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Big Mountain Respect
A recreational skier all her life, Ingrid Backstrom didn’t enter her first big-mountain competition until she was 21, and even then it was on a whim. Lo and behold, she won it, and kept winning almost every contest she entered. More impressive, she captured the attention and respect of every athlete who’s ever laid skis to snow. Some people call her the best female freeskier in the world. Those who have skied with her or seen her in person call her the best freeskier in the world. And maybe it’s because she’s a woman, not in spite of that fact.
1. Read The Terrain
Never ski a big line without getting as much info about it as possible. Scout lines from above and below, talk to the locals about snow conditions in the area, and make sure you have an exit strategy should something get dicey. Even if you haven’t skied a particular line before, if you’ve skied nearby runs with similar exposures and pitches you can reasonably assume the conditions will be similar. Look for signs such as shallow rocks, sastrugi, shady spots and sunny spots to make educated guesses about what hazards you might encounter.
2. Power Position
The bigger the line, the bigger the consequences of form breaks. Make no mistake, you will have form breaks. Everybody does. The key to keeping them from wrecking your line and causing a fall in a no-fall zone is what Ingrid calls the power position: arms in front of you, hands up like you’re riding a motocross bike, strong core. No matter what inconsistencies you encounter—rotted out snow, superficial rocks, changes in pitch—if you return to your power position, you’ll stay stable and aggressive.
3. Stop On A Dime
A smooth descent without starts and stops is a beautiful thing, but it’s not always the reality. Being able to shut down your speed in a heartbeat or make short quick turns to avoid a hazard is key. If you can’t do a series of jump turns, keeping your skis inside a narrow corridor—no more than a couple ski lengths wide—and hopping them down the slope, you shouldn’t venture to uncharted terrain where you’ll inevitably have to make quick decisions and abrupt stops.
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