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Powder skiing

post #1 of 77
Thread Starter 
So I was skiing in some powder for the first time and was having some troubles with it.  I've done some searches and I think the solution to one of my problems, losing my balance when turning at low speed, appears to be just not to do it.

My other problem was that sometimes it seemed like my tips would occasionally angle down into the powder and eject me leading to some sweet frontflips.  The only way I could find to stop this from happening was to push up with my toes to try and keep my tips elevated.  This worked to keep my tips from divebombing, but usually resulted in me sitting way back where I found it a lot harder to control my skis and occasionally ended up in sitting too far back and losing balance again.  My question is is this something that I just need to practice and adjust to, or is there something completely different I should be trying?  I appreciate any advice.

Another problem I had was a couple times when I hit the untracked slopes early there was kind of a layer of harder snow on top (crust, right?) that made it near impossible to turn..  Only way I got around that was going slow and doing some jumping and turning to stay in control.  Is there any good way to handle snow like that?

If it helps I was skiing K2 PEs.  Again, I really appreciate any advice you guys can give me.  Thanks!
post #2 of 77
 how long are the PEs and how tall/how much do you weigh?

where was this snow?

you were correct in that sucking you tips up is a something you want to do but it shouldnt put you aft. If you do get alittle aft its ok as long you dont stay there in powder.

crust on powder? hard to say for sure what you need to do to ski it with out seeing video but the simple answer is either get stronger in your movement and more precise or get longer/fatter maybe rockered skis or better yet both.
post #3 of 77
Main advice for powder skiing is that you do almost the exact same thing with both of your legs at the same time, practice jumping up in the air and twisting our legs back and forth, or on a bed, like I learned before my first big powder day 30 yrs ago.  When you parallel ski, you unweight with your inside/uphill leg and carve/skid with your downhill leg, but of course the uphill legs helps a little too.

Also, when powder skiing you really have to keep your shoulders parallel down the hill, it is even more important than in typical parallel skiing.  Because really, powder skiing is true "parallel" skiing, you have to be doing the same exact thing with both legs.  If you turn your shoulders too far, into the hill, then likely your uphill leg will dig in a little too much and send you off the fall line, then you won't be powder skiing anymore and will be going sideways.  So you need a slope with just the right pitch so that you are comfortable enough to go STRAIGHT down the hill, with the turning being done by your legs, and your both shoulders perpendicular to the fall line.

But you need some powder to practice, you can't practice this on regular snow.  And to complicate matters, very likely your powder will be mashed up with moguls underneath and add in blizzard conditions where you can't see more than 20 feet in front of you.  Also, there are borders who cut it all up and regular skiers too, so it is a mish mash of all your skills at once.  But of course there is nothing like plowing through that fresh powder, it is the best kind of skiing once you get the hang of it. 
post #4 of 77
Skiing faster will solve all your problems. For once I'm beiing 100% absolutely serious here. The main thing first time powder skiers do wrong is they go way too slow.
post #5 of 77
I also find it helps to think of my skis as a mono ski almost, to keep my weight more evenly balanced between the skis and NOT to put too much weight on one ski or the other.  I visualize them as ONE SKI.  I don't know why this helps me, but it does.  Of course, I'm old, back from when they told us to keep our skis closer together......  
post #6 of 77
Another huge factor in all types of skiing is you ski with your poles.  Watch the experts while you go up the lift, ALL of them have a confident, deliberate pole plants, while less than experts don't use their poles properly.  Many have poles that are too short, which cause them to have to lean forward too much, causing them to over turn, go into the hill, and then it is over.  This is even more important in powder skiing. 

