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Is This The Most Embarrasing Thread Ever? (can't ski powder)

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 

I mentioned in the "Ski Confessions" thread that I don't care about snow conditions and powder isn't even my favourite snow...

well, I was up at Whistler skiing powder yesterday with my sister and a friend and it was incredibly humiliating.
I couldn't ski powder well at all. I was tense all day and humbled and humiliated on the ride home.

Three possible reasons:

1. EXPERIENCE: As I was told: "You're from the East, it always takes a few days to adjust to powder". Even skiing in Europe I guess I didn't ski much powder - I skiied in spring mostly and mostly on well-tracked mogul runs.

2. GEAR*: My boots. They're new this season and I've always felt my feet swish around in them a little, but I generally ski steeps and I think that somehow that makes my feet feel more secure. But in mod heavy powder I REALLY noticed that the boots are simply too big. The only time I felt remotely comfortable yesterday in this snow was at speed on steeps.
On my previous outing (2 weeks ago at LL) I remember telling myself "These boots must be dealt with before I ski again".

3. TECHNIQUE: HAHAHA! Technique was dictated by fear. I was lifting my downhill ski constantly and skiing terribly. I felt as if I were 6 years old again, afraid that the snow would carry my ski tips in a direction that would crank my leg. I easpecially felt this way with my right foot - and it is the smaller of my different sized feet - meaning it swishes around even more than the other.

I FEEL LIKE AN IDIOT. I can ski anything I want when snow conditions are bad, but now, in powder I ski like a low-end intermediate (no offense to low-end intermediates, everybody is once - or twice, in my case).

*I've talked to my sales guy about this and he said he'd fit me, but on the first visit his equipment was locked away somewhere, the second time he wasn't on-shift, so I asked when he'd be there. They told me so I came back then but they'd changed his schedule - so he hasn't 'fit' them yet.
But I wonder if I should go back to this chain store and have my boots fitted by the knowledgable but non-skier sales guy, or spend lots of $ and let a ski shop bootfitter to do it.
I might do the latter, but I resent having to pay extra money to get my boots to fit decently.
post #2 of 35
The only time I felt remotely comfortable yesterday in this snow was at speed on steeps.
There might be a message here.
post #3 of 35
like JeffW points out - I learnt it the hard way - it is easier to ski Steep & Deep than it is to ski - Flat and Deep.
post #4 of 35
Originally Posted by OldSchool
by the knowledgable but non-skier sales guy, or spend lots of $ and let a ski shop bootfitter to do it.
I might do the latter, but I resent having to pay extra money to get my boots to fit decently.
Never ever ever ever get boots fitted at a chain store that knows nothing about feet and ski boots but what they were taught in their 30 minute orientation class!
Most small shops want your business and will treat you right even if you did not buy the boots there. The good boot fitting shops here in CO will not charge you until they have to do serious work.
post #5 of 35

Definitely go with the high-end ski boot guy at the ski shop. It will be worth the $$. Chances are, that if you are floating around in those boots, no amount of work will correct that. You need boots that are the right size and last for you ("last" is the volume/shape of the theoretical foot that a boot should fit. Evey manufacturer's boots are shaped slightly different inside - has a different last. You need to find the one that closes matches the shape of your foot).

As it may be becoming obvious to you, you probably don't like powder all that much because you simply haven't learned how to ski it well. Anyone who can ski powder well (or at least equally as well as other conditions) will prefer the powder. And don't let people tell you that old line about eastern skiers. It looks like you live in Vancouver. I live near Wash. DC, and did just fine on my first day of a trip to Silverton, CO, skiing untouched heavy backcounty, sun baked "powder". Sure, it gets a little better with time and repetition, but that doesn't mean it is unpleasant - ever!
post #6 of 35
Sort of reminds me of a bumper sticker from A Racer's Edge in Breck: "It's not the tune, you suck."

It's just an experience thing, I'm sure if you could get in 20 - 30 powder days in one season you'd love it. Of course, throwing cash at the problem will help to a limited degree (fat skis, etc.)
post #7 of 35
For boots, if the boot fitter can't tell you what boots you should be in by looking at your feet. DO NOT BUY boots from them. Boots are the most important part.

For powder, take lessons.

