Riding Narrow Trails

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Riding Narrow Trails

Postby Rob » Sun Nov 02, 2008 4:43 pm

Last season I made a wrong turn on a run I had not done before and was suddenly on a run that was very much narrower than I was used to. More like a trail than a run, although if someone knows what I should call this kind of run, please tell me.

Anyway, the challenge was that the trail was a series of long straight sections connected with easy turns. The turns were fine, but I had trouble with the long narrow straights both because there was a lot of traffic and because I was used to having a lot of room to switch from toe edge to heel edge and back as I descended.

So my question is what do you do differently in this situation? I've seen more skilled riders shifting easily from one edge to the other but not so much turning and making small corrections so they stay on the line they want to follow. This looks like what I want to learn. Watching riders do this, it seems easy, but when I try I find myself turning rather than just making minor course corrections.

What do YOU do in situations like this?
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cat track fever

Postby leftcoast larry » Sun Nov 02, 2008 7:11 pm

Sounds like you got Cat tracked! Cat tracks are connecting trails at big resorts. Cat tracks are the occasional bane of snowboarders - why? Well the narrowness is one thing, crowds another, and - oh - did I mention that some of these cat tracks get so flat (even worse sometimes the have uphill bits ... fine for people with poles [pole cats?]) that sliding slows to a stop. Skating anyone?

The quick edge to edge moves are the ticket - it's not a turn really, more of a heel/toe hop and set kind of thing - I practiced them on a big open flat area 'til I was comfortable with them.
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Physics lesson

Postby MunkySpunk » Sun Nov 02, 2008 7:27 pm

I speak as a person who went through this early last season. A tree and I became close friends on a narrow trail last year. Then the tree closelined me and I was forced to break off the abusive relationship.

Keep your eyes locked on where you want to go, not where you are.

Make sure you're not riding too much board for your skill (try one that's shorter and lighter if you're having trouble).

And the biggest thing that will help you: ride from the waist down, not the waist up. What do I mean by that? Instead of shifting your entire weight from one side of the board to the other (like an inverted pendulum), move the board underneath you from one side of your center of gravity to the other. I accomplish this by leaning WAY forward, bending at the waist and knees, and placing the center of the board somewhere under my belly. Sound unstable? It is if you're not moving (you'll fall over every time). The faster I'm going or the tighter the turns, the more dramatic the lean.

Why does it work? Here's the physics lesson, courtesy of Isaac Newton: Force=Mass*Acceleration, therefore Acceleration=Force/Mass. And unless you're anorexic or your board is made of depleted Uranium, you weigh much more than your board. So to get the same acceleration (movement), you have to apply a much greater force to move your body than to move your board. And unless you're superman (if so, you'd probably just fly down the hill instead of boarding down it, and you'd probably be at your house at the flat north pole instead of a ski resort) you won't be applying the kinds of forces necessary to move your heavy body fast. Why? Impulse=Mass*Velocity (A body at rest tends to stay at rest, and you're body is heavier than the board's body).

So what, you ask? Yeah, I'd ask that too. Boiled down, this method has given me MUCH, MUCH faster transitions (which lets you board those cat trails), and really improved my carving game. You'll get better, and before long you won't necessarily be leaning over so dramatically but you'll find you're still boarding from the waist down and always riding an edge.

If you want an example, you can learn a lot just by watching folks board from the chairlift and studying their movements instead of their bling.

I knew I went to school for a reason.
Last edited by MunkySpunk on Sun Nov 02, 2008 7:42 pm, edited 4 times in total.
- Old age and treachery always overcome youth and skill
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Postby MrEMan » Sun Nov 02, 2008 7:35 pm

Agreed ... sounds like a cat-track. Like larry indicates, there are some notorious cat-tracks around that were definitely made without snowboarders in mind. And they're inevitably crowded with skiers. The worst is the skier that randomly snowplows back and forth across the cat-track in front of you. :roll:

I tend to fly down them ... as flat based as possible. I say "as flat based as possible" because I'm not always flat based ... but it probably looks like it. It's really just a subtle pressure on either the toe edge or heel edge, gradually shifting back and forth as needed. Take care to warn folks in front of you with a gentle "on your left" (it can startle them to have you fly by when they're focused on their own skiing or boarding). And be careful late in the afternoon ... the ruts left by skiers start to refreeze and can result in some very dynamic slams ...
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Postby leftcoast larry » Sun Nov 02, 2008 8:17 pm

dynamic slams indeed

I was somewhere in week two of season one - occasionally linking turns, just as often not. The occasional part had me moving quickly down a long straight, relatively flat cat track - well straight until the S turn, and flat except for the middle part of the turn. Somewhere between the initial right-hander and the upcoming left and having picked up a LOT of speed on the descending portion I forget how to turn (I think the rapidly approaching tree at the apex of the left-hander was having a slight influence on my consciousness.)

I think I must have simply pushed down on my heels ...

