How to Ride Powder

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A snowboarder riding powder on a mountainside

There’s nothing better than hitting first chair to get fresh tracks in powder. That deep, fluffy, billowy stuff is what many snowboarders dream about. Snowboarding in powder can feel close to flying—a smooth, elegant, quiet ride where your board doesn’t hit bottom and gravity doesn’t fight you. But riding powder can be a challenge for beginners. If you don’t know the techniques, you’ll spend a lot of time falling and getting up, which will quickly tire you out. Your legs will also burn out more quickly if you’re using poor form.

 

Here are some tips for snowboarding in powder: 

  • Find your balance: Shift your weight slightly back on your board—only a few inches.
  • Aim for open turns: Keep your turns more down the fall line than usual so you hold your momentum into your next turn.
  • Go easy on your edges: Make subtle movements with your lower body and keep your center of mass over your board, especially when coming to a stop so you don’t tip over (getting up in deep snow is tiring).
  • Keep your speed up: You want some speed to keep some momentum so you don’t get stuck. If the trail has a flat runout, ride in someone else's tracks for the path of least resistance.

 

Find Your Balance

A common misconception when riding power is that you have to lean back aggressively. That’s really not the case. You should shift your weight back a little, but you still want to steer with your front leg. (You won’t be able to steer as easily if you’re sitting too far back and that back leg will get tired quickly.) A small shift of hips to the back with just slightly more bent back leg than usual should be enough to keep your nose up and your board floating through the light and fluffy stuff.

 

Here are tips to find and maintain your balance:

  • Keep your body centered over the board with your shoulder, hips and knees in line.
  • Shift your weight back only slightly, about two inches.  
  • Stay over your board as much as possible.
  • Steer with your front leg, ankles and hips, not your shoulders.

 

Make Open Turns

One way to make smoother turns in powder is to make open turns rather than completely finishing those turns. If you make a complete turn across the hill, it’s likely to slow you down or you’ll sink into the snow and catch an edge.

  • Keep your weight centered between your feet when initiating the turn. 
  • Don’t lean too far into the turn or you’ll become off-centered.
  • Leave turns more open and down the fall line (the most direct route down the slope) rather than cutting hard and fast across the hill each time.

 

Go Easy on Your Edges

Unlike groomed runs where you can set an aggressive edge, you’ll want to make more subtle movements and edge changes when riding powder.

  • Keep lower edge angles: Avoid cutting really hard or digging your edges in, which could make you sink. Stopping and sitting down in powder can zap your energy when you try to get up.
  • Make subtle movements in your ankles to make the turns. Think about a slow rocking movement from toe to heel like you are rolling a tennis ball under your foot.

 

Keep Your Speed Up

You don’t need to ride faster than you normally like to but pay a little extra attention to where you’ll need to carry speed.

  • Keep up your speed when approaching areas with a long flat runout where powder can slow you down and you may get stuck.
  • Make sure you have momentum before going into turns. You don’t need much more speed, but when barely moving, like when starting or stopping, your little moves may have bigger outcomes than normal. Traversing from a stop before you try to turn can avoid a standstill edge-catch or tip-over.

 

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Contributing Experts

Amy Gan

Amy is a PSIA-AASI national snowboard team member, and the lead snowboard trainer at Mount Snow Resort in southern Vermont. Amy spends her off season mountain biking as well as teaching mountain biking.