Deep Japanese powder is the pinnacle of skiing. Following these 5 simple tips will help you get started.
Each year, tourists head in droves to resorts like Niseko, Rusutsu, Hakuba and Kiroro, lured by the promise of waist-deep Japanese powder and inspired by the many thousands of photos and videos circulating on social media. Many discover – usually after a few falls and a face covered in snow – that it’s not as easy as it looks.
Providing, though, that you have some of the essential skills mastered, there are a few secrets that will have you skiing Japanese powder like a pro in no time.
Start with the right equipment
Videos from the ’80s and ’90s showing skiers floating through bottomless powder on toothpick-sized planks are proof that you can ski powder on just about anything. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a whole lot easier on a powder-specific ski.
Longer, wider, softer skis are going to float better and make life much easier, particularly if you haven’t had much experience in deep snow. And while they’re not a substitute for good technique, they’ll most definitely be more forgiving than a heavier, stiffer front-side ski.
Pro tip: for more of an understanding of how far ski technology has come in the last 5 to 10 years, ask your local ski shop staff about the different types of camber you can find in a ski.
It’s not about muscle
Skiing powder is all about soft, subtle movements. Trying to turn the ski or engage the edge too quickly will end in tears. Instead, be patient and remember that in softer snow it will take longer for the skis to respond. Focus on making round, natural turns with no forced or sudden movements.
Narrow your stance (a little)
In deep powder, keeping your stance slightly narrower than you would usually will help to create a better platform in the softer snow. It will also enable the legs to work better together and stop the skis from getting away from each other (which can be a recipe for disaster).
Don’t lean back
Contrary to what your best friend, dad, brother or aunt have probably told you, leaning back is not the best way to stay afloat in the powder. Yes, it will get the tips out of the snow, but it will also severely inhibit your ability to turn and stay balanced.
Stay centred over the skis as you would on the piste, and if you need to bring the tips up a little then pull your toes up towards you. Generally speaking, the technique that you should use for skiing in powder and on piste are the same, but for a few minor tweaks (some of which are mentioned in this post).
We’re not suggesting pointing your skis down the hill without turning or going completely flat out. But a little bit of speed in powder can be a very good thing. It will give you more float, make turning slightly easier and help you to get into a rhythm. Increasing your speed in powder can be as simple as a slight adjustment of your turn shape.