5 Steps to Skiing Powder Like a Pro
Powder days can be some of the most fun of your ski season. Here's how to tackle the fluffy stuff like a pro.
We all love powder. From the second you start to see those big fat fluffy flakes coming down to the minute you’re booting up to get on the lift in the morning, there are few things more exciting about skiing. You hop off the lift, buckle your boots, get psyched, and drop into your favorite run. But, what’s this? The tips of your skis seem to have disappeared into the snow, and now you find yourself tomahawking down the hill. Now you’re searching through waist deep snow for one of your skis that’s fallen off, and you’re thinking, “I thought I liked skiing powder?” Don’t worry, you still do, but let’s talk some tips for conquering the snow before it conquers you.
1. The Stance
Your stance when skiing deep powder isn’t quite like carving turns on groomers or skiing bumps. One of the key things to keep in mind about skiing deep snow is maximizing a large surface area. The more area you cover, the easier it will be to stay up on top of the snow. When skiing groomed or firm snow, you initiate a turn with your outside ski, and depend on your edge to carry you through the turn. Powder skiing however, requires a totally different approach. By bending your knees, and keeping your body weight low and centered over both feet, you can create a much more stable platform for yourself and keep your ski tips above the snow.
2. The Turn
Let’s get back to the idea of using your edges to turn. For most of us, the instinct when turning is to pressure our inside edge and feel the power of the turn go from legs to edge to snow. In the same way, if you’re not quite comfortable carving turns fully on edge, you can instead scrub some of your speed by turning your edge perpendicular to the hill, and feeling the point where you edge will engage with the firmer snow.
However, powder skiing won’t let you have it quite that simple. Because of the nature of softer, deeper snow, your edges will have little to no impact on your ability to initiate and carry you through your turns. Instead, what you’ll want to do is steer using the weight of your body and your body position as you face down the hill. By bending your knees into the turn, and weighting your skis almost as if you’re pushing the snow away, you can then spring out of one turn and right into the next. Most skis are designed to give you some amount of rebound energy, and you’ll feel them almost start to bounce as you move from turn to turn.
3. The Speed
If there’s one thing that can immediately take your powder skiing to the next level, it’s having enough speed. A good way to think about skiing powder is to compare it to water skiing: the more speed you have, the easier it will be to stay up on the surface of the snow. As you lose speed, you’ll begin to sink.
Now, this does not mean you should simply point your tips downhill and shoot for the parking lot. Speed is relative, and it’s important to manage speed and control based on the terrain you’re in. By keeping your upper body facing downhill, or down the fall line, you can maintain speed while making short quick turns using your lower body to control your descent through variable terrain.
If wide open bowls and low-angle powder fields are more your thing, you can try making long, smooth turns that link directly from one into the next. Try making a regular sized turn that you’re comfortable with, and slowly work on elongating them as much as you can. Think about waiting until you’re facing directly downhill again before moving into the next turn.
4. The Mistake
Now that we’ve got a good foundation of the best things you should be doing while skiing powder, let’s address the most common mistake that makes your life harder in fresh snow. The most important thing to avoid while skiing deep snow is leaning too far back, or what’s usually called being in the back seat. It’s completely natural to want to lean back to try to keep your tips afloat, but it ends up being extremely counterproductive. The more weight you place on the tails of your skis, the more you’ll shove your toes into the front of your boots, and tire out the muscles in your legs. Imagine doing a squat for an entire ski run. Not fun. It’s important to keep in mind that your control and dexterity on skis is just like walking—you’re depending on your feet. With your boots flexed, and your weight in the balls of your feet, you have a lot of control. If you’re leaning too far back, you’re basically trying to steer with your heels. Additionally, without weight on the front of your skis, it can be very difficult to turn, and your tips can cross causing a crash.
5. The Gear
If you’ve watched the tutorials, and read the tips, and you still feel as though your powder skiing ability is lacking, it might be time to think about upgrading your gear. There’s a couple of ways to approach expanding or updating your ski package to better handle deep days on the mountain. The first and most obvious option is to go get yourself a dedicated powder ski that you can bust out when it really starts to pile up. Typically, a true powder ski will be a fat ski somewhere in the range of 110 to 130mm underfoot, with rocker in the tip and tail and a softer construction. This allows the ski to float much easier on top of the snow, and provide a more playful or springy feel when transitioning from turn to turn.
For some examples, check out the Nordica Enforcer 110 Free, Volkl Confession, and Salomon QST 118. Or, dive into this list of the best powder skis.
That being said, we don’t all have access to tons of powder days, nor can we all afford a multi-ski quiver. So what’s the next best option? The world of the all-mountain ski has advanced leaps and bounds over the past several years, and there are many options to suit every kind of skier out there. An all-mountain ski that will open the door to more powder skiing will usually have a few key features. For starters, it will have some rocker or early rise in the tip, to help keep your tips floating in the soft snow. Often there will also be a bit of rocker in the tail as well to ensure you get that nice springy feel. You’ll find a waist width of around 90 to 105mm, with a bit more width in the tip and tail to give you that little boost of surface area.
For some examples, check out the Blizzard Rustler 9, Head Kore 99, and Rossignol Blackops Holyshred.
All of those features will help you transition seamlessly from carving turns on fresh corduroy, to ripping through bumps, to getting face shots in three feet of fresh powder.
Now, if you’ve read through all that and you have any questions on technique, your gear, new gear, or anything else ski related, we’re here to help! Reach out on Curated, and we’ll get anything you need sorted in no time to get you out on the hill.