January 26, 2006
To help you exploit the extreme enjoyment of skiing powder, I want to let you in on a few of the insider tips that follow ” because falling in powder is fun … until you can’t find your ski or can’t pull yourself out of the deep.
Super X: When I fall in soft snow, sometimes I have a hard time getting up, as my hand and arm sink in the deep snow. When the snow is this deep and soft I make an “X” out of the ski poles and hold the poles in the middle of the “X.” Then push up on the “X.” This “X” configuration of the poles serves as a platform and lever point for regaining your footing in deep snow.
The probe: After losing a ski in deep snow, hike up at least four ski lengths and use your remaining ski as a probe. Slice the ski tip across your tracks and listen for a “clack” sound when you make contact with the buried ski. If your friends come to the rescue don’t let them ski over your track because it will only drive the buried ski deeper into the powder.
Start right: For good rhythm during in a powder run, make the first turn your best turn; this will start a positive chain reaction. By packing down a platform to stand on and positioning the skis in the fall line, you can then set yourself up for a balanced first turn without worrying about the skis taking off before you are ready. This also gives you time to visualize the run and calm your nerves without struggling to get into position. If you start with a balanced turn, the subsequent turns theoretically flow in the same “neuron firing sequence,” resulting in consistent, rhythmic and smooth turns.
Wide skis: If you haven’t tried them yet, then try experimenting with wide powder skis. The new all-mountain and big-mountain skis have waist widths (under the foot) that range from 75 to 105 millimeters and are designed to help skiers plane through the deepest snow. The combination of speed and a wide ski will bring you up out of the snow and into dynamic powder skiing.
In your face: As you blast through the powder, you’ll often take a wave of the “fresh nectar of the Gods” to the face. There’s no need to panic. The whitewash just means you’re momentarily suspended in animation, void of breathable air and sight. Overreacting will spoil the epic powder run. Remember to relax and let your skis bottom out. Then you can gently push from the bottom as if you were in a swimming pool and coming up for air. As you rise, maintain the downhill momentum by keeping your hands positioned in front. Rhythm and composure are the distinguishing factors between a potentially memorable ski run versus yet another tumble in the powder.
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Having a few tricks in your pocket for deep powder snow can make your powder day much more enjoyable. Wasting too much energy flailing around in the powder takes valuable time and vigor away from what you really want to be doing: “Getting to and skiing the Freshies”
Chris Fellows and his wife Jenny are the directors of Truckee’s North American Ski Training Center (NASTC) and Chris is a member of the PSIA National Demonstration Team. Chris will be writing a weekly column all winter. He can be reached at ski@skiNASTC.com or 582-4772.