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Question: How to ski (deep) powder?

tinymoose

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#21
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.
This is so my kryptonite. I've gotten more patient in my day to day skiing, but slap me in some powder, because I so rarely see it, and I panic and don't want to be patient and stay in the fall line to bring the turn around.
 

tinymoose

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#22
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:
Never underestimate the power of things learned as a kid. I really don't consider myself anything other than an adult learner, but I did spend 1 season as a kid in ski club and they taught me how to turn and stop in a wedge (pizza!) to the point I could cruise the easy green and blue runs with my parents. Then I didn't ski again until I was an adult b/c $$$. I'm sure in some way that helped as an adult having even that one year on skis as a kid. I didn't even take a lesson as an adult until my 3rd year into skiing. I just utilized what I could remember from being a kid and self-taught myself hockey stops and parallel skiing (even if they were technically horrible).
 
#23
It might not necessarily be the width that makes turning hard, but the surface you're skiing on?
Very likely, I think that was the main reason, plus I did not have the skills to make it work......

Thanks very much for the pictures ( I am a visual learner). Now you have piqued my curiosity to try rocker skis, so I will add that to my "to try" list. (don't think I've ever been on those before.)
 
#24
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.
Not so peculiar . . . I learned to ski ages 12-14 when at a boarding school in ski country, back in the days of straight skis and lace-up boots. Didn't ski at all for 10 years. Skied a little when working but at most a 1-week vacation out west and not every year. Green and blue groomers only. When I got my daughter started on skis at age 4, I was over 50 and a confident intermediate. I made parallel turns easily partially because I never mastered a narrow stance for parallel turns on straight skis. Had I known what I've learned in the last six years investing in lessons from very experienced instructors, I would've started lessons when I first took my daughter to Alta when she was 7. She was skiing blues there the first day thanks to ski school. We were only skiing about 10 days at a small hill her first few winters, and most of those days were not full days. I started regular lessons after a summer of knee rehab (not a skiing injury). Don't intend to stop any time soon. Even more helpful as an advanced skier.
 
#25
Thanks very much for the pictures ( I am a visual learner). Now you have piqued my curiosity to try rocker skis, so I will add that to my "to try" list. (don't think I've ever been on those before.)
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.

View attachment 9574
@alison wong : take a look at this discussion from 2012 about ski design and the relationship to how different designs change the way a turn feels. The OP was skiing a fair amount for a few years and is petite.

You are unlikely to find any full rocker skis at Mid-Atlantic demo days. A lot of "powder skis" have some camber. One Alta Demo Day when it was a groomer day because the off-piste was frozen solid, what I was doing was testing wide skis to see how they turned on groomers. Some are definitely easier to turn than others.

Sidecut radius vs. width underfoot
 

Abbi

Angel Diva
#26
@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.
I totally get what you mean! And not being able to turn is what freaks me out in deeper snow. I’m used to skiing on New England packed powder, a.k.a. ice. And I am happy enough there. But I do make lots of turns and I’m not a fast skier at all. Not being able to control the skis the way I am used to guys throws me mentally and physically!
 
#27
Powder skiing does take a lot of practice and repetition - just doing it. So it is hard to learn when you only get in it occasionally. Don’t be hard on yourself!

That said, lots of the advice here is excellent.
Weight should still be “forward”. Do NOT lean back. If you can take a close look at my avatar - skiing deep crud at Targhee - you can just barely see my ski tips floating up, and hopefully you can also see that I am not leaning back.

But unlike groomer skiing your weight should be more equally distributed between your feet. If you shift your weight from leg to leg like you would on a groomer - big trouble. The light ski will be deflected by the snow - face plant. Keep your weight more evenly and continuously distributed between your legs.

You also have to be patient. You are used to giving your skis a certain input and getting a particukar output. But when you are in powder and you provide that same input, you will NOT get the expected output. The output will be less and everything will happen more slowly. Because of this, it’s heloful to pick the right slope/pitch at first - something that won’t freak you out if you ski a straighter line but is steep enough for the powder depth that you won’t stop entirely. Remember, the powder is your friend in terms of speed control.

Finally, the type of turn that I think works best in deep powder and crud is a retraction turn. To start the turn you flex both legs at the same time then extend them out to the side together. Flex and suck them up, then extend to the other side. Rinse wash repeat. It can and should be practiced on a groomer so you are more ready for the powder when you encounter it. Ask an instructor to show you a retraction turn in your next lesson if you’ve never seen one.
 

pinto

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#28
There are also different types of "powder" (we are just going to go with deep untracked snow, here, and not get into whether Sierra Cement is powder or not). So you do have to adjust on the basis of moisture content, which I learned on a Whistler day when the snow was like a Slurpee. I can ski CO and UT powder no problem, but I was bogging down a little bit ok a lot in that wet stuff, and as others have said, I had to complete the turn even less to make it work.
 
#30
There are also different types of "powder" (we are just going to go with deep untracked snow, here, and not get into whether Sierra Cement is powder or not). So you do have to adjust on the basis of moisture content, which I learned on a Whistler day when the snow was like a Slurpee. I can ski CO and UT powder no problem, but I was bogging down a little bit ok a lot in that wet stuff, and as others have said, I had to complete the turn even less to make it work.
And then there is powder from a late season powder in Utah. Nice and fluffy first thing in the morning when it snows overnight, but can get heavy at some point during the day if it's a sunny and relatively warm day afterwards. That's when it helps to know a mountain well enough to know what stays in the shade. Also a reason to get comfortable skiing in between trees.
 
#31
Both heavenly and Northstar have great tree skiing! Always best place to be. Especially after sun turns snow into baked concrete!
 
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#32
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..

