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Different textures of powder

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

All of last week we skied at resorts in the SLC area.  I ski on a pair of 178 Myths ... 88mm waist and freshly waxed. 


On Monday we hit Powder Mtn, wherein it dumped all day ... ~ 14" worth.  By the end of the day the snow on the "groomers" was to the cuff, and thru the trees the powder was easily up to and above the knees. 


These were the best powder conditions I've ever skied in!  I was a bit in the back seat all day and mostly cruising thru the trees with the 5 other 20-25 year old "kids" in the group.  The snow "texture" was such that you could feel yourself floating and offered some resistance; i.e. I could feel the resistance via my quads and some thigh burn on the longer runs.  For me the best day!!


Tuesday, we're at Brighton ... recv'd 26" between Monday and Tuesday morning.  The powder texture was very different; somewhat akin to sand.  Lot's of resistance to the ski ... you could really feel the ski "grab" when floating off trail into the powder and really, really had to be waaay in the back seat or else risk serious face plants.


My questions:

Is it common for powder texture to be very diverse between closely located resorts?  It might be that with the fresh snow covering everything at PowMow there were no "groomers" to transition from to the powder; i.e. no contrasting surfaces as with Brighton. 


Too, how do experienced skiers transition from the groomed to ungroomed throughout the day?  There are clearly different techniques involved with skiing the different surfaces, so how do you easily turn the techniques off and on?  Is this something easily done, or simply a matter of experience and getting the number of days on the hill to develop?


post #2 of 8

It's not so much a resort to resort difference you experienced between Monday and Tuesday, it was more of a day to day difference, due to the weather and exposure.  Tuesday's new snow (which fell Monday night) was denser and also windpacked compared to the snow that fell on Monday.  This affected the entire area.  I noticed a dramatic change in the snow while skiing at Alta both days.  Thing is, if you knew where to look (namely in trees and on leeward surfaces) you could still find soft powder on Tuesday.  It was just that most of the mountain had a good 3-6" of windpack on top of the previous day's fluff.  What you described as Brighton sand was just the windpacked snow that affected the entire area.


I don't know about the Mythic, but a good all around ski can make the transition between variable snow conditions into a minor deal.  But aside from equipment, speed is a key factor.  Many skiers become tentative in powder and crud, which can cause you to bog down and lead to a whole host of other issues (getting in the backseat, tails dragging, etc).  If you charge and maintain good speed, you can blow through that stuff like it's no big deal.  You need to show the skis and snow that you're the boss.


EDIT: longer skis help a lot too.  I go 186-187cm minimum when skiing new snow out West.  A 178cm ski would have been a boat anchor for me.

post #3 of 8

first off all you should never feel quad burn while skiing powder.


In my opinion with out knowing how tall you are, how much you weigh and how good you are, the problem with quad burn is 2 fold if not 3,4 or 5 fold;).


First and most important thing, with the exception of trying to clear flats at speed, you should never be backseat in any type of snow condition. The reason you were backseat though might have something to do with skiing a ski thats too small in conditions that are too 'heavy"


2nd the mythic rider is a great allmountain ski but doesnt work well in powder. Did you notice what the local hotshots that were probably passing up were riding? My guess is 190+ and 100mm plus if not much bigger. The more float the better its that simple.


3rd the simple act of being aggresive all the time and doing what you want and not what the ski/snow wants will go a long way towards 3d snow skiing. Going as fast as possiable everywhere helps as well.


Untracked snow can be different at the same resort, on the same day, on sometime even the same run.


The first enemy of untracked snow is moisture in the snow as it fall, if it falls to heavy it may be stickier and require fatter skis,. Then the wind may get it which packs it down.  Note though windpack dry snow is actually awesome to ski, its like natural groomers for people who know how to ski the top of the snow. then exposure to the sun is the last thing that get its. This time of year flatter northfacing terrain, south, west, and east faces get lots of sun. The only thing that is spared is steep north facing terrain.


which resort has the most steep north facing terrain in utah? snowbird, its also the same reason snowbird locals call mineral basin a 'tourist trap' because quite often the untracked snow in mineral is sun baked and crusted over.


as for groomer and powder skiing? really I dont even think about it. Most powder days in utah the only time I ever touch a groomer I Super G turn to the next skiable bunch of powder and continue to pillage. In all honesty i would like to what to hear the different 'technique" you speak off our. Good skiing is good skiing and there is almost no differences in movement I do on the groomer on carving skis as I do off the groomer on powder skis.

post #4 of 8

The textures of the powder snow depend on the crystal structure.  This is part due to temperature, part due to how the wind swirled the snowflakes before they fell to earth, part due to humidity, and other factors.


