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How to ski in lots of fresh snow? [A Beginner Zone thread]

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Since my recent Sun Peaks trip I have been feeling like a strong and mostly fearless skier. Happily taking on most any run at Blue Mountain or Mount St. Louis in Ontario.

Last night we had a huge storm and got around 2 feet of fresh. My partner was all about skiing at Blue today. I went along and sucked ass really badly and was scared like a baby. Felt unbalanced the entire time. My turning technique didn't seem to work well in these conditions. Under the two feet of chopped up fresh was sheer ice so hard my pole was unable to penetrate. Fell down a ridicous amount of times. A lot of screaming in sheer uncontrolled terror.

Therefor my question: How do I survive and thrive in this type of scenario? How do I turn properly in lots of soft snow?
post #2 of 28

Hi GreenTomato - Good question for the forum. I'm not really qualified to answer myself, but I suspect a lot of the answer is that you can't push your skis sideways much in deeper snow. And most folks (myself included) have some amount of lateral ski movement/sliding in their turns that becomes difficult as the snow gets deeper. 

 

As Bob Barnes says around here sometimes (paraphrased), you either have to go where your skis are pointed, or point them where you're going. Meaning you should be travelling the direction your skis are pointed - no side slipping movement. (This actually applies to some extent to all skiing, not just deeper snow, but it becomes much more apparent in deeper snow.)

 

Beyond that, I'll have to let others comment. And this thread might be a bit helpful : http://www.epicski.com/t/92277/why-is-skiing-on-fresh-snow-more-difficult

 

(Also, I add "in" to the thread title to make it a bit clearer that you aren't asking how to find deep snow, but how to actually ski in it.)

post #3 of 28

Hi GT- I'll elaborate on dbostedo's comments, as they are fairly accurate. I am an instructor at Stowe, where we typically get a decent amount of soft snow (this year aside), typically much more soft snow than other areas on the eastern side of the continent. That means that I'm often coaching people on how to deal with 3 dimensional snow, when they're only used to 2 dimensional stuff. Alright, on to the pointers.

 

-Slooooow down. Abrupt movements don't pay off in deep snow. Change edges more gradually, slow down all of your movements. Think about it sort of like driving a car in the snow. You don't slam on the breaks, you don't stomp on the gas, and you most certainly don't crank the wheel to try a tight turn. 

 

-Less twisting, more tipping. As dbostedo said, you want to avoid letting your skis travel sideways, instead you always want the tails of the skis to more or less following the same path as the tips. This doesn't mean that you're laying down perfect carving arcs. It's just that you want your energy to always be moving along the length of the ski, not sideways. So how do we do this? Tip the ski to turn it, and limit how much you are twisting it. With the deeper snow, the tipping will cause the bases of the skis deflect you in your new turn direction. Any steering you do by twisting (rotation) is minimal. 

 

-Really round out your turns. Every ski instructor will tell you to control your speed using turn shape, but this especially is a situation where it's important. Since you can't "cheat" by skidding to control your speed, you need to really emphasize making a round turn that controls your speed. If you feel like you're still speeding up when you are going to start your next turn, then you're not done with the turn you're in. Keep moving those skis away from the fall line until you feel your speed coming down, then initiate the next turn.

 

-Stay centered. You may at some point hear people saying "you need to lean back in powder." I call shenanigans on that, it's just not true. Keep your weight centered over your skis. Not diving forward, not leaning back. Just stay centered, and your quads will thank you. Those "lean back" proponents will have noodle legs by 11AM, while you'll be skiing all day long. 

 

The whole gist is to be patient. Don't rush things. Float. Go with the flow. Don't force anything. Let the edge angles happen slowly. Be patient with your turns. Fortunately, deep snow is going to naturally slow you down. Just like slogging to your mailbox is a lot slower through 2 feet of snow, so is skiing. You can let you skis drift into the fall line, and stay in the fall line longer, because the snow is going to absorb a lot of that and act as a natural brake. If you slowed down your actions like this on hard snow, you'd find yourself going pretty quick, pretty quickly. Deep, soft snow affords you the luxury of slowing down without speeding up, as it were. 

post #4 of 28

Tougher conditions always point out flaws in technique...

post #5 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by NJskier164 View Post
 

Tougher conditions always point out flaws in technique...


Given that this is a Beginner Zone question, do you have a suggestion for the OP based on the questions in Post #1?  Any memories from the first time you skied in >12 inches of fresh powder?

post #6 of 28

Hi Green Tomato,

 

Think about a ski. when you push the tip through the snow, there is very little resistance because you are pushing a small surface area into the snow. When you try to push the ski sideways, you are going to be pushing a very large surface area into and through the snow.

