Powder skiing, part II
When powder is light and less than six inches or so deep, you can usually ski in it using the same technique you do when the terrain doesn’t have powder. When powder is deep or heavy, however, you have to change your technique in order to deal with the increased resistance it creates against your skis.But you don’t have to change things radically. You just have to be more patient, gentle, and more assertive in everything you do. Patience, please
The reason you have to be more patient in deep or heavy powder is that your skis take more time to turn, even if the arc is very close to the fall line. Your skis will never whip around like they can on hard pack, or even in light powder. In other words, the timing for everything is slower. Therefore you have to reset your physical clock to do everything in what feels like slow motion in order to execute your turns.In addition to slower, you must be more gentle. Sharp or sudden movements or turns can bury your skis too deep or dig a hole in the bottomless base. Not only will this jar you, but it can easily cause you to lose your balance and fall.Yet, in spite of being gentle, you have to be assertive with your skis. This means you have to exert more pressure throughout every turn. Making a platform of both skis so you can move them as a single unit is one way to add this needed power, as is adopting a “tough” mental attitude.A tough attitude is needed because often the lumps and inconsistencies in the powder created by other skiers’ tracks or by the wind appear to be variations in the terrain for which you must compensate. However, when the powder is bottomless, that’s not true; you can power your tracks through the lumps and furrows as if they weren’t there. Being tough in this way allows you to assert your own rhythm and let that prevail.
Bend those kneesRemember, however, to keep your knees bent just like you do on hard pack. This will allow you to absorb the snow’s inconsistencies without disturbing your power, balance or rhythm. And, it will make it easier for you to preserve an evenness in the false base which the deep powder creates.Furthermore, keeping your knees bent will help you stay more centered on your skis. This is important because straightening out your legs and leaning back will prevent you from using the power of the front of your skis, as well as exhaust your quads.These minor adjustments are not difficult when you realize that in many ways the powder actually makes things easier (see “Powder Skiing Part I,” December 23, 2005). And, in deep powder, the “banks” created by your tracks can keep you from tipping over if your upper body gets out of position. So rather than giving you more trouble, the extra powder can be your savior.
But even if you don’t need saving, the changes you have to make to ski deep or heavy powder, although not radical, still always seem to make things a lot easier once you go back onto the hard pack.Elizabeth Eber is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Vail.Vail, Colorado