SKI TIPS: The key to skiing in heavy powder

Whitewater Ski Team coach Chris Swetland starts his turn in the air (left) before finishing it in some very heavy powder.


Whitewater Ski Team coach Dylan Henderson shows how to navigate powder with ease

We all really love to ski powder, but skiing in heavy powder can be difficult.

With the temperatures bouncing up and down through the winter we need to be able to quickly adapt so that we can enjoy every day on the slopes. Heavy snow is challenging for all skiers, but I will give you a few tools that will make it easier, safer and more fun.

When we are skiing it is important get the skis out on edge as we initiate the turn and wait for the ski to load up with pressure through the turn, then release the stored energy at the end of the turn. The same applies with heavy snow, but if you throw your skis out on edge you might find that you just fall over, and it is pretty hard to get up in heavy snow.

When your skis are sliding through the heavy snow, there is too much resistance to allow for the usual ski performance. Therefore, we need to skip the turn initiation. In order to do this we need to get the ski out of the snow and begin the turn in the air. How do we do this?

The most important tool is a very solid pole plant. On the groomers we might just use the wrist to do a nice little touch for timing, but once we get into the coastal concrete we need to pole plant like we mean it. Use your shoulder and put at least 10 per cent of your body weight on those big flower baskets. You can further unweight your skis by lifting hips up and forward while pole planting.

Another tool is to use the terrain. In heavy snow I find myself looking ahead to the next bump that I can plant my pole on, and then launch off, so that I can begin turning in the air with ease and let the ski dive back into the snow pointing straight down the fall line where I can do the fun part of the turn effortlessly. The more speed you have the better when skiing in heavy snow so that you can overcome the resistance.

The final tool is the preload. To further lighten our skis in the transition we can bounce on the skis right before the pole plant like you would on a diving board, but instead of doing a cannonball, you can get your skis to come up to the surface at the pole plant as if you have a pair of dolphins on your feet.

Once these tools are acquired you will have lots of fun in the heavy snow and you will also ski safer. The start of the turn is where we often lose our balance, so skip that step and do it in the air!

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