Speeding in Engelberg

I was skiing in Engelberg with Fraser, Jamie and Paul last week. An excellent trip – we were so lucky with the conditions. Two weeks ago there wasn’t much snow at all, yet here we were at the end of the season with fresh powder, sunshine and an empty resort (aside from the zillions of Thai and Taiwanese Amway tourists!). I got a Garmin ForeTrex 201 wrist-mounted GPS not so long ago for the express purpose of seeing how fast I go when skiing. I’m happy to report that it works nicely. After several runs I’d only managed to get high 90s (Km/h). Several things make it hard to get high speeds: space, safety and skis. When you go fast it takes quite a bit of space, and it’s hard to find a run that combines a good enough gradient, smooth surface, good visibility an sufficient stopping space. Safety is hard too – other skiers, runs joining the intended route, obstacles, fences, blind corners etc When you go quick, someone with a 200m head start gets caught up very fast! Lastly skis – I’ve noticed for a while that modern carving skis are just not safe over about 40mph. The big sidecut that makes them so easy to turn also makes them very unstable in a straight line, giving rise to nasty speed-wobble shimmy. After I broke a binding (no more Tyrolias for me!) on the Stöckli Rotor carvers I was on, I switched to a pair of Stöckli “Snake” powder skis (as there was lots of powder to play in). Though these are not the ideal speed skis, they were a bit longer at 177cm, and the shallow 22m radius made them very much more stable. The fairly steep run below the Ice Flyer chair seemed a good candidate. The run-out is quite narrow with a twisty bit at the start, and the run was covered in lumps of soft snow, but there was nobody about. I managed 116Km/h (72mph), which I was quite pleased with.
Despite having been to Les Arcs about 6 times, the speed skiing run there is always closed, or at least unprepared, despite the tourist office going on about how anyone can have a go. I get the feeling that a flat, clear track with some big, straight skis could be pretty exciting!

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