With both types of skiing you have to bounce up and down on your knees, like a piston going up and down. The better powder skier you are, the more effortless it will become, while the newbies huff and puff.  Of course, the conditions vary completely, even in Utah the powder is often heavy, making powder skiing difficult even in powder.  And even in Utah you could easily stay for a week and have no powder.  I give it a 1 in 3 shot for my 4 day trips, but those are still pretty good odds and it adds up.
post #7 of 77
velocity is a stabilizing force, as is centrifugal force and momentum. like a gyroscope. the faster the more stable. but convoluted ski technique dissertations would be a bore here, so, we'll keep it scientific and philosophical in nature.
post #8 of 77
try to move your edging and turning higher up in the turn so when in the bottom of the turn you can start becoming lighter on your feet and allow the skis to surface, then once more try to get on an early edge. Try to move forward along the length and with the ski. Tip pressure early good , late bad. DO NOT lean back always bad. +1 to facing down the hill(counter), &faster, (all your problems?, come on Jer).
post #9 of 77
Snowbird Devotee --

I was in Utah from Dec 28 - Jan 15... I had 1 day of powder... I wouldn't give yourself that good of odds. Either u get big or you don't. I got plenty of rock skiing.

3 weeks out west last year as well, got totally skunked.

Good luck.
post #10 of 77
Quote:
losing my balance when turning at low speed, appears to be just not to do it.
Turns in powder are made by banking the skis on edge just like a plane banks around a turn in the sky.  You balance out over your skis, roll both equally on edge, and the skis turn you.  You do not turn your skis.  You need to find the tempo the snow allows you to turn.  Quick twists don't work.  Nor does rotation where you try to twist the skis around by cranking your upper body the direction you want to turn.  Either a strong upward movement or a quick easy relax and flex of both knees releases the skis from the turn and allows the movement into the next turn.
Quote:
sometimes it seemed like my tips would occasionally angle down into the powder and eject me leading to some sweet frontflips.  The only way I could find to stop this from happening was to push up with my toes to try and keep my tips elevated.  This worked to keep my tips from divebombing, but usually resulted in me sitting way back
Sometimes loosening the boots' cuff buckles a notch or two allows the skis to find their own level for you.  Fore & aft balance in bottomless snow is subtle.  You do not need the tips above the snow, and that balance takes time to find.  Some skis do a very poor job in powder, but yours should be OK.  Unless your boots or bindings angle you too far forward, you should be able to find a fairly upright position and be in balance.

Breakable crust is devilish.  The only way to handle it is to smash through.
post #11 of 77
Quote:
BushwackerinPA wrote:

you were correct in that sucking you tips up is a something you want to do but it shouldnt put you aft. If you do get alittle aft its ok as long you dont stay there in powder.

Wrong and bad advice for skiable powder.  Pulling your tips up or leaning back is a survival tactic used in tricky snow, dumping speed in a hurry or stopping.  IMO, there are so many variables to skiing powder, depth, density, pitch, moisture content,  speed, ski, that there is not a single set of fixed technique parameters that will satisfy all of the variables, all of the time or even on the same run.  Constant adjustments are made to fine tune the turn.

Speed is your friend, and you'll get more comfortable with this as you gain powder experience.  Usually you want to lightly press your shovels down into the powder to load your skis at the bottom of the turn that will compress the snow and create rebound that will float you through your next turn.  When the snow is very deep and slightly heavy you may have to adjust to an evenly pressured ski, this can generate very fast speeds, where a mistake can result in a real spectacle.  In these conditions, the tips may continue to dive and not be able to return upwards as there is to much snow density to penetrate no matter how fast or straight you go.  This usually ends in the skier augering in up to the waist and stopping,  a deep double heel release or a twisting high speed cartwheel.

I've got to agree with SnowbirdD, probably the quickest way to figure out powder is to point them straight down the hill and bounce with exaggerated pole plants (raise your hand up high and plant with force that will increase your load pressure/down weighting) and bury your tips as deep as you can get them at the bottom of the turn.  I used this technique and have seen others use it to.  In a few runs you can pick up the basic feeling and start making control turns if you survive the lesson.

