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Off-piste skiing tips

Using the snow and terrain

When confronted by the deeper powder, it is a good idea to have an idea of the type of snow as well as, of course, the avalanche risk. If you are off-piste, never go alone, and always carry a transceiver and a shovel.  For more details about avalanche equipment and dangers, click here.

The Snow

When the powder is light and dry, it is relatively easy to move your feet and skis and also to build up speed. This can have a strange effect on your balance at first, but it is the easiest type of powder to learn in. If you get two or more feet of the light and dry it becomes a little more complicated.

A heavier snow pack is more work and requires the skier to commit to a greater degree when entering the turn. Speed becomes even more important as the resistance is much greater than in the light snow. These conditions are more difficult for learning -- but once mastered, you can ski any type of deep-snow.

Note that after fresh snow and winds, light snow collects in hollows, leaving ridges bare and hard. Read the terrain and the surface texture of the snow before throwing yourself headlong into the big white.

The Moves

Use the shape of your turn, combined with knowledge of the snow layer and pitch of terrain to control your speed of descent. To do this you would extend your legs out to the side as you steer your skis into the fall line and then sink your tails as you turn out of the fall line. You don't always have to lean back to weight the tails; you can simply lift your toes. Extend the arc until you are ready for your next turn.

As you build up speed and experience, you can start to approach the powder field as the ultimate play area. Expert Skiers flow down the slope without interruption at almost terminal velocity - dodging trees, jumping rocks and playing with variations in terrain and snow.

The Gear

Today's powder skis allow the skier to plane more easily, so we don't have as much resistance from the snow. This makes steering easier, and you can go a lot faster. As ski manufacturers build-in more side cut, skiers are able to get more energy out of them which makes up for the extra weight. The added surface area of the skis also makes for better landings after big air.

More ski tips and advice: All-terrain skiing | Carving | Bumps | Freeride skiing | Short Turns | Steeps | Pole Planting | Clinics and Courses | All ski tips and advice

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