 

To get better at skiing that new stuff, start small. Find groomers that have just a little bit of new powder, and think about having the tails follow the tips. Gentle movements instead of quick movements. (think about trying to move in water where there's lots of resistance). You don't need to "jump" out of the snow.. Let your skis work for you. They will bend and climb out of the snow as a platform builds under the skis. Then you should be able to just gently steer both feet in the direction you want to go. Tipping them over just a little will also aid in changing the direction of the skis.

 

Then on the sides of the groomers make short ventures into the unpacked stuff, make a turn and get back to your comfort zone. Then make 2 turns, etc. The more you practice and get used to it

post #7 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post
 

Hi GT- I'll elaborate on dbostedo's comments, as they are fairly accurate. I am an instructor at Stowe, where we typically get a decent amount of soft snow (this year aside), typically much more soft snow than other areas on the eastern side of the continent. That means that I'm often coaching people on how to deal with 3 dimensional snow, when they're only used to 2 dimensional stuff. Alright, on to the pointers.

 

-Slooooow down. Abrupt movements don't pay off in deep snow. Change edges more gradually, slow down all of your movements. Think about it sort of like driving a car in the snow. You don't slam on the breaks, you don't stomp on the gas, and you most certainly don't crank the wheel to try a tight turn. 

 

-Less twisting, more tipping. As dbostedo said, you want to avoid letting your skis travel sideways, instead you always want the tails of the skis to more or less following the same path as the tips. This doesn't mean that you're laying down perfect carving arcs. It's just that you want your energy to always be moving along the length of the ski, not sideways. So how do we do this? Tip the ski to turn it, and limit how much you are twisting it. With the deeper snow, the tipping will cause the bases of the skis deflect you in your new turn direction. Any steering you do by twisting (rotation) is minimal. 

 

-Really round out your turns. Every ski instructor will tell you to control your speed using turn shape, but this especially is a situation where it's important. Since you can't "cheat" by skidding to control your speed, you need to really emphasize making a round turn that controls your speed. If you feel like you're still speeding up when you are going to start your next turn, then you're not done with the turn you're in. Keep moving those skis away from the fall line until you feel your speed coming down, then initiate the next turn.

 

-Stay centered. You may at some point hear people saying "you need to lean back in powder." I call shenanigans on that, it's just not true. Keep your weight centered over your skis. Not diving forward, not leaning back. Just stay centered, and your quads will thank you. Those "lean back" proponents will have noodle legs by 11AM, while you'll be skiing all day long. 

 

The whole gist is to be patient. Don't rush things. Float. Go with the flow. Don't force anything. Let the edge angles happen slowly. Be patient with your turns. Fortunately, deep snow is going to naturally slow you down. Just like slogging to your mailbox is a lot slower through 2 feet of snow, so is skiing. You can let you skis drift into the fall line, and stay in the fall line longer, because the snow is going to absorb a lot of that and act as a natural brake. If you slowed down your actions like this on hard snow, you'd find yourself going pretty quick, pretty quickly. Deep, soft snow affords you the luxury of slowing down without speeding up, as it were. 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dchan View Post
 

Hi Green Tomato,

 

Think about a ski. when you push the tip through the snow, there is very little resistance because you are pushing a small surface area into the snow. When you try to push the ski sideways, you are going to be pushing a very large surface area into and through the snow.

 

To get better at skiing that new stuff, start small. Find groomers that have just a little bit of new powder, and think about having the tails follow the tips. Gentle movements instead of quick movements. (think about trying to move in water where there's lots of resistance). You don't need to "jump" out of the snow.. Let your skis work for you. They will bend and climb out of the snow as a platform builds under the skis. Then you should be able to just gently steer both feet in the direction you want to go. Tipping them over just a little will also aid in changing the direction of the skis.

 

Then on the sides of the groomers make short ventures into the unpacked stuff, make a turn and get back to your comfort zone. Then make 2 turns, etc. The more you practice and get used to it


 As someone who is just learning powder this year living in Utah, these two posts are spot-on. Take it in baby bites to get the feel for it, and slow down and just FLOW with it. It WILL slow you down on its own.

post #8 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post
 


Given that this is a Beginner Zone question, do you have a suggestion for the OP based on the questions in Post #1?  Any memories from the first time you skied in >12 inches of fresh powder?

I would only be repeating what others have said,  so rather than doing that I guess expanding on what I meant would be good.  As a beginner, you do a fair amount of sideways slipping of your skis, even if you are not aware of it.  Also, I think most people in the beginning stages ski with very stiff legs.  You can get away with that on nice groomed terrain, but when the snow gets deep, or bumps start to form, that's when the limitations of your skills starts to show.

As others have mentioned, to ski in deep snow you have to follow the path of your skis.  And to stay in control you have to be able to guide that path where you want.  There are many steps to this process, many pieces to that puzzle.  Staying centered is a big key.  Keeping your legs in an "active" stance is important.  Think of being in the short-stop position in baseball...you won't see them standing upright, they will always be in an active position so they can quickly move in the direction of the ball, right, left, forward, back.