A crust layer on top, or at any level for that matter, even an 1/8" thick can be very tricky and can make the snowpack unskiable until it is hop turned and busted up, or buried with more snow creating a new base in the snowpack.
post #12 of 77
wtf? bury your tips at the bottom of a turn? I must not be understanding you.  I understand pressure the tips at the top just after crossing the fall line is this what you mean?
post #13 of 77
As said in above, try to think of your two skis as one. It's hard to explain, but you as you enter a turn you start to weight your skis and then you unweight them by popping up. However, the softer and/or rocker skis don't really require you to porpoise up/down. Remember that you are supposed to be floating in the snow, so it's not like on hardpack where you have a lot more weight on the outside ski. 

As Jer said, speed is one of the keys. Like waterskiing, you need to get up to a certain speed to start planing in the snow. Once you get it, there is nothing like it. Once you get it, try some fat/rockered skis and you'll be surfing the snow.
post #14 of 77
Quote:
PDxammo wrote:

wtf? bury your tips at the bottom of a turn? I must not be understanding you.  I understand pressure the tips at the top just after crossing the fall line is this what you mean?

Yep, constantly pressure your tips down into the snow to the bottom of the turn.  Sometimes when it's real deep and I am going real fast almost straight down the fall line my tips will be riding on the base snowpack beneath until the snow hitting my legs, waist, torso and FACE will slow me down enough until there is enough rebound energy to force/ float me back up.  That's how I get faceshots, how do you do it?



The tips continue to float up until they enter the fall, this is is the moment to start pressuring the tips down, not at the cross over.  The skis are rolled onto there new edge after the crossover as the skier floats through the upper half of the turn.



Driving the tips down into the bottom of the turn.



Chestshot resulting from pressuring tips to the bottom of the turn.


Edited by Nailbender - 1/25/10 at 11:00pm
post #15 of 77
Lemmiwinks - when I was first learning to ski powder and had not yet ventured into the backcountry, I would seek out whatever little strips of untracked that I could find at resorts - a lot of them nearly flat - get out in them and kind of bounce up and down in a turning rhythm, if that makes sense... gave me the feeling of weighting/unweighting that I needed, as well as helping me work on fore/aft balance.  And it helped me learn to feel what it was like to plow through snow.  When you start losing speed get back on the groomed, get your speed up again and head back for the powder strips.  

My go-to BC skis are only 88mm underfoot - shamefully skinny these days - you don't need hugely fat skis to be successful in the powder, just practice.

Some day it will go on like a light switch and then making those turns will be pure joy.

Jer's right, speed is your friend.  Ski in control, though - digging yourself out of a powder crater sucks.
post #16 of 77
Jer nailed it. A bit of speed is your friend. You need to go fast enough for the skis to float. So don't try to slow down before you even get started.  I often find it helpful to start a run with a bit of a straight line in pow so my skis float to the surface right away. Narrower skis take more speed to float. Avoid flats as they will cause you to get stuck.

Sometimes if you fall in pow it can be hard to get back up. The snow can get so deep that you cannot just plant a pole and push up beucase they just keep sinking deeper. One easy trick is to cross your poles to make an X and then put that flat on the snow and push against the middle.  If you do go off trail in deep snow ski with a buddy.

The other keys to skiing pow more easily is fat enough (relative to your weight) skis and practice. Also take a lesson on a powder day. I am sure any instructor will be more than happy to teach you how to ski pow!


Edited by tromano - 1/25/10 at 11:03pm
post #17 of 77
I don't think that video supports your argument, I don't see the tips going down at any point in the "turn" there. nor would I characterize that as an ideal to strive for. I think you have a fundamental mis-understanding of the phases of a turn as well. The first frame is where the skis are about 2/3 thru the turn and unweighting ie. flexion is occuring, in the second frame the skier is crossing the fall line and starting to pressure the tips into the snow again. In the third he is at full extension and in the fall line.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nailbender View Post



Yep, constantly pressure your tips down into the snow to the bottom of the turn.  Sometimes when it's real deep and I am going real fast almost straight down the fall line my tips will be riding on the base snowpack beneath until the snow hitting my legs, waist, torso and FACE will slow me down enough until there is enough rebound energy to force/ float me back up.  That's how I get faceshots, how do you do it?


