Powder is the holy grail of skiing or riding. It’s why people flock for ‘first chair,’ skin the backcountry for freshies, and storm-chase across the country like surfers monitoring ocean swell. And when you finally do find that coveted stash, or score with a foot of new snow, you’ll likely also discover that skiing and riding powder is quite different from carving groomers or schussing hardpack at the resort, requiring different skills and technique. Here are a few pointers to get you down the mountain safely and in style.
Expose a Big Footprint
Powder skiing and riding is all about increasing the surface area you present to the snow below so you can float instead of sink. While fatter powder skis and boards help this (see below), so does your technique. Instead of applying weight to your downhill ski independently and edging your turn as on a groomed run, weight both skis more evenly, keeping a centered stance, hands forward and your shoulders over your toes. This disperses your weight evenly across both skis to help keep your tips above the snow while increasing your flotation.
Instead of engaging your edges as on hardpack, turn more by keeping your skis flatter and weighting and unweighting (without anything to grip, edging will cause your skis to sink, decreasing floatation). With hands forward, bend your knees and alternately weight the skis with each turn. During the transition between turns, extend your legs to unweight the leading (downhill) ski and transfer weight to the other one.
Make Big Turns
Instead of making short, choppy, slalom-style turns as you might on hardpack, maintain your speed, and hence floatation, by making slower, longer-arcing turns. With your weight centered and even on both skis, weight and unweight your skis through your turn, slowly lengthening your turn radius. Note: Try to keep your skis facing down the fall line (meaning the steepest, most direct path down the slope) to maintain momentum, rather than across the slope. Try to stall a hair between each turn to lengthen each arc into more of a flowing “S” track instead of the choppy mark of Zorro. Key: Be sloth-like, moving slower instead of rushing through each turn. Unless it’s to hit an untracked powder stash, avoid long traverses, which will affect your rhythm and planing speed. Hint: Practice on wide-open slopes without such obstacles as trees.
Keep your weight centered and hands forward (don’t lean back!). Avoid rotating your torso with each turn by keeping your ski tips and upper body pointing downhill (hint: try to keep your skis parallel to your hips).