Powder skiing is now seen as the Holy Grail for many skiers. With the rise of social media, videos of top skiers riding the powder with style have stuck in the minds of many.
With technical information being more readily available than ever, the ability of the average powder skier should be increasing all the time. However, finding the best advice can sometimes be a challenge.
As always, we want to be the ones to take your ability in the white room up a notch. Here are our top powder skiing tips direct from the instructors.
Stay Centred Over The Skis
Posture is probably the most important part of ski technique. Starting from your first day skiing, the importance of posture should always be front and centre (excuse the pun!).
It’s common for posture to become an afterthought as you progress through the ability levels. However, it remains an integral aspect of each strand of skiing. This includes powder skiing!
When analysing the required powder posture, we do need to make a tiny adjustment to that original ‘perfect posture’ any good ski instructor would have taught you.
Like with all elements of skiing, we are going to focus on staying over the centre of the skis. This means that your body should always remain at a 90-degree angle to the slope.
Now, so far everything seems the same as piste skiing. However, here comes the twist.
The adjustment required should be in relation to the distribution of weight over the sole of your foot.
When you learned your initial skiing posture, you will most likely have been taught to keep your weight on the ‘balls of your feet’. This is great advice for piste skiing, but now we need to make a slight adjustment.
In the powder, it’s better to keep your weight spread evenly over the sole of your foot. This means less pressure on the front of the skis, but still allows you to maintain a centred posture.
With the pressure removed from the front of the skis, the tips will naturally be pushed upwards by the powder. This happens through natural flexing of the ankle joint.
This is a slight postural adjustment that has a big affect on your skiing. Posture is the number one powder skiing tip that is commonly taken for granted.
It’s hugely important to master this first step as it provides the platform needed to improve everything else on this list.
Once you have your posture sorted, you can achieve a perfectly balanced technique while still achieving that ‘floating’ feeling we all dream about!
Relax Your Skiing Joints
Having relaxed joints is something that can help you across so many elements of skiing. It is especially useful when skiing powder.
When talking about relaxing your joints, we are talking about your ‘skiing joints’ (ankles, knees and hips). Relaxing these skiing joints is a vital part of achieving a balanced and effective posture.
Once you have adopted a relaxed posture, this will allow your skis to operate underneath you without upsetting the balance of your upper body.
Just like when skiing moguls, you can allow your legs to act as ‘shock absorbers’. This will help maintain stability in your upper body while riding the potentially uneven surface below you.
Under that beautiful layer of fluffy powder, it’s often a pretty bumpy surface.
Keeping your ankle joints relaxed will also allow the tips of the skis to rise to the surface of the powder. This is essential as it ensures that you do not need to lean back to keep your ski tips out of the snow.
Furthermore, skiing with relaxed joints will allow you to achieve an increased range of motion during your vertical movements. This will improve your ability to flex and extend effectively throughout the turn.
Vertical Movements (Flex And Extend)
Vertical movements are another skiing basic that is essential in powder.
Flexing and extending is usually first introduced while you’re still making snow plough turns. However, it remains integral to your ski technique from that moment onwards.
When skiing powder, you may need to exaggerate your usual vertical range of motion. This means lots of downward pressure during the turn, and allowing that pressure to fully release during the transition.
During the arc (or middle) of the turn, you will be flexing downwards. This flex will push the skis down into the powder, causing the snow to compress under your skis.
Once you are at full flex, you can start to transition into the next turn by extending. As you extend, the release of pressure and decompression of the snow will cause an upward ‘rebound’ effect.
This rebound will allow you to naturally ‘pop’ out of the snow, releasing the skis from the deep powder. With the skis now released, they can be rotated in the direction you wish to travel.
These vertical movements are a fundamental part of powder skiing. With ‘edging’ to create turn shape not always possible in deep snow, vertical movements allow you to use a more rotation-based powder skiing transition.
Narrow Your Stance
Skiing with your feet close together is a common powder skiing tip. That is because it works.
Skiing with your feet next to each other will create a larger surface area for the base of your skis.
This means that the skis will not naturally sink as deep into the powder, allowing you to float closer to the surface of the snow.
If you are naturally closer to the surface to the snow, it will be easier to release the skis in order to complete your turn. It also makes it less likely for the tips of the skis to sink, making your technique more forgiving in case of a mistake.
Skiing with a narrow stance also helps to keep the skis at the same depth in the snow. With the skis next to each other, they can be used in tandem and thought of as one solid base.
Distribute Your Weight Evenly Between Your Skis
This is a powder skiing tip that will require you to rethink most of the things you have been told while skiing on piste.
From very early in your skiing development, you are told: ‘You need to balance your weight on the outside ski during the turn’.
Well, when you’re skiing powder, it’s time to change that!
When you are skiing in deep snow, it’s much more effective to balance your weight evenly over both of your skis.
This is partly due to one fundamental change; it’s not always possible to gain edge grip in deep, soft snow.
Since it is not always possible to gain edge grip in deep snow, you will not be looking to apply pressure to the outside ski. This is because you will not be using the shape of the ski to grip and create a turn.
Furthermore, when skiing powder, you want the skis to remain at equal depths within the snow. This is important, as you will find that if one ski sinks too low, it will be difficult to release from the snow when you try to direct the skis around the transition.
