Skiing on ice - technique or equipment?

I had my first ice of the season today. Whilst there were many new powder lines being carved off-piste the heavy, heavy on-piste traffic of the holiday period ensured that the recent snow was removed in places to real some hard core ice.

Barring grass, rock or heavy slush, ice is probably the least desirable surface to ski on unless you are after some straight-line speed - in that case it excels. You only have to listen to a downhill race to see that ice is the only surface FIS racers ski on and they manage to handle it pretty well. The easiest thing to do with ice is to ski straight over it. The problem with that strategy is that skiing on ice means speed and skiing straight down hill means lots of speed - combined, then expect to be carrying some serious speed in not too much time.

So how do the pros ski so effortlessly on ice? Technique certainly sets them apart from all other mortals, this combined with strength and confidence allows them to negotiate icy sections. The easiest thing to do on ice is ski straight over it but you have to be able to back this up with the ability to avoid obstacles during acceleration and find a suitable section to lose speed further down the mountain. The other factor in negotiating ice is the equipment - stiff skis with sharp edges offer significantly enhanced levels of control over softer or less well serviced skis. Watch a pro skier on ice and they turn as it is was freshly fallen, groomed snow, that is because they know that when they power into a turn their skis are going to stay connected to the ice rather that fly from underneath them. So technique or equipment - the answer is both but I would still sooner strap restaurant trays to the feet of a pro skier than put a timid novice on racing skis - poor or poorly serviced equipment will make anyone struggle but technique generally keeps you off your backside. If you need to avoid ice then watch the weather charts very closely, avoid areas that have a significant reliance on artificial snow and steer clear of the very busiest times of the year. Failing that, learn to use a ski that is stiff enough to lift a mountain and make sure you edges are sharp enough to shave with.

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