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Powder Skiing

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
What is the most important advice, in your opinion, that you could give to an inspiring inexperienced powder skier? KISS

You know the type, decent skier with decent technique on groomed terrain, but longs to tear it up on those powder days.

That one piece of advice that might make them see the light.
post #2 of 18
"Start small."

Your first powder experience shouldn't be in "bottomless." Try six inches or so. That's enough to feel a little bit of the floating sensation of powder, the sensation of being "in it," rather than "on it," and of standing against the whole base of the ski, rather than just the edges, even when they're tipped. It's enough to taste the slowness, and the quietness, of powder, and to learn to ski it with rhythmic turns less compete than you'd use on the same slope without powder.

And it's not so much as to overwhelm with new sensations and challenges. There's still a solid base to support you if you lose your balance. If you get nervous, you can still usually twist the skis sideways and brake to a stop if you have to, although it's enough to show why you don't often want to do that in powder!

Start small. Gain confidence. Get used to the sensations.

THEN hire the helicopter!

Happy New Year!

Best regards,
Bob

PS--all of the above assumes that the skier does, in fact, have "decent technique" and tactics in the first place. Many skiers new to powder find that the condition reveals flaws and errors that they didn't know they had. Almost anything "works" on groomed snow. Great powder skiing--like great technique almost anywhere--relies on the skis going the direction they're pointing (as a habit), rather than skidding sideways to brake.

If it's not already a habit, my first advice for powder is to focus on making your skis go the direction they're pointed. And if that doesn't work, point them the direction they're going!

(Ironically, almost anything works in deep, light powder, too, once you get used to it. It's really one of the easiest conditions to ski. Poor, upper-body-rotation-based technique can huck the skis sideways quite effectively in light enough snow, especially with today's big fat powder boards. One sign of a technique that could use improvement is the inability to enjoy powder on both narrow skis and wide!)
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Geez Bob!

Utterly fantastic and exactly what I was looking for.
post #4 of 18


Thanks, Lars!
post #5 of 18
Oops--I did forget to mention my "2nd and 3rd" rules of powder skiing (everyone knows the first rule, right?--about there being "no friends" and all that? It's really not true....):

#2: To get a good taste of powder, you've got to eat some!

#3: Zip everything.
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes View Post
Oops--I did forget to mention my "2nd and 3rd" rules of powder skiing (everyone knows the first rule, right?--about there being "no friends" and all that? It's really not true....):

#2: To get a good taste of powder, you've got to eat some!

#3: Zip everything.
LOL

#4: Your Wife doesn't take the time to do her hair (otherwise she gets left at the condo)
post #7 of 18
#5. I believe it was KevinF, skiing with me once on a powder day in Aspen, who made the observation that "apparently you don't even have an instructor on a powder day!"

post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
#6. Or a Patroller
post #9 of 18
Most important advice: take a lesson

Kind of advice you were looking for: powder skiing is all about making adjustments.

(e.g. turn shape, speed, stance width, weight distribution, slow motion movements, equipment, etc., etc., etc.).

Wasn't the KISS my powder thread a good enough for this?
post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty View Post
Most important advice: take a lesson

Kind of advice you were looking for: powder skiing is all about making adjustments.

(e.g. turn shape, speed, stance width, weight distribution, slow motion movements, equipment, etc., etc., etc.).

Wasn't the KISS my powder thread a good enough for this?
What are you pissed at me for asking these questions?

Actually, BB gave the perfect answer anyway.
post #11 of 18
Oh no, not pissed at all Lars. I have a little brother who trained me well. You have to be really good to get me pissed. The problem with asking generic questions is that you should be getting a generic answer. Trying to get specific meaning out of a general answer has been the cause of many misperceptions in ski teaching.

