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Question: How to ski (deep) powder?

#1
From "Worse skiing advice"thread - there was a mentioning of sitting back while skiing in powder is a bad advice. I heard about sitting back advice before.

I want to know:
1) What one should be doing while skiing in deep powder?
2) What is the right body, ankle, knee position / alignment?
3) Should one do anything different while skiing in deep powder?
4) I tend to fall a lot and skis come off while skiing in powder, why? Any solution to tackle this?

I think @santacruz skier mentioned about wiggle toes.... when shall I do this?
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#3
4) I tend to fall a lot and skis come off while skiing in powder, why? Any solution to tackle this?
When I get lucky and catch a deep powder storm at Alta I usually rent wider skis. That's one situation when I sign off on a slightly higher DIN than my usual setting. April 15 a few years ago was the only time I went in at lunch and asked for wider skis. In the morning I had skis that were 106 underfoot. In the afternoon, I had 115 underfoot. Looked really weird but definitely helpful to have the extra float.

What you fall in deep powder, the skis are more likely to bury in snow in a way that pops the binding. Even when all you are doing is skiing straight and decide that the snow next to existing tracks looks inviting (25+ inches fresh). Definitely glad I had "powder cords" when that happened.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#5
2) What is the right body, ankle, knee position / alignment?
The only significant difference that I've heard from Alta instructors for skiing in powder is to keep skis a little closer together and more evenly weighted. Want to avoid the two skis going off in different directions.

Note that is the same suggestion for skiing soft bumps. A stance that's a little too wide means the two skis can end up on different levels, which can be a problem.

My ski buddy Bill can ski deep powder using his all-mountain skis. Meaning knee deep or deeper. He uses essentially the same technique as he does on groomers, with just a somewhat narrower stance. Of course, he grew up skiing on straight skis so a narrow stance feels fine to him. And he doesn't care that he can't see his skis at all. Supposed to be looking ahead in any case, not at ski tips.

When I started skiing more out west, I was comfortable using my 75mm all-mountain skis in up to about 4 inches of powder. As my technique improved, didn't feel the need to rent demo skis unless there was over 6 inches. Fast forward several years. I ended up skiing my 88mm Black Pearls (2011) in about 12 inches of powder in steep trees. Didn't have time to rent skis that morning because it was a day meeting up with a large group. I rolled a couple times, but never lost a ski. Did better than I expected overall.
 

tinymoose

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#6
Alison, I don't remember how tall you are/how much you weigh but be careful getting on something too wide. I rented wider skis (over 100) my first time skiing powder and then took a powder lesson. Instructor sent me back to the rental shop for narrower skis b/c i was just bouncing around on top of the snow like I was on two surfboards.

Anyhow, I'm a pretty horrible powder skier, but I try to think about just skiing as I would any other time, but skis a bit narrower and NO SUDDEN MOVEMENTS. I'm really terrible at that part. You have to make slow rounded turns in powder... be patient. You can't make sudden Z turns in powder.

Now I just ski my own skis (Yumis) in powder and they're only 84 at the waist.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#7
Front or Back DIN?

How wide? I struggled when I demoed DPS 105 mm underfoot. Is there a recommended minimum width?
My DIN settings are the same for front and back. Although my Alta instructor mentioned making them different for deep powder. Don't remember what he said though. Guess I should ask him in April and write it down this time.

How wide are your skis? My all-mountain skis are 88 underfoot (not the old BPs) and 159cm long. My Alta instructor likes me to use skis about 100mm for a powder lesson. My favorite is DPS Nina 99 @158 when they are available.

The first time I had skis over 100mm for a day was during the north Tahoe Diva Week in 2010. Was probably more advanced intermediate than low advanced back then. I was at Homewood with my ski buddy Jason. There was 10+ inches of fresh powder that got heavy as temps warmed up. I found the powder skis very difficult to turn on groomers. The ungroomed terrain was not too steep. More like blues at Alta than blacks. However, Jason rented regular skis that week and was having issues popping a binding in the deep snow. He was pre-releasing on his bad side often enough to wonder if it was a binding issue. At the time he was a better skier than I was. But the shop checked the binding that evening and said it was fine. He didn't have the same issue later in the week. For the day with 20+ inches of fresh powder at Squaw . . . he rented demo powder skis on mountain in the morning. Then changed to wider skis at lunch time.