For your skiing, Stop being cheap. This is way to important to go cheap.
post #8 of 35
Powder skiing is the ultimate rush. The best advice I can give you to start skiing powder is focus on keeping your hands in front of you to balance. While you are just getting started really focus on keeping your skis parallel. (See the above posts about boots.) Start off by just letting your self ski straight down the fall line and let the powder slow you down. Work on big arcing turns. Once you are comfortable making big turns try making tighter turns. You kind of have to jump up to turn your skis. Hope this makes sense. It is definitely worth the effort.
post #9 of 35
Sort of throws the old "if you can ski the east, you can ski anything" idea out the window, doesn't it? Truthfully, skiing the snow we've had around here lately rates among the toughest conditions out there. On a good note, it is getting colder (and deeper!)

Okay, I think you got the idea on boots - get good boots, get them from a reliable fitter.

Don't ignore your skis, though. If you are on skinny skis trying to make a day of skiing coastal windpack or chop, you will flail. For the snow we've had around here this week, head 103s or fischer 106s or gotamas will allow you to ski more centered and avoid pedal turns. Not that there is anything wrong with pedal turns, they are useful in some situations, but tiring and not terribly efficient. Technique will take practice - although lessons can help shorten that learning curve, time in the snow will make a huge difference.

One thing, though - when you can ski deep coastal snow, skiing dry interior powder will be a breeze.
post #10 of 35
I agree with others about the boots, but the skis may have been a factor as well. What were you using?

Oh, and for anyone reading this thread from Utah, remember that Pacific Powder is anything that is white, has fallen from the sky, and has not yet been skied.
post #11 of 35
Those of us who get to ski deep snow alot (powder, sierra cement, crud it doesn't matter), don't often stop to think about the technique. We're just having too much fun! My observations of people that are struggling in powder are that they are universally in the back seat. They are trying to steer by ruddering the tails through the snow. This is like trying to swim with your head high out of the water; its exhausting and always leads to lack of control. You need to move past the fear of tip dive and use the whole ski. On narrow waisted skis like the 6 stars, I will ski the snow deep, rarely seeing the tips. The fore-aft balance point must be centered. For short turns I press the tips slightly into the turn and use the rebound (extension/retraction) to start the next turn. On very wide skis big carved arcs just require setting the edge with small foot and ankle movements. I ski the Mantras with a distinctly weight forward position and steer the tips, carving the entire turn. Don't try to jump out of the snow to turn.

As you found, speed can be your friend, but your stance needs to be closer to give you more strength against the buffeting. Excessive weight on any ski will make that ski turn harder than the other one, ripping it away from your line causing the classic V spill. Use terrain to elevate out of the snow and create turns, use rebound, and even weighting. Most of all, quit sitting on the tails of the skis. Powder can be skied on any ski. Its the driver, not the car. I have been skiing powder long before there were fat skis and great technology. That said, it is much easier to relax if you know the tip will float no matter what. A wide ski allows more people to ski deep snow with success and comfort, and allows expert powder skiers to do more. So, lately I find, we are sharing the powder with a lot more people.
post #12 of 35
Originally Posted by Cirquerider
My observations of people that are struggling in powder are that they are universally in the back seat. They are trying to steer by ruddering the tails through the snow.
Originally Posted by vinn
Sort of reminds me of a bumper sticker from A Racer's Edge in Breck: "It's not the tune, you suck."
You guys are expressing a most unpopular opinion on this board.
It can't possibly be the skier!

He needs:
New Skis $800
New Bindings $250
New Boots $500
Custom footbeds $150
Alignment analysis $200
Movement analysis $150
psychoanalysis $1000

Getting good at skiing powder....
post #13 of 35
The boots are no doubt not helping but technique is probably most of the issue. Cirque rider makes lots of good points expecially about overcoming the fear of going over the top.
I would add that you need to actively extend your leg for each turn. Whether you do it to start the turn or extend into the falline (with retraction at cross over) doesn't matter they both can work. This will have two effects 1) let your legs relax every turn and prevent the odour of lactic acid being trapped in your suit. 2) recentre your hips over your feet every turn. See cirque rider's comments of using the whole ski and being centered. This re-centering will then allow you to start the turn balanced and efficiently. Otherwise even if you start centred you will likely slowly migrate to the back seat and then be left to muscle and step into each new turn.

Someone mentioned starting on a gentle slope and building up turns. My variation on that would be a gentle slope and just straight run emphasizing using leg extension to 'porpoise' the skis in and out of the snow. As that gets comfortable and the speed builds and/or the slope increases start to add very small turn as the skis come out and build to longer arcs.

