Everyone dreams of a magical day of floating down the mountain, cutting turns on perfectly groomed runs, and billowing through fresh powder. Unfortunately, snow conditions don’t always measure up to your dreams.
But don’t worry! The following techniques and tips will help you tackle various snow types. There are also gear recommendations to make gliding through even the most challenging conditions a whole lot easier. Of course, lessons are always a great option if you want to get some “hands-on” experience and pointers as you go.
Let’s start with the good stuff. As easy as the pros make it look in videos when they’re dancing down the steeps with snow up to their chests, skiing powder isn’t always quite so easy.
If you’re new to navigating several inches of freshies you may find that your skis sometimes want to go in separate directions and boards want to sink. The first rule: relax and don’t fight the snow. On skis, make sure to keep each ski evenly weighted. Keep your shins pressed against the front of your boots to maintain a slight bend in the knee and resist the urge to lean back. Keep your hands still and in front of you, and don’t let your poles drag behind you on turns—this automatically helps your skis stay closer to the top of the snow surface.
When making turns, arc into a curve rather than flipping your skis left or right too quickly. Extend your legs slightly into the middle of the turn, compressing the snow under you and allowing it to bounce you back into the outset of the turn.
On a snowboard, weight should be on your back foot to keep the nose of the board up.
Best gear: When it comes to powder, the fatter and stiffer the ski (with a flexy tip), the better, and a rocker camber helps you float. As far as snowboards, most all-mountain boards work well in powder but err on the side of stiff rather than soft. Skis and boards that are a couple centimeters longer than what you’d normally use work better in deep snow.
Pro ski racers call hard pack conditions “hero snow” because while it is solid (and sometimes borders on icy), it’s actually optimal for carving consistent turns. While you probably won’t be cutting such a deep carve that your hip skims the snow like those beautiful giant slalom skiers, concentrating on using your edges will help you enjoy hard packed conditions.
Skiers, when cutting across the fall line, angle your knee into the slope to feel the edge of the inside of your downhill ski cutting evenly with the outside of your uphill ski. Boarders, bend your knees to dig the heel edge in and when transferring to your toe side, bend your knees more deeply and engage that edge.
Best gear: Stiff, carving skis with traditional camber and little to no rocker. A stiffer, all-mountain snowboard with classic camber and no rocker is your best bet here.
Let’s say that the term “hard pack” is too generous and there’s no mistake that you’re skiing on ice. For skiers, it’s easy to tense up and keep your weight on your heels, but this will only result in losing more control on your turns. Instead, put your hands up and stay forward in your stance, leaning downhill on turns to evenly weight your skis and to prevent the uphill ski from slipping out from under you. Although you want to use your edges to make turns on ice, you should make shorter, quicker turns and refrain from keeping your edges on the surface for an extended period.
Snowboarders, keep your weight centered on the middle of your feet with knees bent rather than putting too much weight in your heels or toes. Let your board slide with the
Best gear: Stiff slalom skis with narrow cut work best in these conditions. Stiff all-mountain board with edges sharpened to 90 degrees.
There are many names for this type of snow—including “peanut butter” and “wet cement”—none of which sound appealing. While it might not seem like the most inviting consistency to glide through, fighting half-frozen, thick snow will only make things harder on yourself.
Staying light on your feet with your weight centered is the best way to cope with choppy, inconsistent conditions. You might hit a soft spot one minute and a half-baked block the next. Keeping pressure on the front of your boots, knees bent and hands forward will never be more important.
Best gear: When you’re working with heavy snow, go with fat skis with a rocker, or a stiff powder board with a slight rocker.
When the sun is shining and warm spring temperatures out in force, the snow takes a turn for the wet and heavy and if you use the right techniques, you’ll have a blast in the slush.
The first thing you have to become comfortable with is sliding around and moving with your skis or board. There’s no holding an edge in this stuff, so be prepared to swing wide on your turns. Keep your weight forward, hands up and make short, quick turns.
Best gear: Try powder skis with a rocker or a semi-flexible board with rocker camber when the temps are warm and the snow is slushy.
Epic Mountain Rentals carries a broad quiver of state-of-the-art skis and snowboards for all snow conditions. You can rent a Demo package which will get you premium gear designed for whatever terrain or conditions you’re riding that day. Whether it’s that epic powder day or a sunny afternoon of slush, demo gear is available at numerous slopeside locations.
Featured image provided by © Vail Resorts