Take lessons, and work on proper ski technique, as good basic technique will take you through most of what you will find, then it just comes down to experiencing those conditions.

 

To be honest, the first time I was in knee deep powder, I did fine and had a blast (Red Mountain in Canada, about 20 years ago).  I think because I was never athletic, I always had to rely on learning technique to overcome my lack of physical power, and all those lessons paid off. Not to say I'm an expert, but I love conditions that many others hate (except ice...that's for margaritas  LOL)

post #9 of 28

Reality check.

 

You said nothing about what skis you were on.

 

You did not discuss the actual characteristics of the snow.

 

Both actually matter.

 

If you are on narrower/carving skis - read this: http://www.evo.com/what-is-so-special-about-the-volant-spatula-powder-ski-how-do-i-ski-the-spatulas.aspx for some perspective. Or if you are on any skis for that matter. On appropriate skis, you can indeed typically choose between a slidey turn and a more "arced" one. 

 

Yes, a really adept expert can ski just about any ski in any conditions.  But that is not most of us. And never will be. And even so - why make extra work for yourself?  I have seen some euro factory folks struggle in schmoo on their carvers. The right tools for the job make life easier. Or at least understanding what is going on lends some perspective.

 

FWIW, any time someone talks about powder or schmoo or similar and says "edges", think critically about the statement (especially in light of the linked article). Your edges have just about zero to do with anything in that kind of snow. It is all about the area of the bases. 

 

Likewise, when someone says to take lessons - think hard about who you might take them from. I'd flee any instructor starting someone out in deeper snow on a carve oriented ski.

 

Give up on the idea of a pole plant as an actual  plant. Somewhere between a bad idea and impossible on steeper powder slopes. Maybe in fresh snow in general.

post #10 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbostedo View Post

As Bob Barnes says around here sometimes (paraphrased), you either have to go where your skis are pointed, or point them where you're going. Meaning you should be travelling the direction your skis are pointed - no side slipping movement.
@dbostedo

A very good observation, and quite true in my case. Certainly all flaws in my technique were laid bare during my powder experience.
Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post


-Slooooow down. Abrupt movements don't pay off in deep snow. Change edges more gradually, slow down all of your movements. Think about it sort of like driving a car in the snow. You don't slam on the breaks, you don't stomp on the gas, and you most certainly don't crank the wheel to try a tight turn. 

-Less twisting, more tipping. ...

-Really round out your turns. ...

-Stay centered.
@freeski919 all good points, have a bad habit of less round turns and skidding the bottoms.
@freeski919
Quote:
Originally Posted by dchan View Post

Hi Green Tomato,

To get better at skiing that new stuff, start small. Find groomers that have just a little bit of new powder, and think about having the tails follow the tips. Gentle movements instead of quick movements. (think about trying to move in water where there's lots of resistance). You don't need to "jump" out of the snow.. Let your skis work for you. They will bend and climb out of the snow as a platform builds under the skis. Then you should be able to just gently steer both feet in the direction you want to go. Tipping them over just a little will also aid in changing the direction of the skis.

Then on the sides of the groomers make short ventures into the unpacked stuff, make a turn and get back to your comfort zone. Then make 2 turns, etc. The more you practice and get used to it
@dchan excellent idea to use the sides of the trail to practice on softer snow. As we rarely get a real powder day here, that will be the best I'm likely to encounter until my next western trip.
Quote:
Originally Posted by NJskier164 View Post

As others have mentioned, to ski in deep snow you have to follow the path of your skis.  And to stay in control you have to be able to guide that path where you want.  There are many steps to this process, many pieces to that puzzle.  Staying centered is a big key.  Keeping your legs in an "active" stance is important.  Think of being in the short-stop position in baseball...you won't see them standing upright, they will always be in an active position so they can quickly move in the direction of the ball, right, left, forward, back.
@NJskier164

Some good points thank you. I take you point regarding the stance as quite valid. I felt in these conditions that I was quite stiff and easily knocked off balance. Which is generally rare. I am quite balanced in general.

@spindrift
Quote:
Originally Posted by spindrift View Post

Reality check.

You said nothing about what skis you were on.

You did not discuss the actual characteristics of the snow.

Both actually matter.

If you are on narrower/carving skis - read this: http://www.evo.com/what-is-so-special-about-the-volant-spatula-powder-ski-how-do-i-ski-the-spatulas.aspx for some perspective. Or if you are on any skis for that matter. On appropriate skis, you can indeed typically choose between a slidey turn and a more "arced" one. 

Yes, a really adept expert can ski just about any ski in any conditions.  But that is not most of us. And never will be. And even so - why make extra work for yourself?  I have seen some euro factory folks struggle in schmoo on their carvers. The right tools for the job make life easier. Or at least understanding what is going on lends some perspective.

