"It's pretty icy today, can I really ski in these conditions?" Absolutely.
As New England skiers, we are a hearty bunch. We all take a bit of pride in saying things like: "There's no such thing as a bad ski day, just bad clothing decisions" when it 5 below zero, or raining. Good synthetic fabric underlayers, coupled with a fleece layer, a good insulating and wind protecting outer layer (primaloft/down...etc), and a facemask, goggles, and helmet and it can't be too cold (almost).
The same goes for wet days. The lines are short, the snow is "hero-snow" and good waterproof clothes make rainy days great ski days.
When the snow is extra hard, and blue, and a bullet wouldn't make a nick in the surface, you need to remember a few key things.
Sharp edges are an absolute must. Start the day with sharp edges, and sharpen them again at the end of the day.
Even great skiers with sharp edges skid on the ice sometimes and this is okay. "Ride the slide" when the edges don't hook up because they will eventually. The key to riding the slide is being in balance. If you are not balanced over your feet, you will not ride the slide and you'll be able to practice "getting up."
Remember that skis carve forward-not sideways. Be moving with your skis in the direction you wish to go, and get those edges to "hook up." Feel your skis slice into the ice as your edges take you across the hill.
Find a modestly-pitched icy patch, and practice comfortably skidding on the ice. As you get comfortable riding this skid, start to get your edges to bite into the ice. Skid some more, and "slice" some more. Get comfortable with both, and then go play all over the mountain.
Remember, best advice of all, take a lesson or attend a race clinic. You'll have a great time and improve your time. Try it.
John Macdonald is a Level III Certified PSIA Instructor and is a Race Team Coach at King Pine Ski Area. You can email questions to John at firstname.lastname@example.org.