How to ski Powder on normal recreational skis

Skiing powder is my favorite type of skiing and it could also be yours with just a
slight modification to your basic body stance and some practice. Like driving a car or
riding a horse, it gets easier the more mileage you accumulate. I’ve always found it a
very personal experience as one develops an intimate relationship with the snow and the
mountains, especially when carving first tracks in virgin snow. Once you master it you
should find is exciting, exhilarating and pleasurable.

If you plan to do a lot of powder skiing, I would recommend that you rent or purchase
special ‘powder skis’ that are very wide and often have a rocker design at the tip – &
sometimes also at the tail – as these skis make powder skiing much easier. However, one
can ski powder on any ski
! In this tip I explain how to ski powder on normal,
recreational skis as that is what most people have.

The basic turn for skiing powder is the shortswing turn, the same turn that one makes on
piste. To make this turn in powder requires that you modify your basic body stance and
exaggerate the flexion/extension movement when you initiate turns.

Powder Position
The first step is to be in a good ‘powder position’. The modifications to the basic
piste position are as follows:

1) Bring the skis closer together and treat the two skis as a single wide ski
under your body.
2) Lower your hips so that your weight is over your heels. (Its a common
misconception that you sit back when skiing powder; if you do you’re likely to lose
control of your skis. You still want to lightly lean against the tongues of the boots.
You bring the weight back by sitting lower, so that your hips are over your heels.)
3) Keep your back more vertical, as that keeps the weight on the heels.
4) Instead of your arms being at waist level, hold them wider and higher, approximately
armpit or shoulder level.

Powder Turn
Good powder position

Powder Turn
When you’re ready to turn, bring your downhill skipole vertical, lower your hips down
(with your weigh over both heels), and then spring up, in the direction of the turn
(this movement will start your skis turning). As the skis turn, roll your feet and
ankles across the fall-line and immediately lower your hips again and finish the turn by
pressing your heels down and push the skis further into the snow. (If the skis are
rolled on to their sides, they will carve a turn as you press them into the snow)

Tips

  • To practice getting into a correct powder position while moving, traverse across a
    powder slope. Keep your back upright, lean your shins lightly against the tongues of the
    boots, lower your hips & press down on your heels until you feel your toes lift off the
    footbeds.
  • It’s useful to practice making a series of endings of turns before making
    downhill turns.
  • Practice on intermediate grade slopes. (Turning in deep powder is difficult on
    shallow slopes).
  • Start your first turns close to the fall-line and then make larger radius turns.
  • Make one turn in each direction, stopping after each turn. Then link 2 turns and
    then link 4 turns. (Once you can link 4 turns in good control you should be able to ski
    as many turns as you care to).
  • Don’t rush the turns, rather, initiate the turn and allow the skis to turn in a
    round, smooth arc. (It might help to think of it as turning a sailboat rather than a
    motor boat).
  • Try to not be abrupt when you lower your hips; – the down movement, before and after
    the turn, should be very smooth. Think of ‘caressing’ the snow rather than ‘attacking’
    it.
  • If you ski powder off-piste where avalanches may occur, it’s advisable to wear an
    avalanche beeper and carry a shovel and an avalanche probe.
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