I really like my Mythic Riders in powder...I feel no need for wider skis.  I'm 6', 200#, consider myself to be a medium energy skier, and the 188cm are right for me.  My rule of thumb is to start with skis one size below the max offered in that line of skis, and this rule has worked very well for me.  Ski length is just one factor.  How the ski maker built in stiffness and fore & aft flex pattern are other factors to consider.  My packed snow skis are 170 cm, one size below the max offered in those lines, and also just right for me.


Another cause of thigh burn is the high delta angle of the Look/Rossi/Dynastar bindings.  They have the boot contact point on the heel piece about 5 mm higher than the contact point on the toe piece.  This tips the lower leg forward, you bend at the knees to balance, your butt sticks back, and your thighs burn.  I removed the spacer under the heel pieces, shortened the screws, and have a better stance.  (I'd have preferred to raise the toe, but finding longer screws is a problem.)  The delta angle of these bindings makes things even worse with certain boots (Lange & Tecnica come to mind) where the boot cuff is also angled forward.  Delta angle (mis-named as it is) is worse with shorter boots that get tipped forward more due to the shorter distance between the toe and the high heel.


I don't feel that speed is needed in powder.  Balance is needed, as well as an altered sense of the pitch of the hill vs. the speed you'll go down it when you're in the snow rather than on top of the snow.  Balance must be right laterally over the close-together skis as well as centered fore & aft.

post #5 of 8

Powder texture can vary even at a single resort due to elevation and exposure to sun and wind.


Experienced skiers adapt to varying snow texture by making subtle changes to aspects of their skiing, like turn shape, edge angle, stance width and speed. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's not so easy.

post #6 of 8

The original post describes why I ascribe to the view that long medium/soft flexing skis work best as a deep snow and all-around choice. Short and/or stiff skis require you to sit back to fight tip dive and general resistance in deep snow.  If you want to ski upright (or preferably forward) in powder with relaxed leg muscles you need a ski that is soft flexing or rockered, particularly in the front end.  On short or stiff skis if you lean forward in powder you do a face plant, but on long/soft or rockered skis the tips engage the snow and come up.  One forces you to stay back, the other invites you to move agressively forward, regardless of powder texture.  There are an infinite variety of snow textures, but the basic mechanics of a good deep snow ski will help in almost all of them.

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

"Mud", for me the idea of a specific ski for powder is worth a try.  What you describe here is exactly what happened to me this past week.  I would be SCREAMING down the groomers, and when I tried to slide off into the powder (the windblown mind you) I'd almost face plant every time.  I'd have to sit waaay in the back seat to prevent from doing so. 

The snow at PowMow was not windblown, so the story there was much different ... I sat back a little, but not much. It was enough to cause minimal thigh burn, but really this was not significant enough to mention.


Bushwack's comments lead me to the same conclusion, in that the Myth's are a good all-mountain ski ... perhaps not a good powder ski.  With the Myth's it was hard to be aggressive when constantly fighting a face plant.


For me the season's pretty much over, but any suggestions on a soft powder ski are appreciated.  Me thinks perhaps a longish Volant Chubb or Machete, Mantra, or Rossi B4?

Too, would you recommend a telemark ski? I'm 6'-2" and ~ 250 lbs. Thanks ...
Edited by Dorm57 - 3/18/2009 at 09:55 pm
post #8 of 8



With your size the Mantra, Chubbs and others would probably not be sufficient.  I would suggest going to a 105 mm waist or above.  With your size, if you use a zero camber ski it will have plenty of rocker once you stand on it in the powder, so you don’t need to be looking at anything with more than a slight rocker at most.  I’m 6’4” and 215 lbs. and love my zero camber Watea 101s in the powder.  Check out the Sierra Ski website.  They’ve got lots of fat skis for 50% off, and you get another 20% off with the “epic20” coupon code.  Maybe something like the Volkl Katanas, Next year there will be a lot more rockered skis.


As for tele skis, I am using Watea 94s as my one ski tele quiver.  They rip the hardpack, are friendly in the bumps, and are wide enough to handle the powder.  If I wanted a powder specific tele ski I would go with this year’s K2 Anti Piste, or next years K2 Koomback, which have slight tip rocker and a regular tail, or maybe something even wider. 


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