Powder can be a skier’s dream. Laying down fresh tracks in untouched snow is an extremely enjoyable and hard-to-match feeling. So much so that many skiers chase powder days like an elusive white whale, tuning into weather reports and traveling from location to location in search of snowy conditions. If you’re an avid skier, there’s no doubt that you too have been on the hunt for powder a few times in your life.
Even though many skiers live for powder skiing, such conditions can be difficult to navigate if you’re not used to them. Your style and technique need to change in order to ski comfortably in powder, and it’s not quite the same as skiing on groomed or light snow conditions. This article will teach you a few tips and tricks to help conquer powder and increase your love of skiing.
Use Your Legs
One of the biggest differences between regular resort skiing and powder skiing is that deep powder requires a lot more leg work. Common conditions at many skiing locations require you to use your edges to turn. However, when the snow is packed or groomed, your edges give you good control as you travel downhill. When you’re skiing in powder, that changes quite a bit.
When skiing powder, edge control is not as important because there is less hard-packed material for your skis to bite into. Think about it like a knife through butter straight out of the fridge versus butter that has been softened on the counter. The cold butter is rigid, which allows the knife to shave and carve, while the warm butter can be easily pushed or sliced no matter what type of knife cuts through it.
That lack of edge control means you need to focus on using your legs much more to turn. Rather than simply lean and dig in your edges as you would in hard-packed snow, you need to bounce and almost jump to turn in powder. You want to keep your legs engaged so they stay in control as you turn and cut through powder. After a few good powder runs, you’ll automatically notice how much more you use your legs in those conditions.
Powder skiing requires steady balance to move efficiently through deep snow. Good form typically means your knees are flexed and you’re leaning forward with your shins pressing into your ski boots. That is the goal with powder. Keep your ankles, knees, and hips slightly flexed so you can navigate through the snow with no issues.
Another key to staying balanced in powder conditions is keeping your skis close together in a narrow stance. That serves as a way to easily maintain the above-mentioned form while also creating a lot of surface area contact with the snow below. This stance gives you a floating feeling and keeps you in control as you turn.
Finally, make sure your arms and poles stay in front of you at all times. When in powder conditions, you almost want to exaggerate the use of your poles. Bring them up around and in front of you and almost swing them as you plant each turn. This will help you feel the bounce of your turns as you move through the powder.
Tips for Turning
When skiing through deep snow conditions, remember to stay off your edges and use more of your ski. That will help with both balance and general leg control. In addition, do your best to stay flat and light on the snow rather than leaning into your turns. You need to focus on using your legs in powder and you won’t have the edge control that you might be used to on regular outings.
For good turns in powder, make shorter turns directly downhill. On groomed or packed runs, you often use a long and wide turn to maintain control of your speed as you carve into the mountain. In powder, you should strive for the opposite of that. Short, small turns will allow you to cut through and float on top of the snow.
A lot of skiers call this type of powder turning ‘staying in the fall line.’ It means that you want to focus on skiing straight downhill in powder conditions. This plays a big role in keeping your speed up, which enables you to turn effectively. Powder tends to slow you down. If you make wide turns and go slow, you might struggle to move at all.
All of the above tips help keep your speed up in a way that directly improves your ability to ski in powder. Sometimes if the pitch of your run isn’t too steep, you can even straight-line it directly down the mountain.
Powder skiing is my personal favorite type of skiing. The most memorable days I’ve ever had in the hills have included plenty of powder (not to mention sore legs).
Skiing powder can be challenging, but the difficulties are more than worth it for the fresh tracks and endless turns. If you’ve never skied powder before, or if you’ve been intimidated by it in the past, use the tips in this guide to make the most of the pristine conditions!
Do you have any powder skiing tips I didn’t mention here? Can you remember a favorite powder day you’ve had? Let us know in the comments below!