The tips continue to float up until they enter the fall, this is is the moment to start pressuring the tips down, not at the cross over.  The skis are rolled onto there new edge after the crossover as the skier floats through the upper half of the turn.



Driving the tips down into the bottom of the turn.



Chestshot resulting from pressuring tips to the bottom of the turn.


 
post #18 of 77
go tahoe or mammoth for better powder odds.. it cant always be like 05-06 winter.. though i wish
Quote:
Originally Posted by shoal007 View Post

Snowbird Devotee --

I was in Utah from Dec 28 - Jan 15... I had 1 day of powder... I wouldn't give yourself that good of odds. Either u get big or you don't. I got plenty of rock skiing.

3 weeks out west last year as well, got totally skunked.

Good luck.

 
post #19 of 77
Quote:
pdxammo wrote:

I don't think that video supports your argument, I don't see the tips going down at any point in the "turn" there. nor would I characterize that as an ideal to strive for. I think you have a fundamental mis-understanding of the phases of a turn as well. The first frame is where the skis are about 2/3 thru the turn and unweighting ie. flexion is occuring, in the second frame the skier is crossing the fall line and starting to pressure the tips into the snow again. In the third he is at full extension and in the fall line.



pdxammo, I think my terminology is deficient.  I thought the cross over was the point of transition from one turn to the next.  If I understand correctly, cross over is the when the skis enter the fall line? 

I consider the first frame 1/3 the way through the turn.  The first 1/3 of the phase and the tips are coming out of the snow.

I agree the second frame is as the skier is crossing the fall line and starting to pressure his tips.

I don't understand your 3rd frame description.  Have you stopped describing the skis in relation to the fall line and you are now talking about the skier himself?  The skier is making his pole plant just prior to the finish of the turn, his tips are fully buried and are about as far across the fall line as they will get.

You state in the 2nd frame, the skier is crossing the fall line and starting to pressure his tips.  When do you think he stops pressuring his tips?

I stick with my original description though, the tips are pressured into the bottom of the turn, at the pole plant both skis are fully pressured.  The skier is planting his pole now (frame 3) and still driving his tips and downweighting.  He is in the process of "stinging" his turn, although not completed yet.

I will say one thing for certain, the skier is not sucking his tips up from diving throughout the turn like Bushwacker suggests.  I say burring them deep just like the pics show and ski fast.
Edited by Nailbender - 1/26/10 at 12:18am
post #20 of 77
Snowbird Devotee --

I was in Utah from Dec 28 - Jan 15... I had 1 day of powder... I wouldn't give yourself that good of odds. Either u get big or you don't. I got plenty of rock skiing.

3 weeks out west last year as well, got totally skunked.
Uh no.  The Cottonwood Canyons "average" 100 inches or 2 feet of snow per week, mid-Dec to mid-Apr.  So if you ski 4 days like I usually do, "on average" you would get about 14 inches of snow.  You need about 8 inches to ski powder.  Also consider that 8 inches reported, means 8 inches at mid-mountain and likely 14 inches (or more) up on Little Cloud and Cirque/Upper Mtn.   You can get 4" near the bottom and 12" up top.  

But of course snow falls erraticly and unpredictably throughout the season, and often falls in doses of 2 or 3 feet, not 8 iinches.  So that is why you move the odds down to 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 at the least.  But that is only saying you'll have a day or so of powder, not the whole trip.

