Icy slopes are not the ideal condition for most skiers. But all of us encounter ice at some point during the season. It’s important to know how to properly ski when this happens, so you don’t lose control and hurt yourself or other skiers.
I’m Christine, and I created this blog to provide skiers with a valuable source of information they can use to help fuel their passion for the sport. I’ve been skiing for decades, and I know through first-hand experience how to handle ice and other less-than-ideal conditions.
This post will show you how to ski on ice or icy slopes. I’ll highlight some important tips and techniques that will keep you in control when you encounter these types of conditions at the resort or in the backcountry.
Let’s start sliding.
Why Ice is Challenging to Ski
First off, if you are a ski racer or love sticking to the front side of the resort, you might actually enjoy skiing on ice or icy slopes. Ski racing typically involves more hardpack and icy conditions than skiers usually like to ride on.
For the rest of us, ice can be very challenging to ski on. It’s simply not as forgiving and takes more skill and technique to navigate. This is primarily caused by a lack of edge control because of how hard an icy run is.
Your ski edges cannot dig in as effectively in icy conditions. This can result in a loss of control and precision. When you can’t control your turns or slow down effectively, things can get nasty in a hurry.
Ice is also more slippery than regular snow. This results in higher speeds that you might not be anticipating when you first start your descent down the mountain. Excess speeds can also cause a loss of control.
How to Ski on Ice
There really isn’t one method for skiing on ice. Instead, I’ll provide you with some tips to keep in mind so you can stay locked in and in control when you encounter this type of condition. And just like with any new skill, the more you practice, the better you’ll be.
Tip #1 – Focus on Form
One of the best things you can do when you hit a patch of ice is to focus on your form. You want to make sure that you keep your knees bent and your arms out in front of you to make for an engaged skiing position.
When you focus on your form, you’ll be able to react quickly and adjust to the feel of ice better. You can easily lose control and wipe out if you stand straight up or get sloppy with your form on ice.
Really dig into your hips and heels to keep your knees bent. Stay active with your arms to provide extra balance, and make sure you initiate your turns with pole plants out in front of you.
Tip #2 – Don’t Panic
Sometimes you run into a patch of ice when you are not expecting it. You always want to stay calm and in control so you don’t make any super-fast movements that can cause you to lose control and make a bad decision.
Hitting a patch of ice can be alarming, but if you just focus on your skiing instead of the conditions, you’ll do a much better job of staying in control. When you panic, you’ll make quick movements that won’t help you out on icy slopes.
If you feel a rush of adrenalin or fear, use that to your advantage by turning it into focus. This will help you stay locked in, and you can focus on your form rather than your fear.
Tip #3 – Use Your Edges
The edges of your skis are the keys to staying in control on any type of snow. This becomes even more true when you are on icy slopes. Even though your edges don’t work as well in these conditions, they are still the key to staying in control.
A key aspect of using your edges is learning how to balance on your outside edge. This is a proper skiing technique in any situation but comes in even more helpful when you really need to dig in and get a grip on ice.
If you feel yourself sliding or getting out of control, focus on that outside edge. Keep your feet wide and use your body weight to your advantage. If you can put more weight and force into that edge, you’ll be in better control.
Tip #4 – Go Slow
Sometimes ice will appear out of nowhere, but there are plenty of situations when you can see it coming. If you know that you are about to hit an icy patch, slow down your speed, so you don’t go into that section of slope at full blast.
Skiing at a slower speed is always easier, so if you can limit how fast you are going before approaching the ice, you’ll be better off the entire way down the slope.
If you were already going fast and didn’t see the ice coming, do your best to try and slow yourself down gently and be in control. Once you reduce your speed, keep it that way until you are off the ice.
Tip #5 – Skid if Needed
If you hit a severe icy slope or don’t feel comfortable skiing on it, you can always skid your way out of the situation. This technique involves skiing nearly perpendicular to the hill the entire way down.
Keep your skis as close together as possible and make slight movements with your hips and knees to go downhill while remaining in control. This isn’t really skiing, but it can get you out of a jam when you are on ice or other conditions beyond your ability levels.
Sidestepping can also come in useful if you want to take things easy and very slowly work your way down an icy slope. All you need to do for this is keep your skis perpendicular to the slope and walk your way down step by step.
Learning to ski on ice or icy slopes can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. If you want to be a well-rounded skier, you need to know how to ski in just about any condition, and ice is one of these. Take your time and focus on form, and you should be alright.
If you want to be a ski racer, you are going to need to learn to love ice. The nature of racing involves packed snow conditions that enable you to reach top speeds. Ski racers are some of the best at skiing ice, and you can learn a lot by watching them.
You might be able to avoid ice if you’re lucky. But chances are you will encounter it at some point, especially if you ski often. By keeping the advice in this article in mind, you’ll stay in control and limit the chance of falling.