Your First Powder Day
(…or second, or third)
What is the finest type of snow? Powder!!! Snow! We love snow! And we love powder days!
When you wake up at first light to find there is a fresh dump of snow, you’ll want to be the first one up there. This is called POWDER PANIC, and it is a very common and real reaction to such wonder out the window.
Skiing powder means that you need momentum because if you don’t, you’ll get bogged down. However, the powder can be very forgiving, especially if you decide it’s time to crash – there are often thick pillowy piles of it. However, remember also that a fresh dump of snow can cover up some rocks or tree stumps – so be careful! Based on this knowledge, you may pick a mountain or make a plan for runs that might be a little outside of your usual ability. You will be forgiven by the new snow, and the steeper pitch will make you feel like a rock star.
But now what?
First is your position.
You don’t want to be too far back. You need to keep your hands forward, which keeps your weight balanced. Some people will tell you to sit back more, but this can make you lose balance if you go too far! But do sit back a bit – otherwise, you may nosedive as your ski tips dig into a deep pile of new snow. However, you certainly don’t want any toe-smash to the front of your boots.
Keep your hands in a position in which you would read a large newspaper, so this is about 6” outside your shoulders. You also want to have your skis closer together – not touching, but closer. This will help when you turn. (Talking of skis, the best skis for powder are fat skis. However, there is some dispute as to what constitutes a fat ski. Powder skis have been recorded with widths between as much as 120 mm and 140 mm, but looking at the forums, the general consensus seems to be that a fat ski has a width upwards of 90 mm or 100 mm).
You want to imagine that you just have one very big ski on a powder day. You’ll want to turn your thighs rather than catching edges. If you imagine turns are rounded zig-zags down the hill, you squat on the straight lines. When you approach the turn, stand up immediately so that your legs are nearly straight. This un-weights your skis and allows them to turn.
If you ski as you would on hard snow and catch the lower edge to turn you will find that the lower ski will go under the snow and cross under your upper ski and you will have snow for breakfast, which is not what you want. Just think – if hard and icy slopes require digging in your edges for stability; a powder day allows you to float your turns!
When you have fallen flat on your face – which you will! – don’t get disappointed. It happens. Give yourself time to catch your breath before continuing.
Finally, when you have had enough for the day, get down off the mountain and head for the après bar and order yourself a large one of whatever takes your fancy. Or preferably two or three!