I don't live in SLC but have taken well over 25 trips there, and on about 8 of them I have had POWder!  These 1:3/4 powder odds work from about mid-December through mid-April.  The fact that it didn't snow for 3 weeks is just back luck but doesn't affect the overall odds.  Better to do short trips spread out, because that is how it runs, 3 weeks of solid snow every couple day or 3 weeks of a big high pressure just sitting there.  every year there is period of high pressure just sitting there for a few weeks. 

re: Tahoe/Mammoth to the poster from "Verbier".  You may have hit it right, (try the stock market), In Cali they get a good portion of their snow from enormous storms that drop 3-6 ft of snow.  Also, the snow tends to be heavier and when it is heavy it is not even powder skiing.  note: heavy snow is not uncommon in Utah either!  it is not all light fluff. 
Edited by SnowbirdDevotee - 1/26/10 at 4:54am
post #21 of 77
In Tahoe we enjoy the denser powder we get. It will support you in more ways. It lasts into the spring.

Is there a scale of moisture percentage of the snow from sleet to cold smoke? Like 80 for sleet to 5 for blower? Tahoe around 12 usually?
post #22 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by shoal007 View Post

Snowbird Devotee --

I was in Utah from Dec 28 - Jan 15... I had 1 day of powder... I wouldn't give yourself that good of odds. Either u get big or you don't. I got plenty of rock skiing.

3 weeks out west last year as well, got totally skunked.

Good luck.

 

UT is as sure a thing as it gets.

Sadly, this December was one of the most unseaosnably dry early seasons we have had in years. And January is often dry in UT it sure was this year to start. If you want to ski powder you have a much better shot in February and March and if you want a gurantee you have to chase the storms. $.02
post #23 of 77
 Planning a trip any where, any time is a crap shoot.  I've been disappointed by marginal snow in the middle of February in Colorado and blessed with powder days in April at BigSky.
This time around we're hitting Utah at the end of February and I'm looking forward to whatever the mountains serve up.

To the OP, you've gotten some good advice here. 
Mountaingirls post about finding little stashes to play in is a good idea.  Also, don't be afraid to take  a ski lesson on a powder day.  It will not be a wasted day, but instead will give you some good coaching on how to ski it and assure that you get the most out of future powder days!
post #24 of 77
If I got to ski as much as Trekchick I wouldnt care if 1/2 of the days a year where poor conditions cause that would mean I still have 100 great days!!!
post #25 of 77
Crossover/crossunder/transition occurs as the skis cross(are perpendicular) to the fall line. This should be the point of the most flexion and when the skis are surfaced. Efficient skiers will be moving towards the new turn and weighting(standing over) the outside ski while pressuring the tips, striving to get on a new edge early. If you watch, their hip joint will open up as they extend into the turn and you can see the tips reaching for the snow if they encounter a terrain feature that causes them to be airborne. Forcing the tips down early allows the skis to carve through the powder allowing speed control and shaping early in the turn so some un-weighting and steering can happen in the later stages.
  The key is efficiency, there is a dearth of skiers who can ski powder pretty well with a older less efficient style like those in your video but, if you look, you can find others whose powder technique more resembles their hard snow methods. I'm not saying this is me neccesarily, on a good day maybe, but, some of my associates do this very well. You can manage a variety of snow conditions that are less than ideal with this technique as well.

   I very much agree that foraging on the sides of runs for small stashes is a great way to get started.

post #26 of 77

I don't get out too much, but my best powder day was April 23rd at Sunshine.  Beautiful day.  Last year in Utah we had 2 mediocre snow days in March - right before a massive system dumped 110+ inches in 10 days.  It's impossible to know when you have to plan in advance, but it's killer when you catch the snow just right.

post #27 of 77
Thread Starter 
Wow thanks for all the responses!  I was skiing 174s and I'm 6'3" 170 lbs.  I've got them mounted at about +3-3.5 which I'm sure wasn't helping me a lot but I'm sure my problems had more to do with my technique than anything else.  I was skiing in Utah, actually, and I'd say the deepest stuff I found was a little over knee deep.  That's with skis on anyway, it was quite a bit deeper when I fell lol.  I can think of a few times I could have used that ski pole trick!

I think part of my problem was that since it didn't snow a ton I had to ski places other people weren't skiing much to find deep stuff.  That also put me in some pretty tight trees a lot so I had a bit of a hard time getting up enough speed without the trees getting in my way.