Making a turn in deep snow requires patience. Lots of patience. Even when doing exactly the right motions. Can be good to start by just making one turn at a time, and waiting to see how long it takes before the skis start turning. Same idea as doing a garland drill on a wide groomer. Having solid fundamentals really does help for powder skiing. Obviously practice helps. But hard to be lucky enough to catch powder storms consistently enough when having to fly to big mountains.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
#9
This video by Chris Fellows of NASTC is from 2006. He doesn't cover technique for powder but shows what to do when you have lost a ski and need to stand up in deep powder.


Chris' book Total Skiing is a good reference for someone who has the patience to read about technique and wants to know what exercises would provide the most benefit for someone's weaknesses.
 
#10
@tinymoose : I am 5'4" and 135 lbs. My issue w/ wide skis is, I am unable to turn, this makes me nervous and now I have mental block on fat skis. Thanks for your advice! I will keep that mind when getting a rental on powder skis.

@marzNC : thanks for the threads link and youtube video, I will read them before I go on my trip.

Now I do recall some of the tips about skiing in powder: patience when making turns, narrower stance, etc.
 

Belgiangirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11
Since I admitted to not knowing that sitting back was considered bad advice, I'll be watching this tread! :becky:

@alison wong, I'm your height and 120 lbs so pretty similar. Do you have problems turning fat skis in powder or in general? If you're having problems in general, maybe try a fully rockered ski? I bought Auras in April and like how they turn (only tested them indoors on groomers so far).

I can't wait to get outside again and practise! I have a hard time visualizing what I'm currently doing in powder vs what I should be doing, if that makes sense. Haven't worked on technique too much last winter, definitely want to change that this year.

Here are a few links I saved related to power skiing and stance:
link 1
link 2
link 3
 
#12
I can't wait to get outside again and practise! I have a hard time visualizing what I'm currently doing in powder vs what I should be doing, if that makes sense. Haven't worked on technique too much last winter, definitely want to change that this year.
How are you learning what to tweak in your technique for powder skiing? Mostly by reading and videos? I happen to be a visual learner. Following the line of an instructor or skier I know has good rhythm and technique while mimicking their turns is very helpful.

I have had enough lessons in recent years from very experienced instructors and read enough about technique to know what isn't really the best approach. Just because it's in print or that a technique worked decades ago doesn't mean it's correct for the current state of ski design. That's what my ski buddy Bill learned several years ago when I talked him into taking a few semi-private lessons with me. He was over 60 then and was an advanced skier who liked bumps in the Rockies in high school. No lessons as an adult. His stance was inappropriate for skis designed to turn when they are on edge. We did four lessons over two trips to Alta. It took a season or two before carving became a natural part of his repertoire that didn't require concentration.
 
#13
When I took my multi-week lessons last season, 3 out if 4 days ended up being powder days. The biggest thing by instructor stressed was really the fundamentals of skiing, especially making nice long slow rounded turns. He emphasized the importance of staying in the fall line longer than you would like while powder skiing, and no sudden movements too. We did a lot following our instructor down different pitches. I feel like I got a lot better at powder skiing, but I also think I have a very long way to go. I still think a lot of it is practice.