FWIW, any time someone talks about powder or schmoo or similar and says "edges", think critically about the statement (especially in light of the linked article). Your edges have just about zero to do with anything in that kind of snow. It is all about the area of the bases. 

Likewise, when someone says to take lessons - think hard about who you might take them from. I'd flee any instructor starting someone out in deeper snow on a carve oriented ski.

Give up on the idea of a pole plant as an actual  plant. Somewhere between a bad idea and impossible on steeper powder slopes. Maybe in fresh snow in general.

@spindrift apologies for the lack of detail. I had to ponder the entire incident before being able to assemble a vocabulary for the experience. I can best describe the snow as having the texture of a very airy mashed potato. About two feet worth of it. Quite cut up and lumpy.

I am skiing a Rossi Temptation 80 in 160. After reading that excellent article about the Spatuals. I totally see my ski is the wrong tool for the job. I recognized many of the issues I had, including the pool cover and the hooker.

The way I turn is: flaten skis, shift weight to what will be the new downhill ski. That's my only turn mechanism. I'm all about weight shift, and being one footed?! which is the complete opposite of the equal weight distrbution style mentioned in the article and by other posters.

As play the experience back, I see that where I went wrong each time started with the weight shift or hitting some giant mound of snow, or skis hooking in some strange way, and being knocked out of balance and not being able to correct my balance in my usual way.

Ironically I probably won't have another opportunity to practice any of this, this season. A big dumping is very unlikely again.

I really appreciate everyone taking their time to give me suggestions without much detail provided in the original post.
post #11 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenTomato View Post

The way I turn is: flaten skis, shift weight to what will be the new downhill ski. That's my only turn mechanism. I'm all about weight shift, and being one footed?! which is the complete opposite of the equal weight distrbution style mentioned in the article and by other posters.

 

I'd also suggest figuring out whether or not you're turning properly by tipping your skis on edge as well. That would best be accomplished with a lesson, but online videos, and reading about it could definitely help too. I like the "Elate Media Ski School" series on YouTube. Here's the short video specifically about skiing powder (the section with him talking at 1:21 might seem familiar, given some of the advice above) :

 

 

Note, that's part of the "advanced" videos, so it assumes you understand the techniques presented earlier in the series. 

post #12 of 28

For what it's worth, my first deep powder experience was before the advent of shaped skis, and WAAAY before wide skis. The snow was literally up to my crotch, and although it was nice and fluffy, had been cut up by more experienced skiers earlier in the day.  And one of my best trips was to Powder Mountain, where I skied knee deep powder in the trees on 79 wide carver skis.

 

Chopped up "mashed potatoes" is about as tough of a condition as you will probably come across.  It really tests your balance because the skis (and you) will constantly be changed momentum...and not at the same time (I'll bet you found this out).  On thing you can for dry land training is get into an active ski stance, and have someone try and push you around. You'll find if you stay upright with your feet together, you will easily be knocked off balance, but in a slightly wider, slightly crouched stance, it will be less so (watch the video above, you can see it in action in te last skiing sequence).

Also, in the video you see how he is going in the direction the skis are pointed, and controls the skis to have them pointed where he wants to go.  It is carving, but in 3D conditions it's more the bottoms of the skis that are doing the work, and not so much the edges

 

None of these suggestions alone will be "the fix", but as was suggested, seek out the built up snow at the edges of the trails, especially later in the day when snow gets pushed there from the middle of the trails.  And go skiing in late spring when the snow really starts to gets cooked up and starts to feel like glue.  Dealing with tough conditions makes you a better skier overall. As I originally said, they point out flaws in technique (as I'm constantly reminded  LOL)

post #13 of 28

Actually, after you watch that video, also watch the previous lesson #6.5, which is skiing crud.  I think this one has the tips you need for the conditions you described.

 

Edit: actually, there are a lot of good tips in some of the previous videos.  I didn't watch it yet but there is a "pre off piste" lesson that I would bet has some good basic tips (I did watch the bumps lesson, good tips there for even general skiing)


Edited by NJskier164 - 3/4/16 at 4:06am
post #14 of 28

You need proper skis.  If your tips are constantly diving you're going to end up in the back seat with your skis taking you for a ride.

Start off by falling in it.  Proper powder will be a treat to fall in.  Once you're OK with falling, you'll find powder is awesome.  It'll slow you down, let you ski terrain you never could approach otherwise.  Just lean a little to the side when you need to turn.  It's all about edges.  You can't muscle through powder, you surf it.  It is physically taxing, so don't underestimate how run down you might be getting.  Shaky tired legs cause a lot of skiing falls.

post #15 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbostedo View Post

I'd also suggest figuring out whether or not you're turning properly by tipping your skis on edge as well. That would best be accomplished with a lesson, but online videos, and reading about it could definitely help too. I like the "Elate Media Ski School" series on YouTube. Here's the short video specifically about skiing powder (the section with him talking at 1:21 might seem familiar, given some of the advice above) :




Note, that's part of the "advanced" videos, so it assumes you understand the techniques presented earlier in the series. 

