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May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, November 1999 Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

For those of us with neither the wherewithal to arrange helicopter time nor the inclination to winter in a van parked near a resort, powder days are few and far between. Not surprisingly, even accomplished skiers and snowboarders struggle in deep snow. But when the planets do align and you and the powder arrive on-mountain the same day, the sensation of soaring down the fall line with snow exploding off your chest is as good as it gets. Some general advice: If you'd rather be floating down the hill than swabbing snow out of your goggles after every third turn, you'll do well to remember one word—momentum. Deep snow slows you down, so you want to have a head of steam before trying to turn; maintain the speed by spending more time in the fall line than cutting across it.


"Powder," says Palmer, "is what snowboarding is all about." It's also about as close to surfing as you'll get without an actual wave. And there are technical parallels: In both cases, the back leg is in charge. "You're generating your directional changes with lateral motion of the rear leg," Palmer says. Keep the nose of the board out of the snow and use the back of the board like a rudder instead of carving with the edges. "You really power that rear foot through to create the arc of the turn."

An equipment note: Try moving your bindings, and thus your stance, back on your snowboard. How far you go is a matter of personal comfort, notes Palmer. "The setup on most boards has you two to four centimeters back of center," he says. "In powder, depending on the depth and consistency, you might want to be eight or nine centimeters back of center."

Alpine Skiing

The next best thing to a snowboard is powder skis. "If the snow's three inches or deeper," says Reichhelm, "I'm on fat skis." True powder skis, 80-90 millimeters wide at the waist, make skiing so much easier that it feels like cheating. (Or like snowboarding.) Mid-fats, between 70 and 75 millimeters wide at the waist, also do well, and they're often versatile enough to use as an everyday ride (see "Say, Nice Figure," page 133).

Equipment aside, the key is to stay forward. No matter what you may have heard, don't lean back with your weight over the tails. You'll have little control and torch your quads in the process. Check your stance, says Reichhelm, by making sure that you feel some pressure from your ski boots against your shins, not your calves.

Between turns, unweight your skis by pulling both feet up as you change direction. "It's not a hop so much as a bounce," Reichhelm says. You want your skis to "porpoise," diving slightly in the middle of the turn and then coming out of the snow as you get ready for the next one.

Telemark Skiing

In the deep stuff, the constant bobbing motion of switching legs in a telemark turn puts you farther down in the snow—a bonus if you're into face shots. In heavy snow, try making more frequent, shorter-radius turns with a tighter stance, suggests White. In lighter powder, he says, it's easier to make long sweeping turns.

Either way, stay centered over your skis and instead of pressuring the leading leg more than your trailing leg, divide your weight more equally. "If you find your trailing leg wandering," White says, "it's probably because you don't have enough weight on it. If you feel like you can't get weight on it, it's probably because it's too far behind you. Tighten up your stance." And loosen up your grin.





Photo: Christian Pondella

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