Powder days leave otherwise good skiers struggling in fear on the side of a run as locals whoop and swoosh by. If this is you, take heart. You’re not alone, and you can learn how to enjoy your own freshies just like a “real local.”
The key to floating instead of fighting the powder is turning to go instead of to slow. Turning to go controls your speed with a series of turns that keeps you moving at a consistent and comfortable speed along a serpentine path through the powder. Turning to slow is trying to control your speed one turn at a time.
On groomed snow, you ski on the snow. In powder, you ski in the snow. This requires a few adjustments. On a groomed slope, turning to go puts you on the edge of the outside ski as it bends and cuts a curved path through the snow. Turning to go in the powder is more of a three dimensional experience, where you ride through each turn on the base of both skis as they bend. This takes a narrower stance that weights both skis so they bend together into the turn. Skiing in the snow also slows you down, so you need to let go of the last turn and start the next one sooner to prevent your skis from sinking into the snow at the end of each turn, making the next turn much harder to begin. You also need to keep your skis flatter to the slope (edge or tip them less) to keep them from slicing into the snow, which also causes them to sink and stall.
Learn to make these adjustments while traversing a gentle powder slope. After you build some speed, flex and extend to bow your skis into the snow. This should bring your tips out of the snow as your skis rebound from each compression. Move your body downhill and across your skis as your tips surface to make your first powder “turn to go”. This will tip both skis into the turn. As your tips turn downhill, extend your legs to help your skis bow into the turn. Be patient and trust the bow of your skis and the resistance of the snow to slow you down as you turn through and across the falline (the line that goes straight down the hill). Before your stall and sink into the snow, move your body downhill and across your skis to make your next turn. Resist the urge to quickly twist your skis as they point downhill, which will kill your speed and send you to the bottom, leaving you mired in the powder as you attempt to start the next turn. The timing is bring the tips up, move downhill and over your skis to start the next turn, then extend as you turn your feet, knees and thighs across the hill to guide the skis through the turn. Repeat before your skis turn very far across the hill.
As you move to steeper slopes, experiment with how much flexion and extension you need to bow and release your skis, how far to turn across the falline to control your speed without stalling, and how much to tip and turn your legs and feet. Keep the triangle defined by your belly button and shoulder pointed toward the bottom of the hill by turning your pants (your legs) more than your jacket (your upper body). If you keep going over the handlebars, don’t tip and turn so much, or don’t tip and turn all at once.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t sit back – there’s simply no need to with today’s equipment.