I agree, good series of videos I've been using the series in my journey. That's where I solidified my "weight sift turn" detailed in an earlier thread. but I have to say he does not have a video which I found helpful for the conditions I had on Wednesday. His powder video is lovely untracked powder in a place with drier snow. What we had was wet lumpy airy mashed potato snow and a lot of it, covering sheer ice from two days of rain previously. His tips for crud are ok, but I found them Less specific and less useful than the rest of the series.

Variable conditions seem like it's all about experience and feeling, less about a particular technique.

Went out again yesterday, hilarious crud and bumps. Omg. Worked on my crud skills. Until I lost my balance in a bumpy crud and fell in a complicated way, hurting my left knee. I shook it off and did a couple more runs after a brief rest in the lodge. Had some weakness, and difficulty rotating the knee. And bending did not feel right after getting shoes on and walking normally. Not a lot of swelling, and gradually getting worse. Today cannot bent without a lot of pain, cannot rotate, and a lot of weakness. Had a previous issue with this knee from years ago, after endoing and flying into an intersection, on my bike in the city. Crossing fingers it will be nothing serious.

@dbostedo @NJskier164
post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenTomato View Post


I agree, good series of videos I've been using the series in my journey. That's where I solidified my "weight sift turn" detailed in an earlier thread. but I have to say he does not have a video which I found helpful for the conditions I had on Wednesday. His powder video is lovely untracked powder in a place with drier snow. What we had was wet lumpy airy mashed potato snow and a lot of it, covering sheer ice from two days of rain previously. His tips for crud are ok, but I found them Less specific and less useful than the rest of the series.

Variable conditions seem like it's all about experience and feeling, less about a particular technique.

Went out again yesterday, hilarious crud and bumps. Omg. Worked on my crud skills. Until I lost my balance in a bumpy crud and fell in a complicated way, hurting my left knee. I shook it off and did a couple more runs after a brief rest in the lodge. Had some weakness, and difficulty rotating the knee. And bending did not feel right after getting shoes on and walking normally. Not a lot of swelling, and gradually getting worse. Today cannot bent without a lot of pain, cannot rotate, and a lot of weakness. Had a previous issue with this knee from years ago, after endoing and flying into an intersection, on my bike in the city. Crossing fingers it will be nothing serious.

@dbostedo @NJskier164

 

Hope you're OK @GreenTomato. Working hard to get better like this isn't easy, but good for you for trying! (Another saying - There are two types of conditions : good conditions, and conditions that are good for you (or your skiing.) Though I have trouble thinking that way myself sometimes.)

 

The @Bob Barnes saying I mentioned initially is most prominent in his Crudology piece. If you haven't seen it, it definitely is about "variable" conditions :

 

http://www.epicski.com/a/crudology-by-bob-barnes

 

Perhaps it could be helpful too. 

post #17 of 28

Hi GreenTomato--

 

You might want to refer to this thead: "Reluctance in Powder," from 2007.

 

Thanks for the link to Crudology on Vimeo, Dbostedo. Untracked, light powder is, of course, easier than the variable conditions of "crud," but all the rules are the same. Keep 'em going the direction they're pointed. If that doesn't work, point 'em the direction you're going. If that doesn't work, remember that, to get a good taste of these conditions, you've got to eat some! (So zip everything.)

 

I also have a clip on Powder at vimeo.com. I really need to do another edit on both of these, but here's the Powder clip:

 

 

 

This is mostly just images of good powder skiing in a variety of types and depths of powder--good visual imagery to capture the rhythm and flow of skiing powder. Watch to the end for a few important powder skiing tips (beginning about 5:40 in the current edit). 

 

 

You're going to love powder, GreenTomato, once you get used to it. Getting used to it is really the whole thing. If your technique is already sound, you won't need to do anything fundamentally different in powder. But if feels very different, so it takes getting used to. If your technique is fundamentally flawed--in particular, if your habit is to use your skis as brakes--you'll find powder difficult (unless you ski on very fat specialty powder skis, which actually do allow you to brake and skid somewhat in powder--but it's still better to learn good, offensive technique).

 

In "getting used to powder," two feet is a lot to start with! Better to begin with 4-8 inches or so, where there's still a solid base to stand on beneath it--as in the "Advanced Ski Lesson" video posted earlier. But if you get two feet, go ahead and play!

 

Have fun with it. Don't be afraid to eat some. 

 

Best regards,

Bob Barnes

post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post

 

-Really round out your turns. Every ski instructor will tell you to control your speed using turn shape, but this especially is a situation where it's important. Since you can't "cheat" by skidding to control your speed, you need to really emphasize making a round turn that controls your speed. If you feel like you're still speeding up when you are going to start your next turn, then you're not done with the turn you're in. Keep moving those skis away from the fall line until you feel your speed coming down, then initiate the next turn.

