Fear while skiing

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Fear while skiing

Postby rogerk » Sun Jan 07, 2007 11:31 am

Administrator's note: This has been split from a separate topic about Snowbird 1/5/2007 (http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... php?t=2593) relating techniques discussed in Kristen Ulmer's "Ski to Live" clinic.

"there were some nuggets to glean for managing fear while skiing"


Tell us more about this Marc.

Also, this statement leads to the question: "When do you experience fear?" After more than 3 decades of skiing, I don't know that I do anymore. About the only thing that gives me pause anymore is when I unexpectedly cliff out. But I wouldn't say I feel "fear" in these situations, because I've no problem with returning the way I came if the drop or other conditions warrant it. Of course, there are more conditions that "warrant" retreat at 40 then when I was in my 20's.

How about the rest of you: How and when do you experience/deal with fear when skiing?
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Re: re: Snowbird, UT 1/5/07

Postby Admin » Mon Jan 08, 2007 6:57 pm

rogerk wrote:"there were some nuggets to glean for managing fear while skiing"


Tell us more about this Marc.


Sorry for the delay, Roger. That clinic took all of my time this weekend, and typing a long reply on the Treo was out of the question.

I'll expound upon this in the article, but the short answer is that the more you ignore the "fear voice" in your head the louder it gets. It feels that it's being ignored, so it just starts yelling louder and louder. The only way to quiet the fear voice is to acknowledge it, to embrace it, to understand why its there and to appreciate what it's telling you. Only then can you deal with it.

rogerk wrote:Also, this statement leads to the question: "When do you experience fear?" After more than 3 decades of skiing, I don't know that I do anymore. About the only thing that gives me pause anymore is when I unexpectedly cliff out. But I wouldn't say I feel "fear" in these situations, because I've no problem with returning the way I came if the drop or other conditions warrant it. Of course, there are more conditions that "warrant" retreat at 40 then when I was in my 20's.


All true statements for me as well. I'll confess that I don't experience it often, but there are certain situations where I still get butterflies. They usually involve high, exposed places with serious consequences for falling, like atop Main Chute at Alta, for example, or when I have to nail three or four turns just right in order to negotiate a technical spot. So, while it doesn't happen often, it does happen.

rogerk wrote:How about the rest of you: How and when do you experience/deal with fear when skiing?


I'd be interested to hear from others as well.
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re: Fear while skiing

Postby riverc0il » Mon Jan 08, 2007 7:33 pm

We don't quite have the same exposure on the East Coast as many locations out West with a few exceptions, so I can not speak for the fear factor due to exposure. My fear factor is generally related to when I get into a situation in which my physical abilities are maxed out and the demand has exceeded those abilities. Climbing gullies on Mount Washington comes quickly to mind. I start out the climb full of gusto but the fear factor slowly increases as fatigue sets higher up in the gullies as a fall progressively has worse consequences. Eventually, I know when I have pushed things to my limit and back off before crossing the line. Generally, I back off before I really need to in many situations, but would rather play it safe once that fear factor begins to kick in. The ups are always way worse than the downs and I have bailed before the top more often than not for safety. Call me a wuss :D

In bounds, I can not say I ever experience fear. If the trees are too tight or if the snow condition is horrid, I just slow down and take maximum control of every turn. I am not above slip sliding, side stepping, or what not if conditions are truly terrible and I got in to something I should have stayed away from. That is pretty rare as I generally have a good read on where my condition tolerance level is and generally know when to stay away. Even when conditions are truly treacherous, it is more of a high level of focus and alertness than fear. Bad conditions or tight trees just don't elevate my fear level like exposure does, especially when you are hanging on by your toes. Perhaps there is a feeling of over confidence that occurs when you put the sticks on your feet. But then again, I avoid "if you fall, you die" exposure, so I can't speak for that type of exposure induced fear.
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re: Fear while skiing

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Jan 09, 2007 1:39 am

I think the idea is to align the fear with your ability. The fear should tell you when to back off, with a modest and sensible margin of error, but not impede you from skiing something where you do in fact have the capability.

The sensible approach for something like exposure is to work your way up gradually. This all sounds very rational, but we all find those situations where our gut says don't do it. I (and two others in the clinic) turned down a line at Whistler suggested by our Extremely Canadian coach. And there are situations, such as the extreme exposures at Big Sky, where I was willing to do it when I felt good in 2001, but not when my legs were fatigued in 2006, despite better conditions on the latter trip.
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Re: re: Snowbird, UT 1/5/07

Postby JimG. » Tue Jan 09, 2007 9:26 am

Admin wrote:I'll expound upon this in the article, but the short answer is that the more you ignore the "fear voice" in your head the louder it gets. It feels that it's being ignored, so it just starts yelling louder and louder. The only way to quiet the fear voice is to acknowledge it, to embrace it, to understand why its there and to appreciate what it's telling you. Only then can you deal with it.


