The tally of accumulating snow at your favorite resort continues to raise. Snow totals go up and up and up and your heart goes down, down, down despite all your friends' enthusiasm and stoke for fresh tracks. Perhaps you grew up on a coast without much true, dry, fluffy powder (not going to call out which one), or maybe you never had the time, money, or youth to learn how to float through seas of white, as they say. They also say that skiing fields of powder on a bluebird day or while more snow slowly floats to the ground is closer to heaven than most people are lucky to experience.
But how, how can I possibly let loose and surrender to the feeling of suddenly being less proficient at something I thought I was good at? Here are a few tips and tricks for skiing in powder:
Fat skis and powder baskets, though the baskets get more flack for not being essential, they really do help when the going gets deep. If you don't happen to have an arsenal of ski choices out in the garage (cause let's be honest, that's expensive!), consider renting some for the day. If the stash is really that epic, it'll be worth the $30-$60 dollars extra. When and if money is tight, your normal skis will do just fine, though it will be more challenging to float on top of the snow than if you had a waist width above 100mm or so. Don't let lacking mm deter you though, shred on!
Before ever dropping into a run with deep, fresh powder, you're going to want to take a few breaths. Consciously relax your shoulders, because I know they're tensed and hunched up around your helmet's ear flaps. Remember that not everyone can be good at everything, and even if you do take a tumble, you're falling into a soft pillow of clouds. What could inspire more confidence? Although, don't think floppy here; you will still need to maintain a tight core and control in order to navigate the fluff.
When you muster up the courage to slide into the blanket of snow, you might fall at the outset, and that's fine! Realize that you're fine, it was actually pretty fun to fall, be patient with yourself, and that the rest of the run is waiting for you to try, try again. Powder skiing is very different from the on-piste skiing that we're all used to, and you'll need to slowly test out and master new styles and movements.
SPEED, STANCE, and STYLE
Powder skiing is slower, more graceful, and requires more speed than you would think in order to get moving. Point your skis further downhill than you would think with your skis a little closer together, positioning their surface areas in proximity for maximum surf capacity. One ski one turn! Make sure to rotate your trunk with each turn so that your body and widely-placed hands are always facing down the fall line of the run. With your hands in this more forward, wider position, it's easier to plant your poles before each turn and gives you more lateral balance, all the while helping your weight not fall behind.
To turn, you'll need to amp up your spidey-slope-senses, feeling the natural bumps underneath the snow. These places will naturally push you up, making it easier to stand up and unweight your skis to initiate your next turn. Skiing in powder is more like a dance with the snow than you've ever experienced before, and it's a passive art. Think slower tempo (but fast enough to gain sufficient speed for the conditions), round and natural turns, unweighting when the hill forces you to, and using your body weight and thigh angles to turn rather than forcing a turn on your edges. If you have to take a breather after every turn, look around at the view, think about the incredible day you get to have, and then gear up to try again! Powder skiing isn't rushed, you're just there for the epic experience, so soak it all in.
Good luck out there folks, and we at CSCUSA hope that these tips give you some insight, inspiration, and a little confidence to tackle this long-awaited powder.