How To Ski Powder
Skiing powder is the ultimate feel-good booster. We see the pros “shredding the pow,” making it look so easy, but how do they do it? Their skiing looks so light and effortless, gliding down a steep pitch. It’s like a dream. Here are the secrets to unlocking your powder skiing performance.
Secrets to skiing powder
- Understand how skiing powder is different
- The right kit
- The right terrain
- Learn the fundamental movements – in the correct order
- Putting it all together
Understand how skiing powder is different to piste skiing
When we first learn to ski on piste, some key fundamentals exist to help us. You may have heard them described in different ways, but I’m sure you’ll recognise things like:
- Standing on the outside ski
- Using the inside edge of the outside ski to create grip
- Skiing is a “one foot at a time” activity
- Twist and skid your skis to slow down
And many more.
These are helpful and encourage the right movements when skiing on a relatively firm surface. In powder, this all changes.
We ski in the snow, not on top of it. The texture is soft, and it’s easy for one ski to sink in, making balancing a challenge. Skidding to control speed doesn’t seem to work.
Before diving into how skiing powder demands a different approach, let’s ensure we have the suitable kit.
The right kit
We know a worker never blames their tools. But wider and softer skis will make all the difference in this instance. However, nothing is stopping you from skiing powder on your narrow slalom skis. It’s a lot more challenging and requires much better balance and precision.
Most rental shops will allow you to swap your skis for a morning or a day to enable you to try a different pair. So if you’ve seen the forecast and know there’s lots of fresh snow coming the next day, head to the rental shop the night before and try out some wider powder skis.
The wider the ski, the easier it will be to balance in soft snow. We recommend a ski with a wide shovel (front) that is relatively soft and is at least 90mm underfoot.
Powder skis can also be longer than your on-piste skis. Having longer skis provides more surface area and enables you to “float” in deeper, fresh powder.
Want to ski off-piste but need ski hire?
We have an exclusive discount code that we’d like to share with our friends of New Generation Ski School. If you’re visiting the Alps, and want to make the most of the fresh snow, head over to our Ski Hire page to take advantage of our promotional ski equipment codes with SkiSet in France, Hervis in Austria & Ski Service in Switzerland.
The right terrain for off-piste skiing
To learn the new movements for powder skiing, we’d suggest starting on pretty flat terrain where you could just let the skis run straight. Sometimes you can achieve this by heading straight down the slope, but most times, this will mean choosing a slightly perpendicular line across the hill.
Starting on more gentle terrain will give you time to practice the critical powder skiing movements without worrying about speed control. As your powder skiing improves, you can gradually move onto steeper un-groomed slopes.
Learn the fundamental movements – in the proper order
Ski technique: The bounce
When it comes to backcountry skiing, it’s all about the bounce. Do this in a straight line in soft snow and choose a gradient where you won’t pick up too much speed.
You already know the first fundamental powder skiing movement if you’ve bounced on a trampoline or trampette. The powder snow will act as your trampoline if you make the right moves to create a bounce or rebound effect from the snowpack.
Like on a trampoline, you must feel and discover the correct movements. Bounce on two feet, bend and stretch your ankles, knees and hips.
Maintain balance over your feet. Search for the feeling where the snow responds, and you feel a mild rebound effect pushing you back towards the surface.
You should feel a light “floaty” phase as well as a “pushing into the snow” heavy phase. It should feel rhythmical and as if the snowpack acts like a trampoline beneath your feet.
You may also feel that sinking into the snow slows you down a bit.
Continuing with the trampoline analogy, imagine you’ve a small trampoline or trampette under your feet. Set off and get the rhythm going to create the gentle bouncing effect.
As your skis near the surface, gently tip your skis, feet, ankles and knees to one side in the light phase. As you start to sink into the bounce, your tipped skis will begin to bend and deflect into a gentle turn.
You can aid this turning by steering your legs around a C-shaped arc. Don’t turn too much, and continue practising this gentle deflecting movement until you can coordinate the gentle tipping and steering movements with the rhythm of the bounce.
When you stop and look back at your tracks, you should see a rhythmically linked set of gentle turns.
Putting it all together: Pole planting
You can start using a well-timed pole plant to help your balance and rhythm. Think of your ski poles as a timing device that marks the end or beginning of each turn.
As your confidence and skills develop, you can push into the trampoline a bit harder and steer further across the fall line. Pushing harder with your feet will aid speed control and enable you to increase the gradient gradually.
If it gets too fast or you lose the rhythm and bounce, take it back a few steps and start again. Think about skiing terrain where you can be successful and practice the correct movements. Enjoy it and have fun!
Isn’t it time you felt confident to ski powder?
Sharing a ski lesson or experience with someone makes it that much more enjoyable, and gives you something to look back and laugh together about. It also helps you to make the most of snow conditions so you’re always learning about new styles of skiing.
This is why we love group ski lessons. Our adult off-piste ski groups bring together people of a similar level in a sociable setting. Whether it’s your first time skiing off-piste, or you’re looking to develop your technique and explore the backcountry, you’ll be able to progress and build confidence in a fun but supportive environment.
Please remember, when venturing off-piste to play in the powder, you must ensure you have the correct avalanche safety equipment (which you can rent from us or buy for yourself from Ellis Brigham.) And ensure you are either with an instructor or someone who knows the terrain and conditions well. Stay safe and know how to use your equipment.