Powder is the holy grail of skiing. We crave it and cross our fingers for it, and even shout for joy when we ski it. But let’s face it – not everyone is born knowing how to shred powder! Some of us learned early on, but we’ve got to hand it to those who got on skis at a later start. Braving the pow is an impressive challenge for a developing skier. There are certain techniques that were drilled into my head as a little tike that, to this day, I still actively recall. Here is my run-down of the best tools to keep in mind while learning how to ski powder.
– Keep your hands out front! Like you’re reading a newspaper. Never let them drop down to your hips. Practice this in an exaggerated fashion until it feels natural.
– Make wide, deliberate pole plants. It will line up your turns and keep your form in tact.
– Don’t get in “the backseat”. In other words, don’t let your knees lean back behind your ankles. This is a really easy thing to do in deep powder, and something that I still find myself focusing on. If your hands are forward, your wait should be over your feet. This will make your turns more powerful.
– Imagine your turns as rounded zig-zags down a hill. Squat at the mid-point of the zig zags (where you’d draw a straight line from top to bottom), and stand up with nearly straight legs on the curves.
– Apply equal weight on both skis, as if you’re skiing on one mono-ski. Forget about applying more weight on the outside ski.
– Power your turns with your thighs, rotating them into your turns instead of relying on the edges of your skis.
– Have a stable upper body. Use your core strength but do not try to lead your turns by twisting your upper body.
– Try using verbal cues to initiate turns and keep a steady rhythm. Saying “HUP” at the top of every turn is an old-fashioned technique that helped me learn how to link more turns.
– In deeper snow, building up enough speed to establish a “bouncing” rhythm. It’s the best feeling on earth and the speed will make you more weightless in the snow.
How to get up if you fall:
– Try not to punch your hands down if you fall in powder. You’ll push through the surface and get a face full of snow! Sometimes it helps to cross your poles into an X, hold at the intersection, and push yourself from uphill.
– Ask for a more advanced skier to be your “sweeper” and ski after you so that they can help you if you eject from a ski or have a yard sale (when your gear shoots in all directions).
– Take deep breaths when you reach the boiling point. It is undoubtedly frustrating but you will get better and have more fun!
– Use fat skis with rocker (reverse camber)
– Use poles with powder baskets (wider than normal baskets). This will prevent your poles from sinking into the snow and being useless.
– If you are venturing into the side-country or anywhere with a risk of avalanche, you must be prepared to take your life into your own hands and have the following items:
- Avalanche Transceiver – This is an electronic beacon that will enable someone (who also has a transceiver) to locate you if you are buried in an avalanche. Learn how to use it first as they are not straight forward, even the new digital ones.
- Shovel – This goes hand in hand with the transceiver. When you find the victim you will have to dig them out of the snow.
- Avalanche Probe – This is a metal probe that when assembled is about 2M long. This is used to find the exact spot where you need to dig.
- First Aid Kit.
There is no point in any of this equipment if you don’t know how to use it, or if you and your ski buddy are both caught in the same avalanche. It is obvious that you should never ski out-of-bounds alone, but it’s equally important that you ski one at a time. Going for help is not a real option, so self-rescue is your only chance. Safety first!
Hope this helps and that you are able to enjoy the process! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below!