Chututorial 101

| February 11, 2011 | 19 Comments

I happened to have my POV camera with me yesterday when I stumbled across the Holy Mole couloir, so I shot a little 10 minute “How I Ski Chutes” tutorial, or Chututorial.  Don’t get your Oscar nominating hopes up – it is pretty crude, but it does illustrate the thought process that goes into skiing a couloir, especially one that you haven’t climbed up from the bottom.

As far as chutes and quality skiing go, it was a bit of a bust.  For me, the real value of it was to test the frozen waters of Wasatch couloirs to see if they are in shape, which I don’t think they are. A big part of skiing couloirs is picking the right time to do them and it is often a balancing act between avalanche danger, good quality snow and good conditions.  For now, powder skiing still rules the day.  Sigh.

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Category: 06 Downhill

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (19)

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  1. Scott says:

    This is great! It’s just what BC skiing really is all about (let’s face it, great conditions that make us salivate are the exception, not the rule). Thanks for posting.

  2. dug says:

    re scott “let’s face it, great conditions that make us salivate are the exception, not the rule”

    i probably don’t get out as often as y’all, but i find the exact opposite–great conditions around here seem like the rule, and sucky days (or, rather, “less optimal” days) are the exception.

    either way, andrew, that seems like a sucky day in a great line.

    on the other hand, a sucky day in holy mole beats a great day in a double wide cubicle.

  3. D says:

    Andrew, first off I want to say I’m really impressed with the sound quality of the video. Second, I noticed you used the wrist attachments for the whippet poles while skiing. I was always told to never use the attachements while in avalanche terrain due to the potential of them jerking your arms around in an avalanche. What are your thoughts on the issue?

  4. Wyatt says:

    Really great tutorial. As a beginning chute skier, I find stuff like this immensely helpful. Please put alot more of these up!

  5. randosteve says:

    is that a carbon lower in your whippets?

  6. skisushi says:

    Not sure this conscervative dad is going to start a late in live chute skiing carreer but I really liked the tutorial and perspective from your years of experiance. Although I will likely apply the concepts in less gnar situations it was cool to live vicariously through your litttle video cam. Your voiceover almost has a Bob Ross like characteristic. Am I dating myself or do you remember that Canadian Hippy artist who used to do the PBS painting classes on TV. Happy Chuting :)

  7. Scott says:

    Dug, you’re making me think I made a poor life decision by not residing in SLC.

  8. Eric says:

    Thanks for the Chututorial. I have been wanting to ski a few this year and this open my eyes. Got to love the skills built when we have to survival ski.

  9. daniel says:

    great video, looking forward to more.

  10. Ben R says:

    Great stuff. Please post more tutorials.

  11. Andrew says:

    Yes, it is an old carbon pencil shaft and requires a reducer collar to get it to fit. I like those as they clamp all the way to the basket, unlike tapered lowers, which lose their grip as soon as they get into the tapered section.

  12. Andrew says:

    Hi D – yes, the sound from that little Contour HD 1080 is amazingly good for what it is – the mic is a tiny hole about the size of a pin. On the pole straps, I wear mine about 95% of the time, although I know many serious avalanche pros either cut theirs off or don’t use them. Part of cutting them off is to help with quick pole probes of the snowpack, but it also eliminates the temptation to ever use them. I’ve lost two poles in avalanches, so I suspect that I’d be able to get mine off if needed. Also, in cases like the video, I am using them to help secure my hands to the Whippets almost like an ice axe leash.

  13. Phillip says:

    First person perspective in a place where few of us will ever have a chance to benefit from expert knowlege. Loved the commentary revealing the thought process going into the decision making. Great job Andrew and more of that please. Thanks for sharing

  14. Mark says:

    Great video Andrew! I skied Slipstream around the same time in similar or worse conditions. I think that your video covered more important points than you initially intended. The skier has options throughout the entire descent, boot back up, boot down, etc … looking forward to another video!

  15. Trevor says:

    Just curious…..how did you go about putting stops on the length of your whippits? I’d like to do this mod and also shorten the overall length but need some advice.
    Thanks!

  16. Andrew says:

    Hi Trevor – Putting “stops” on the lowers requires a pencil shaft lower with an oversized upper shaft. To get the two to work together, you need a spacer. Black Diamond used to sell these, but they switched around their pole program and no longer do. In any case, I disassemble my poles and put duct tape on the top of my lower shafts, which then butts up against this spacer and causes it to stop at the required length.

  17. Trevor says:

    Makes sense……as I figured there were aftermarket parts involved.
    Stock is gonna work just fine for me and maybe someday I’ll be glad I have that extra length for a tree grab or something :)
    Thanks for sharing!

  18. rod georgiu says:

    Hi Andrew:

    Need some advice. I ski in the backcountry on K2 Hardside 181 skis. I like them in most conditions, but I don’t feel very comfortable on ice.
    I used to ski on Volkl Mantras, which were good on ice, but had more sidecut, and I felt that they wanted to make one turn radius only,so for me in narrow couloirs, they were hard to slide down the hill at the end of the turn, making me follow the turn too much and getting way too close to the edges of the couloir.
    With the Hardsides, I am finding that it is easier to make short turns, and keep them within a 3 meter corridor.
    Anyway, I recently took a big fall on the North couloir on Mt. Emerson (Sierra Nevada), a 2000 ft couloir that started at 50 degrees, and got to 40 at the bottom.
    My fault, I got a bit overconfident on top, decided to make larger radius turns, and on my first turn,picked up speed, hit a patch of ice, my tails washed out and I fell backwards (which for me is the worst kind of fall).
    I immediately started to cartwheel, and did so for about 600 ft. Then the angle lessened, and the snow got softer, so i could stop.
    Broken ankle bone and torn Achiles tendon made the 6 mile ski out an ordeal.

    So, back to my question:
    Since I don’t feel comfortable on my Hardsides on ice (which I know from skiing them in the resort), what ski should I look for? And does it make sense to have a ski with less sidecut (22m-26M radius)?

    This is a long winded question, and I apologize for it, but this is a big issue for me and there are not too many people that I can ask (and respect their judgement).

  19. Andrew says:

    Hi Rod – Sorry about the delayed response and I’m glad you are okay. I know what you mean about the backwards falls, especially in couloirs. They seldom have a happy ending.

    A 181 Hardside is a pretty beefy ski for 3m couloirs and I think the Hardside is more of a cruiser/groomer/carving ski as it is pretty stiff and relatively heavy. For narrow chutes, I like a ski that I can make hop turns with, and in that regard, flex, carving radius, etc., is irrelevant as you are going edge to edge and skipping the whole tip to tail carving concept. In situations like this, I like a shorter ski with less side cut. The shortness helps as you can get them around quickly and the lack of sidecut means you aren’t going to be hanging your tips or tails up. In a tight, narrow chute, if you are making hop turns with a shaped ski, the tips and tails will engage before the middle of the ski, so the ski ends up flexing quite a bit more than a straighter ski, and in turn, it feels much springier, which is not a desirable trait for tight, narrow chutes.

    All that said, if you do a lot of ski mountaineering, it is worthwhile to get a dedicated ski mountaineering ski, like the K2 Backup (new version of the Shuksan).

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