Adjust Your Turn Shape
When you’re skiing in powder, you will find that the deep snow will act as a natural buffer to control your speed.
With this is mind; you can now adjust your turn shape to ski a faster path. This means that you can choose a more direct line.
Choosing a more direct path for the skis means that you can keep your skis pointing down the hill for longer. This usually means adjusting from a ‘C’ shaped turn to an ‘S’ shaped turn.
When skiing on piste, it’s common to use a ‘C’ shaped turn to control your speed. This is because you finish the turn pointing across the slope.
However, when skiing powder you will usually need to use an ‘S’ shaped turn. This turn finishes with your skis still pointing down the hill.
With speed control made easier by the deep snow, you should keep your skis facing down the hill to maintain your speed.
It’s also important your turns have a smooth and rounded shape.
If you turn the skis too quickly, it will usually result in the skis getting stuck in the snow. This often ends in a downhill face plant!
Find Your Rhythm
Rhythm isn’t always the focus point of everyone’s powder skiing tips, but its importance shouldn’t be underestimated.
Rhythm and flow both take practice, confidence and technique to achieve. They both play a vital role in producing a quality ski performance.
If you are skiing powder, rhythm will be directly related to vertical movement.
Your vertical movements allow you to drive the ski around the arc of the turn and also help you to release the skis at the end of the turn; creating a transition.
If you can do this consistently, you will find rhythm.
Rhythm will allow you to carry momentum from one turn into the next. This is important because it allows you to maintain your speed, contributing to a flowing performance.
Maintain Your Speed
Another important powder skiing tip is to make sure you maintain a good amount of speed.
Even from the beginner level, skiing at higher speed can automatically improve many of aspects of your performance.
Powder skiing is no different.
Skiing faster in powder will help the skis float closer to the surface of the snow. This makes turning easier, which then contributes to a high quality performance.
Skiing powder at higher speed can also help you maintain a centred posture. The forces acting upon the skis at higher speeds are what push their tips upwards via the ankle joint.
If you are not carrying enough speed, you will often find it necessary to move your weight back onto your heels to achieve the same effect.
With your weight on your heels, you will easily get fatigued due to poor posture. Leaning back is also an unbalanced position that can often lead to a fall.
Pro Tip: Don’t Lean Back.
Effective Pole Planting
Pole planting is something that neatly ties into many aspects of skiing. Helping with balance, posture, movement and rhythm.
Since powder skiing requires proficiency in each of these elements, effective pole planting can really improve your performance.
Using a pole plant is a helpful timing aid. This means it can help synchronize your vertical movements. This not only helps you gain a good range of motion, but also plays a big part in maintaining a good rhythm.
Pole planting will also help keep your upper body facing down the hill. This keeps your upper body balanced and helps you achieve the correct powder skiing turn shape.
Furthermore, pole planting helps keep you centred on the skis. With your hands kept in front of you, it’s a great balancing aid.
With all of these benefits, you can see why pole planting is another crucial powder skiing tip.
Allow Your Upper Body To Remain Inside The Turn
Allowing inclination into the turn is something that ties into the other powder skiing tips on this list.
With your weight balanced equally across both skis, it’s no longer necessary to use angulation in order to pressure the outside ski.
It’s important to keep both skis at the same depth in the snow. If you use angulation, it will likely sink your outside ski deeper into the snow due to the potential increase of pressure.
While speed is maintained in the powder, the forces acting upon you will allow you to use a degree of natural inclination while still remaining balanced.
Also, with the skis facing downhill throughout the turn, it’s optimal to keep your upper body stable and facing down the slope. This will lead to additional balance, while still allowing you to perform the turn shape required.
Use The Right Equipment
When you are skiing powder, it’s always easier when you have the correct equipment. We are referring to powder skis.
Powder skis are wider under foot than regular skis. Also, they often use a ‘rocker’ shape rather than a ‘camber’.
Powder skis can make skiing in deep snow easier because the increased surface area helps keep the skis from sinking into the snow.
With the skis kept closer to the surface of the snow, it’s easier to perform a technique that is closer to piste skiing. This is because you will now be on top of the snow, instead of in the snow.
The use of powder skis has really grown in popularity during recent years. In my opinion, this has caused an over reliance on using equipment to deal with variable snow conditions.
With correct technique, it’s completely possible to ski powder on almost any type of ski. However, using powder skis can certainly make life a lot easier!
Choose An Appropriate Line
Powder skiing is a skill that takes hard work and practice. This is a process that cannot be rushed.
When you are heading off-piste, it’s important to pick terrain that is suitable for your ability level. This means that if you are a beginner, you should most likely start at the side of the piste.
Skiing off-piste and backcountry can throw up a whole host of challenges that you need to be prepared for. This means that if you are not already competent with steeps, moguls and crud; you probably shouldn’t be skiing backcountry.
Work hard on your technique and progress through the off-piste levels as your ability improves.
There is a reason why powder skiing has become the Holy Grail for so many skiers. When done properly, it is one of the best experiences you can have on the mountain.
Hopefully these powder skiing tips can give you some focus and help you troubleshoot your skiing to the next level.
We also appreciate your feedback, feel free to comment below and let us know your best powder skiing tip!
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.