If you've ever wanted to ski or snowboard on powder, now is the time to visit Utah's legendary Wasatch Front resorts – Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude. Storms are finally coming in.
It's been a lean time until now, with only one storm back in October and practically no snowfall since then. Connie Marshall, public relations director at Alta, explains why. "A ridge of high pressure left our mountains in a bubble where there was no precipitation. Now that's moved on, and it's finally snowing."
But if you haven't spent time getting in shape for snow season, don't plan on doing it on the mountain. You can't ski or snowboard yourself into shape, as you will quickly learn when you try in vain to get up from the inevitable face plant. However, if you're already in shape, you may learn to ride powder fairly quickly. It's like surfing, but without the risk of being dragged underwater. In addition, riding powder is much more forgiving than surfing a wave. Here are some tips:
Always remember that in powder, you are floating over the snow. Don't lean forward, or your gear will dig in and you'll go down. Your body position should stay centered, or even a little back. If you're a skier, don't make one-footed turns. If you're not on wide powder skis, keep your skis close together so they move in unison, as if you are snowboarding. Ride a flat ski, don't use your edges. Edges will drop through the powder and you'll get stuck in the snow.
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Powder makes challenging slopes and black diamond runs more fun. Steepness is actually necessary to keep on going. You can ride straight down the fall line of the mountain in a way you may have never dared try before. Don't attempt to traverse in powder, it doesn't work. You'll quickly come to a dead stop. At the same time, even if you are an expert tree skier, don't go into trees where the slope isn't steep. While it's wonderful to ride on powder, it's a pain to shuffle through it to get to a slope steep enough to get back to riding again.
Don't take off your gear unless there's no other way out. If you do, your boots will sink down through the powder, and you'll have to use all your energy to push snow out of the way with each step. If have accidentally burrowed in, here are two methods to get back on top again, both of which will, unfortunately, take effort and time. The easiest is to 'step' it up. If you're a skier, stand on one leg and slide the other leg a few inches forward and then back, then gently lift it an inch or two. Press down to pack the powder. Now do the same with the other leg. Be careful that you don't lift so hard that you click out of the bindings. Keep repeating until you work your way up through the snow to the top. If you're a snowboarder, rock the nose of your board upward a few inches, then the tail. Keep repeating until you break through to the top.
The other method involves digging your hands down until you reach your gear, taking it off and shoving snow away to pull it upward. Pull your sleeves over your gloves so you don't get snow down your gloves. Once your gear is freed, get on your knees and pack down a pile of snow. Put your skis or board on the packed area, clear all snow from your bindings and boots and click or strap in. Now let the fun begin again!
Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly , which offers the latest training, diet and athletic information.