When my friends and I get lucky and the snow conditions are good off-piste, we are probably skiing 80% off the groomed trails. Meaning we are only taking groomed trails to get between other terrain after a warm up run first thing in the morning.
After working on ski conditioning off-season for 8+ years, I'm just as ready to ski off-piste at the end of the day as first thing in the morning. When I started skiing more regularly out west about ten years ago, I stuck to groomers by 2:00 or so.
What's really changed in the last few seasons is my ability to ski deep powder, untracked or tracked, without stopping on a reasonably long run. That was always the goal for taking lessons. Getting enough powder experienced required starting to ski 20+ days at big mountains out west so that catching a powder storm was more likely. Also helped that I was spending at least a week at Alta in April starting in 2010. There is usually one decent snowstorm while I'm there. Even though the powder may only last one morning, it was enough to get some experience. I learned about lots of short powder shots from friends who know Alta well, as well as during lessons.
A powder run story . . .
In April 2019 I happened to reach the top of the Collins lift just as ski patrol was about to open Ballroom. I was skiing solo because I was on my way to look for friends over on Supreme. I got in line while I decided what to do. I had a couple minutes to think before reaching the gate. I ended up deciding to go for it. After a bit I was following a father with two kids, probably 8/9 and 10/11. They were obviously locals. When he stopped to have them drop in, I stopped too.
I watched the kids go, as at the father took video. His daughter (in pink) was younger and went first. Made a few turns, fell, popped up immediately, waved, and carried on. After the boy went, I knew I couldn't wait much longer if I wanted first tracks. I took a deep breath, counted to 3, and dropped in. I'd never skied deep powder non-stop that far and that fast before. What was unusual that day was that the groomer below Ballroom hadn't been groomed at all since the storm. Since I knew the terrain well, I kept right on going on top of the groomer. I made sure to stay in tracks on the flat section in order to have enough speed to get to the high point (second picture). What a rush!
Can you see the girl in pink (center)? She is at what is usually the edge of the groomed trail.
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Didn't stop until I got here. The people in the picture skiing down went much farther out on the Ballroom traverse. It's get steeper as you go farther out. Where I dropped in is "blue" on the trail map because there is less pitch. Obviously snow conditions makes a big difference in times of how hard, or fun, it is to ski that section of Ballroom after a powder storm.
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That looks amazing!!
I definitely still have a lot of trouble in deep (or really heavy because usually in the East) powder. I don’t get in it enough to practice a lot. I was feeling better after a week of powder days out in Jackson Hole in early 2020, and thought gosh if I could do this for a month straight I might actually be able to really ski powder! Alas, now it’ll have been 2 years by the time I get back West again due to Covid. I’m still pretty horrible in powder in the East if it gets over say 8-10 inches and depending how heavy and wet it is.. someday I’ll get it! Lol Untracked in heavy snow I can do, but tracked out heavy chop is still so tiring and I stop a lot to regroup.