From what you guys are saying I'm thinking that I was definitely trying to turn my skis as opposed to having them turn me.  I think I got a bit nervous and started making more sudden jerky movements because I felt out of control, which just made my situation worse.  Watching that video I think I know what you guys are saying with the bouncing.  It seems pretty much like bouncing into the next turn which seems like a pretty natural motion when I think about it. 

I've also got to work on doing the same thing with both legs.  I notice especially on groomers that I have a tendency to put way more pressure on the outside ski.  I've been working on trying to keep my skis really close together when I ski.  Will keeping my skis closer together in powder help me out?

pdxammo I'm not sure if I completely understand what you're trying to tell me.  Are you saying that as you initiate the turn you should be pushing your tips down into the snow?  Or is this something that just happens naturally from keeping a forward stance?

Thanks again to all for all the help!
post #28 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nailbender View Post



Wrong and bad advice for skiable powder.  Pulling your tips up or leaning back is a survival tactic used in tricky snow, dumping speed in a hurry or stopping.  IMO, there are so many variables to skiing powder, depth, density, pitch, moisture content,  speed, ski, that there is not a single set of fixed technique parameters that will satisfy all of the variables, all of the time or even on the same run.  Constant adjustments are made to fine tune the turn.

Speed is your friend, and you'll get more comfortable with this as you gain powder experience.  Usually you want to lightly press your shovels down into the powder to load your skis at the bottom of the turn that will compress the snow and create rebound that will float you through your next turn.  When the snow is very deep and slightly heavy you may have to adjust to an evenly pressured ski, this can generate very fast speeds, where a mistake can result in a real spectacle.  In these conditions, the tips may continue to dive and not be able to return upwards as there is to much snow density to penetrate no matter how fast or straight you go.  This usually ends in the skier augering in up to the waist and stopping,  a deep double heel release or a twisting high speed cartwheel.

I've got to agree with SnowbirdD, probably the quickest way to figure out powder is to point them straight down the hill and bounce with exaggerated pole plants (raise your hand up high and plant with force that will increase your load pressure/down weighting) and bury your tips as deep as you can get them at the bottom of the turn.  I used this technique and have seen others use it to.  In a few runs you can pick up the basic feeling and start making control turns if you survive the lesson.

A crust layer on top, or at any level for that matter, even an 1/8" thick can be very tricky and can make the snowpack unskiable until it is hop turned and busted up, or buried with more snow creating a new base in the snowpack.
 

eh wroing and bad advice?

he was on undersized skis that were mounted forward and even on big powder skis if I want to stay on top ill lift the tip with my toes while I keep alittle forward pressure on the boot cuff.

and again its ok to be alittle aft as long you project your body into the new turn.

Ill stand by it 100 percent of the time.

this video at :28 seconds


or you can just take the easy way out and buy long fat ski and learn how to control them. In the above video I had 20 cm extra lenght and 35mm wider skis with less sidecut and I am lighter. Longer fatter skis are actually more forgiving in powder. I would have a hard time on 174 PEs mounted +3 but feel my 179cm mounted + 2 do just fine. 
post #29 of 77
Your segment is really the bright spot in that video, the others show the pitfalls of being back, everyone else is wiping out on their tails. Although they are clearly having a great day which is what really counts.

Yes initiate by moving towards the front of the skis and slightly to the inside from your core, press the tips into the snow and edge the skis so that you might be showing your bases to someone uphill from you.
  I would only emulate the first video if you want to exist as a living museum of ski techniques from yesteryear, you know like those guys that will only play oldschool jazz arrangements.
post #30 of 77
 it should be noted that despite the shortcoming of everyone else in that video except well me, they stay on their feet due to speed and constant movement.

I can ski powder super slow the way I am showing but what fun is that? 

and like I said huge skis are so much fun and so easy in powder that if you can have them you should have them. Plus for the ski instructor out there the bigger the ski the rounder the turn you can make in powder.
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