Powder skiing tips: Suggestions for fine-tuning your skills
Brush up on your powder skiing technique with these suggestions for all skiiers
January 30, 2016
With El Niño kicking into high gear and significant snow on the way, it's time to get back on those powder sticks and enjoy all the conditions that a Lake Tahoe winter has to offer.
But for the intermediate-level skier, powder skiing can be intimidating, and for good reason. Ask any slopeside-clinic physician or ski patroller and they'll tell you — among other things — knee injuries typically go up on deep snow days.
However, with a little fine-tuning, the proper ski technique, and some helpful powder skiing tips, taking on the deep can be a lot more manageable.
With that in mind, here are some powder skiing tips for the next time you have a shot at first tracks:
GET ON TOP: Typically, the natural response for any skier taking on deep snow is to lean back to keep ski tips up.
"People think leaning back in powder is the way to do it, like water skiing," Professional Ski Instructors of America-certified instructor trainer Jonathan Lawson said. "They're nervous that the tips are going to dive down."
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That's fine to a point. But with modern ski designs, you can be over the top of your skis and still get that flotation to stay on top of the snow.
Too much of a back-seat stance will both put your knees at risk and cause you to fatigue more quickly.
TIGHTER AND LIGHTER: Unlike carving a groomed run, in deep snow, it's better to have legs closer together in a tighter stance. On a groomed surface you get much more performance out of your skis with a wider stance and more dramatic pressure on each ski during turns. But in deep snow, it's less about aggressive turns and more about soft adjustments. Turns should be more gentle with closer to even pressure on both skis at once.
"You're closer to even from foot-to-foot pressure," Lawson explained, "where as in carving (on a groomer) you might have 90 percent on your outside ski."
When you're floating on top of snow it takes much less pressure to turn. The narrower stance helps keep that pressure balanced between skies.
LET IT GO: Don't be afraid to point your skis more downhill on a powder day than you would in regular conditions.
"You can take a more direct line down the mountain (in powder) than you normally would," Lawson said. "With really round turns, a skier slows down too much. Momentum is your friend in powder skiing."
In this instance, that momentum can also lift you on top of the snow more than going slower would.
And remember, the powder is soft. If you're going to fall, it's best to let it happen. Injuries, especially ones involving twisting knees, often happen when a skier is trying to recover from a fall. Sometimes it's best to just let go.
IT COULD BE THE SKIS: Finally, if you're still struggling in the deep stuff, it could be your skiing gear. While technology isn't usually the problem, there absolutely are skis that perform stronger in deep snow. If the snow gets deep, it could be a great opportunity to demo some new gear. Any ski with a tip-and-tail rocker or early rise will help with ski flotation. Something that's a little wider underfoot will also make a dramatic difference. For powder skiing, it's all about flotation.
Before working for the Tribune, staff reporter Sebastian Foltz spent five winters as a ski instructor in Colorado and Oregon.
Originally published in the January 30, 2016, issue of the Tahoe Daily Tribune and regularly vetted for accuracy.