How to Ski Cut

Former Olympian Reggie Crist teaches you how to ski cut: Choose a spot to make a safe ski cut. Then lay ’em on edge.
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Former Olympian Reggie Crist teaches you how to ski cut: Choose a spot to make a safe ski cut. Then lay ’em on edge.

This shot was taken in Haines, Alaska, after a big storm. I watched Daron Rahlves and Jamie Pierre charge the first descents of the day on nearby slopes. Both of them triggered slab avalanches, so I knew I needed to make a proper ski cut to release anything that might slide. I would use my first turn to make the cut, so I identified an island of safety—a prominent, high spine to my right—to aim for in case the whole thing broke off.

I picked a spot on the top of a steep rollover where I could draw a direct line with my skis. Don’t ski cut below rollovers or wind-loaded pockets. You want to cut the slope above potential release points.

I pointed my skis toward the spine and pushed off without hesitation to ensure I had enough speed to make it to my island of safety. I committed extra weight to my left ski while traversing to make a deep cut. Instantly, the slab cracked beneath my skis into a spiderweb.

I was teetering on the fracture line, so I dragged my uphill hand against the snow like a surfer pulling into a barrel. I pivoted and redirected my tips to the uphill side of the fracture to avoid getting sucked into the chaos. Maintaining speed and momentum, I clung to the high side of the spine, and each left-footed push deliberately produced a new fracture.

At the bottom of the spine, I skied 200 yards to my right toward a new spine. I made a high-speed traverse at a 45-degree angle, and again the rug suddenly pulled out from under me. Surrounded by large, desk-size moving blocks, I dug in my edges, maintained speed, and let the debris pass. I was in the clear by the time I reached the new spine. It was now safe to drain it to the bottom.

When To Stay Inbounds
You see pre-existing slides. You hear whoomphing noises from the snowpack. The snow looks rotten in the pit you’ve dug. The snow feels hollow.

Reggie Crist is a former Olympian and two-time X Games winner. He appears in the 2009 Warren Miller film, Dynasty.