Monday, March 19, 2012

Learning to ski deep powder

As yesterday wrapped up yet another glorious day of powder skiing in one solid foot of new snow, I ran into a big guy who told me that his entire body was badly hurting after just attempting to venture into that deep stuff. I naturally shared some of my thoughts about a skill that normally brings practitioners to the holly grail of skiing.

Unless adult individuals are incredibly determined, athletic and fearless to want to learn powder skiing on their own, they should take lesson from a very competent ski instructor. The reason is that powder skiing embodies what's most paradoxical about skiing. The skier must go very fast in order to stay up in powder, make turns and link them well.

Yet, fear pushes everyone to slow down, think twice and hesitate. Then how can a capable instructor successfully take someone into that new frontier? For one thing, skis have come an incredibly long way and have been making it easier for most people to handle deep, untracked snow. The reality is that adults who are burdened with responsibilities, have long lost the fearlessness of their teenage years and early twenties need to dip their ski tips very gradually in that fleeting matter.

What I have found works best is to begin with training students by doing partial turns without even going over the fall line and increasing gradually the departure angle until it reaches that fall line and then goes beyond it. At the same time, I advocate a very gentle contact of the skis onto the snow and a minimum edge bite. Riding a super flat ski in deep snow promotes control and helps the ski turn instead of shooting straight and spooking the skier.

A heightened sense of foot-to-ground feeling is paramount and precedes any advices about stance, lower joints and upper body positions that are generally served first to apprentice powder-hounds. If the skier can't truly sense and experience that ground feeling, there's no way confidence can be established and trusting learning begin.

Once again, the road to deep snow mastery begins with sound instruction!

No comments: