Tips and tactics for surviving powder falls and adventuring off piste
Following on from my recent post on riding techniques for powder I was dropped an email by a client wanting to find out a bit more about how to get out of powder once they fell over.
I remember my first day in powder. After 3 years of shredding dendix I headed for my first season in Chamonix.
I was totally out of my depth on the first powder day. There was certainly more falling that turning that day. It was great fun, but it was draining and I was a wreck afterwards.
Since then I’ve had a lot of great powder days and I have taught a lot of people how to improve their tactics and riding techniques off piste.
Here are a few hints that just might reduce those calories burned when heading out of bounds this winter.
The Buddy Line
If you have to cross an open flat area then you’ll want to work together as a team to make it easier. You’ll want to send one of the strongest riders first to carve out a path. They can charge and go as far as they can. Each rider follows the same track and with the compacted snow can maintain more speed and go a little further than the previous rider. This gets really entertaining to watch as some riders will get hit by a couple of bumps and stray off the path into the pow and generally bail in epic fashion. Those guys who made the early runs can often jump back into the track and join up with the group quite easily.
If you plan in hiking off piste, then boot packing is a way to conserve some energy whilst walking. A person will break trail and pack down the snow by kicking their feet into the slope as they walk up.
The walkers behind will use the same foot prints to make things easier for hiking. Once the leader is a bit tired you swap over and the next person will break trail.
If you’re planning on doing this for more than 5–10 minutes its most likely worth stripping some layers, as you’re going to the get hot real quick. Generally that will mean attaching your jacket/lid to your pack. Just make sure you do this properly so you do not look back later and see you’ve dropped stuff.
If you’re caught in a dip its sometimes better to take the board off and get to higher ground to strap in. Sometimes its just too deep for normal boot packing.
In that instance its worth using your board for support in front of you and walking on your knees/shins. Your knees and shins will spread your weight over a wider surface area helping to keep you more afloat and out of the powder until you get to a point you can put your board back on.
When you have a spot for strapping it, its best to slap the board down on the snow to create some kind of shelf that will reduce the chance of the board slipping from underneath you as you strap in.
Tuck and roll
Once your in powder trying to stand back up can be a real pain and a massive energy drain, especially if you try to stand up on your heel edge. If you’re on quite a shallow slope the best bet is to roll onto your front and try to push yourself up. Make sure your cuffs are done up tight otherwise your going to get a nice load up snow up your sleeve as you push yourself up. If you’re still sinking when you put your hands in the snow pad down the snow like boot packing. They way the snow will provide more of a base of support.
If the slope your on is quite steep you should be able to stand up on you heel edge as you can create a shelf by slapping down the board into the powder and then pushing yourself up.
Once you’re up you can try and do little jump to point down the slope, or you can nudge yourself forwards until you start to move again. Its also worth clearing some of the snow off the board prior to moving. Quite often as you nudge forwards you sink further into the snow, so its best to make a big effort to pull your front leg up. You’ll be doing a tail press until you start to move properly. You can also try and flick the snow off the front of your board to reduce the sink effect by doing a few little ollie movements.
Enjoy the powder this winter.