Pyramid of power helps tackle the steeps |

Pyramid of power helps tackle the steeps

Cathy Howard/Provided to the SunNASTC trainer Victor Gerdin rips up the steeps in Portillo, Chile, this past August.

While working with eager students on the steeps at some of the world’s premier resorts, I noticed a repeated tactical mistake that downshifts the body and skis into park, leaving the skier idling on the side of the steep descent.

After a while the standing joke was, “You can’t dance if your feet aren’t movin’.” This mental note reminds you to continue the rotational movements of the feet and legs while keeping the upper body pointed downhill.

Expert steep skiers have a distinctive look as they confidently negotiate the steep, narrow pitches. First and foremost, their turns showcase a flow and rhythm that resembles a dance down the fall line. The subtle part of this athletic picture has to do with body core stability.

Think in terms of four lines drawn from the top of the head down to each hand and then through the head to the bellybutton and through the middle of the back. Some people refer to this alignment of the upper body as “level shoulders.” This is the “pyramid of power”: a strong core and steady upper body will help keep you on track for a successful run on the expert steeps.

You don’t have to join a secret cult to perform this drill, but you do have to imagine that your pyramid of power is following a clear path down the fall line. As your speed builds, you may feel a need to bring your pyramid across the hill.

Don’t go there; it will only get you in trouble.

Swinging the shoulders across the hill is the biggest flow killer on steep terrain. The result is usually over-rotation of the upper body ending with a spin-out. Try to keep your pyramid of power facing a target at the bottom of your steep pitch. This will give you a focal point to ski toward.

Practice by directing the head, hands and bellybutton down the fall line. You will create a powerful upper body position. This strong core acts as an anchor as your fast-turning legs pivot and steer you across the slope.

Your goal is to make consistent, linked turns that don’t stall out or become prematurely finished due to poor targeting movements. Tackle the steeps in small sections at first to set yourself up for success.

– Direct the upper body down the fall line.

– Steer with the legs.

– Initiate with a solid pole plant.

– Manage pressure build-up.

Chris and his wife Jenny are the directors of Truckee’s North American Training Center (NASTC), and Chris is a member of the PSIA National Demonstration Team. Chris will be writing a weekly column all winter. He can be reached at or 582-4772.

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