No other aspect of skiing is as challenging as riding mogul fields. The environment is unique and full of surprises. There are no shortcuts to becoming a master of moguls.
Most skiers tend to avoid bumps. Those who are brave and determined enough to learn how to ski moguls soon become capable of tackling any kind of terrain.
They are quite popular because it is much more exciting to maneuver moguls than a smooth slope. Practicing mogul skiing is also a great way to enhance your skiing technique, skills, and confidence. It takes some time to learn how to ride bumps, but it pays off.
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What Are Moguls, and How Are They Made?
Moguls are piles of snow that appear when lots of skiers make their turns on the same spots. Whenever a skier makes a turn, they push an amount of snow to the side, and make a small mound. A trough appears on the track that other skiers naturally follow. This continually pushes more snow into the growing hill.
Since moguls appear as a consequence of ski runs, we know that they are not static. But did you know thatski moguls migrate slowly uphill?
Moguls appear on all ski trails that skiers use. On groomed terrains, these moguls get mechanically flattened with special equipment. On other trails, they are left that way for the purpose of mogul skiing. So, they appear spontaneously as a consequence of skiers moving along and kicking up piles of snow. These piles eventually turn into moguls.
Professor David Bahr, who likes to ski when he’s not teaching physics and computational sciences at Colorado’s Regis University, noticed that the bumps he slalomed around went a bit up the mountain. To get a sense of what he observed, he started an experiment and came to interesting conclusions.
In 2005, professor Bahr set a camera on his favorite ski trail in Colorado. The camera automatically took pictures day after day at the same time during the course of one year. Then he created a time-lapse video of the mountain.
The video displayed the snow bumps gradually moving up the trail. Bahr explains this phenomenon in terms of “backward-propagating kinematic waves”, or travel masses.
How to Ski Moguls
Different skiers have their own tactics and techniques for bump riding. There’s not one singular approach to this discipline, and there’s no one way to deal with the challenging environment.
Balance is a Conditio Sine Qua Non
The hardest part of bump skiing is to keep the balance. However, learning to maintain balance is just the beginning of the adventure that is now possible when you attempt moguls.
When you’re skiing moguls, the skis can be moving in all directions. The direction and gradient of the slope are changing dynamically. A moment of perfect balance means nothing in the next one.
Timing is Everything
Mogul skiing is much different than skiing on a groomed piste. On a piste, everything goes smoothly. All you need to do is to make the right movements in an already defined order, and the skis will get you where you want.
Moguls make things complicated. All the movements that you’ve learned now have to be combined with precise timing. If you make any movement at an inappropriate moment you risk a catastrophic turn of events. Turning the skis in the wrong direction may lead to both the tips and tails of your board hitting bumps, thus causing you to lose your balance.
Learn How to Ski Moguls – Step by Step
Moguls are unpredictable, but there are still a couple of steps you can take to be able to subdue them. Focus on the balance and make turns in the right moments. Eventually, you’ll be able to ski fast and smoothly, even on moguls.
1. Begin with small moguls and spend some time on them
In order to get comfortable navigating through the bumps, you’ll need to practice a lot. Small moguls get easily created on busy pistes with soft snow and lots of sun or other kind of warmth.
A smooth terrain in the morning turns into a bumpy playground in the afternoon. Nothing too impressive, but still an essential first step. On such a terrain, try to make the same movements that you habitually make of a groomed slope. It’s not easy, but once you’re able to maintain control you’re ready for the next step.
2. Practice executing turns around moguls
Your goal in this phase should be to finish the turn at the top of the mogul.
At the top of the bump, there will be a spot when both the tips and tails of your skip will be up in the air, and only your feet will be touching the snow. It might sound scary, but that’s the perfect moment to make turns.
3. Prioritize balance
Keep it on your mind all the time. This can’t be stressed enough. Bump skiing challenges our balance minute after minute. That’s because the angle between the ski and the slope changes rapidly.
Practice keeping your balance by taking a couple of steps. First, when your weight is concentrated on your heels, go for a run. When you feel that the weight moves toward the toes, try to manage it. Next, feel the arch of your foot and find its middle. Take it to small moguls on a blue and monitor your balance. Try doing this on small moguls on a slope marked blue, and pay attention to your balance.
Practice making turns while leaning too far back, then too far forward, and eventually centered. Eventually you will start feeling ready to do the same on bigger moguls. Just make sure to avoid being thrown backwards.
Notice the dynamics of mogul skiing.
When you reach the bottom of a mogul, you’ll move more slowly and your skis will rise up. Once you reach the top of a mogul, the skis will fall away and speed up. During those phases, practice how to stay balanced. Instead of moving your torso, where most of your weight is, you need to balance by moving only your feet.
Keeping the balance on moguls is hard, but possible, and it gets better with time and practice. Once you’re comfortable on this terrain, it’s time to make the next step and ski a line.
4. Before you learn how to read the terrain, learn how to make the skis skid.
First, take a groomed path and try to turn the skis but to keep the same direction. Repeat this step as many times as needed.
Take the narrowest possible corridor as you pivot the skis to the left then to the right, and ski downhill. This is completely different than a round turn – here you’re only using the edge grip for speed control, and the skis move askew.
Practice varying the speed while you skid. Control the speed by edging and flattening the skis. Make sure to stay balanced on the downhill ski. This technique is crucial for mogul skiing because you need to be able to control the speed while also staying on your line.
