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February 25, 2008

Powder Skiing Advice from Craig McNeil at Rocky Mountain News

Good beginner advice on skiing pow:

I call "bottomless snow" - conditions where so much snow accumulates that there's no "bottom" or "base" layer. In other words, if you push your ski pole down through the surface layers, it just keeps going. Lose a ski or fall in such conditions, and you'll find yourself wallowing for what might seem like an eternity as you try to get back on your feet.

Where most green and blue runs are groomed, you'll find bottomless conditions on ungroomed black and double- black runs. And that's fitting because, in snow so deep, it's almost impossible to move on less-steep runs; ski a run that's somewhat steep and has a continuous pitch or you'll come to a grinding halt.

And herein lies the challenge for the common skier. It takes confidence, know-how, technique and strength to successfully handle such snow depth...

Tips for success

* Keep your feet together. When your feet are together, they cut the snow as one. When they come apart, either at the beginning of a turn or at any time throughout the arc of the turn, you're headed for trouble because it's easier to lose your balance and fall...

* In deep snow, you must ski off the fall line (down the slope, making continuous turns) in the same manner as a snowboarder. Traversing across the slope only shows a lack of confidence in your technique or timidity in your ability...

* Use a powder ski, which can range from 75 millimeters to more than 100 millimeters underfoot. All-mountain powder skis are wider underfoot and provide greater flotation on the snow. These skis provide more "float" and can make turn initiation and completion much easier in the deep stuff. If you don't have a pair in your quiver, rent them from a ski shop...

* The principles of tipping to the little-toe edge remain the same and are actually more effective in deep snow. Tip the foot in the direction you want to turn and extend your legs through the arc of the turn...

* Using your ski pole is one more way to help maintain balance. Your pole plant, which should be made down the fall line, is your cue to release the skis from the previous turn.

I am so spoiled. Unless there is powder to be had, it is barely worth putting the gear on. I don't like going fast, I like going fast enough through 2' of pow. It is even better on steeps in pow. But it is an aquired taste. I was talking to Jake about our first powder day. There was a two day storm that dropped 4'. We went out and the groomers were great because they were soft and you carved so well. Then we got off the beaten path and got buried. I postholed down and carried his skis while he did the same.

The art of parallel turns and carving as well as rhythm is what is important. It is like dancing. Turn, 2, 3, Turn, 2, 3. Like a Waltz. You pick your rhythm and speed and the motion with your arms and skis becomes second nature. Keep the feet together. Keep them parallel. And stay balanced front to back. Sometimes, that even means adjusting your bindings (if they are adjustable).

Posted by Justin at February 25, 2008 11:18 PM