Ski Conditions

I don’t ski, so I must ask: How do skiiers ski upon newly fallen snow. Now, this sounds funny, but don’t you just sink in, instead of gliding on top of packed powder? …especially, when it’s a really wet snow. Let’s say there’s 10 inches of freshly fallen snow…now what? Or, do skiiers actually hate newly fallen snow?

  • Jinx :confused:

You don’t really sink that much. The large surface area of the ski packs the snow down like a toboggon.

Skiing in powder is great because:

a) You go a bit slower, so you can ski down ANYTHING

b) You get a really killer workout - it’s harder to turn in powder

c) If you wipe out, it doesn’t hurt (I’m a yard-sale skiier, so this is important for me)

d) It’s fluffy. :slight_smile:

You do sink in really light powder (Champane they call it in these parts) which is my personal favorite. However, there’s still a 100cm or so base underneath that you ski on.

On heavier snow you have a tendancy to stay on top.

You can also buy really wide skis that are especially made for powder - you sink very little with them.

Newly fallen snow, powder, is the most sought after conditions. You do sink into the snow, if it is light enough. I’ve skied in snow up to my waist, out in Utah and even CA. Most snow isn’t light enough to sink in that far, your skis compress the snow and you float. Utah has the lightest (least moisture content) snow in the US.

Wider skis have more floatation than narrow skis, but you can also compensate by having longer skis. Either way, if you are on a steep enough slope, you can ski any depth snow. It will slow you down somewhat, but the experience is worthwhile.

Telemark…Utah has really, really dry snow this year! I hear Utah is just now getting its first significant snow fall? I’ll sell Utah some of mine… :smiley:

Thanks, all! BTW, I can’t imagine how one skis in waist-deep snow! I can only imagine those photos of “plumes of snow” (for lack of the proper term) kicking up and out from under a skiier cruising down a mountain…kinda like the wake of a boat.

  • Jinx

That’s the secret. You don’t ski on it, you ski in it. You know that walking on clouds feeling when everything’s just perfect and you’re floating around without touching the ground? It’s like that, only better :smiley:

FYI, in skiing parlance packed and powder are almost mutually exclusive.

There are essentially 3 types of cover:

  1. Powder - fresh, untouched snow. Needs to be more than a dusting.

  2. Packed - powder after it has been skied on.

  3. Groomed - A Snowcat towing a large, heavy drum makes a flat expanse snow. Usually done on the green (easy) slopes and bunny hills to prevent moguls from forming.

I should mention that I’ve pretty much only skiied in the Northeast. So this “powder” you speak of, while sounding wonderful, generally means “not as icey” out here.

Skiing in two feet of fresh powder is a heavenly feeling! It’s probably the closest you can come to a feeling of weightessness without going skydiving or using NASA type equipment.

Understand though that it helps to be an experienced skier and know what you are doing. If you fall down and/or blow out of your binding in two feet of fresh powder you are in for another totally new experience. Flailing around in snow with very little mass to it can be frustrating. You feel like there is nothing to push against so getting upright or getting a boot back into a binding is a challenge.

Back east, we seldom if ever have powder like the West does. I remember the first time I was in Denver and it snowed, six inches on snow of my car came off simply by puffing on it - incredible. Back east, at someplace like Hunter or Windham in NY, powder means if you try really, really hard, you might be able to pierce the snow with the tip of you pole, packed powder means the snowpack is significantly stronger than steel. I found it easier to ski on ice than on powder, but that is only because I am use to the east coast. I get very nervous when I can’t see below my knees.

Some skiers do hate newly fallen snow.

The only time I have ever cried in the performance of a sport has been in 2-3 feet of fresh powder. This was my experience:

Ski five feet, fall. Lose right ski under snow, stupidly grope around looking for it. Spend several minutes trying to extract it, put it on top of fluffy white powder. Try to stand up. Body sinks up to hips while ski is still on top of fluffy white powder. Spend several more minutes trying to lift booted (read: 10 lb.) right foot high enough to aim it at the binding. Once 10 lb. boot is aimed, SLAM it down on the binding hard enough to snap it in. This is nearly impossible as the snow is like the downiest of pillows and cushions the impact. Try again. And again. And again. Succeed somehow. Pant and sweat for three minutes. Ski five feet, fall. Begin again.

The fifth time this happens, sit in snow and use your last ounce of strength to have a good cry, then wade to the bottom in shame.

I am not an inexperienced skier. But unless you were born on skis, you need special training to ski fresh powder. It’s a whole different technique.

This is why my skis don’t release.

There are some things you must do differently in powder, ie, lean backwards to keep your tips from diving, and keep your weight moving up and down.

Out west you’ll see people with powder straps, which are 5’ strings attached to the skis and tucked under your pant leg with an orange ball at the end. These are not attached to the skier, but allow you to spot the orange ball floating atop the snow and reel in your missing ski. Once, when skiing in the Sierra I saw a guy lose his ski on the first run in 4’+ of fresh snow (yes, 4 feet). He was still there searching at the end of the day. Some resorts have guys with metal detectors who will find your skis for a price.

It is possible to get powder in the east. I’ve skied in 20"+ several times in VT and ME, not quite like Utah but definately powdery. No face shots (show blowing up from your skis to your face) but snow up to your waist on occasion.

There’s even snorkel skiing in places, where you wear a skin diving snorkel when skiing some chutes that fill up with LOTS of snow. I’ve heard of it done mainly in MT, but I think it’s probably for show, not really needed.