I've never skied anything wider than 100 underfoot. That is my everyday ski here, and I've had it in 12+ inches of powder - even one time in thigh deep (but quite briefly, while we were in a part of the cirque where snow had blown in to). I'd like to try wider skis, but you don't necessarily need super wide skis for powder.
 

mountainwest

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#14
I do a lot of deep powder skiing (30” being the most so far), both resort and backcountry. I use fat skis, which allow you to use pretty much the same technique as on groomers, just with skis a little closer together and more evenly weighted as marzNC mentioned. My resort powder skis are 116 width and my backcountry are 112 (but much lighter, which helps them float more). I would recommend at least 110 width for deep powder. (I am 5’4”, 115lbs for reference.) Fat skis take some getting used to, but once you do, I think they’re way more playful and fun. They are made for powder! I can ski powder in my carving skis, but it’s not what they’re made for and is less fun. I have also carved groomers in my widest powder skis, but again it’s not but they are made for and is less fun.

If you keep falling and losing your skis, it’s probably because you aren’t keeping your ski tips up. If you let your tips sink, they can tunnel under all of that deep snow and the weight of the snow can grab your ski off. Or if you are skiing tracked powder, you may be getting tossed around by the uneven snow and losing your balance.

When it’s super deep, ski the steepest slopes that you are comfortable with so that you can keep your momentum going, because the powder will slow you down. It’s a natural speed control. I also agree with the advice others have posted to stay in the fall line longer and not rush your turns. You will want your turn shape to look more like this (taken on a 12” powder day):

7E949734-D5B3-4FDC-A913-D53CFB3A902F.jpeg

As Albertan ski girl said, a lot of is also just practice. I learned on groomers first, and then powder skiing was like learning all over again. It’s a very different feeling.
 
#15
Here are some tips that helped me:
Think of your feet as a platform. (wiggle toes is good advice, ski with your whole foot)
Think steering/rotation instead of edging carving.
Match your turn to the slope and snow depth. Like said above, snow will slow you down. If you make too big a turn you go too slow and then get stopped/fall down.
 
#16
@alison wong : remember the slope off the cat track that goes down from the top of the Wildcat lift at Alta? It's steep enough even after a big storm. Going off towards the end there is just enough distance for 2-3 turns. Dropping in slightly higher up can do 4-6 turns. That's one of the places that practice is possible when lucky enough to catch a powder storm. There are other spots like that at every big mountain.

Alta Ski School teaches kids to ski deep powder in the trees on Vail Ridge off Sunnyside.
 
#17
Thanks everyone who responded to my thread. I have a better idea (mentally) on knowing what to do now.... basically, stay in the fall line longer, no sudden movements, not wide turn coz too much "traversing" and it will slow you down and then may fall, narrower stance, equal weight distribution on both feet.

@geargrrl : What is the difference b/w steering/rotating vs edging/carving? I hear these terms from my instructors often, "steer your skis", "engage the edge". When to use what?

@Belgiangirl : the day I tried on a fat ski (105 underfoot) was not a powder day, it was a demo day. Truly I don't know if I'd have the same problem if it were a powder day..... I don't know much about skis, what is rockered skis? My own ski is Rossi temp 80.

@mountainwest : thanks for the explanation, you articulated the concepts well. I now understand why my skis kept popping out on a powder day.

@marzNC Yes, I remember the slope off wildcat, I also remembered you took to the slope normally not groomed off supreme the past season. Those 2 slopes are very similar.

Do you need to "exaggerate" your turns in deep powder ? I heard about this too, but don't understand what does it entail exactly..
 
#18
@marzNC Yes, I remember the slope off wildcat, I also remembered you took to the slope normally not groomed off supreme the past season. Those 2 slopes are very similar.
The little cut between the trees towards the end of the Supreme cat track is usually pretty nice. Steep enough but not too steep. Perhaps 10 turns before back on the groomer.

The way kids learn to play in powder is skiing the fresh snow on the sides of a groomer. Meaning when it's 4-6 inches deep. The far side of Little Dipper (blue) where it turns away from the Sugarloaf lift is usually not groomed when it snows. Can make a few powder turns, then either stop or head back to the groomed trail.

