Originally Posted by Pete
I am sort of guessing but would have to say I am predominately on the outside/downhill ski. When I get in trouble is when I get on the inside ski and lean/sit/over rotate into the hill/ug stop.
This statement combined with your recognition with Ron White's description suggest what might be happening under the snow.
On firm terrain we have a solid surface to work with under both feet. If something (anything) causes us to lose balance to the inside we sense
falling toward that side which immediately triggers a compensatory response from our inside-leg which then extends unconsciously to reinforce support on that side. Since it's a firm surface we get immediate support and continue on.
Also on firm surfaces we can initiate new turns by extending the old inside-leg (ILE) to forcefully push our body across our skis into the new turn resulting in a quick direction change. Essentially, that old inside-leg becomes our new support-leg instantly and our focus of balance gets directed to it the moment we initiate the transfer of pressure this way.
Both these mechanisms work on firm surfaces even when they're covered by a few inches of light fluffy snow because we're really skiing the submerged surface more than the fluid snow above it. While both work on firm surfaces these mechanisms become problematic in bottomless snow.
Powder snow (bottomless, or nearly so) generally has a density gradient where the snow deeper down is more densely packed than the snow near the surface. The deeper you go; the more resistance there is passing through it and this is in addition
to the higher level of resistance we get just from increased snow depth against our legs.
The faster we travel; the higher we'll 'surf' in the powder because we'll be able to ride continuously upon the higher, less-dense layers. As we slow down we penetrate further into deeper layers and incur more friction - not only from the snow higher up our legs but again from the higher density of the deeper snow we dip into.
With these things in mind consider the powder skier who skis with somewhat-flexed legs (especially in the final third of a turn). What happens when this skier briefly loses balance to the inside?
As on firm snow, this skier instinctively extends
the inside-leg to regain support on that side ... but this time having no firm surface to provide immediate support that ski just sinks further down to a greater depth and into the more-dense layers below.
This creates a sudden increase in drag on that inside-leg, boot and ski so the skier's whole body is twisted toward the hill. Also, feeling the sudden deceleration
of lower-body elements (or perhaps sensing the toppling forward result of same) the typical person instinctively leans back or sits back
to compensate for the now too-far forward situation. Result: Back and inside soon after the described sequence starts. (Visible symptom: extra bending at the waist late in the turn.) There isn't much to be done about this if we ski with very flexed legs in powder except to know how it works and to compensate for it in your deliberate movement patterns. A taller stance helps reduce most of this problem (described further below).
For the skier who initiates turns by extending the old inside-leg (ILE) we have a similar sinking/twisting sequence, just one less unexpected.
When this ILE skier extends that old inside-leg the same sequence as described above begins but generally this skier is accustomed to it and has developed compensatory movement patterns to avoid the outcome described. Even so, the ILE skier is starting each turn at a slight disadvantage - namely by creating an unnecessary increase in drag on the old inside-leg which is the result of pressing it deeper into the snow. For this skier I'd recommend they try initiating turns by flexing the old outside-leg and patiently allowing the upper-body to migrate across the skis into the new turn. If they need to rush their turn entry (say, in trees) I'd suggest aggressively
retracting the old outside-leg with a little
Another way to avoid the problems cited above is to ski powder with a much taller stance and straighter legs (meaning both
On a firm surface we need
the inside-leg to be shorter than the outside-leg when tipping very far over due to the geometry of tipping against a solid surface. In powder this is no longer true! In powder we can allow that inside-leg to remain mostly 'long' and just let it ride on deeper layers. While this increases the forward resistance on that leg we adapt to this easily since it's continuous
. This method provides greater support under that leg should we briefly lose balance to the inside because that ski is already on more-dense layers and we're already (continuously) compensating for the higher resistance. Keeping both legs straighter in powder also allows us to manage the relative depth of each ski with more precision.
Next time in deep snow give this a try. Yes, it will feel very different and you'll need to modify some movement patterns to make it work but I think you'll like the idea.