This sums it up for me. Fear is there for a reason...it's telling you to stay frosty and alert. Ignoring it is counterproductive.

Always having a partner or partners in these situations is key. It's not just the safety factor...I find that if I'm starting to have doubts about a line or a climb, talking about it with whoever I'm with is calming. Most of the times I find out I'm not the only one who is fearful, and talking that out helps alot. It only takes a sentence or two and I'm good.

And if everyone I'm with is freaking out too, then that's telling me that maybe it's time to back off.
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Re: re: Snowbird, UT 1/5/07

Postby Marc_C » Tue Jan 09, 2007 12:10 pm

Admin wrote:I'll expound upon this in the article, but the short answer is that the more you ignore the "fear voice" in your head the louder it gets. It feels that it's being ignored, so it just starts yelling louder and louder. The only way to quiet the fear voice is to acknowledge it, to embrace it, to understand why its there and to appreciate what it's telling you. Only then can you deal with it.

Was there discussion about negative vs positive reinforcement when acknowledging the "fear voice"? IOW, when faced with a situation that causes fear, you can say "I will not fall" (which a lot of people do), or you can use what I believe to be the more constructive, powerful approach of saying "I will nail this line! I will turn there, there, and there!". Did pre-visualization come into play?
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re: Fear while skiing

Postby Admin » Tue Jan 09, 2007 2:12 pm

Pre-visualization came into play in a sense, but not in the traditional way. Let me explain.

Much of the Zen workshop in the evenings centered around the multiple "voices" that talk to us and affect our lives, among them the Controller, the Protector, Fear, the Skeptic, etc. The person was likened to a company, and each voice has a specific "job function" to perform.

When tying that into on-hill activities, we spent different runs skiing in a particular "voice" - for one run we'd ski in the voice of the Show-Off. For another, we'd ski in the voice of Anger, or perhaps the Playful Innocent Child. The whole thing about Fear is that one needs to acknowledge its presence and its message, and recognize that it's doing its job to protect the Self. Once its message and the reason for it is acknowledged, the Self can then choose to pay attention to a different voice and ski the run in that preferred voice.
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re: Fear while skiing

Postby snowave » Tue Jan 23, 2007 12:17 am

I've developed some interesting fears while riding in the past few years..

most terrain by itself doesn't scare me, unless I come upon it unexpectantly..(a cliff band in the Hellroaring area of Big Mountain during a blizzard a few years ago comes to mind :shock: )

I do have some minor fear issues from time to time that arise on lifts like the old JH Tram or on CH 23 at Mammoth.. that's more based upon more personal issues than skiing itself though. (not real crazy about flying in planes, either!)

Now that I've disclosed my inner most mental secrets..

I think the thing that frightens me most about riding itself is the deep pow. I love it when its all good, but getting stuck or crashing in a bad position can be really frightening.. especially in places like Mammoth, where the snow is more dense and you can really get in a bad situation.

Another thing is getting lost...

Once I got semi-lost coming off the South Bowl at Baldy in socal.. it was just after a huge 6 ft dump a few years ago.. we came to the bottom and realized we didn't cut over anywhere near far enough to get back to the lift.. luckily, I did realize we needed to go upcanyon and not down.. but we didn't know how far... and were walking in waist deep snow for about an hour or so before we came to the rope.

Another is poor visablity.. this happened at the top of Whistler once and several other minor times at various ski areas..(Castel mtn, AB was another fine example of crapping my pants with fear while lost in fog) Not really uncommon for most people, but when it happens at a place you don't know at all, it can be very frightening.

I often ride by myself these days since I have weekdays off, so I am more senstive to these things now than I used to be when I used to have the "popular" weekends off, when I usually had a friend to ride with.

In preperation for my solo Utah trip next week, I finally got around to buying a whistle to keep with me in case I get off the beaten track in poor conditions.. I have also done a bit more research in what to do in case you get lost and may have to spend some significant time alone in the snow..

anyone have any other things that makes you feel more secure(or face yoru fears) when riding alone, or in places that are not familiar with?

thanks!
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re: Fear while skiing

Postby tirolerpeter » Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:09 pm

Fear is a very important emotion. It can keep you from getting into situations that will possibly hurt you. Of course, it is not good to be crippled by fear to the point of inaction. When my "fear factor" meter starts to quiver, I simply stop and assess my options. It is at that point that you must apply all your knowledge and experience before proceding.
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re: Fear while skiing

Postby kingslug » Fri Jan 18, 2008 2:59 pm

I experienced the most frightening situation when I was alone at Snowbird the 14th. Traversed out to the bookends and ended up having to cross rocks...sharp ones. The traverse was only a foot wide with a big rock garden off to the side. A fall would have been bad. Pretty scared but I managed it only to end up in a steep chute..again managed it but I felt I was out of my league. If I had known about the rocks I would have never done it but am glad that I did. I'm usualy more cautious when skiing with my wife and her sister, but I was alone this time. Fear is a good thing as long as it doesn't paralyze you. When in situations like this, that can be fatal. You have to trust you're self.
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Re: re: Fear while skiing

Postby Marc_C » Fri Jan 18, 2008 4:23 pm

kingslug wrote:I experienced the most frightening situation when I was alone at Snowbird the 14th. Traversed out to the bookends and ended up having to cross rocks...sharp ones. The traverse was only a foot wide with a big rock garden off to the side. A fall would have been bad. Pretty scared but I managed it only to end up in a steep chute..again managed it but I felt I was out of my league.

