Canadian rider Shin Campos once said that powder was “hard to express in words, but it’s by far the most enjoyable and orgasmic feeling. The purity and soul-like feeling is addictive, and when you get that addiction and [then] hit chopped snow or hard pack, it’s a slap in the face of reality.”
Not a bad effort, but Shin was chatting about the feelings it invokes. Describing the actual mechanics of gliding through powder is equally troublesome. And in truth, many learner riders find their first attempts at off-piste riding to be very frustrating. Once up to speed and gently gliding on what seems like a cushion of air, it’s a wonderful feeling, but it isn’t an easy skill to master. One American instructor advised: “The faster you go, the better. The less you struggle, the better.” He had a point: in deep snow your edges are virtually useless, so it’s all about the lean – and for beginners who’ve just mastered the rudimentaries of riding hardpack, this is a new, counterintuitive skill to grapple with. And no matter how naturally sporty you are, or how quickly you pick things up, there’s no getting around the fact that at some point you’re going to dip your nose, catch the front edge of your board and transform yourself into a human catherine wheel. If you’ve ever wondered why seasoned pro riders sometimes carry two pairs of goggles with them, here’s your answer.