft snow.
So, for freestyle skiing competitions or other skiing events, the slopes may be groomed to have moguls.
How To Ski Moguls
It might seem daunting to anticipate anything but smooth sailing, but with the correct technique and skills, it is quite easy to maneuver down the moguls using your ski poles to help you make sharp turns and ultimately add to the already-existing moguls on the slope with every turn.
It’s easy enough to say that once you get the hang of skiing you will get the hang of moguls, but when you’re at the top of the hill looking down, it can be extremely intimidating.
Many people suggest using moguls as a giant staircase where you use the soft, powder-like snow on each mound as a stepping stone making your way from one mound to the next. The soft snow also makes the transition from one mound to the next slightly smoother.
Once you build up the confidence to ski moguls, it is smooth sailing from there, literally and figuratively. There are a few tips that you can use to make skiing much more enjoyable which will eventually lead to you pursuing the moguls rather than shying away from them.
The three components you can focus on are finding and keeping your balance (which your ski poles should help with), finding the easiest path down the slope, or finding the fastest path down the slope.
- Staying balanced: like a swan gliding across the water on a lake, you too can have the agility to come down the mogul slopes. It starts with keeping your hands in front of you and focusing on where you’re going to be planting your poles on the next mogul. This will allow you to turn and swerve as need be. Also, your leg movements are going to play a major role in navigating your way downhill. Remember, your poles will likely touch the next mogul before your skis do, and this will allow you to better pivot and maneuver your way around your poles, ultimately serving as your guide for each new mound and turn.
- The easy way down: As a beginner on the mogul slopes, you’re most likely going to want to take the easy way down as opposed to the fast way, that is until you get more experience. The best way to do this is to cast your gaze down from the top of the slope before you actually start skiing down. By looking for the consistently sized moguls and the most evenly spaced ones, you can weave your way down them quite easily. Always aim for the highest point of the moguls and exert your effort on twisting so that you can successfully execute your turns. Finally, always remember to keep your eyes on the next slope because just in the same way as we keep our eyes on the future in life, mogul skiing needs you to keep your eye on the next mound preparing your next move.
- The fast way down: Once your confidence and experience level have increased, you can then work on speed and agility. Instead of turning on top of the mogul, you can find a line on the outside of the mogul trough to make a quick descent down the slopes.
And just like that you’re ready to hit the slopes, not only in a safe way but in a way that makes the intimidating moguls that much more enjoyable. After all, moguls are here to stay, so why not learn how to navigate them and enjoy them? Remember, if you find yourself still having some difficulties with the slopes, do not hesitate to ask a ski instructor for some guidance and they can help make navigating the moguls more enjoyable.