You always have the option of turning around and coming back another day. It's something that rock climbers learn early, but for some reason a lot of skiers never do.
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Re: re: Fear while skiing

Postby kingslug » Sat Jan 19, 2008 9:57 am

Marc_C wrote:
kingslug wrote:I experienced the most frightening situation when I was alone at Snowbird the 14th. Traversed out to the bookends and ended up having to cross rocks...sharp ones. The traverse was only a foot wide with a big rock garden off to the side. A fall would have been bad. Pretty scared but I managed it only to end up in a steep chute..again managed it but I felt I was out of my league.

You always have the option of turning around and coming back another day. It's something that rock climbers learn early, but for some reason a lot of skiers never do.


I would have if I could have. There was no room to turn around. To my right was the rock garden, left, the wall. Not even a foot wide to stand on. Had no choice but to move on. And thankfully no one was behind me. Several times that day I managed to backtrack and climb away from areas that I felt where too sketchy...this wasn't one of them. The Rasta chute was fun though.
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Re: re: Fear while skiing

Postby Marc_C » Sat Jan 19, 2008 5:23 pm

Combining quotes from two different posts:
kingslug wrote:...at Snowbird the 14th. Traversed out to the bookends and ended up having to cross rocks...sharp ones. The traverse was only a foot wide with a big rock garden off to the side.......There was no room to turn around. To my right was the rock garden, left, the wall. Not even a foot wide to stand on.

I can't imagine where this is anywhere on the Bookends Traverse. Any "walls" on that traverse are on your right. But then you also mentioned the Rasta Chutes. So, are we talking about the same thing? Bookends Traverse cuts off to the right from (Path to) Powder Paradise (which starts as a cat track immediately opposite the top of the Little Cloud lift). Essentially, the Bookends Traverse is to the skiers farthest right in Mineral Basin.

As far as "no room to turn around" - you got there some how, you can get yourself out. This would include backing up if necessary. Mastering the kick-turn technique would also be helpful.
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Re: re: Fear while skiing

Postby kingslug » Sun Jan 20, 2008 9:17 am

Marc_C wrote:Combining quotes from two different posts:
kingslug wrote:...at Snowbird the 14th. Traversed out to the bookends and ended up having to cross rocks...sharp ones. The traverse was only a foot wide with a big rock garden off to the side.......There was no room to turn around. To my right was the rock garden, left, the wall. Not even a foot wide to stand on.

I can't imagine where this is anywhere on the Bookends Traverse. Any "walls" on that traverse are on your right. But then you also mentioned the Rasta Chutes. So, are we talking about the same thing? Bookends Traverse cuts off to the right from (Path to) Powder Paradise (which starts as a cat track immediately opposite the top of the Little Cloud lift). Essentially, the Bookends Traverse is to the skiers farthest right in Mineral Basin.

As far as "no room to turn around" - you got there some how, you can get yourself out. This would include backing up if necessary. Mastering the kick-turn technique would also be helpful.


Never having gone that far out...might have got the name wrong. I heard a ski instructor who was ahead of me refer to the area as the Rasta chute. Wall on the left, big rocks on my right, once past that I was at the chute. Way too narrow for me to try a kick turn, should practice it more though. I was using the little cloud chair to get to it. Scary fun.
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re: Fear while skiing

Postby Harvey44 » Sun Apr 20, 2008 6:17 pm

One thing about being an intermediate....or whatever is below expert...the times I'm afraid - I'm (making the mistake of?) following better skiers, because I want to learn new stashes and generally get better. You're trusting someone else to make judgments for you. Something I'd never do winter (or summer) camping.

Not sure how you can ski out of bounds without knowing kick turns, side slip and side step. Hell I'm not proud...I used kick turns in bounds, on piste.

Thread drift alert.

The first time I winter camped solo...I was out in a huge storm (30") and totally unafraid. Totally excited. But not afraid in any way. To some extent WINTER is about the elements, you can prepare for them.

On the other hand, the following summer I did some solo camping, way off the beaten path...and was scared $hitle$$ as a wolf (coyote? coydog?) was circling my tent for about an hour, howling at me. It the most scared I've ever been. Far more scared than any slope has ever made me.
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