And just like that I was looking up at the sky, flat on my back, stuff everywhere - my first yard sale!

Oh yeah ... Cat tracks
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Postby bernwern » Mon Nov 03, 2008 11:43 am

It does indeed sound like a cat-track. This is the single most-hated feature of any resort for me as a snowboarder >< Nothing sucks more than holding an edge on a long, flat, curving cat-track and not being able to carve or flat-base it. You need to control speed somewhat, but not so much that you stop and have to unstrap.....and your legs BURN by the end :(

I would like to add something to MunkySpunk's note: concentrate on where you are going. Humans have a problme called "target fixation syndrome", basically our brans force us to focus on one thing, and int eh case of snowboarding it is usually a tree or other obstacle you want to avoid. Focus on theopenings, always looking ahead to your next turn. Part of this is confidence....you need to trust yourself and know you can ride through a cat or tree run without hitting anything. Confidence is the single biggest factor, IMO, in not hitting obstacles or crashing out of fear of hitting one.

-B
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Postby wrathfuldeity » Mon Nov 03, 2008 2:15 pm

Couple of years ago my son told me to listen to the rhythm...meaning instead of long slow shhhhh, shhhhhh, shhhhh of speed checking on narrow cattracks; do quick edge to edge sh, sh, sh,....sh, sh, sh,....sh, sh, sh. Its like doing soft quick cross-unders....keeping your upper body fairly quiet, weight on the nose and just kicking back and forth with your rear foot. That way you can carry speed into the flats, yet stay in control and not over-steer.
Baker!
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Postby bernwern » Mon Nov 03, 2008 2:37 pm

^ yes, this works. But it depends on how wide the cat is, plus how the surface is. One I rode at Big Sky had waves in it from skiers speed-checking...nearly impossible to speed check without catching an edge ><

Also, I think gear should be acounted for.....I ride a 168 (soon a 200), making things a bit sketchy on norrow tracks. Board flex would also have an impact.

By far, the worst cat-walks I had to take were at Bridger Bowl. Some of them traverse across bowls, up slopes, and through trees. And they are usually 2 board lengths wide at most. If you get off track, or have to unstrap, the snow is too deep to walk effectively in, forcing you to drop in and head down, or surf-paddle to a more forgiving spot.

-B
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Postby GravityAddict » Mon Nov 03, 2008 3:01 pm

This is not the easiest thing to explain, but its simple to ride straight and check your speed without switching from edge to edge (which is what usually causes all the trouble due to it taking up more space on the trail with all that swerving) It involves twisting the board with your feet and shifting your weight. Also since many of these cat tracks are gently sloped from side to side, you can also stay on your uphill edge and rotate the back of your board slightly to the downhill side causing drag on the uphill edge to control speed. :wink:
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Postby bernwern » Mon Nov 03, 2008 4:27 pm

GravityAddict wrote:This is not the easiest thing to explain, but its simple to ride straight and check your speed without switching from edge to edge (which is what usually causes all the trouble due to it taking up more space on the trail with all that swerving) It involves twisting the board with your feet and shifting your weight. Also since many of these cat tracks are gently sloped from side to side, you can also stay on your uphill edge and rotate the back of your board slightly to the downhill side causing drag on the uphill edge to control speed. :wink:


The second idea I have actually done (but since I ride so little out west, I forgot about it). Very good idea. Basically, using the nose and part of the base to snowplow. I used this after freshies at both Big Sky and Bridger Bowl one year. Problem is, it's not always fresh, nor is there always room to do it.....but it is by far the best way I have tried.


As for your first idea, that is something I never thought of, heard of, or tried! Thinking about it, you basically alternate your lean across the board torsion? So you are torsioning the board to turn right, but lean your weight opposite, forcing you to go straight? Then alternate to keep your legs from dying? Sound feasible and I will experiment when season stars here in a few weeks....but please elaborate if you can, as I am always interested to learn new things :)

-B
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Postby GravityAddict » Mon Nov 03, 2008 6:11 pm

well like I said it's hard to explain, but... while riding, experiment with twisting your board: front foot toe down and rear foot toe up.. and vice versa.. If you are riding on your heel side and twist the board with your front toe down, the front part of the edge is less engaged than the back and vice versa. then imagine shifting your weight either front or back to minimize or maximize the effect. the easiest way to feel this is to carve down a regular blue at medium speed and begin twisting the board as you carve, one way then the other... the flatter you are riding the more it effects the base and the more on edge you are the more it effects the edge (obviously?). and then of course in conjunction with where you shift your weight front to back on the board will also enter into how the twist effects the board.I'm sure there's a name for this but I've never bothered to find out what it is. there are alot more dimensions to a snowboard than most people realize. :P
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Postby MrEMan » Mon Nov 03, 2008 8:21 pm

I do the same thing at times, but not typically on a cat-track. I almost never scrub speed on a cat-track unless someone in front of me forces me to do so ....
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