Beware the intiation of the turn should be made by very small deflections 12 o'clock to 1 or 11 o'clock and then letting the ski arc gradually in the snow on it's own. Out of fear of powder people will often try to make too much turn too fast. This will go badly.

It's one of those things like riding a bike or windsurfing. For a good skier once you get it you can't believe how natural and easy it feels and that you had trouble doing it. You just have to commit and resist some natural tendancies (backseat) to first get the feeling.

The right skis can make it much easier but more to the point the wrong skis can make it difficult. For several years my 'powder' skis were my old beat slalom race skis with about 63 mm under foot and I'm sure no more than 70mm at the shovel. Lots of powder skiing was successfully done before the era of fat skis or powder specialty skis.

Brklyntrayc's suggetion of $1000 for physcotherapy should be left for the problem continuing and self esteem become a bigger issue.
post #14 of 35
Old School, if the terrain wasn't steep enough for the powder, you probably had the wrong kind skis - needed nordic equipment.
post #15 of 35
Old School, I don't know what your boots are and if they are way too big. But good bootfitters will have a variety of firm materials that they can use to tighten up the fit without the boot feeling mushy. Personally find that loose boots affect me more in powder than on groomed, so get the to someone good and don't worry about having to pay to get them fit properly. In fact if the shop doesn't charge you to fit them, give the fitter a good tip.

Bootfitting is an art, and takes experience and proper tools and materials. It is money well spent when you go to the right "mechanic". Your powder skiing will improve mucho with the slop gone from your fit. Take it from one of the brotherhood of "chicken legs" , and chicken feet for that matter. LewBob
post #16 of 35
It does indeed take a few days to get the feel of it.
Boots: Get the right boots for your feet and get them fitted by an expert boot fitter.
Skiing: Even with the wrong boots you should be able to ski; it's all about the angle of the ski with the horizontal, you can "surf" your skis by pressuring the bottom of your feet. It's OK not to see your skis. Go back and read cirquerider's post again; he's right on the money. All I can add is sking powder is more like water skiing than ice-skating. Oh, and just in case you don't know (doubtful) Don't try to pivot! Don't dial up too much angle and don't put too much weight on one ski or you will just sink right down.
post #17 of 35
Not that I am any good at it, but my best powder runs have been when I just relaxed and pointed 'em downhill, staying centered, feet somewhat apart, big shit-eating grin on my face. This is incredibly counterintuitive to the Eastern skier, since we we generally want to angulate like crazy to set our edges.

Of all the suggestions, the 20 to 30 powder days sounds best.
post #18 of 35
You needed speed and steeps to ski the snow last weekend at W/B. I saw a lot of faceplanters so you weren't alone.
post #19 of 35
Get some fat boards on your feet!!!!
post #20 of 35
Hope this makes you feel better. I'll try to summarize from Stein Eriksen's book, "Come Ski With Me" ...... about 1966

After his Olympic victories as a Norsk slalom champion, he eventually made his way to the US and served as director at a few ski schools such as Sugarbush and Boyne Highlands.

On his first day as director at a California area he took a run with his lead instructors. They had a powder dump and as he led the way down he realized that he was at a loss on how to ski powder, (SL is skiied on a prepared course), and after an out of control descent that ended in a major face plant, his #2 approached him and (jokingly) asked .... "Are you SURE that you are Stein Eriksen?".
post #21 of 35
Although I cannot empathize with you, I do have sympathy for you with the comfort of you powder skiing. I have been a diehard skier since I was 4. My skis are almost like a second pair of legs for me. So, I lucked out and was able to experience and learn what powder was like at a young age. Skiing powder gives me a feeling that I have yet to be able to explain to someone who has never done it or does not enjoy it(IMO, lack of trying something new). In the last few years my friends have started joining me on my trips and I have taken them to off-piste since that's where I like to go and they said they would go wherever I go. At first, all of them hated it. I hated it, too, because they would face plant, get buried in the snow and spend 20 minutes digging themselves out and putting their gear back on, leaving me waiting and wasting precious powder time. Most of them said they didn't want to do it anymore and would prefer to stick to the groomers. But, I game them a few pointers and told them that it was like learning skiing all over again. I took them on lap after lap of powder and little by little they have all improved significantly. I also found that going from old carving skis of a 69mm waist to some mid-fats with a 82mm waist that I have enjoyed the powder a lot more.

on a side note, I had one of the best powder days I can remember this past week. Steep, deep, and not a soul around to steal my tracks. Face shots on just about every turn, but I did eat snow once. Still a great rush to experience.

post #22 of 35
Powder skiing is a different game -- for me, it's more of a graceful dance-like manuever where the skis and I basically float from turn to turn. It's a sensation much like skipping around when you walk. I find my body has a lot of up/down motion that goes along with the floating. I imagine everyone has a different take on this, but the point I want to make is that powder skiing is very different from hardpack skiing -- where things like carving, balance, and edging are much more critical. If anything, powder skiing is easier once you figure it out.

