In case you haven’t been paying attention…
NOAA, our overlord of weather data, just reported that this winter has been the wettest on record. Ever. People, do you understand? Colorado has avalanches dumping out on the Interstate, California is setting records and staying open until forever, and Wyoming and Montana are worried about radiation from the relentless nuking that’s been taking place on the daily.
So with all this pow, how do you slay like a pro?
Step 1: Find the Pow.
Great. Easy. This year that means walking out the front door step. You don’t even have to break a sweat. If you don’t live close to snow, though, may buy a plane ticket or saddle up the station wagon, but make sure you buy your lift tickets online before you go unless you want to pay full price at the window (yikes). Otherwise you can put your face over a topless blender with ice in it and turn it on. It’s kind of like skiing.
Step 2: Grab the Fatties Skis for the Pow
Translation: grab the widest skis you can. Skiers and riders have different preferences here, but the word of the day is float — think like a rubber ducky, it’s what you want.
The goal here is to, as best as possible, stay on top of the surface of the snow and float effortlessly down the hill. In order to float, though, you need real estate wide enough to keep you on top. So how do you do that? Glad you asked.
Fatty Pow Skis — A Crash Course
Like I said, this is a crash course, so don’t expect to know everything about pow skis, but next time it’s dumping at, say, Arapahoe Basin in Colorado (it usually is), you’ll have a better idea of what to grab in the rental shop.
When we say fatter we mean skis that have a waist width of around 105mm and up, which describes the width (in millimeters) of the ski under your boot. Fat=wide=float. Since most of your weight is centered around this point, it’s important to have enough surface area to keep you on top. Think big rubber ducky in the water — stable & buoyant.
However, the tip and tail width (the ends of your skis) matters, too. Your weight is not one single point on a ski — it is distributed across the ski. Imagine your weight (and mine) after the Holidays–most of it goes to the hips, but still a few pounds make it to the extremities so supporting those will be important. Having wider tips and tails keeps you above the snow while also improving your turning thanks to the now-classic parabolic ski shape that we have come to love featured in the picture of Atomic’s Backland ski.
Then there’s the rocker and camber profile–two more words to add to your vocab list. Consult, once more, the photo of the skis. When you look from the side you notice a bulge in the middle and the tips flaring out. The bulge is a ski’s camber, which helps with turning and power. In non-pow skis the camber would be much more pronounced, giving a skier the ability to dig deep into turns in harder snow conditions. However, with a pow ski, the most important of these two is the rocker profile, which, much like sledding on a saucer, provides tremendous float. A combination of the two allows you to stay on top of the snow while remaining in control your turns.
Step 3: Relax and Slay the Pow
Like mentioned earlier, don’t force it and stay upright. Powder skiing is about relaxing into the euphoric feeling that is weightlessness on Earth, but can become incredibly strenuous and frustrating if done wrong. The general tendency is to shift your weight back and keep your tips poking way out of the snow like you were water skiing on Lake Michigan with a cold one in hand.
Unfortunately, in the snow you don’t have a rope to hold on to so your legs will be screaming uncle in approximately .001 seconds. Don’t let your legs scream uncle in .001 seconds. Instead, find your center of gravity in the middle of your foot, bend your knees like your guarding someone in basketball, and subtly transfer weight from one foot to the next to make a turn.
Most importantly, especially if you’re new, is to not be afraid to fall. It’s snow, not pavement, so it’s soft–no need to get all herky jerky on the hill. If you fall, whatever. It’ll be like jumping into a pile of frilly white little feathers without all the poky parts.
Step 4: Enjoy the Pow
Yes, this year has been truly epic, but until Google get designs it, clouds don’t have a faucet that turns the snow on and off on demand. Instead, the powder comes and goes as it pleases and it’s your job to seize the moments when it’s around. While watching the snow fall think about the mantra in the East where the powder dumps are fewer and far between — you gotta get it while the gettin’s good.
But if you’re in the West, who cares–every day is good. Just don’t get too used it it because summer is knocking at the door! Sad!
Happy pow slashing!