It’s that time of year where all the new movies are coming out and feeding everyone’s anticipation for the winter, how could it not? Watching the best guys and girls rip whole mountains to shreds can only get you thinking about the riding you’ll hopefully be getting in this year yourself.
Assuming your holiday or season is planned out and you’re now counting down the days, is it too early to start dreaming of the holy grail of snowboarding; the perfect powder day? We think not, after all the white stuff has been on all of our minds since the last lifts closed in the spring, But how to get the most out of this rare treat?
Here are some tips we’ve put together to help you prepare for the best; we’re not promising to get you shredding like Jake Blauvelt or E-Jack straight up, but hopefully there’s a nugget or two of advice that’ll help put a smile on your face.
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Sort Your Shit Out
There’s been a massive storm brewing all afternoon and there’s about to be a massive dump overnight, but the forecast for tomorrow looks like it’s gonna be a perfect blue bird from the first lift; amazing!
Instead of getting hammered the night before and waking up hungover and late, how about spending some time getting sorted for the next day? Simple things like giving your board a fresh wax and moving your bindings back a couple of inches make a huge difference when you get into the deep stuff.
Likewise, knowing exactly where your socks/gloves/goggles are saves you a mad rush in the morning that could help get you on that earlier bus or lift.
Get the Gear, and the Knowledge
Unfortunately, off piste riding is intrinsically dangerous and there’s never any way to completely see off the risk, but you can take steps to significantly reduce it.
If you’re remotely serious about riding powder you should have a transceiver plus a pack with a shovel and probe on you every time you go up, no excuses.
But more importantly you should know how to use them, preferably through proper avalanche training and plenty of practice. Ignorance is bliss, but actually knowing what you’re doing allows you to know the dangers and minimise them, which in turn lets you feel a lot safer and get on with having some fun.
Know Your Limits
Everyone knows that a powder day is often over too quickly, with everyone dashing for early lifts most places in a resort will get tracked pretty damn fast, so you definitely want to make the most of it on the day.
The most important thing to know is your own ability, what and where you can do and go. Nothing sucks so much as watching all the fresh tracks go whilst you’re wallowing around in the deep stuff, or stuck on top of a drop that’s too big for you.
If you’ve never ridden in powder before, it’s very different to on-piste and you will initially struggle, so try just dipping on and off cat tracks for starters to get used to leaning back and getting the odd slash in without catching an edge and face planting; better to do it here than way out in the backcountry.
If you can ride off piste already, sure it’s good to push yourself but nothing much beats dropping into a favourite line and knowing you’re to have the time of your life.
Get to Know the Locals
Obviously, the people who live on a mountain will know exactly where the best pow stashes and tree runs are going to be, and chances are that they won’t give up that information easily.
If you’re new to a resort or on holiday, have a little respect for this local knowledge; no one’s going to give a cheeky tip to obnoxious ski dads or obvious ski-tards still wearing their head cams in the bar; be friendly and maybe even buy seasonaires a cheeky pint in return for what could be one of the runs of your trip.
And it should go without saying, but if you do ever learn of a super secret spot don’t blab about it on Facebook/Instagram or in the nearest après bar, you don’t want it to be crowded or tracked out when you go back tomorrow do you?
Ride the Whole Mountain
This is probably the weirdest tip to do with riding powder, but you should spend some time in the pipe. Not on a powder day obviously, but although this structured discipline seems the furthest removed from freeriding it’s actually super beneficial.
Pipe-riding is so hard because it’s all about having proper technique; good weight distribution and perfect carves, so if you can confidently make it to the bottom of a pipe you’ll be able to absolutely slay the next powder bowl you end up in; no better example is needed than Terje Hakoonsen.
Likewise if you want to get better at nailing those drops then what better set up is there to practice on that the snow park? Next time you hear those Jeremy Jones backcountry types sniffing about park rats and ‘true snowboarding’ instead think Jake Blauvelt, nothing beats an all rounder.
I find whenever I get a great day on the hill the surest way to kill it is to take a break; after stopping for even just a half hour lunch break or a pint makes me realise how cold and wet I really am and my legs start to seize.
But even worse is trying to push on through; nothing makes ‘no friends on a powder day’ become truer than a proper hunger induced rage blackout. Load up on stuff that fits in your pockets and isn’t too watery, sandwiches and fruit are liable to freeze if you’re riding in December/January. Things like flapjacks and chocolate bars are perfect; I personally can’t ride without a pocketful of Haribo Tangfastics*.
*Not an official endorsement, but I wouldn’t say no to a free bag...
Ride With People Better Than You
A little contrary to the first ‘step’ in this article, but the best way to push your riding is to go with people that are better than you. If the only way to keep up is by continually challenging yourself, you’ll just have to, and if you make it to last lifts alive you’ll be as stoked as anything.
As long as you’re not shitting yourself constantly you’ll be alright, and every decent rider remembers where they came from so there’s shouldn’t be any reason to feel embarrassed, but if you do feel uncomfortable never be afraid to back out; safety first blah blah blah...
Take this with a pinch of salt though, if T Rice shows up in your resort you probably shouldn’t try and follow his tracks, but if you do be sure to send us the footage, whatever the outcome.
Don’t Go It Alone
There’s no phrase used in snowboarding that’s more full of bullshit than ‘no friends on a pow day’; who seriously thinks that riding chairlifts alone is any fun (mountain bikers?), or that trying to dig yourself out of an avalanche is a good idea?
Plus, if you’re riding alone, who can you spray? The best bit about snowboarding is sharing the experience with others, be in cranking out pistes or lapping the park, so why should riding powder be any different?
Absolutely nothing can top dropping in surrounded by your best buds woopin’ and hollerin’ at you, so don’t miss out.