Powder Technique

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Powder Technique

Postby SteveH » Tue Dec 25, 2007 9:52 pm

We're in Breck this week and have had the fortunate challenge of figuring out how to deal with a foot or so of fresh powder on Christmas Day. Because the crowds were very light, it didn't get scraped off, but piled up into two to three foot drifts.

Some observations. I started out very tentative, trying to avoid the big drifts and slowing almost to a stop between turns. This is not the way to do it. There is no rhythm to the turns and you get bogged down in the deep snow, making it difficult to start the next turn.

My first pleasant discovery was that the snowboard is a much better tool for handling deep snow than skis. The larger, unified surface means you float better and just cut right through stuff that would throw a ski around. When I quit being so concerned about avoiding the big piles and just rode through them as needed, life got much easier.

Although this wasn't "bottomless" powder, where you never reach a packed surface, it was loose and fluid enough that thinking exclusively about edges doesn't work well. On packed snow, you can essentially think of your edges interacting with a plane. The flat bottom of the board has virtually nothing to do with steering. In powder, you are interacting with snow that is more fluid-like than solid and the flat bottom plays a major role in steering. You are building a pressure wave under the board the provides resistance and rebound energy for turning. Once I started paying attention to the fluid force under the board and not just the edges, things get even easier.

Last lesson was shock absorption. Moving through waves of deep piled snow you encounter rapid changes in surface elevation. If you keep your legs relatively static, your upper body will be thrown up and down. To smooth out the flow of the line the legs need to piston up and down to adjust to the terrain so as to keep the upper body relatively stable.

By the end of the day I was totally exhausted, but having a ball. I rode til I barely had enough left to get to the bottom of the hill. You don't get to play in that kind of snow all the time and I wanted every turn I could get.

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Postby bernwern » Wed Dec 26, 2007 10:08 am

Good observations for your first powder experience.

Yes, powder is an entirely differnt animal, and it is what I live for (despite my location in the Midwest). Learning to ride it is fun, but is easily mastered by experienced boarders. Here are my tips:

1) bend your back knee slightly more....this shifts weight to the back of the board, allowing the nose to rise and you will float to the top.
2) switch your bindings to a 1" set back, allowing you to float easier yet.
3) CARRY SPEED!!!!! You need to go much faster than usual in pow to stay afloat, but also to take turns.....if you ride as slow as a typical day, when you take turns you will sink and bury yourself.

As for the comments on bent knees, I think your experience was complicated by drifting.....typically, you do not need to bend more than usual to ride in powder.

Another fun thing to learn is ollie pops in powder....simply gain some speed, lean forward to drop your nose under the snow a bit, then lean back and you will launch out. Do this slow at first, because if you bury the nose too deeply you will lose all your speed and stall out.

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Changing technique in powder

Postby Rob » Sun Feb 17, 2008 12:26 am

In late December I took a lesson at Alpine Meadows, a nice resort in the Lake Tahoe area of California. Snow was predicted overnight and this prompted my instructor to leave me with the following thought about initiating a turn in powder. "Remember that in powder you initiate the turn with your weight still on your back foot. If you do what we did on packed powder today, you risk burying the tip and tumbling over it." Or words to this effect. How do the veterans change their riding technique when the snow is fresh?
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Postby bernwern » Thu Feb 21, 2008 10:05 am

Powder can be easily ridden a few different ways. The experience and feel of the snow is much different than packed powder or groomers, whereas you are riding much more like surfing or wakeboarding. That being said, here are a few easy tips:

1) Bend your back knee slightly more to pull weight to the back...this allows you to float to the top.
2) Set bindings 1" or more back. Again, this helps with float.
3) Once on top, gain lots of speed....powder is fast, but very soft if you fall. You NEED speed, and a lot more than usual, because when you take turns you will burn a lot of it.
4) Once on top, you can actually center your weight a bit more once again.
5) Turning is more akin to surfing when riding powder....muscle it with your back leg by "kicking" the tail back and forth.
6) You can dip the nose in, but experiment with this as if you are trying to ollie-pop.....dipping the nose in quickly then shifting weight back will make for unbelievably easy ollies out of the powder, especially at higher speeds.

Last bit of advice: DON'T CRASH! Getting up in a powder field, let alone getting moving again is a huge issue on a board. Try to keep moving, avoid flat spots, and carry lots of speed.

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powder hound

Postby Snowride » Fri Feb 22, 2008 1:51 pm

Yeah! That was funny: Don't crash! I like that! Crashing is not the problem, it's trying to get up and going again in powder that takes everything out of an "older' person!!!

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE powder. What I do is point my board slightly more downhill than normal. I basically use the same techniques to ride powder than groomies, but I set my bindings back a bit and put more weight on my back foot. I never traverse across the hill if it's powdery condition. 45 degrees at the most. Yeah, and don't stop! (I have to laugh every time I think about this!)

With all this said, for me, knee or thigh-deep FLUFFY light powder is my preference (any arguments here?). For pow pow higher than my thigh or THICK powder, I've got to just point my board straight down the hill and pray I don't crash!!!
I'm a snowboarding grandma approaching 60. Got a place at Bear Valley California and would love to hang with others like me.
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Postby dcdrumrider70 » Sat Mar 08, 2008 12:07 am

Powder Mmmmmmmmmmmm


Like others said unscrew your bindings and set them back. I usually ride duck stance but I will go with a more forward stance.


Before you turn, press down on the back foot and when the nose floats start your turn. You don't want to be as aggressive with carving, just go with the flow and enjoy. Keep your weight back a little more and keep the speed up especially when moving towards flatter terrain.

First day I ever rode powder the nose kept submarining on me and I would go over the handlebars. Getting up was a pain but once I got the feel it was awesome.
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Postby Dweebs » Tue Mar 18, 2008 8:01 pm

Since it's spring and were starting to see more and more mashed potatoes, these are great techniques to help you through that as well.
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