How to ski in powder snow
Powder skiing is actually more like water skiing than piste skiing, so to get the right flow, you need to think a bit differently than when you head down a freshly laid piste slope, even though the basics are the same. Freeride pro Evelina Nilsson has won several Scandinavian championships and has been part of the Freeride World Tour for several years. Here are her five best tips when going off-piste.
The biggest difference is the skis. “Ordinary” skis are made for piste skiing which means it’s difficult to get the right flow with them in powder snow. Modern off-piste skis are much wider and have a reverse camber that makes them more suitable for powder snow. When you’re wearing them, you don’t have to keep your weight back to get the tips above the snow and move forwards. When skiing on perfect “champagne snow” you might still end up with a few deep dives and a face full of snow, but that’s all part of the fun.
Just like on piste, your basic position should be centered. Remember anything can happen and be prepared, a bit like a wrestler. Try to keep your tummy tucked in (to avoid skiing stomach first) is a classic tip an Alpine skiing coach used to say back in the day, but it still applies. Try to keep “pressure on the tongue” is another technique cliché that has also come about for a reason. Sometimes, there’s so much snow that you have to sit back a bit to get some speed, but you should simply think of this as a bit more exercise for your legs.
An ordinary piste is predictable. There are no sheer drops, rocks or other dangers. Pretty much anything can happen off-piste. And that’s the beauty of it, but you should do some proper planning so everything goes as it’s supposed to. Plan your trip before you start, so you know what route you should take and where you should stop. Keep your eyes up and try to be aware of what’s around you at all times.
Start at the right level
However appealing long steep slopes in the deepest powder may look, they’re no place for a beginner to start. You’ll often find shorter runs with reasonable slopes close to the pistes. That’s a good place to test your powder wings. Then, as your legs and technique adjust, gradually increase the degree of difficulty.
It can be difficult to know what you’re doing right and wrong if you aren’t a professional skier. It’s always worth spending a day with a ski coach who knows the technique and can also teach you in an educational way. Some ski coaches are specially trained in off-piste and can often get your powder career off to a flying start.
Don’t forget to take essential avalanche equipment. You can read more about this in our guide to skiing off-piste safely right here:
Published: January 11, 2019