Director of Holiday Valley Snowsports School
From printed and video educational material of Professional Snowsports Instructors of America/ American Association of Snowboard instructors
There is one hard and true fact about a mountain sport—you deal with what the mountain gives you.
Any numbers of things affect your on-snow experience: skier traffic, sun, rain, time of day and, of course, snow!
Last week, when it was snowing so hard that your tracks from the last run were already being covered, I heard several people in lift lines complaining about conditions. They were commenting on the lack of grooming. Silent, soft, beautiful powder, and these people were complaining!
Two things came to my mind.
First, these people don’t realize you don’t “groom” when the slopes are open and crowded. Plus, grooming during a snow storm is like digging a hole in the lake.
Second, it’s powder, and skiing in this is fun and unique in the east. This is not bottomless “champagne” powder like out west; this is fun and user-friendly powder over a solid base. You just need to adapt a bit and pay attention to your skiing. But you should revel in the experience!
Powder skiing really accentuates the connection between your core and your feet. You still need an upright and athletic stance, maybe just a touch narrower than normal. (A narrower stance reduces the likelihood of having one ski or the other get caught up and pulled away from you.)
You should maintain a muscular tension from your core-abs through your legs- quads, glutes, etc. – to your ankles and feet.
The resistance of skiing in the snow, as opposed to on the snow, demands you maintain this positive connection.
As you ski through ruts and piles, your skis will be affected, and you want to have a stable connection so you are not being levered back and forth. You still want to maintain pressure on the front of your boots and feel your whole foot connected to your foot beds— not way back on the heel, not way forward on your toes, but a solid ball of the foot stance.
Now slow things down—don’t try to lever and pivot your skis in this stuff— but let the snow give you the turn. Stay with your skis as they begin their arc. They will turn all the way across the slope.
Do a simple fan progression to get the feel and consistency of the snow. Just start in a shallow traverse and with a slight down motion, turn your skis up the slope with a soft, gentle action. Now do this steeper and steeper until you get a “feel” for powder. Take this down the slope, making big sweeping turns, and the depth of the snow will assist you in maintaining your speed.
Keep your feet connected to your core with athletic tension though abs, legs and feet. You will glide through troughs and pillows of snow.
Ride your skis, and don’t do anything fast to turn. You won’t have any fun if you try to ski like you do on groomed corduroy.
This is the essence of skiing, of enjoying the “mountain experience.” Enjoy the variations of life on the mountain, smile through the mask of snow blowing back up into your face. Grin and add another condition you and the mountain can experience together.
Spring is going to bring any number of various conditions, so learn how to deal with all of them by taking a private or group session with a certified snowsports pro!
Next time you see it “dumping,” don’t complain about the lack of grooming.Instead, revel in it and look for the untracked stashes you will soon learn to cherish!