How to Handle Icy Conditions

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How to Handle Icy Conditions

Postby carver » Mon Jan 26, 2009 8:48 am

I'm a Western New York rider and (believe it or not) I sometimes encounter icy conditions.... What to do? I make a few runs, not able to trust my edges, and I become tentative, so I become stiffer, and I skid more and take is slower. After a while, I give up, fearing a spill and the possible injuries that would follow.

On powder or groomed trails I rip it up, carving and letting my board run (on the green trails).

Should I just avoid the slopes on icy days, or can I tweak my technique to make myself as comfortable and have as much fun on the icy days?

I'm 50 and I've been boarding for about ten years.

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Postby patmoore » Tue Jan 27, 2009 6:46 pm

Jim, ice is the bane of all boarders. Unlike skiers we only have one edge in our arsenal to deal with boilerplate ("Eastern Powder"). I mostly ride a hardboot board so circumstances aren't exactly the same but I maintain a 3 degree side bevel and check the condition of the edges often.

If the conditions are just too nasty, I take a day off.
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Postby MunkySpunk » Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:44 pm

NY berkshires myself. There's no magic solution. 3 degree bevel, keep it sharp, don't throw your hands out when you fall, keep your board angle up, wear a helmet, wear a pad on your butt, and practice. Until you get the hang of it, you're going to fall, no way around it while progressing at any sort of pace. And it's going to hurt.
- Old age and treachery always overcome youth and skill
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Postby John » Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:29 am

Some scattered thoughts:

1. I don't know how advanced you are, but use nice days to prepare for ice days. Make your technique as solid as you can.

2. Find a good instructor and take a lesson.

3. As Pat says, when it's too nasty, just stay home.
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Postby bernwern » Wed Jan 28, 2009 11:34 am

I am told our Midwest conditions are quite similar to the ice-coast ... but maybe not as icy as often. Who knows?

What I do for ice is make sure my edges are sharp. I prefer a 90° edge, sharp enough to slice tomatoes. This makes for great traction once you set your edge, but you have little room for error if it is super icy ... one slide out and a crash on ice sucks a lot.

If it is too icy, I take a few runs to decide. Also, the amount of gapers and groms that are out help me decide what to never want to get blind-sided like I did once on ice. Go home early or stay home if it is really bad.

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Postby John » Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:55 pm

For what it's worth, here are some thoughts from Kevin Ryan,author of The Illustrated Guide to Snowboarding. (I've talked with him a few times about hitting up Summit County sometime but it's never worked out.)

Despite what most people tell you, ice is not very difficult to ride over. It's just a lot scarier.

Your cone of control relies on the board's edge surface area which you use to work against the hill. With this in mind your movements need to be smooth. Slashing away at the hill with your board will not work.

It takes a great deal of commitment and concentration to block out all negative influences (fear) that can distract you from riding ice. ... Fear tends to bring out the worst in anyone's riding technique[:] ... rigidity, leaning into the hill, and straightened legs. .... This reaction will raise your COG [center of gravity] and make your task even more difficult than before. .... Relaxed, ready, smooth and over your board is definitely the way to go.

A tight boot/binding interface and sharp edges will make your task easier.

You need to be further forward than usual to ride the ice.

Turns on ice should be emphasized with strong pressuring movements to really stick your turns and control your speed. [Your edge angle] has to be high. Otherwise you will not be able to cut your edge into the hard surface.

He mentions several benefits of riding ice: One, the hill will be less crowded; two, it will make riding in other conditions a cakewalk; three, it's a speed rush.

Kevin told me a few years ago that some material in his book was out of date. I don't know if that comment applies to this passage.

For more on books, see Buy a book through there and Amazon throws a quarter my way.
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Postby dcdrumrider70 » Fri Feb 27, 2009 1:04 pm

Be sure it is really ICE not hardpack. I am not say things don't ever get icy, but it seems some people confuse hardpack for ice. I am not saying hardpack is delightful, but it is edgeable. I think it is actually good edging practice once in a while because you need to exagerrate digging that edge in compared to softer snow. That will help you get better.

Anyways, if you are on a trail with some ice don't freak out. Stay smooth, glide over the ice, and look for patches of snow where you can make a good turn.
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Postby patmoore » Fri Feb 27, 2009 1:38 pm

I had the opportunity to make four runs on a GS course at Mt. Southington in CT on Tuesday. It was the first time I'd ever looked down on a course and seen my reflection! :shock:

I ride a finely tuned Volkl RennTiger GS board but after two runs of sliding on my butt I switched to skis. Sometimes you're better off not being on a board.
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Fluke Accident at Tremblant

Postby PamelaDare » Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:04 pm

'Ice Faces' are the primary reason that I haven't visited local hits in recent years....