 

This is where I struggle.  It makes sense in theory, and I think it would work great if I could find a nice big wide open field of untouched powder with no obstacles and a moderate slope, but without having had the skill to already go and find out where all those secret stashes that hold powder are it's tough to find.  Doubly tough personally as my schedule means I can't usually get out there until 11 or 12 on a powder day and by then it's usually all chop.

 

By then the only powder I can usually find is short thin stretches or amidst some kind of trees that require more turns.  I actually got myself into trouble with this last powder day I was able to get to.  I had to get somewhere I was unfamiliar with to find the leftovers and there were too many obstacles around to take big rounded turns whenever I wanted to, so I picked up too much speed and ended up dropping off a 5 foot drop that I had no idea was there and spraining my MCL (I thought I'd torn it, scary).

 

I guess I'm at a weird spot.  I can ski crud decently and feel like I could probably handle a nice moderately sloped powder field where I could control my speed with big turns fine.  Throw in some obstacles or lack of turning space though (which is sadly where I generally end up) and I'm useless.

 

I'm looking forward to late March/April because it seems like I might have a better chance of finding these nice learning powder fields as people get done for the season and more and more of them start ignoring the storms.

post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vcize View Post

 

This is where I struggle.  It makes sense in theory, and I think it would work great if I could find a nice big wide open field of untouched powder with no obstacles and a moderate slope, but without having had the skill to already go and find out where all those secret stashes that hold powder are it's tough to find.  Doubly tough personally as my schedule means I can't usually get out there until 11 or 12 on a powder day and by then it's usually all chop.

 

By then the only powder I can usually find is short thin stretches or amidst some kind of trees that require more turns.  I actually got myself into trouble with this last powder day I was able to get to.  I had to get somewhere I was unfamiliar with to find the leftovers and there were too many obstacles around to take big rounded turns whenever I wanted to, so I picked up too much speed and ended up dropping off a 5 foot drop that I had no idea was there and spraining my MCL (I thought I'd torn it, scary).

 

I guess I'm at a weird spot.  I can ski crud decently and feel like I could probably handle a nice moderately sloped powder field where I could control my speed with big turns fine.  Throw in some obstacles or lack of turning space though (which is sadly where I generally end up) and I'm useless.

 

I'm looking forward to late March/April because it seems like I might have a better chance of finding these nice learning powder fields as people get done for the season and more and more of them start ignoring the storms.

 

In this sport you have to take what conditions give you and be realistic about your abilities.  When you can't find snow that's accessible to your ability, work on learning to carve and tighten it up as much as possible, work on skiing bumps, get off-piste and adjust slope angle for how comfortable you feel on the conditions.  All of this will help you when it comes to learning to ski in powder.

post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by gobbly View Post
 
In this sport you have to take what conditions give you and be realistic about your abilities.  When you can't find snow that's accessible to your ability, work on learning to carve and tighten it up as much as possible, work on skiing bumps, get off-piste and adjust slope angle for how comfortable you feel on the conditions.  All of this will help you when it comes to learning to ski in powder.

Once I started with a very experienced instructor at Massanutten (tiny hill in VA), I've learned that improving fundamentals related to stance and balance has helped my skiing in all sorts of off-piste conditions, including deep powder.  While it certainly still helps to get more experience in a given condition, the practice that I do on short Mid-Atlantic groomers has paid off.  Also helped that I was willing to ski when the snow wasn't all that great.  For instance, when temps are in the 40s.  Took 2-3 seasons for the technique improvements to become ingrained enough that I'm much less likely to revert on steeper terrain out west with less than ideal snow.

post #21 of 28

freeski919 in post #3 has great advice.  So do others.  Let me add a few comments.

--skis----you need skis with the flex distribution that works well in deep snow.  That's what powder skis do.  Before we had fat skis, we had powder skis that flexed evenly in the tip & tail.  Rent powder skis on a deep snow day.

--snow quality---deep wet snow is really difficult.  Stay on the groomers.  Deep dry fluffy snow is a gift.  Oh, it's nice!

 

Look at this pic:

 

The way he's curving his body to put his skis on edge is called angulation.  (The way he's twisted his body toward the outside of the turn is called counter, also important.  I'd like to see his inside hand higher, though.)  So, looking at the bases of his skis--if the snow was deep, with the skis at that angle the snow forms a platform under the skis, curves the skis, and the skis turn you.  You do not turn your skis.  Try this (or imagine you try it)...put a ski down on a soft surface like a row of pillows and push down hard on the binding.  The ski curves.  That's what the snow does to the ski.  That's how the ski, on edge, turns you.  Visualize an airplane in the sky banking in a turn.  Visualize your skis down in the snow banking a turn in the snow.  Works the same way.

