Powder is Nirvana for skiers – the fullest state of existence, always chased but never totally grasped.
“Powder snow skiing is not fun. It’s life, fully lived, life lived in a blaze of reality,” said Colorado skier, mountaineer and writer Dolores LaChapelle.
It’s the feeling of flying free and fast. It’s glorious. At least it is if you know how to ski powder. If not, it’s like being a toddler wallowing through icy quicksand. No matter what you do, you just can’t stay up.
Like every toddler learns, the key to staying upright and moving is to practice, and, according to Monarch Mountain assistant vice president of guest services Jack Sciacca, you don’t need a powder day to learn the basic techniques that will teach you how to fly.
“Half of it is confidence, and half of it is some skills you can practice anywhere,” Sciacca said on a knee-deep day at the mountain. “Once you have the skills, you’ll gain the confidence and it will come naturally.”
Here are Sciacca’s tips for reaching the next plane in flying down the mountainsides.
PLOW THROUGH THE POW
PRACTICE POWDER SKIING WHEN THERE IS NONE
Take time to master the skills you’ll need to fly through the powder when the next big dump comes. Rotary motion makes turns quick and easy, even in crud. Even weighting keeps your skis together in deep snow.
MORE TIPS FOR A GREAT POWDER DAY
Use the right sticks Old-fashioned skis were long, skinny and straight. To turn in powder, they required skiers to hop like bunnies. New wide, shaped skis don’t require you to hop much. A slight knee bend when changing edges is usually enough. You don’t have to own several pairs of skis; just rent powder skis when a big dump comes.
Watch for hidden hazards
Lay off the poles Keep poles out in front of you, using just the slightest tap of the pole for timing at the start of each turn. If you’re relying on poles for balance, you’ll run into trouble when they can’t touch bottom.
HOW TO …
Get up in powder
Find your lost ski
Troubleshoot 2 main problems Problem: You continually fall to your uphill side. Fix: You’re leaning back too much. Focus on keeping your upper body facing downhill, with weight over the balls of your feet. Problem: One ski keeps getting hung up in the powder, or skis go different directions. Fix: Your weight is uneven. Focus on putting the same amount of weight and edge pressure on both skis.
Take a lesson on a powder day. Sign up for an advanced intermediate lesson on an epic snow day. You’ll not only get great tips and a tour from someone who knows the mountain, you’ll get to cut the lift line.