If skier’s have a heaven, it most certainly involves untracked powder. Bottomless and champagne light, the kind of powder that feels like your bobbing in water. Every GNASA should involve powder.
If carving is the heart and soul of skiing, powder is the center of our fantasies. Big snowfalls are the pied piper’s song for every skier. Evident by observing locals. On powder day, their behavior is predictable, all over the globe. They make the drive to the mountain early hoping for first chair. They know what runs are skied out first, what runs get skied out after a couple hours, and what runs remain untouched till the end of the day. They follow it.
No other conditions warrant this type of response. Locals don’t get up early en masse and say, today is a steeps day, or bumps day, or carving day. Of all the ski conditions, only powder creates a universal Pavlovian response. Pavlovian because its the center of a skier’s fantasies.
Unlike other conditions, it’s not easy to take a powder lesson. First, you need powder. Second, you need to be at the mountain when there’s powder. Third, if you’ve been skiing for a while, having the patience to take a lesson on a powder day takes constraint. Finally, because powder is skied out so quickly, you need to be at the resort during a relatively uncrowded time.
Powder lesson are sometime easier in the form of a private lesson. Private’s can be booked before normal ski schoolclass starts. Ost resorts don’t require a lesson to wait in lift lines. And great indtrucoptrs love privates, versus groups, on powder days.
How To Ski Powder
Michael and I are not going to tty and teach you how to ski powder. See below for some great powder camps.
That said we will share a couple of tips.
Powder Tip 1 – Use a big basket on your pole
The baskets at the end of your poles are designed for specific types of terrain. Small baskets are designed for hard packed snow. Larger baskets for softer snow. On powder, you want your pole to offer some resistance when planted. A small basket can slash straight through the snow, proving no resistance, compromising your balance. A large basket will not. Skiing powder requires a rhythm. The right baskets ensure that your pole plants do what you want them to.
Powder Tip 2 – Ski The Same As You’d Ski in Non Powder
It’s a myth that you should lean back in powder. The myth comes from inexperienced and poor powder skiers accidently pushing their tips into the snow and falling head over heels. The fall is often cemented into you head when you struggle to find your ski. Even with powder leashes, lost skis in deep power often involve long search times. A few of these and you’re trying anything to keep your ski tips up. Leaning back accomplishes this goal. Unfortunately, it accomplishes little else.
You should always be balanced over your skis. Ski powder the same way. If you’re an expert with really good feel over center and in your foot you can ski heel heavy. All this means is that you put a little more weight on your heel than you would in other conditions.
Powder Tip 3 – Use Fattys
The ski industry creates an entire category of skis for powder. Affectionately called “fattys” because they are wider (aka fatter) than other skis. Wider usually means 130+ at the tips, 120+ at the tails and 110+ under foot. Not only are powder skis wide, they are usually rockered. Sidecuts are higher, 23+. This allows the ski to float and turn in powder.
A ski purist will point out that powder can be skied with normal skis. They’re correct. They’ll even suggest that powder is best enjoyed when your sinking in the powder, caressed and immersed in the light fluffy snow of your dreams. They’re correct again. But to this your ability level and fitness level must be very high.
Skiing powder with anything less than perfect form gets tiring. It’s like running in water: lots of resistance. Fat skis float. Skinny skis don’t. I say why risk getting tired or falling. Unless you’re spending 50 or more days on skis a year you’re only skiing powder a few days a year. Make it easy on yourself.
The best reason for using fattys is that it allows you to ski longer. I don’t know about you, but when in heaven, why not stay there as long as you can?