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Ed Leigh: How To Ride Powder Every Time You Go Away

Scotty Lago getting some. Wouldn’t it be nice to ride fresh like this every time you go away? Photo: Aaron Dodds

I have been snowboarding for 25 years this year, but I’ve always believed that a season living in the mountains is like a dog year, because you get so much living done in that winter. So it classes as four normal years, which means by my reckoning I’ve been snowboarding for a hundred years.

In my century of standing sideways I have devoted an insane amount of time to working out how to ride more powder, I am like the King Midas of Powder. Since my first taste the pursuit of fresh snow has consumed me and while seven full seasons in the mountains went a long way to sating my thirst it is still there and will always be there. The difference is that these days finding the time, juggling family and work and then organising friends to do the same is becoming increasingly difficult.

Since my first taste the pursuit of fresh snow has consumed me.

It’s that time of year, the last wisps of summer are getting blown from the trees and pretty soon it’ll start getting cold. Soon the beast of excitement that has been hibernating inside you will rise from its slumber and start beating its chest. Quietly at first, but then the films and trailers will get released and it will grow, there will be ads on bus stops for winter holidays and the noise will become a thump and then by the time news of the first snowfalls reaches you, you will be deaf to everything but the need to ride powder. This is the process I go through every autumn and until I have planned a trip that I know will give me a solid shot at riding powder with my mates I cannot calm the beast.

Car Danchi – always prepared for powder.

And this is the question, how do you plan a trip based around powder? Sure you can book a high altitude resort with glacier access and you increase your chance of quality snow. But if it’s got to that stage in a big resort then there aren’t going to be many fresh turns left and you’re paying top dollar for a glacial resort. If you look to a smaller village resort then you’re guaranteed less tracks but now you’ve lost the altitude and are reliant totally on a fortuitous storm for powder.

But there is an alternative to the gamble and I stumbled on it while talking to a surfing mate, we were trying to decide where to go at what time of year and said “Why pick a place? Lets just pick a time and when the time comes and we know where’s good we go”

It’s so simple, I can’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me before.

… It’s so simple, I can’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me before. I’ve done last minute trips before and I’ve had trips where we heard it was good and then jumped on a plane, but this is different. The difference is subtle, but very important to all of us who aren’t trustafarians or pro snowboarders. You are allocating the time and then choosing your destination a week or two out. This kind of trip used to be the preserve of the ludicrously rich, but not any more. These days last minute deals and online booking mean you can find deals anywhere you want. OK flights may cost more, but I would be willing to wager that if you did this for five years you would end up in some low down cheap resorts at least twice that would end up saving you money.

Danny Larsen getting faceshots. The lucky bastard! Photo: Justin l’Heureux

Economics aside consider that spontaneous action will offer you strange resorts with something fresh and new to explore and of course you will also have lots of powder. If you’re already doing this congratulations, if you’re seriously considering then stop wondering start doing.

And please leave a comment and let us all know how it worked/works for you. Below are my top five suggestions to check if you see snow in the area.

1. Baqueira in the Spanish Pyrenees

Steep, cheap and stunning. It doesn’t often work but when it does it dumps here. Because of its latitude the snow can turn quickly so trips need to be well timed. But the upside is the terrain works for all levels.

2. Murren in Switzerlands Bernese Oberland

Epic terrain and considering the altitude it offers there are very few serious riders, these days it tends to appeal more to Speed Riders. The down side is Swiss prices.

3. Sainte Foy in the Haute Tarantaise

Maybe a little old hat as the resort has expanded and lost some of its original charm, but the mountain is still there and early and late season it’s still an uncrowded gem with huge potential. A great choice for anyone who wants to hike or splitboard.

4. Fieberbrunn in the Austrian Tyrol

Tucked away between its more famous neighbours of Kitzbuhel and Saalbach Fieberbrunn offers some great terrain, but crowds can be an issue in high season.

5. Helbronner on the Italian side of Mont Blanc

This is probably one of the single greatest powder runs in the world, it can run from 4,100m to 1,200m when it’s on. The terrain is like a giant fun park at 35 degrees. It is more of a day trip than a week’s destination, but with Chamonix and Courmayeur right there that’s not really an issue.

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