Mogul skiing

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Moguls (at Sugarbush, Vermont)

Mogul skiing is a type of freestyle skiing where skiers display tricks, jumps, controlled speed and turning abilities for onlookers (or judges) on a mogul slope making “high-quality, aggressive turns while remaining in the fall line/zip-line (an imaginary line that combines the steepest pitch and most direct line, from top to bottom, of any slope). Skiers absorb the impact of the bumps by bending at the knees and hips. In a good run, shoulders remain parallel to the finish line, turns should be quick and short, knees remain tightly together, the competitor to demonstrate controlled speed and their skis should not leave the snow surface.”[1]


Moguls are a series of bumps on a trail formed when skiers push the snow into mounds or piles as they execute short-radius turns. This tends to happen naturally as skiers use the slope. They can also be constructed (seeded) on a slope for freestyle skiing competitions or practice runs.

Once formed, a naturally occurring mogul tends to grow as skiers follow similar paths around it, further deepening the surrounding grooves known as troughs. Since skiing tends to be a series of linked turns, moguls form together to create a bump field. At most ski resorts certain pistes (trails) are groomed infrequently or left completely ungroomed to allow moguls to develop. These mogul trails are generally relatively steep. In other cases, a trail may be ungroomed because of the fact that the moguls are too big.

Some trails cannot be groomed because they are too steep, too narrow, or they have obstacles that cannot be overcome by a snowcat. Such trails often form moguls. Mogul trails that can be groomed are usually groomed when the moguls get so big and the troughs so deep that the moguls become difficult to ski on or around. Some mogul fields are also groomed when they become too icy or too hardened to ski safely and enjoyably. Many times a section of a trail will be left ungroomed and allowed to bump up to prevent skiers from gaining too much speed and getting out of control.

Many trails for competitive moguls are picked for their steepness, snow condition on the slope, how long the slope runs in a straight line before curving, and even in a particular scenario if the slope allocated for a zip-line is renowned for its low visibility. It can be dangerous to ski a mogul line with low visibility as the skier finds him or herself at high speeds and when they reach the jump, if they are flipping in a way as to bring the skis above their head, they need to see well to be able to "spot" their landing.


The term mogul is from the Austrian word "mugel," which means mound or small hill.[2]

Approach: General vs. Modern[edit]

The general approach used by Olympians and children on freestyle teams is to make quick and short turns (initiated by use of the knee and ankle joints[3]) in a mogul specific stance, using absorption & extension (ski flex[4]) as their primary mechanism of speed control.

The correct body position in moguls requires some adjustment from the position used in non-mogul specific groom terrain. The head must continue to be held in a natural position with the vision ahead in order to read the upcoming terrain. The upper body must be upright with the arms held in front at approximately mid torso height,[5] with the shoulders perpendicular to the fall line (an imaginary line that combines the steepest pitch and most direct line, from top to bottom, of any slope). The legs must be kept together and the shins pressed firmly against the front of the ski boot as the back is arched.

Skiers absorb the impact of the bumps by bending at the knees and hips (extending by opening the knee, hip and ankle joints). The ankle joint must remain flexed resulting in shin pressure and the pelvis must remain in the correct neutral position throughout all skiing movements.[6] Absorption should start as soon as the ski tips contact the face of the mogul and continue until the feet reach the crest. Extension begins as the feet move over the crest onto the backside,[7] and skis should not be permitted to leave the snow surface (in as much as speed and terrain permit).

This approach works exceptionally well in the most difficult of mogul slopes where style (quiet upper body) and speed are of the utmost importance.

In a more modern approach, (PSIA Performance Bumps) [8] the core maintains functional tension to preserve stability in the upper body, [while] tipping movements originate in the lower leg under a stable upper body. Duration, intensity rate, and timing of the tipping movements are varied to accommodate high speed and fall line bump skiing.” Rotational movements come from the femurs turning in the hip sockets under a stable pelvis and upper body and create upper/lower body separation. Flexing movements of the joints facilitate pressure control through absorption of the terrain. Extension movements of the joints facilitate pressure control and maintain contact with the snow as the terrain drops away.

This approach has the advantage of necessitating minimal adjustments to the body position used in non-mogul specific groom terrain. Turn shape and line choice are used for speed control.[9]

Competitive mogul skiing[edit]

The first freestyle competition involving mogul skiing occurred in 1971. Freestyle runs included mogul skiing, aerials, and acrobatic tricks. After a series of serious injuries related to inverted aerials, such tricks were banned from competition. This ban remained in place until recently. As mogul skiing gained popularity in its early days, the FIS created the Freestyle World Cup Circuit in 1980. Mogul events take place each year all over the world and "under the guidance of freestyle coaches, children on freestyle teams all over the world are learning mogul techniques and skiing moguls well.”[10] Mogul skiing has been an official medal event in the Winter Olympics since 1992; it was a demonstration sport in 1988 in Calgary. The first World Championships were held in 1986, and are currently held in odd-numbered years.

During a competition run, contestants navigate around the moguls and execute tricks such as the Cork 720, D-Spin, Back Lay, Back X, and Back Full. The slope is steep, usually between 24 and 32 degrees (most commonly 28 degrees), and about 656–886 feet (200–270 meters) long.[11] The jumps in a moguls competition are smaller than those in aerial competitions, and are often referred to as "kickers" for their steep take off (that "kicks" the athlete up into the air).

In dual mogul events two athletes compete against each other for the highest score; the winner of each round advances.

Notable Olympic Mogul skiers[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

  • - The resource of information and knowledge on Freestyle Skiing, Ski Jumping, FIS World Ski Championships, FIS Leaders Seminar, FIS Ladies Seminar
  • FIS Freestyle News, Calendar, Rules and Results
  • - The official site of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association. Your source for moguls, aerials, halfpipe and slopestyle skiing in Canada.
  • – Mogul skiing's online home. Technique guide, misconceptions debunked, tips from pros, photos, video, equipment reviews, mogul-specific ski area reviews, news, forums and discussion group, US Freestyle Team info, etc.
  • The Surprising Motion of Ski Moguls
  • Mogul Skiing Tutorials
  • Ottawa Citizen: "Moguls glossary" – 2010 Winter Games