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With fresh powdery snow to ski in, skiing in snow can be a wonderful thing. Under the wrong conditions of a blizzard or wet heavy snow and strong wind, skiing can be miserable.
While every skier has their own unique viewpoint, most can agree that skiing when there’s no wind, but lovely light and fluffy powder falling makes some of the best conditions.
Nothing compares to the zen-like experience of slashing fresh pow only to have your tracks fill in by your next run. The silence, the beauty, the feel of bottomless pow underfoot is unreal.
The worst skiing conditions are when there is no visibility, there is heavy wind and you can’t see the trail color markings or other skiers near you, making skiing hazardous at best.
How to ski when it’s snowing?
If it has been snowing heavily then the groomed slopes will be covered in a layer of powder making conditions similar to off-piste or backcountry skiing.
This is a great introduction to powder skiing and learning how to adapt to different snow conditions.
Top 7 tips for skiing in fresh powder.
1. Choose all-mountain skis
100mm waist with a rocker will help the ski float easier on the powder, but still be great for groomed slopes.
2. Ski position
While your skiing powder, keep a gentle bend by the waist, hands up front and stable torso over your legs.
3. Skis close together
Keep your feet slightly closer together than you would on a groomed slopes. This is to stop one ski from sinking down too much in the snow more than another ski -- which could cause an over or under rotation and result in a crash.
4. Ski short runs
If you’re new to skiing in powder, don’t go straight on a red or black run, start on short shallow gradients until you get used to the different conditions and how it affects your skiing.
5. Essential up/down bounce movement
In deeper powder (more than 15cm) you’ll need to bring in a pump up and down movement into each turn.
This popup movement will help you ski through deeper snow and turns at the top of the snowpack. Gently extend your legs at the start of each turn and twist your legs onto the snow.
6. Pole planting
Keep a strong core so your upper body turns at the same speed as your skis.
Keep your arms forward and pole plant to signal the start of each turn. Don’t push off your pole, just gently dab at each turn to create the rhythm of your turns.
If you’re not in the habit of pole planting, you’re missing out. Many new skiers think of pole planting as not having many benefits, but it really does improve your skiing -- it’s not a skiers conspiracy.
When you start pole planting, you’ll begin to set a rhythm to your skiing and you’ll be adopting a better position coming into each turn.
In fresh powder and skiing in reduced visibility, pole planting will make your course down the mountain, safe, more fun, and less prone to falls.
7. Turn with the terrain
If you can, try to make your turn on the top of rollers or undulations on the slope. Turning on the higher parts of the bumps will make turning easier and more fun in powder.
It will give your skiing a nice flow!
How to keep warm skiing while it’s snowing?
You’ll want to be kitted out in warm, waterproof gear if you want to last more than a few minutes in the snow.
- Ski jacket that has a high waterproof and breathability rating
- Ski trousers that have a high waterproof and breathability rating.
- Thermal base layer to stay warm
- Fleece mid-layer for warmth.
- Neck gaiter that you can pull up over your mouth and nose.
- Ski goggles to protect your eyes from snow (ideally a tint color for low-light like permission, rose or brown)
- Ski helmet or warmth and safety (skiing in low visibility is more dangerous).
How to ski when it’s windy and snowing?
In windy conditions, skiing can become more challenging. If you’re in strong wind then you’ll need to adapt your skiing to respond to the wind.
Make sure you’re wearing a neck gaiter, goggles and helmet to block out the noise of the wind and the snow hitting you at speed.
Avoid open exposed areas and ski to more protected valleys where the wind won’t be as strong.
If the wind is too strong, it can make skiing dangerous. Find a protected spot to wait out the blizzard if you feel in danger.
It’s no fun skiing in a blizzard. If it’s too windy, it’s time to retreat and go home. If it’s too foggy, it can be very hard to ski because of low visibility and a whiteout.
Emillio T, Skier
Skiing while its raining
Sometimes when the temperatures aren’t cold enough, rain will fall instead of snow.
Consider a hiking waterproof shell layer to put over your ski jacket in heavy rain for greater protection.
If its heavy rain then the snow will still be skiable but may become slushier which is a bit more challenging to ski on, but not as bad as skiing on ice or hard packed snow.
You’ll want to reduce your speed and ski with caution. Rain can freeze and form a slick icy surface in some areas.
Pay particular caution not to ski on prepared race courses as these can become particularly slippery!
I recall before my teenage years that my father (an expert level skier) was on a NASTAR race course on a rainy afternoon, and was unable to stop after crossing the finish line. He ended up continuing out past the normal turnaround area and colliding with a building in the base area
Aaron Bell, Alpine Skier
Read my full guide on how to ski while it’s raining.
Skiing in a whiteout
Skiing in light snow can be a magical experience that makes for fresh powder underfoot.
Hit a blizzard in no visibility and skiing in even familiar areas can become hazardous. It’s easy to miss trail marking or accidentally stray off-piste.
If you’re in low visibility, ski slowly, with caution and near your ski buddy. If it becomes too dangerous or windy, find a shelter and wait out the storm.
Best Ski Goggles for Snowing
Smith Optics Polarized Rose Copper -- check price on Amazon
Anon Women’s Insight Goggles -- check price on Amazon
Tips: Look for goggles with a lens tint for flat or low light conditions or an all-rounder color. Read my free ski goggles guide.
Skiing on fresh powder is glorious. Skiing in wet or zero visibility is no fun unless your love the spirit of adventure.