Whether you're staring down a dogleg chute or a 10-foot cornice,steeps are intimidating. Every skier knows that feeling of uncertainty, but the best skiers make a game plan before diving in.
Phase one: Create a solid platform by facing your upper body down the fall line and reaching downhill with your pole (Fig. 1). Although tempting, don't lay your inside hand into the hill; you'll move your weight onto your uphill ski and further minimize edge angle and hold (see "Wrong" below). Instead, be aggressive and drive your body and hands down the fall line (Fig. 2). You'll find your downhill ski to be a solid, confident platform from which to initiate those short-radius turns.
Phase two: Stand over the downhill ski (Fig. 3). This may sound obvious, but when the slope is falling away beneath you, your natural reaction will be to stand on your uphill ski. Unfortunately, this ski has a lower edge angle than the downhill ski and is likely to slide.
Quick tip: If you're feeling anxious before dropping into a chute, ask a friend to pull your hands downhill while you stand above on a flatter portion of the slope. Resist being pulled and you'll find yourself standing firm on the downhill ski.
Wendy Fisher is a former Alpine-skiing Olympian and three-time World Extreme Skiing champion. She lives in Crested Butte, Colorado.