It is simply too treacherous for beginners, in my opinion......


I haven't been around in awhile but I see no one here seems to have commented on the the Natasha Richardson accident. (If I've missed it, do let me know.) As luck would have it, my partner and I were in Tremblant at the same time. While I decided that the super icey conditions were simply not for me, he did give it a go. Once. After that he called it a day and off to the sauna we went. We both wear lots of clothing and protective gear. it wasn't terrible but I just didn't have the energy to work so hard for what appeared to be a steep pitch and then a very boring long flat ride.

Since the incident everyone has been talking about legislation, etc but here's the thing: a helmet is only useful if it's on your head. Older skiers and boarders that we did speak to said that although useful and potentially life saving, most had no plans to wear a helmet unless it was mandated. Some went so far as to say they would switch resorts if necessary.

But the truth is this: IF I were a better rider AND I was riding in a powdery area on a bright sunny day I might just say 'to heck with it' , grab my Shirley Bassey mp3s and go for a few 'open air, wind through the hair 'runs. Maybe one, possible two--but I'd do it.

So much for age and wisdom. :0)

(Moderator: I've added this to my bit about icey conditions but please feel free to move it to another forum if necessary)
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Re: How to Handle Icey Conditions

Postby LdySnoBrdrAt45 » Sun Nov 29, 2009 9:54 am

Regarding the ice – I have skied for years mostly out west where there is lots of powder!! I learned how to board and have done all my boarding in New England (with exception of a week in Whistler last year). New England is notorious for icy conditions at times!!

I totally agree with the other posters – specifically – SHARP edges on ice!! Also, DO wear a helmet!! ALWAYS!! I have taken a fall on ice where I feel backwards, downhill at a pretty good rate of speed (I ride “goofy” so therefore caught my toe edge) and my head literally bounced off the ice!! Thank God for the helmet (A Giro Talon) otherwise I would have A) taken the (sled) ride of shame and B) probably be eating through a tube right now!! It was nighttime when this occurred and lightly snowing. I hit my head so hard I just laid there for a moment looking up because I wasn’t sure if I was seeing snowflakes or “stars” (like the cartoons). I had to remind myself of the day/date, where I was, my own middle name, etc… It was a h*ll of a “header!!!” No major injury or lasting effects from that fall and I truly attribute that to my helmet!!

So also concurring with the other posters, if you are not feeling confident about riding ice, then perhaps you could take a private lesson to work on truly keeping the edge angle so you cut with the edges into the ice (as opposed to riding on it and scrapping). My other piece of advice re: ice (for whatever it’s worth) – RELAX!! You state that on ice you have a tendency to become intimidated. DON’T!! If you are intimidated then yes, you will stiffen up and be more likely to catch an edge. Drive the board – i.e. keep those (sharp) edges at the correct angle and cut into the ice. Make smooth turns – smooth edge transition(s) yet continuing to cut (into ice) simultaneously. Kind of hard to explain... Yes, you will fall on ice and I agree with the others – wear the proper equipment as precaution but practice to gain confidence!! Take a private lesson. When icy go back to the “greens” – like one step above the “bunny hill” to help keep your speed down and where you can work on driving the board on ice – truly cutting into the ice with the edges. Also, don’t “overthink” it - just relax and flow. Oh, one last thing – I have four boards and on ice I usually ride my shortest board (a 149) as it is a bit easier to control and drive – get that really good edge bite (cut) into the ice. This board (my 149) has a softer flex therefore the softer flex also aids in the turning of the board as I don’t need to put as much force on the board to turn. A longer, stiffer board is harder to turn and the rider needs to be more aggressive in order to make it happen. But by all means, if you feel too intimidated or scared or whatever then best to just stay off it altogether!! After all – this is supposed to be fun – right?? :) My two cents worth though – if one can ride New England ice, one can ride anywhere!!

Good luck with it and like I said (twice, three times) you truly may want to consider a private lesson to address this specific (ice) issue and if you have reservations – best to stay off it – period!! Only you know how you feel so you’ll have to decide….however, if you do decide to venture out – wear the proper safety equipment!! This part can NOT be overstressed enough!!

Ride On!!!!

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