You wake up, look out of the window, and there’s a pristine blanket of fresh white snow covering everything in sight. To make the most of those unforgettable powder days, here are some top tips to help improve your off piste skiing & heli skiing techniques – pulled together with the help of one of CMH heli skiing most experienced guides, Roko Koell.
1. Rhythm is the heartbeat of powder skiing
Rhythmic up-and-down motions are key when it comes to how to ski off piste. Begin with the ankles, knees and hips comfortably compact. Then extend upward, gradually flexing and extending the ankles, knees and hips, but stopping before the body is fully erect. Create a consistent up-and-down rhythm while moving only within this range, always keeping your hands forward. If you stand up too tall your body will hang back whilst your skis accelerate forward – causing the infamous backward lean and resultant burning thigh muscles.
Top tip: the more equal both skis are weighted, the easier it is to maintain balance and to link turns together harmoniously and therefore the easier it is to off piste ski. The first turn is the most important turn, as it helps set your rhythm right; concentrating on proper pole plants will help you to maintain you rhythm and link your turns together. Just following these simple instructions will greatly improve your off piste skiing technique.
2. Timing is everything: patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet
When off piste skiing in the powder you need to exaggerate your movements, ski with longer turning movements and feel the sensation of skiing in slow motion. Patience and persistence are crucial factors when turning in deep snow to improve your off piste skiing technique. You need to push your feet gradually and continually against the snow in order to complete each turn. If you give up on your turning movement too soon, your skis will accelerate and run away from underneath you, resulting in an incomplete turn, the dreaded backward lean, and loss of control.
Top tip: to make nice round turns in the powder, count slowly to yourself “One, two, turn.”; be patient when beginning the turn and assertive when completing it. Resist the urge to force your turns to happen too soon, as this causes you to over-rotate.
3. Remember – speed is your friend
Just as an airplane is able to lift off at a certain speed and a speedboat rides on top of the water, skis float up and out of the soft mass of snow when propelled by proper speed. Powder snow produces resistance against our skis, boots and lower legs, making balancing and turning a great challenge for the novice powder skier. The solution is reaching a proper skiing speed, which reduces resistance between skis and the soft mass of the snow.
This “up-floating” speed promotes turning and balance (equal weighting over both skis) and allows you to get a rhythm going.
Top tip: until the appropriate speed is established with confidence, all effort and exercise is hard work and physically exhausting – don’t despair, have the confidence to get your speed up; think about skiing with a guide or instructor for a couple of hours to help build your confidence up and pull you out of your comfort zone.
Roko Koell is a CMH Heli Skiing guide and founded CMH’s Powder Introduction programme. Roko is a fully qualified U.I.A.G.M Mountain and Ski Guide, Level 4 Ski Instructor and Ski Racing Coach.
Check out Roko’s CMH Heli-Skiing Powder Introduction film…