Lean Back and Shorten the Learning Curve.
Wow, what a year for snow out west. There’s been an overload of storms from December through March that are converting many of us who previously preferred groomers into powder addicts. There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to skiing in powder for the first time, however. Don’t be discouraged in the first few times you try it are awful… they usually are for most of us who move towards off piste skiing for the first time.
Here are a few tips to make it easier on yourself.
- Lean back: Unlike skiing on groomers, where the athletic stance you take shifts your body weight more forward, in deep pow you want to lean back into your boots and keep your tips up.
- Keep your knees bent and your core tight: Yes, you will get tired more easily. That’s just the nature of skiing in powder. Deeper snow increases the likelihood that you will ski over variable conditions, and maintaining a little bend in the knees and tightness in your core will protect you from injury and also just make it plain fun.
- Don’t overdo it: It’s going to be hard, and more than likely a little frustrating when you first start out skiing in powder. Be ok with the fact that you might not get it the first or second day you are out there. Give yourself breaks in the lodge or on groomed runs. Injuries are more likely to happen when you are feeling tired, so take it easy out there.
- Upgrade your equipment: Consider renting or buying wider skis with more rocker, the upward curve, or camber, at the tip and tail of the skis. The fatter surface will allow you to stay more on top of the snow and save you a lot of effort. They take a minute to get used to, but the learning curve is well worth it.
- Get comfortable with speed: It’s going to make skiing in powder a lot easier if you aren’t trying to hold back. Pick a line at the top of the run and aim for a good stopping point.
- Find a rhythm: A good way to go about doing this is to practice linking your turns and count how many you can get at a time. If you start with only 3 before you need to stop or get off balance, that’s great. Next time, try to get 4 or 5. Slow, measurable progress is the key here.
- Keep your shoulders facing downhill: On groomers, you can get away with this and still ski some pretty steep stuff. Not the case with powder and off piste. If you aren’t sure why you are falling each time you try to turn in pow, this could very well be the reason.
- Keep pressure on both skis: Another reason you might be falling in powder is if you are used to relying on your outside ski to execute the turn. Keep even pressure on both skis and even narrow it up a bit from your usual stance if you are used to keeping your feet wide.
- Turn slowly, rather than abruptly: It’s important to keep the power you would have when you use jump turns to ski moguls, but instead of quick, abrupt turns, you will create a longer arc as you ski down the slope. Keep tips number 4, 6, and 7 in mind here as you execute these turns.
- Less edging: In groomed skiing, you use your lower legs to dig your edges into the slope. In powder, this isn’t really doing anything for you, so your hips and upper body can have a little more lean.
Have fun! The beauty of powder is that it is very forgiving, and once you learn these tips and get your groove, you are going to want to push for harder and harder terrain each time you get out on a pow day.
Photo: D. Stubbs