Even in the northeast, it's possible to find powder when lucky. I got in powder turns at Wachusett and Jiminy Peak last March. At Wachusett I found untracked powder on the side of a blue off the lift that only has blues. Was wide enough for for 3-4 runs. The powder off the lift that serves black trails was gone in the first hour or less. I have fun just going straight on the edges of a groomer when there is 2-3 inches of powder. It feels different. Of course, need to be going fast enough to keep moving if deep.

Stuck knee deep on the side of a Jiminy Peak blue - March 2018
Went that way on purpose. Backed out in my tracks after taking the picture. 22 inches that morning.
Jiminy deep 08Mar2018 - 5.jpg

There is a big difference between skiing powder on top of groomed terrain and powder with bumps hidden underneath. At Telluride last season there was 9+ inches of fresh snow the second morning. But there were big frozen bumps underneath. The new snow was deep enough to make it very difficult to anticipate the hidden surface. Also a little heavy. I took my time getting down that trail.

Telluride after snowstorm - 20Feb2018
Telluride powder AM 20Feb2018 - 3.jpg
 

Belgiangirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#19
@Belgiangirl : the day I tried on a fat ski (105 underfoot) was not a powder day, it was a demo day. Truly I don't know if I'd have the same problem if it were a powder day..... I don't know much about skis, what is rockered skis? My own ski is Rossi temp 80.
It might not necessarily be the width that makes turning hard, but the surface you're skiing on? I asked because I rented a pair of Rossi Sky 7 HD's (98mm) last winter. Liked how they felt on all sorts of terrain except hardpack, I clearly had to work harder to get them on edge. The Auras I intend to use as a daily driver are 100mm wide, so far I've only tried them on groomed indoor slopes and they seemed to turn on a dime, not like the Rossi's at all.

Those two pairs have pretty similar specs, the Sky 7 even has a slightly smaller turning radius. The Aura is a fully rockered ski though whereas the Sky 7 is rocker-camber-rocker. I think that's what makes them easier to turn for me. Rocker and camber refer to the curve in your skis, I've added a picture below that shows the basic differences.

ski-profiles.jpg
 

Belgiangirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#20
How are you learning what to tweak in your technique for powder skiing? Mostly by reading and videos? I happen to be a visual learner. Following the line of an instructor or skier I know has good rhythm and technique while mimicking their turns is very helpful.

I have had enough lessons in recent years from very experienced instructors and read enough about technique to know what isn't really the best approach. Just because it's in print or that a technique worked decades ago doesn't mean it's correct for the current state of ski design. That's what my ski buddy Bill learned several years ago when I talked him into taking a few semi-private lessons with me. He was over 60 then and was an advanced skier who liked bumps in the Rockies in high school. No lessons as an adult. His stance was inappropriate for skis designed to turn when they are on edge. We did four lessons over two trips to Alta. It took a season or two before carving became a natural part of his repertoire that didn't require concentration.
I'm in a bit of a peculiar situation I think... I learned to ski as a young child including powder skiing. then life happened and I didn't ski for over 10 years (so I probably skied from age 5-12, then nothing till 24). December 2017 was my first time back on skis and I expected to be a low intermediate at best but apparently my inner skier was still hidden deep inside. After a week I was skiing down all slopes again and felt comfortable enough to follow my BF off piste. I skied a day with an instructor friend in Arlberg (only groomed, no powder) and asked him to give me directions if he saw something amiss with my technique. He gave me some tips for better upper and lower body separation and to push my shins more forward into my boots, but that's about it.

I didn't give much thought to improving technique last winter, it was mostly fooling around with groups of friends and being happy I rediscovered how much fun skiing is. The skis I used (Pure Joys, 153cm, 72mm underfoot) didn't match my level nor the terrain we skied, making it hard for me to determine how much my skiing will improve by using the appropriate gear.

However there's no doubt there's plenty of room for improvement too on the technique front. So far that means reading about different techniques, visualizing them in my head and then checking videos to see if my mental image is correct. I will try to book at least a half-day private lesson this winter too, but right now all I want to do is get out there and try stuff and hopefully feel the difference :bounce:
 

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