Powder skiing, also known as off-piste or backcountry skiing, can be an exhilarating journey, but it can also be quite hazardous. Many experienced skiers prefer taking on these unmarked natural slopes instead of the deliberately designed, groomed, and marked trails found at public resorts. Here are four tips on how to handle the challenges of powder skiing.
1. Prepare Yourself Mentally
A clear, calm mind is a necessity for successfully navigating the unmarked terrain of powder skiing. Realize you’ll have to ski faster than you might want to at times and that you have to be prepared to adjust your skis down in the direction of the fall line. Don’t panic and fight against the pull of the path you’re on. Instead, calmly embrace and use it. Remember that if you do fall, you’ll only fall into powder, which is much softer and safer to fall on than the hard snow of on-piste courses.
2. Use the Proper Equipment
Mental preparation is crucial for powder skiing, but having the right equipment for this kind of adventure is equally important, so if you don’t own it yourself, consider renting gear from a reliable shop that specializes in high-quality snowboard and ski rental. In Mammoth, powder skiers must take certain tools and equipment with them to be ready for many potentially hazardous conditions and situations that can arise on unmarked terrain. Here are a few of the essential tools and pieces of equipment:
• Avalanche transceiver/beacon—allows others to locate you if you get buried under a lot of snow
• Shovel—useful for getting yourself out of deep drifts
• Backpack—should contain plenty of food and water
• Proper clothing—keeps you warm while allowing you to comfortably enjoy the slopes
• Fat skis—should have tip rockers and should be wider than your boots
3. Know How to Turn Correctly
The movements in powder skiing are different from those on hard pack. You should avoid catching edges and hopping into zigzag patterns. Instead, focus on rotating your thighs and keeping equal amounts of pressure on your skis for the entire course run. Ski as if you only have one large ski, which should result in clean, rounded turns rather than jagged, sharp zigzag trails in the powder.
4. Research Snow Hazard Conditions
Take note of the weather and snow forecasts before attempting any courses, particularly those involving powder skiing. These checks should be conducted regularly, as a course’s avalanche danger level can change throughout the day. Avalanche danger is categorized by five levels: low, moderate, considerable, high, and very high. Any course with an avalanche danger level of three (considerable) or higher should be approached with the utmost caution or simply avoided until the weather improves.
Skiing powder can be a great rush, but make sure to do it safely and use the proper equipment. Drop by ASO Mammoth for weather forecasts, avalanche information, safety tips from the experts, and Mammoth ski rentals. We can fit you out with everything you need to ski powder safely. Stop by when you’re on the mountain or give us a call at 760-965-3444.