December 2001   
Powder basics:
Balance & smoothness
  As usual, stance and balance are at the heart of the matter. As we’ve just learned, deep snow does require a special stance, a two-footed stance, and a special kind of balance. I’m going to suggest that you develop both by postponing your first powder turns and instead just go for a long straight slide or two to get used to this new environment. No one feels at home in powder at first. But you will soon. Build up your confidence, your powder balance, and stability in several long, fast straight runs—either traverses or schusses straight down the slope, depending on the angle of the slope. Just cruise straight through that new snow, bouncing a little on both feet to get used to the fact that you are no longer standing solidly on a solid surface, but floating. Feels good, and it will feel even better after a few straight runs.

When you push off through deep snow, I want you to spread your hands laterally, a bit wider than normal, for better lateral balance. It’s always trouble to spread your skis in powder, so spread your hands. And it’s important not only to stand equally on both skis but to develop a kind of recovery mechanism to reequalize your weight when you get unbalanced onto one ski. The easiest way to do this is by sinking, collapsing both legs a bit, which will put you back firmly on both skis. Finding and maintaining two-footed balance in deep new snow isn’t hard; it’s just different. Or at least it feels different. But getting used to balancing on floating skis is half the fun.…

Trust me on this. It will make an incredible difference if you can get comfortable, feel stable and unshakeable, and grow accustomed to sliding fairly fast through powder snow before you start turning. Speed is the key. In deep snow, speed is your friend. The faster you go, the more your skis will float up toward the surface of the powder, and the easier it will be to turn, as long as you feel comfortable and stable. It’s analogous to waterskiing—the boat has to pull the skier forward at a good speed before the skis rise to the surface of the water. Indeed, a very common problem in powder is trying to turn without enough forward speed. Such turns quickly become wrestling matches with the snow, and the snow usually wins. And straight running in powder isn’t only a good balance exercise. It’s the way experienced powder skiers start most every run. They push off down the hill at a steeper angle than they would choose on a packed slope, and then they wait, and wait, until they have picked up enough speed to make the first turn easy. Have I convinced you? I hope so.

But after a couple of good straight runs, I know you’ll be itching to simply ski. Great. And here’s the first trick I want to share about turning in deep snow. Do everything slowly and smoothly; avoid any sudden jerky movements. Powder skiing more than anything else is a slow-motion sport! Remember, there is new snow all around your skis, so if you make a sudden movement, if you twist your skis violently, they will run into a veritable wall of resistance … and trip you. Progressive smooth movements are a must in deep snow.… If your ski tips lead you, if your skis are moving more ahead than sideways, you’ll be in great shape in powder.

In powder, try to make all your movements slow and long, smooth and steady. And it goes without saying that I want you to make all your turns round and patient, not sharp and sudden.…

[a short excerpt from chapter 7 of Breakthrough on the New Skis]

 December 2001  
Photos at top of page:
Jerry Berg plays the slow-motion game in powder,
filmed by Edgar Boyles
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© Lito Tejada-Flores unless otherwise credited.