I ski Rossi temptation 80s too. Also found really fat skis to be hard (different skis definitely different but one set that I think were 108 wide I could only turn one direction and the other turndirection I could only get on edge with speed and decent slope but they’d been fine in powder). Try a Head Great Joy on a powder day. 98 underfoot with a wide tip so gets good float in powder and definitely WAY Easier than your Rossi’s in those conditions but I found you can still ski groomers and other conditions. They are not really a “powder” ski but they worked well in it without going crazy fat. They get really great reviews. Have just ordered myself a set as my graduation skis as my Rossi’s don’t perform well enough for how I want to ski now.
 
#33
Haven't watch it all yet, but this instruction video by Deb Armstrong at Steamboat seems pretty good for those wondering how to get started in 4+ inches of powder. Her students are two kids, so of course they make it look sooo easy.

 
#34
Came across another video about skiing deep powder. This one is from Europe. Not sure how helpful it would be for someone who's never skied deep powder and/or never had a powder lesson. Although the tips make sense based on what I've experienced. What's more interesting is the demonstrations of what happens when doing something the wrong way.

 
#35
Came across another video about skiing deep powder. This one is from Europe. Not sure how helpful it would be for someone who's never skied deep powder and/or never had a powder lesson. Although the tips make sense based on what I've experienced. What's more interesting is the demonstrations of what happens when doing something the wrong way.

This is a good video. I can see a bunch of these mistakes in my powder skiing.. I definitely try to go too slow, interesting also seeing how this can push you back and keep your tails too far under. I’ve tried the piston type of movement, but never seem to get much out of it, maybe because I’m still going too slow.. I also could probably get my legs closer.
 
#36
I definitely try to go too slow
The hardest thing for me last April when I had the chance to ski untracked on Ballroom at Alta was knowing I had to keep up speed. I was skiing solo. But there were two kids who went just before I did. The girl was 7 or 8 and her brother a few years older. They were with their father who was filming them from the traverse and obviously were locals. She fell a couple times, but popped right back up and kept going until she reached what is usually the edge of the groomer just below Ballroom. There had been no grooming after that storm.

After watching them, I pretty much counted to 3 and went. Couldn't wait since there were plenty of people headed out the traverse behind me. That was the fastest I've ever skied down Ballroom. It was definitely worth the time spent in the last decade gaining experience in powder >6 inches deep. Has to happen a little at a time given how infrequently there is deep powder during one of my ski trips out west. That run I didn't fall, and didn't stop until I got past the slight uphill on what is usually groomed. :becky:

Bottom line is that you can learn to ski powder, but it will take quite a few seasons to get enough experience.

From Ballroom traverse, the two dots (center of pic) in front of the trees are the kids I watched before I dropped in
Alta Ballroom first tracks start 2019.jpg

Photo from where I stopped
Alta Ballroom first tracks 2019.jpg
 
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#37
The first time I had a chance to ski untracked on Ballroom was back in 2008. While I made it down, it was not particularly fast nor without stops. If someone had asked 5 years ago if I would ski Ballroom non-stop at speed in deep powder, I would've said "no way!" But at the same time, the main reason I've worked to improve technique is to ski powder when I get lucky and catch a good snowstorm.

The difference last April was not only the stray lessons in the last 5-6 years in assorted places, but also three Taos Ski Weeks in the last two seasons. Got lucky last season and skied deep untracked powder on a double-black with my Taos lesson group. Combined with the other powder turns that week at Taos and later at Grand Targhee and Bridger, I'd gained enough experience and confidence to go for it on Ballroom.
 
#38
The hardest thing for me last April when I had the chance to ski untracked on Ballroom at Alta was knowing I had to keep up speed. I was skiing solo. But there were two kids who went just before I did. The girl was 7 or 8 and her brother a few years older. They were with their father who was filming them from the traverse and obviously were locals. She fell a couple times, but popped right back up and kept going until she reached what is usually the edge of the groomer just below Ballroom. There had been no grooming after that storm.

After watching them, I pretty much counted to 3 and went. Couldn't wait since there were plenty of people headed out the traverse behind me. That was the fastest I've ever skied down Ballroom. It was definitely worth the time spent in the last decade gaining experience in powder >6 inches deep. Has to happen a little at a time given how infrequently there is deep powder during one of my ski trips out west. That run I didn't fall, and didn't stop until I got past the slight uphill on what is usually groomed. :becky:

Bottom line is that you can learn to ski powder, but it will take quite a few seasons to get enough experience.

From Ballroom traverse, the two dots (center of pic) in front of the trees are the kids I watched before I dropped in
View attachment 11373

Photo from where I stopped
View attachment 11374
Looks amazing! Hopefully there will be ample opportunities to practice this season!! :ski:
 

contesstant

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#39
One of the tips I got from my SO who is rather amazing at skiing powder is to open up the turns. Same for crud. I tend to get caught up in one turn shape, one radius, and I do shop for turns, too. When I open up my turns, it actually FEELS like I'm going slower but I'm really not.

And steeper really IS easier in deeper powder. It used to freak the crap out of me. Learning powder can be really difficult because there just aren't a ton of opportunities to ski it. But it truly is some of the easier stuff to ski when it's untracked. It's just different. And zen like!
 
#40
One of the tips I got from my SO who is rather amazing at skiing powder is to open up the turns. Same for crud. I tend to get caught up in one turn shape, one radius, and I do shop for turns, too. When I open up my turns, it actually FEELS like I'm going slower but I'm really not.

And steeper really IS easier in deeper powder. It used to freak the crap out of me. Learning powder can be really difficult because there just aren't a ton of opportunities to ski it. But it truly is some of the easier stuff to ski when it's untracked. It's just different. And zen like!
And that light Utah powder is quite nice.... very different than 2-4 ft of heavy sierra cement that I end up skiing. And struggle as well....