My only advice is to keep your skis together and visualize them acting as a single "board", then get those tips going down and up (diving and rising) together. I really feel like it's important to keep the skis working together, if they get apart, they're going to wander all over the place.

I am sure powder skis make life easier and make powder skiing more fun, but you can do fine on any ski once you have the technique down. Some of my best powder days were on straight skis I owned in the early 90s.

Best advice -- take a lesson!! A good instructor will get you up to speed in no time.

Don't sweat it, I am sure with more practice you will come to enjoy skiing powder.

post #23 of 35
Originally Posted by jtq_99
on a side note, I had one of the best powder days I can remember this past week. Steep, deep, and not a soul around to steal my tracks. Face shots on just about every turn, but I did eat snow once. Still a great rush to experience.
Yep - those were nice turns. I made quite a few of them. Chute #1 and West Taco were particularly awesome. Too much fun... think I might have to head up there again. I think there's still two cats running.

Also, So Fine is so fine.
post #24 of 35


This topic has always attracted a lot of comment. The simple way to adapt to powder would be start in shallow powder and then move up to the deep. You should keep your hands forward in all skiing, so that comment isn't so specific. However, you can sit back on your heels in deep powder and power your turns. The expert won't do this, but it sure helps the inexperienced!!!
post #25 of 35
I have to disagree with swiftskier-

yes in light powder you can sit back and "power your turns"-- BUT as soon as it gets heavy, weird or in any way challenging, you had better be over your skis or have very, very strong legs-

get out of the back seat.
post #26 of 35


I agree with your disagreement somewhat. Of course strong legs are a pre-requisite for heavy powder. In a way I don't think threads like this are all that helpful for a novice. It gives them too much to think about. The only way to become skilled at anything would be to put in the time at it. One has to realize that it doesn't come easy.
post #27 of 35
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by swiftskier
In a way I don't think threads like this are all that helpful for a novice.
Well, I'm not a novice and I am very grateful for all of the great advice so far in this particular thread - so if there's more out there please let me have it!

This thread has made me determined to 1) get my boots professionally done at Snowcovers, and 2) take a lesson.

Yesterday I was feeling disappointed but now I see that:
I have my first professionally fitted boots to look forward to. And that gives me a night-before-Christmas feeling.

I'll take a lesson. It'll be my first since...whenever instructors became coaches...14? 16? No doubt I'll also learn a lot about skiing my skis - the first shaped skis I've owned.
Oh, someone asked about my skis re: powder. I looked on the internet but couldn't find the waist spec - but they're Atomic SX9 Supercross 180cm (2003-2004 I think? anyway not the current model it seems). I'm about 210, 6'1".

I'll shut up now and go back to reading and learning...
post #28 of 35
Just last Wednesday I was in a ski shop (Ski Tek-Sun Valley) specializing in Atomic skis and was visiting with the salesperson and we discuused that the SX line is NOT for power. It is a piste ski. Assuming this is correct, while one may be able to ski powder "with any ski" some skis are simply not designed for it. BTW my R10's handled it ok but if I were to ski powder daily, or even often, I would go with a unique powder ski.
post #29 of 35
Old School- you have gotten lots of good advice hear. Mainly mileage, and the new equipment makes things a lot easier.

I skied Whistler/Blackcomb 10 or so years ago and was marginal at best in powder, still using straight sticks (207cm GS). We got between 4 and 18 inches of fresh snow for 5 straight days. After that I got it, and when you do you will wonder what was so hard about that. The light will just go on and you will be skiing powder no problem.
post #30 of 35
I am by no means an instructor or coach so this is my personal non-technical observation. Skiing powder on fat pow boards is similar to water skiing. You float along the top of the snow just like water and when you slow down you sink. I have skiied it with mid fats and fat boards and can do both but skiing with pow skis will turn you into a hero.
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