Try to keep your turns smooth, consistent and predictable, and keep your carves
on one side of the run so that people can pass you. If you are regular foot,
keep your trenches on skier's left side of the run so that skiers will hopefully
pass you on your right, where you have more visibility on toe edge. Don't get
lazy and traverse across the hill between turns. If you traverse between carves,
your trenches will form wider ellipses. Instead, transition right into the next
turn before you think you've finished your current turn so that your trenches
form perfect half-circles.
If you follow all the above guidelines, people can still crash into you if
they jump out of the trees without looking, or merge into your trail without
looking, or just plain aren't looking. The National
Ski Areas Association has established the Responsibility Code, which all
resorts post on signs, trail maps, and brochures. Keep a hardcopy of the resort's
responsibility code with you, so that if people run into you from behind and
then blame you, refer them to rule #2:
Skier's responsibility code
- Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other
people or objects.
- People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility
to avoid them.
- You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not
visible from above.
- Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look
uphill and yield to others.
- Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
- Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails
and out of closed areas.
- Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and
ability to load, ride and unload safely.
You can also point to your perfect half-circle trenches and say "would
you like me to be more consistent that that?" If you need to further articulate
the situation, then the appropriate response is:
|"That's your problem: that's not my problem. If
you are overtaking someone from behind, you have 3 options: Wait 60 seconds
for the person to go down the run, time your way around the person, or
turn more instead of bombing down the hill. And if you don't like it,
you can ask the ski patrol, and they will tell you the same thing, because
that's what they told me to tell people like you, and after they are finished
explaining it to you, they will pull your pass."
In addition, you should point the person out to the ski patrol, who will have
a talk with the individual. Ski patrollers will not think twice about pulling
the pass of someone who hits you from behind. Report belligerent offenders -
Some resorts have a direct Ski Patrol phone number that you can call on your
cell phone. Much like in driving, the rules don't give anyone the right of way
- they only spell out when someone should yield. In a shouting match, you should
yell "You should have yielded to me!" not "I had the right of
The only exception to rule #2 is rule #3. If you carve over a knoll and run
into someone on the slope who was hidden from view beyond a drop-off, it's not
It can be a bit of a challenge for carvers to observe rule #2. Beginner skiers
on advanced slopes will erratically dart from side to side across
the slope unpredictably, so passing them on a carve at high speed while maintaining
a safe buffer zone is not always possible: you might have to skid past them.
You will often have to wait at the top of a run for the crowd to "drain"
down the slope, and you need to be prepared to stop on a dime.
It is easy to T-bone skiers/boarders who are overtaking you, since carvers
make wide, open turns, travel perpendicular to the fall line at high speed on
edge changes, and go slower than most skiers in the direction of the fall line.
Skiers are not used to other people carving wide turns, so they don't look out
for it. As a result, carvers must take an additional level of care, and follow
one more rule:
If you are traversing the slope between
turns, or carving inconsistent turns, you must yield to people behind
If you are carving consistent half-circles, it means your board is pointed
downhill 99% of the time, and it's the skier's responsibility to watch out for
you, even if you are carving large-radius turns that consume the entire run.
But when traversing between carves or deviating from a consistent pattern, skiers
cannot be expected to navigate around you, so you need to be aware of people
who are behind you:
- If you are using a highly rotated style of carving, you should be able
to look slightly uphill on toe side turns to increase your field of view,
and you might want to take a peek every 3rd turn or so.
- If you can't monitor who is coming from behind, you should consider stopping
every few turns.
- Use goggles that give you a wide field of view.
- You need to be able to hear the sound of people encroaching upon you from
behind, so it's not a good idea to listen to music while you carve. Some helmets
with soft ear flaps allow you to hear much better than others.
- If you carve in family ski zone, look over your shoulder on every turn.
98% of the time you won't hit anyone. And that is exactly the problem.
- Be extra cautious when you are tailed by little kids - they often bomb down
the hill without paying attention to where they are going, and when they hit
you, people will automatically assume that it's your fault.
- Be able to recognize the visual pattern of high-end ski racing apparel,
with the characteristic reinforced areas on the shoulder and shin, and sometimes
high-end leather race gloves. If you peek uphill and spot one, it will try
to pass you on the very next turn.
- Ski patrollers often give the advice "clear your turns," which is airplane pilot jargon for making sure you do not run into anyone coming from behind when you turn.
If you get hit from behind, ask yourself two questions:
- Was your board perpendicular to the fall line when you got hit?
- Did you not yet transition into the next turn when you got hit?
If you answer yes to both questions, you were probably traversing between turns.
During a season of carving, you have to accept the likely possibility of getting
hit from behind. At the very least, you can expect a few close calls.
How to own a run
Before carving a series of turns down a run, follow these guidelines:
- First wait until there are no uphill skiers bombing down the hill.
