Ahhhhh… The feeling of soft snow floating up and coating your face while you glide along layers of clouds underneath… People ascribe this to be one of the best feelings on Earth, and no true snow-surfer will ever disagree.
One of the reasons powder skiing and riding feels so damn extraordinary is due its scarcity. Many variables need to align for a good powder day, including: temperature, total precipitation, sun, wind, crowds, if you can even make it to the mountain cause of work, class, other real life duties that you probably shouldn’t but do skip anyways to shred, and of course, road closures. But any dedicated powder hound doesn’t give up simply because a few of these factors aren’t going their way. Instead, they stick to tips like these to find soft turns, against the odds.
1. Head for the Trees:
Oftentimes, the trees can hold fresh stuff well after the storm has passed if you know where to look. The farther you drop into them, the more likely you are to find perfect turns. Wooded areas also block most of the wind, so on a gusty day where the snow has been blown off exposed runs, look no further than to the set of pines down yonder. Grab a buddy, be smart, and get searching.
Pro Tip: Delving into the forests off of groomed, beginner runs can be beyond rewarding because most people riding this terrain can’t or do not want to deal with deeper snow off-piste.
[Editor’s Note: There are inherent risks associated with tree skiing and skiing in general. Always ski within your abilities, obey signage and take all necessary precautions.]
2. Work with the Wind:
Most systems that drop a lot of snow do not do so quietly. Powerful gusts often accompany large storm cycles, which can dump in some areas, yet leave others barren. Most mountains are even large enough that you can find three inches of snow in one spot, and 15 in another, simply due to wind.
But you can use the variables to your advantage if you know how. For instance, if the wind is blowing westward, look for an east facing run or bowl, where all that snow should be sticking. Or think on an even larger scale, as some mountains are favored when storms have a certain wind direction. Check OpenSnow to get forecasts and totals, along with the Colorado Ski Country Snow Report, which consolidates all accumulations reported by each one of CSC’s members. These sites should help you choose wisely when the winds are whipping.
3. Watch the Sun:
Bluebird pow days might as well be gifts sent from the heavens – unlimited visibility with bottomless pow can be hard to beat. But be weary, because the sun can bake the top layer of snow, making everything a little mushy for the ride down. If the temperatures are climbing on a sunny day, hit the open, sunlit faces early before they start to stick. Later, if it’s too hot, steer towards the shaded areas not yet hit by the rays.
4. Use Harsh Terrain:
The goods can lay below cliffs, steep sections, and tight trees because people will not venture through them. If you are talented enough to take on the challenge, you will be rewarded with untouched tracks. Or, if you are clever enough to circumvent the tough features, reap your bounty below.
5. Earn the Turn:
This is the most obvious, and perhaps the most useful of the tips. If you really want those extra faceshots, you have to go where nobody else will. Pull out of your bindings and start hiking. The challenge up only makes the down that much more blissful. Likewise, let that burn set in for the extra two minutes while you traverse farther across a face than anyone else has.This will get you the untouched tracks because the bottom line of getting those impeccable turns is how much suffering you go through. But in the end, your hoots and hollers will overcome your burning legs.