As you skid downhill, try putting skis in different angles, because sometimes you’ll not have enough space. You can practice this on well-spaced moguls.
5. Practice hockey stops on bumps.
After taking a turn, stop and try to get to the shelf near the top of the mogul. You’ll likely need to try this several times, and each time you should go back to the piste and devise a new pattern of movement.
It is important that you become able to stop without having to lean on the uphill ski or the pole. Instead, you should balance on the downhill ski. You can achieve this by staying centered as you move down the hill.
Also, try to stop and lift the upright ski only, then to use only the downhill ski. If you can’t prevent the skis from sliding downhill, it means that you need more grip. In that case, try tipping the skis onto a great angle, but rely on your downhill ski for balance.
When you stop, if your skis continue sliding in either direction, that’s a sign that you’re not balanced in the right spot in the middle of your foot. The mogul peak is like a seesaw. Some of your weight is on your toes, and some is on your heels. If most of the weight is on the same side, the skis will tip. Your body should get to the mogul simultaneously with your feet.
The next step is to link together a few controlled turns. The basic thing you should do is observe the terrain and notice each stopping point as you move. Bump after bump you’ll learn how to ski moguls.
6. Increase speed and skills.
When you make a rounder turn, the skis will move forward. This is called a skidding turn. It requires greater speed and pressure. The skis hit the moguls with the tips then bend. This is a good way to handle pressure changes.
As you’re passing through a mogul field, be fast and try some new tactics.
- Absorption – as you ride the moguls, use your legs to keep the upper part of your body at the same level. Deal with the pressure by keeping the skis on the ground. The movements of your feet will feel like riding a bike. Your feet should be pulled back under you. At the same time, you should point the toes to the snow.
- Jumping – resist the front of the mogul, and it will direct you upwards. While in the air, you’ll get a chance to re-center and prepare for the next move. No matter how scary this may sound, the mogul will slow you down this way.
- Experiment with jumping and absorption. Practice handling the pressure that comes with faster mogul skiing. Apply the maximum absorption and resistance that you can in order to get into the next turn faster.
- Use your poles well. The moment you’ve finished the turn, your pole needs to be ready to plant. A strong pole can help you to prevent being thrown around. If the distance between your skis and the upper part of your body becomes problematic, planting the pole on the rear end of the mogul will help regain a good posture.
- Hands should be up. When you end a turn, you should be able to see the uphill hand, which will help keep the body above the downhill ski.
- Look ahead. Be prepared and notice every mogul in front of you. When you spot it, keep an eye on it. That way, it won’t surprise you.
- Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. It’s a bit tough, but you’ll need to make some errors to eventually help you become a better skier.
As a quick recap – your upper body should be above the downhill skis. Otherwise, the skis will run away from you, and you’re going to fall on your back.
The art of mogul riding is not for everyone. Mogul skiers skills include the ability to handle a series of bumps on a ski slope. Both expert knowledge and lots of practice are needed to ride moguls with confidence.
If your skiing technique is flawed in any way, skiing moguls will expose it. If you have a habit of sitting back or skiing off the tails of your skis, learning to ski moguls will make these flaws visible. If you’re constantly falling on your back in the moguls, you probably never learned to keep the right posture during skiing. That’s especially visible in situations where your skis seem to run away from you.
If these unfortunate situations happen often, it means that you’ll probably need an instructor to assess your technique and let you know what you’re doing wrong. Before you even try to ski moguls, you should learn how to navigate groomed runs and have proper body mechanics.
Keep an eye on what’s going on in front of you. We instinctively tend to look at the tips of our skis. but if we do that, we won’t see the approaching moguls which can lead to disaster.
Instead of looking at what is just in front of us, we have to look downhill – and to do so every second during the skiing. We should be able to see a couple of moguls ahead. A minimum is to observe one bump ahead.
So, don’t watch your skis; watch the snow in front of you.
Once you start looking at them, you’ll notice the pattern and rhythm, and a line between the moguls. When you see all this clearly you’ll know where to go.
A Beginners Guide to Skiing Moguls Slowly
If you’d like to move as slow as possible, don’t avoid moguls and don’t go between them. Instead of avoiding them, turn on top of each bump. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you’re avoiding bumps you’ll reach a speed that’s hard to control.
When you get near a snow bump, plant your pole on top of it. At the same time, use your legs to absorb it.
The shape of the slope can help you increase or decrease the speed when needed. When you’re on top of a mogul, that’s a great chance to pivot your skis and turn around the pole.
As you’re sliding down a bump, don’t forget to push your toes down and keep the contact with the snow.
Make sure to spot the next mogul on time.
Mogul Skiing – Fast
If you’re comfortable riding through a mogul field and you’d like to be faster, that’s easy. Ski around the moguls. Avoid sliding into them or over them. When you come near a bump, use the edge of the trough to change direction. Do this whenever you notice you’re approaching a mogul.
Use snow bumps to control the speed. The backside of a mogul can be used as a break.Watch carefully for what’s in front of you. Avoid surprises.
Riding mogul fields is definitely challenging. It takes courage and tons of practice to master it. We hope that this guide will help you reach your goals of mastering this remarkable skill. Now you know that balance and timing are the key, but for true results you’ll need to put in many hours and lots of sweat.