 

Here's what you do.  Keep your feet close together.  Equal weight on both feet.  Stand almost straight.  Standing still, practice angulation.  Skis across the hill aimed to your right just like the photo, have your partner pull forward on the fabric of your right shoulder while he pokes a finger into your ribs on the left side.  Bend in your trunk, not at the waist.  Compress the ribs on your left and stretch your back on your right.  Get your head & shoulders out over your skis, way out, while your hips are rounded back for balance.  This isn't sticking your butt out, this is an easy rounded movement like you see in the picture above.  Look at your skis and see how they're up on edge.  This how you move to make a turn to the right.  Again, you don't turn your skis.  You put them on edge and they turn you.

 

To release (end the turn), easy, just relax both legs.  Your skis flatten themselves and float up.  You don't need to see your skis, they don't need to come up to the surface, but it's OK if they do.  angulate & counter the other way, tilt those skis so they bank in the snow, and you'll turn the other way.  Stay fairly tall, but angulate & counter as much as you need to produce the turn radius you like.

 

Somebody above said don't sit back.  Exactly right.  Do this--on a straight easy bit in deep snow, ski along at moderate speed, across the hill if needed.  Push your feet slightly forward.  Pull them slightly back.  Feel the difference in how your skis respond.  Find the position of your feet under you where your skis are easily responsive, not diving and not coming too high to the surface, 'cuz you're sitting back.  That's your center point for this pair of skis (other skis may like a slightly different position).  Remember this position with this feeling of your shin against the tongue.  Always return to this center position.

 

When do we want to sit back?  Two conditions.  1--when we're about to ski up on a rise, so we temporarily lighten the tips by pushing our feet forward, then we immediately re-center after we're up on that rise.  2--when the snow is so wet and sticky that we won't reach the bottom of the hill unless we keep the tips up.  We sit back, strain our quads, and finally reach the bottom of the hill in this slop.  Ugh.

 

The angulation and counter are important on packed snow as well, except you have your weight mainly on the outside ski.  In both types of snow, roll your inside ankle so the big toe of your inside foot is tipped up in the air.  That's an important first step for getting your skis up on edge.  Don't roll the outside ski up on edge--your body position will do that.  Don't drop a hip toward the snow nor drive a knee toward the snow.  All the effort is in that ankle, and everything else is allowed to move to make the smooth easy movement.

post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vcize View Post
 

 

This is where I struggle.  It makes sense in theory, and I think it would work great if I could find a nice big wide open field of untouched powder with no obstacles and a moderate slope, but without having had the skill to already go and find out where all those secret stashes that hold powder are it's tough to find.  Doubly tough personally as my schedule means I can't usually get out there until 11 or 12 on a powder day and by then it's usually all chop.

 

By then the only powder I can usually find is short thin stretches or amidst some kind of trees that require more turns.  I actually got myself into trouble with this last powder day I was able to get to.  I had to get somewhere I was unfamiliar with to find the leftovers and there were too many obstacles around to take big rounded turns whenever I wanted to, so I picked up too much speed and ended up dropping off a 5 foot drop that I had no idea was there and spraining my MCL (I thought I'd torn it, scary).

 

I guess I'm at a weird spot.  I can ski crud decently and feel like I could probably handle a nice moderately sloped powder field where I could control my speed with big turns fine.  Throw in some obstacles or lack of turning space though (which is sadly where I generally end up) and I'm useless.

 

I'm looking forward to late March/April because it seems like I might have a better chance of finding these nice learning powder fields as people get done for the season and more and more of them start ignoring the storms.

 

So, let me explain a little. I did say above that you need to do less twisting (rotation) and more tipping. However, that doesn't mean that you're going to eliminate rotational movements from your turns. Not in the least. Every turn I make in soft snow includes rotation. I know this is going to sound confusing, and like I'm contradicting myself, but bear with me. 

 

The action we are trying to eliminate here is the large, abrupt twisting of the skis early in the turn that causes the skis to skid sideways as they come through the turn. That motion is going to cause a fall in deep snow, pretty much every time. 

 

 

 

The rotation we do want is a more gradual steering of the skis, so that the tips of the skis scribe a slightly tighter turn than the tails, but the ski's energy continues to travel toward the tips of the skis. That's how we steer the skis to shorten up our radius to account for tighter terrain.

 

I ski in the East, so pretty much all the powder I ski is in tight trees. My turns are very strictly dictated for me by the obstacles in my way, so the I have to make sure my turns are short. 

 

There are more subtle, and more advanced techniques when it comes to skid angles and snow deflection that are also useful in deep snow, but as this is Beginner Zone, I'll let it rest here. 

post #23 of 28

As I was composing the previous reply, this article popped up in my Facebook news feed. I thought the tag line from the article is a great way to explain what the aim is here

 

http://www.powder.com/stories/skiing-as-craft/take-it-slow/?sf22139224=1#qCgZr4dfceUBcbY1.97

 

"Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast."

post #24 of 28

Were you in the south Orchard area at Blue, or more in the North area....or in the trees?  Orchard area is really low angle and hard to get any speed and rhythm, you'll likely just sink, especially in 80mm skis.  The north is tough when it's ice and chopped up.  I find Waterfall and the south 6-pack trails to be reasonably ok on a pow day there.  Happy Valley......just shoot me.  Stay away from the greens!