- Enter the run and carve your first turn.
- Look over your shoulder as you finish the first turn to make sure there
are still no uphill skiers bombing down the hill.
You now own the run. As long as you carve consistent turns without traversing
the slope, you have provided more than enough fair warning, because any skiers
approaching you from behind will:
- Have plenty of time to see you carving, even if the skier pays attention
to a very narrow field of view.
- See that you are carving at high speed.
- See at least two turns of your trench, and realize that you are carving
wide, consistent turns.
- Be able to predict your line.
Therefore, if a skier still manages to slam into you from behind and cause
you to break a tib/fib, you can rest easy, knowing it was not your fault. However,
there is one quirk that seems to be programmed into the genetic code of humans:
- For reasons not entirely known to science, people will generally assume
that you will leave 3 feet of space open for them on each side of the slope.
Keep this tidbit in mind when you are maintaining your situation assessment
Make friends with the ski patrol. If you get into a "crash event",
they will be more likely to see your side of a story if they have seen you make
|Want the whole slope to yourself?
Go night carving.
|Carving is relatively safe, since carvers stay close to the snow and don't
have far to fall. Unlike most soft snowboard boots, hard boots have lockable
lean adjusters or spring-stiffened lean adjusters to prevent the ankle from
over-extending. Because of the fixed stance, knee stress and the chance of knee
injury is very low. If you have bad knees from ski injuries or reconstructive
surgery, switch to carving.
However, there are several potential injury scenarios
to keep in mind:
- Getting hit from behind: See above.
- Ankle injury. Hard boots provide a certain level of protection against ankle
injury. However, if you sprang your ankle and it doesn't get better after
a week, you should have an x-ray to check for a talus bone fracture. It's
the bone that connects the foot to the leg. If you fracture this bone, it can start to die off as a result of obstructed blood flow, a process known as avascular necrosis. Interestingly, there is a run at The Canyons called the "Talus Garden."
- Wrist injuries: As a beginner you will be constantly falling on your forearms
at all points of a turn, so get used to it. Be sure not to fall onto your
wrist, and keep your fingers splayed out so that they don't jam. You also
need to keep your hands away from the snow on edge changes to keep your fingers
from catching the slope and jamming. You can wear wrist guards, however they
can limit finger flexibility and make you more susceptible to jamming and
possibly fracturing a finger. A good way to avoid finger jamming is to use gloves, then duct tape the three small fingers together: it basically turns the glove into a trigger finger mitten. The three fingers provide each other with more rigid support to better absorb jamming impact. You are more likely to jam your inside
hand when doing a heel side turn, so doing the duct tape modification for that hand might be a good idea.
- Auguring the nose: If you put too much weight on the nose when going into
a turn, the nose can bury into the slope and fold over, bending it like a
hinge. With the nose as a pivot, the snowboard can pearl, launching you into
a cartwheel. The first snap that you hear is the nose of the board breaking. In the worst case scenario, it is possible to wind up with a
tib/fib break or dislocate your shoulder. To prevent burying the nose:
- Do not attempt to carve hard in powder - Das ist Verboten. Instead, switch
to an all-mountain board or a swallowtail board, and surf the powder. It
is ideal if you can wait until the second grooming after a snowfall. If
it snows Wednesday night, wait until Friday morning to carve. If you carve
in snow that is too soft and your technique is a little rusty, you run the
risk of shifting too much weight on the front of the board and burying the
- Boot-out on the back foot can cause instant nose folding. If your rear binding comes loose and starts to swivel, your rear boot will probably swivel outward, causing your rear toe to overhang past the edge of the board. The extreme toe overhang cause the back of your board to lift up, which causes all of your weight to be transferred to the nose of the board.
- When working on a technique that shifts your weight forward early in the
turn, proceed cautiously.
- Carving in slush increases the possibility of burying the nose if you
are on an unforgiving race board.
- For beginners, it is sometimes a good idea to detune the tip and tail
of damp boards. It allows easier release from a locked-in carve.
In those cases where you manage to dislocate your shoulder, there are a few
- On the hill, ski patrollers/coaches will not pop it in for you, because
there is a risk of tearing some nerves and blood vessels. For liability reasons,
they will always bring you to a doctor to have it done. Unfortunately, the
longer the joint is out, the more painful it gets, and the longer it takes
- In order to pop it back in, you need to apply traction first, which means
you need to dislocate it a little more before you can pop it back in.
- You can try popping it in by yourself. There is a journal article that shows
a method of auto-reduction
that is supposed to be completely safe.
- Check out Ski-injury.com for injury
- For emergencies, the Ski Patrol at many resorts monitors FRS channel 9/11.
- It is really important to stretch out your calf muscles, hamstrings, lower
back, and neck before carving. On your first warm-up run of the day, give
your muscles a break by unlocking the flex on your rear boot.
