What is Ski Chatter and Why Does it Happen?

For many skiers, tackling steeper slopes or travelling at faster speeds as you become more advanced in your technique come with some unexpected drawbacks. One of these in particular is something you might have heard on the slopes many times- CHATTER.

Even though lots of skiers are familiar with this sound, not everyone knows exactly what chatter is, or what actually causes it.

For lots of skiers, chatter is an annoying product of tackling turns are higher speeds or with more pressure applied. But there are certain ways to reduce chatter, and the first is to discover exactly what causes it!

Ski chatter is the continuous engaging and disengaging of ski edges. This can be caused by having soft skis, light and stiff skis or putting too much pressure on certain parts of the ski. Chattering is usually heard when making faster turns.

But is it ski stiffness, the material or skier technique that is causing your skis to chatter? Are there some possible ways to reduce chattering? Keep reading for more info all about ski chatter!

What is Ski Chatter?

Chattering is the continuous engaging, disengaging and then -re-engaging of ski tip edges which results in a ‘chattering’ sound which many skiers which many skiers are familiar with. This often sounds like a rattling and can even be seen by the skier. This normally looks like the front of the skis flapping up and down rapidly.

This most commonly occurs when skiing at high speeds over normally groomed terrain where lots of pressure is generally being applied to the skis.

Ski Flex

Ski stiffness relates to how forgiving and easy to flex the ski is. Generally, beginner skiers will use softer skis as these are easier to turn. In particular, softer skis make initiating turns easier as well as disengaging turns as well. This is very useful for beginner skiers who are looking to improve technique.

Softer skis might also be suitable for skiers who want to travel over powder as this allows them to drift more effectively over the snow.

Softer skis with more flexibility can also be less stable at higher speeds which can lead them to chatter as they are mainly designed for slower speeds or powder. The tips of soft skis can bounce up and down when skied at faster speeds due to their flexibility, causing them to constantly engage and disengage with the snow.

This may become especially apparent on groomed or slightly icy slopes. Many skiers who use softer skis but are attempting these terrains at higher speeds are more likely to experience chatter.

Stiffer skis are usually used by more experienced skiers who are looking to ski faster and have greater control and precision over their turns.

Stiffer skis have the benefit of bouncing up and down less when travelling over bumps on the snow. The stiffer ski will therefore maintain contact with the snow much more.

However, stiffer skis take more effort to turn and also allow less room for error. They react sensitively to precise movements, making them less suitable for beginner skiers and better suited to experienced skiers who will be travelling at higher speeds and have more precise control over their turns.

Check out this in-depth guide to ski flex to learn more.

Ski Material

The material of your skis can be another reason for chattering. Skis can be made of a range of materials or a combination, which can affect the characteristics and performance of your skis.

For example, material can alter the density, weight and stiffness of your skis.

In particular, lighter skis which are very stiff can cause chatter. An example of these are carbon fibre skis which have the benefit of being extremely lightweight but, being a material that is particularly stiff too, can lead to chatter.

Light and stiff materials such as foam are less able to absorb excess energy generated by fast turns where skis have a lot of pressure on them. This extra energy then instead generates chatter.

Other, denser materials such as wood are better equipped to damped this chatter by absorbing some of the extra energy you will generate in faster turns, reducing the chatter you will experience.

Some skis now feature multiple materials to get the best of both worlds- then can still be lightweight but also reduce chatter.

Technique and Pressure

There is a lot of debate between skiers about the exact cause of chatter in skis based on technique.

Some skiers say that putting too much weight into the middle of the skis when initiating a turn causes them to chatter as the front of the skis are not fully engaged.

Driving the skis forwards and testing what pressure you can apply where on your skis can help to reduce this pressure. This will help to make sure that the fronts of the skis are better engaged when they need to be.

Ask a ski instructor to help you to improve your technique.

How to Reduce Chatter?

Helping to reduce chatter in your skis first involves figuring out what is causing the chatter. If you are an intermediate to advanced skier and have a particularly soft pair of skis, chatter might be caused by these soft skis being used at high speeds where their flex will make them engage and disengage in the turns.

If you are skiing on a soft ski and they are chattering at higher speeds, you could consider choosing stiffer skis which are better suited to these speeds. However, you also need to consider your ability level and terrain before investing in some stiffer skis.

You can also consider the material of your skis, as lightweight but stiff skis also can have the tendency to chatter.

Ask a professional for advice on the right level of ski stiffness for your ability and what type of slopes you want to ski and well as the right ski material for you.

If you think that the material composition, weight and stiffness of your skis are not the reason for the chattering sound, you could try to assess the weight and pressure distribution on your skis such as driving skis forwards more to help reduce the amount the front of your skis engage and disengage.

To Conclude

Ski chatter can be an irritating result of becoming a more advanced skier and putting more pressure on your skis into the turns.

This can be caused by skis being too soft for the level of skiing you are doing, leading the edges to engage and disengage constantly with the snow. Stiff but light materials can also lead to chatter as the material is unable to absorb the excess energy generated by skis, leading to chattering.

Technique can also cause chattering if pressure is applied to the middle of the ski for example at the beginning of the turn.

To reduce chattering, try to identify exactly what the cause of it is in the first place! Ask an expert to advise you on the stiffness and weight of skis that will be right for your ability and the terrain you want to ski on. Ask a ski instructor to help you to improve your technique.

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