 

Wet snow at Blue isn't anywhere near the same as the fabulous stuff at Sun Peaks.  I'm not surprised you'd be having a hard time in that stuff at Blue, or even Moonstone for that matter.

 

Last time I hit a pow day at Blue, I brought my 105mm skis.  You shoulda seen the looks on people's faces on the chair when they saw my skis.  Of course, they were all staying on the groomers......which left more soft stuff for me along the edges of the trails.

post #25 of 28

I had my first real powder experience earlier this year at Alta.  The snow was knee to crotch deep.  My friends thought I could handle a double black for our first run.  I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing, as they were giggling and wetting themselves over my tribulations.  I fell no less than 10-15 times, smashed my shoulder on some hidden rock that didn't like me very much, and it took me about 45 minutes to make it down the run.  Much of that time was spent trying to free myself from the snow I'd fallen in.  My friends kept telling me, "Find a rhythm, find a rhythm."  I had no idea what that meant.  I immediately sought out the comfort of the lodge when I got down the run.  After having a soda and coming to terms with my bruised ego and sore shoulder, I sought out some gentler terrain in order to figure out what to do.  On the lift ride up, I had a chance to chat up one of the locals, he asked me some really great questions about where I was having problems.  Essentially, it was at transition.  He gave me some helpful tips and was on his way.  Never did catch his name, but a really nice guy to be sure.  Staying center balanced with my hips over my feet was the ticket along with finding a rhythmic bounce, for lack of a better way to put it.  I imagined a line running straight down the fall line, and my goal was to hop back and forth over that line.  As my skis sunk into the snow my speed would stay in check.  As my skis floated up to the surface, I found that I could make my next transition hop.  Seemed to work out ok.  Still not sure if it's correct or not, but it worked.  After lunch I was back skiing with my friends.   

post #26 of 28

Pretty much sums it up for skiing deep powder on narrower skis..."porpoising".  

post #27 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by checksix68 View Post
 

I had my first real powder experience earlier this year at Alta.  The snow was knee to crotch deep.  My friends thought I could handle a double black for our first run.  I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing, as they were giggling and wetting themselves over my tribulations.  I fell no less than 10-15 times, smashed my shoulder on some hidden rock that didn't like me very much, and it took me about 45 minutes to make it down the run.  Much of that time was spent trying to free myself from the snow I'd fallen in.  My friends kept telling me, "Find a rhythm, find a rhythm."  I had no idea what that meant.  I immediately sought out the comfort of the lodge when I got down the run.  After having a soda and coming to terms with my bruised ego and sore shoulder, I sought out some gentler terrain in order to figure out what to do.  On the lift ride up, I had a chance to chat up one of the locals, he asked me some really great questions about where I was having problems.  Essentially, it was at transition.  He gave me some helpful tips and was on his way.  Never did catch his name, but a really nice guy to be sure.  Staying center balanced with my hips over my feet was the ticket along with finding a rhythmic bounce, for lack of a better way to put it.  I imagined a line running straight down the fall line, and my goal was to hop back and forth over that line.  As my skis sunk into the snow my speed would stay in check.  As my skis floated up to the surface, I found that I could make my next transition hop.  Seemed to work out ok.  Still not sure if it's correct or not, but it worked.  After lunch I was back skiing with my friends.   

 

Good story!

 

Reminds me of the time I caught an April powder storm during an alumni gathering at Alta Lodge.  I was an intermediate back then who usually stuck to groomers out west.  Rode up the Collins lift with a classmate (expert older woman, local to SLC) and another alum (advanced, young woman).  When we got to the top, Ballroom had just opened.  I'd rented slightly wider skis planning to play in powder on the edges of groomers that day.  But when they invited me to go with them for a run, I decided to give it a shot since I had been on the easier section of Ballroom once a long time ago.  As I got ready to drop into the "blue" section, my classmate stopped me.  She said it was too deep and that it would be easier where it was steeper.  So I headed farther out (past the two trees on the traverse).  The powder was knee deep on me.  I knew enough to not try to turn too fast.  Never fell, but did do a few "sit stops" in order to re-group.  Since my stops were planned, more or less, I had little trouble standing back up on my skis.  After that run, I let the other two head off for a repeat while I went over to the Sugarloaf side.

 

One tip that I've gotten from instructors in recent years during a rare lesson on a deep powder day is to keep my skis a bit closer together than usual.  Do not want the two skis to start heading in different directions under the snow.

post #28 of 28

Yes to the bounce!

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