I did definitely learn better skinning techniques last year & it has helped me avoid putting the crampons on. Although if you don't have a self-arrest device like a Whippet it's probably a lot safer to use some kind of crampon (boot or splitboard) if there is any exposure or stuff you might konk your head on down below.
The most import tip I learned was to stay in balance when skinning up. That means having your body's center of mass above your feet. There's a real tendency, especially when sketched out on the steeps, to lean forward into the slope. Leaning forward actually reduces the amount of force that you apply to the skins and you'll start sliding. It feels a little spooky at first, but you'll actually should feel like you're leaning back onto your heels a bit when you are in balance.
That concept really has helped me with my kick turns. I would tend to not trust my downhill ski and lean into the slope as I brought my 2nd ski around and so often that one ski would slide out and hilarity would ensue. By fully planting my wieght solidly over the downhill ski and trusting it, kick turns have gotten way easier.
I think I learned the other tip by way of JSB and it's helpful for traversing firm stuff. I've had success using a hybrid technique on the traverse where I edge with the uphill ski. It has that flat outside edge which bites really easily. The downhill ski, with it's huge sidecut, doesn't edge as well. So for that one I drop the tail so the skis are in a wedge shape and roll my ankle so that the skin is flat against the slope for the downhill ski. I don't think it works in all situations, but there are a lot of times where it has helped get me through some ackward stretches.
Joined: Sun Oct 01, 2006 8:29 am Posts: 580 Location: Oregon
I'll second the book by Volken. It has some good advice on kick turns and technique and other little things it may take you awhile to learn on your own.
The most import tip I learned was to stay in balance when skinning up. That means having your body's center of mass above your feet.
Good point SF - this is a lot like rock climbing and something that doesn't become intuitive until you've had some practice. At first it's too easy to let your weight lean forward and end up washing out over your toes.
Like most, I don't pack my chomps in the winter, but do find myself using them occasionally in the late spring on the volcanoes here in Oregon like Mt. Hood, South Sister, etc. Sometimes when the snow re-freezes overnight, and with an early departure, they come in handy. I agree one shouldn't rely on them as a crutch, but they do have a place in certain conditions. Last year at Mt. Bachelor after the lifts had closed, there was substantial rime ice near the summit, and my chomps worked great for the last ~800 feet of ascent.........but, if it becomes too sketch, I'll pull out the crampons and ice axe.
_________________ "There is nothing more practical in the end than the preservation of beauty." - Theodore Roosevelt
Not a monster tourer, but when I have used my board crampons its been on volcanos - Hood, St Helens, Baker, Shasta. A little more crust on moderate slopes that are a pain to traverse, not steep enough to be worried, but a little slippy when trying to go straight up.
My skiing partners are usually envious at the ability to go straight up with the fat tractor skins and crampons.
Otherwise, I almost never bring them.
_________________ The problem with people with no vices is that you can bet that they probably have some annoying virtues.