We’ve all been there. A big, tired, sweaty mess battling against a quagmire of snow as others effortlessly sail past without a second thought. How do they do it? Any why did none of the ski movies you watched this year tell you it would be this hard?
As skiers and snowboarders we have such a love affair with powder that nobody ever wants to talk about a time before they knew how to ski in deep snow. But there was such a time, and you’re not alone. Stringing all these 4 skills together will teach you how to ski deep powder like a pro:
1. Create a large surface area to float on
When skiing on hard-pack or groomed snow you’d usually use your downhill ski to start the turn, but if you try that in powder you’ll just end up driving one ski down into the snow like an anchor. Instead, you need a body position that lowers resistance and increases floatation so you keep moving and don’t get stuck.
How to create a larger surface area with your skis in deep snow: Weight both ski evenly, keep a centred (but agile) stance, and keep your shoulders over your toes. Spreading your body weight evenly across both skis will help you keep your tips above the snow.
2. Forget edging, learn to steer with your body weight
Edges are useless in deep snow because there’s nothing for them to grip on. To change direction, without increasing resistance on your downhill ski, you have to switch techniques and focus on steering with your body weight instead. You do this by weighting and unweighting as you would in moguls.
How to turn using weighting and unweighting while skiing powder: In the apex of the turn bend at the knees and weight the skis as if you’re trying to push the snow away underneath you. Then when you’re ready to finish the turn and start a the next one, extend your legs to unweight the skis making it easier for your body and skis to change direction.
3. Push yourself to spend more time in the fall line
In powder speed is your friend. When your skis are on the top of the snow you glide along with little to no resistance, but when your skis are under the snow your tips will start to nose dive (as we’ve all experienced) grinding you to a halt. Think of your skis like an airplane… you need speed to generate lift.
How to use speed to stay afloat in powder: On a powder day, on piece of terrain that you’re comfortable with, practice turning your skis down the slope into the fall line to pick up speed. When you want to slow down start making a turn across the slope. Repeat this while each time increasing your time spent in the fall line.
Sidebar: It’s important to remember that speed is a relative term. What seems fast to you might not be fast to someone else, but the most important part of learning to be comfortable at speed is to always be in control. When practicing, this it’s very important to maintain the correct body position outlined in skill 1.
4. Lengthen your turns
Now you’re feeling better about skiing with a little more speed it’s time to link everything together. You’re going to go from fast fall line skiing with slow turns, to elongated, smooth, flowing turns that maintain the same speed throughout. This is best practiced on wide open runs or in bowls where you have a long run a head.
How to lengthen your turns to keep speed and momentum in deep snow: Make sure you have even weight on both skis, a centred stance with your shoulders over your toes. Start by completing whatever size turn you feel comfortable with, as you weight and unweight through the turn as described in skill 2. Once you feel comfortable, start allowing the radius of your turn to get longer and combine that with shorter transition between turns. Shorter transitions between turns will keep your skis facing down the slope longer and help you keep momentum, rather than skiing across the slope which will ultimately slow you down.
If, after all this (and maybe a lesson with Whistler Blakcomb Snow School) you still don’t feel like you’re floating, it might be time to look at your skis. What width underfoot are they? Are the too short? Too long? There are so many great ski shops in Whistler that will give you their honest advice. We recommend visiting Skiis and Biikes, right across from out hotel, the Summit Lodge.