How To Ski Crud

Learn to thrive on any mountain in tracked-out snow or when variable conditions are less than perfect.

Let’s face it: Not every day is the perfect, billowing, Instagram-worthy powder day. In fact, they’re actually kind of rare. What isn’t rare is choppy, cut-up powder, snow that’s been there for a few days getting tracked out and affected by sun and wind. Welcome to the world of crud. Known by several different monikers—including tracked powder, mank, ungroomed and crust—crud is a little bit of everything, from lumpy clumps to buried bumps, requiring every trick in the book to get through. Skiing and riding in these conditions is far different than the seemingly effortless turns of untracked powder, or the speed and angled edges needed to carve down a groomer. Knowing how best to make turns through it saves energy and beat-downs, while opening up the whole mountain to explore—even when conditions are less than ideal. Here’s how best to ski and snowboard in the more everyday world of snow that is not so fresh or new.

Crud defined

While there’s no real accepted definition of crud (it’s doubtful you’ll find it in Webster’s), crud is that off-mix of powder and groomed. Like snowflakes, it’s never the same twice, ranging from chopped-up powder to heavier, sunbaked snow. The only thing that every type of crud shares is its need for a little more effort. Crud is variability at its finest, requiring you to constantly adapt your technique for the next conditions ahead. 

Stay balanced 

Don’t be too far in the back seat or too far forward. Start each turn from a balanced, aggressive stance, knees slightly bent with hands forward. Keep your core centered over your bindings and stay centered in your boots; don’t pressure them far forward or backward. 

Look ahead

Since crud is so variable, skiing or riding it means you might be in something similar to powder one second, and then navigating push-piles, hardpack, or crust in the next. Look ahead, planning two or three turns in advance, to see what’s coming so you know how to react. Let the terrain and snow texture determine where you turn, missing sections that look less than savory. Follow the path of least resistance. 


Stay calm, with your weight distributed evenly over your skis to absorb the snow and terrain. Experts recommend trying to keep your ankles loose and flexible to help absorb terrain and snow variations (like hidden moguls).  

Weighting game

Take your time shifting your weight around. Don’t apply weight to your downhill ski (or unweight your inside ski) too early or too quickly. Keep your weight more evenly spread out longer so you don’t get tossed around. Also, release your ski edges slowly, gradually steering your skis around. Relax and let the turn pull your weight onto your downhill ski, pressuring it later in the turn than you normally would.  

Face the fall line

Keep your shoulders facing downhill and your skis in the ‘fall line’ (meaning the steepest, most direct path down the slope) for longer than you would in smoother conditions. Control your speed by pressuring your skis, not swinging them across the hill. Expert tip: Imagine a string attached to your belly button pulling your body down the fall line.

Don’t rush your turns

Find a good pace and tempo and stay with it. Try to round out your arcs, having your skis swoop back and forth in and out of the fall line.    

Use your legs as shock absorbers

Using them to react and absorb will help stabilize your core, which in turn keeps your legs loose to adapt to terrain and snow variations. Says one expert: “Loose legs, tight core.” 

Edges? We don’t need no stinkin’ edges

Unlike carving on groomers or hard-packed snow, don’t over-edge your skis, which might cause you to get tossed around. Keep edge use to a minimum. Use just enough to get through whatever turn you need for the snow and terrain. Expert tip: Usher your skis through the end of each turn, focusing on starting the next one rather than ending the last.   

Pick your lines

Even more so than on a wide-open groomer or untracked powder field, read the terrain ahead of you and ski or ride accordingly, letting it help dictate your line. Look for soft snow that hasn’t been touched and won’t throw your balance off, and avoid firm pockets by heading to snow that has been softened by the sun. Tip: Aim for push-piles or untracked sections to scrub speed. 

Snowboard tips

Snowboards present a bigger surface area to the snow, providing more planing and momentum for getting through both powder and crud. A couple tips from experts: Maintain a strong core stance, with knees bent, to help you from getting tossed around; steer your lower body with both legs, relaxing your ankles and knees to absorb terrain and snow variations; and know that speed, as long as you’re in control, is your friend, helping you blast through push-piles.  

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.