How to Ski powder snow
How To Ski Powder Snow
With the arrival of the ski season we thought this would be an opportune moment to talk powder snow… namely how to ski on it.
Powder skiing holidays aren't just for the experts, in fact our trips are suitable for good intermediate skiers with a keen desire to try something new. Whether you are being dropped off at the top of an untracked run in Canada, or skiing between the trees in Niseko, a few tips and pointers on good powder skiing technique can make all the difference.
With the help of our heli skiing and off-piste partners, we have compiled a list of ‘powder tips’ to help you make the most of a fun, powder-filled holiday.
1. Wide Skis – Before getting onto technique, it’s important you choose the right type of ski, especially so in Japan where the snow can be particularly deep. Whilst it is possible to get away with slalom skis in shallow powder, fat skis with a waist wider than 91mm are required if you want to float on deep powder. Skiing on a bit of both? Then 85mm wide skis can offer a happy compromise.
2. Rhythm – Our next tip is from one of CMH heli skiing's most experienced guides, Roko Koell, who says that rhythm is the heartbeat of powder skiing. “Begin with the ankles, knees and hips comfortably compact. Then extend upward, gradually flexing and extending the ankles, knees and hips, but stopping before the body is fully erect. Create a consistent up-and-down rhythm while moving only within this range, always keeping your hands forward. If you stand up too tall your body will hang back whilst your skis accelerate forward – causing the infamous backward lean and resultant burning thigh muscles.”.
3. Stance – The recommended stance taught by today's experts is a narrow one. Two reasons for this; firstly, you have less chance of catching an edge and secondly, it is harder to make smooth turns with a wider stance. So, keep your legs positioned straight down from your hips and narrower than your shoulders.
4. The Need for Speed – Speed is probably your number one friend on powder. Maintaining good speed will allow you to ‘float’ onto the top of the powder, reducing resistance and allowing you to make effortless turns. Conversely, not going fast enough can be incredibly hard work and result in you getting stuck. If confidence to build up speed is lacking then it is worth seeking some expert tuition to help you, quite literally, get up to speed.
5. Plant those Poles – Poles are often a misused skiing aid. Remedying this helps to maintain a better rhythm and balance which can aid your skiing technique considerably. Plant your pole downhill at the end of each turn to help you balance on the downhill ski. Keep both hands in front of you throughout to prevent you from leaning back after each plant. Mastering this will help you maintain an active and balanced position in the centre of your skis.
6. Exaggerate it – Another tip from Roko “When skiing in the powder you need to exaggerate your movements, ski with longer turning movements and feel the sensation of skiing in slow motion. Patience and persistence are crucial factors when turning in deep snow. You need to push your feet gradually and continually against the snow in order to complete each turn. If you give up on your turning movement too soon, your skis will accelerate and run away from underneath you, resulting in an incomplete turn, the dreaded backward lean, and loss of control.”
7. Balance – It is important to be aware of the balance between the ‘fore’ and ‘aft’ (which essentially means between the heels and balls of your feet) in order that you maintain your balance centrally. This allows the skis to quickly adapt to changing conditions (like hitting a small rock or packed snow). Too far back and you will not only burn your legs up but will have less control of your skis which could result in them crossing over (with predictable consequences).
8. Reasonable fitness – Our final tip involves being physically prepared for powder skiing which can be demanding, especially if you are hitting the powder on a heli skiing trip. This shouldn't be a deterrent in any way, but good fitness allows you to enjoy your skiing for longer and helps you maintain your technique. Some pre-holiday training, working on the major muscles you expect to use skiing, can make the world of difference.