The problem I saw with Bob's answer is that most beginning powder skiers don't get to order up the perfect powder day. You have to play the cards as they're dealt. For one example, I've been in a foot of fresh at Steamboat that was essentially the same as skiing a groomer because the snow just vaporized in your tracks (close to 3% moisture content). If you took Bob's advice literally, a beginning powder skier should have skipped and waited for a better day. For another example, I've been in what looked like 6" of Montana Muck that turned out to be some of the most challenging powder I've ever been in. That was snow that a newby should have skipped.
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
Usually, taking a lesson on a powder day isn't an option therusty.

While your friends are already out there hooting and smiling, you're stuck at the Ski School line waiting for your Instructor to show up.

By the time you get to the top, he'll need to give you a lesson on how to ski chopped up powder and push piles.

There are many skiers out there that are good enough to venture into powder. That one good tip is usually what they need to have enough confidence in themselves to take the next step. Powder skiers are born out of trial and era. You have to ski it alot to get good at it. A few good tips can get many people over the hump.

Skiing with an instructor will most certainly increase your powder prowress. But, for most people on vacation with the Family, it's too expensive.
post #13 of 18
Slow your movements down but keep them continuous and deliberate.

That's my "generic" advice.
post #14 of 18
Usually not an option? Hmmmmm. Better ignore my advice then.

Maybe Mr. Keystone can tell us about how they shut down their ski school on powder days.
post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars View Post
Usually, taking a lesson on a powder day isn't an option therusty.

While your friends are already out there hooting and smiling, you're stuck at the Ski School line waiting for your Instructor to show up.

By the time you get to the top, he'll need to give you a lesson on how to ski chopped up powder and push piles.

There are many skiers out there that are good enough to venture into powder. That one good tip is usually what they need to have enough confidence in themselves to take the next step. Powder skiers are born out of trial and era. You have to ski it alot to get good at it. A few good tips can get many people over the hump.

Skiing with an instructor will most certainly increase your powder prowress. But, for most people on vacation with the Family, it's too expensive.
I disagree with this. Eventually, trial and error may work, but....

I've gone to lineup on a powder day and had people (adults) come who were already literally in tears. In the hour and a half that I have with them I can usually have them loving powder as all skiers should.
post #16 of 18
I often help a friend understand that their normal assumptions about speed don't hold in the soft stuff. You can aim much more directly down-slope, and the snow will help you manage your speed. Furthermore, as long as you point your skis where you want to go (and don't try to make any sudden changes of direction), it's actually a very gentle, pleasant experience.

While lessons may help, I don't think they are essential. The challenge may be working through these steps when it's likely that your friends who know how to ski pow are probably unwilling to stick around while you figure it out!
post #17 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssh View Post
I often help a friend understand that their normal assumptions about speed don't hold in the soft stuff. You can aim much more directly down-slope, and the snow will help you manage your speed. Furthermore, as long as you point your skis where you want to go (and don't try to make any sudden changes of direction), it's actually a very gentle, pleasant experience.

While lessons may help, I don't think they are essential. The challenge may be working through these steps when it's likely that your friends who know how to ski pow are probably unwilling to stick around while you figure it out!
Boy, how true this is huh?
post #18 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars
Boy, how true this is huh?
Heh, I've noticed that too.

My advice is to ski powder slow enough to really enjoy it rather than just trying to bag as many miles as possible before it gets skied-out. Kinda like eating good ice cream - you can savor each bite; or you can gobble down as much as possible before it's gone. It's not the miles that matter, it's the quality of those miles that counts for me.


People who dive laterally (downhill) and push themselves into turning by forcefully extending the uphill leg will find powder skiing more difficult. Doing this in powder will show up as sharp turn-entries followed by a long finish (essentially, linked 'J' Turns).

Instead, you can progressively enter each turn as excessive acceleration isn't really an issue in powder. Make no effort to push yourself forcefully (with that uphill leg) into the new turn and instead just 'migrate' slowly (progressively) across your skis and let the turn develop on its own. If you tip the upper-body too much, too quickly toward the inside of the new turn you'll be forced to twist the skis to keep your balance - and this is difficult to do under & in the snow.

.ma
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