- For the first run of the day, and on the first day of the season, ease into
your carving form.
- Do a preflight check to make sure none of your gear is loose. In particular,
check the screws that hold the bindings to the board, especially on Burton
3D hole patterns. Don't let dirt get underneath the bindings or on bolt threads, because it can
cause the screws to come loose. Tighten the binding screws in an X-pattern.
- Speaking of doing a gear check, it's a good idea to have a few vital spare parts handy: Spare Intec cable, Spare Buckle, Extra binding bolts, Zardoz
- If you have problems with your binding screws coming loose, you can wrap
Teflon tape around the screw threads or use Belleville disc spring washers.
Vibra-Tite is a thread sealant that you can put on the screw threads to provide
more friction, available at McMaster-Carr or MSC-Direct. See the parts
- Do not use Loctite Thread locker on inserts: It dissolves plastic, and can
eat into your plastic bindings. If the inserts bind with the screws, the inserts might break away from the epoxy, so that the metal inserts just
spin in place. Or the inserts might partially pull out the board, delaminating
the board in the process.
- If you are using step-in bindings, check the screws that attach your step-in
heels to your boots. Re-check the screws on your step-in heels during lunch.
- If you tightened everything at room temperature, you
must re-tighten everything again after your gear cools down to resort temperature.
- Stay hydrated: Carving is a workout, and you don't want anything slowing
down your stamina. Get the CamelBak that is made for winter sports and take
a sip every time you are on the chairlift. To keep water from freezing in
the tube, raise the mouthpiece and pinch it open to get the water to fall
back into the bladder.
- You may find yourself locked into a carve and headed straight for a tree.
Don't look at the tree. Instead, focus on where else you want to go.
- On days when the resort is crowded, you can switch to a slalom board and
carve tight turns to maneuver around people, but be sure to maintain ample
buffer space between you and anyone else on the hill.
- If you are carving sweet turns, you are likely to get one of two reactions
from the ski patrol:
- They will stare like everyone else, and generally won't bother you,
- If you are carving close to the ground, they will think you are going
faster than you really are, and yell at you.
- In a posse of carvers, riders should drop into a run one at a time, like
jibber's lining up for the halfpipe. The riders who progress down the fall
line faster should go down the run first (usually beginners who carve wide
arcs with uncontrolled speed), otherwise, the faster people will encroach upon the slower people and perform the
frightening equivalent of the Blue Angel's Opposing Horizontal Roll.
- It can be safer to carve with other people, because skiers are more likely
to notice a group of carvers. It's also possible to run interference for another
carver further down the hill.
- There is some debate about the safety of NOS (new old stock) plastic carving gear. If you get your hands on 10 year old plastic bindings, there is some question as to whether the plastic may have become brittle over time. Or not. That's why there's some debate.
- If you slam into the ground really hard, your contacts can fly out.
Check out SkiSafety.com for information
on legal liability. If you are carving and someone hits you from behind while
overtaking you, the person who hit you is at fault, and you are not subject
to contributory negligence, even if you were carving huge turns and hogging
the entire run. In this case, the person who hit you is liable for damages,
which are often covered by homeowner's liability insurance.
However, in California, you cannot win such a collision lawsuit unless you
can prove that the person ran into you on purpose with malicious intent - In
other words, it is not enough to prove that the other person was negligent:
you have to prove that the collision was an assault. This legal doctrine may
be overturned in the future, but for now, courts in California hold that skiing/boarding
is considered a contact sport that affords no expectation of safety, a standard
that also trumps local safety ordinances. Heavenly ski resort has runs on both
the California side and the Nevada side - You have greater legal protection
on the Nevada runs, which are better for carving anyway. On the other hand,
if you are bombing out of control and being a general menace, stick to the California
If you are involved in a collision, many states and counties have laws that
require you to provide your name and address with the ski patrol before you
leave the scene of the accident. Much like an auto accident, do not admit fault.
If you really want to sue, it is critical to get the identity of witnesses.
Ambassador = You
You are an ambassador for all snowboarders, not just carvers.
Three guidelines constitute a sound foreign policy:
- Give floundering novice skiers/snowboarder ample space, and don't use them
for gate training practice.
- Go out of your way to be friendly, even to people who have a negative bias
toward snowboarders. Do not project an "us vs. them" anti-skier
- Stop and offer help to people who need it.
In addition, you are a PR person - consider yourself a spokes model for snowboarding,
since everyone will be looking at you and your pretty curves. In fact, resorts
often churn out marketing PR that includes photos of carvers laying it down,
even though hardly anyone carves. By carving, you are providing free entertainment
for everyone else, and that is why resorts should pay carvers to ride. If you
are good, you may draw groupies, who will hopefully stay out of your way. The
ultimate compliment is if you get the attention of jibber's.
Back to The Carver's Almanac