by David Carroll we all dream about, that magic carpet feeling of flying down the mountain, barely leaning over the edge and watching a rooster-tail of snow spray out from underneath. And instead of your board skipping out on some ice-hard, rut-infested, man-made "snow", your board actually carves tight-arced turns with effortless ease. It's a beautiful thing. Here are a few basic tips:

 

SAFETY: First off, before you even go, make sure that the conditions are safe. Even if your riding inbounds at some resort, theres always the possibility of an avalanche (even if they bombed the hell out of the place.)Riding the backcountry, it's even more important to make sure its safe. Go with experienced backcountry riders that know the area. Trouble spots to look out for are wide, steep slopes, wind lips, ledges. After a fresh dump, these areas are even more prone to start an avalanche. Always plan for the worst, which means carrying the necessary equipment (transceivers, probes, communication equipment, etc.) As fun as powder can be, it does have its dangers.

EQUIPMENT: First off, that tiny freestyle board you ride in the park will work in a few inches of powder (make sure your stance is all the way back,) but when it gets really deep and fluffy, a bigger board is the best choice. Preferably a board with a directional shape and flex pattern (longer, softer nose, stiffer tail.) Generally, if your freestyle board comes up to your chin, you'll want a board that's just above your head, or higher, especially if the powder is a couple feet deep. The nose should be high and long to float over any bumps. The flex should be fairly stiff to keep if from overly bending and bogging down in soft snow. Your stance should be towards the tail (obviously!). Width isn't as great a concern as it is on hard-packed snow, but a wider board floats better, but is slower when going from edge to edge (heel and toe overhang shouldn't be more then 1".) Sidecut is a matter of personal preference, more equals tighter turns, less equals more stability at high speeds. As for boots, I've ridden in my freestyle boots, but a stiffer boot will give you more control. Bindings should be high-backs. Goggles are a must (nothing like being blinded by a cloud of kicked up powder.) Clothing? Go naked…it's the coolest fashion trend on the slopes! Well, if you want to stay warm and dry, dress appropriately, expect dry powdery snow to get everywhere.

TECHNIQUE: Hmmm…there are only a few things to know about riding in powder that cant be applied to riding on hard-pack. The most important thing to remember is that speed equals control. Without it, you'll sink to the harder layers of snow below or if the powder is really deep, you might even stall out completely (there is nothing more depressing then having to hike back up the mountain because you can't get enough to speed to start up again!) Start off by picking a spot that's steep enough to get your board planing ontop of the snow. Once your planing, adjust your weight forward or backwards so that your board is as perpendicular to the snow as possible (this increases speed.) That's if the surface is nice and smooth, if it's bumpy or your approaching a rise in the snow, put more weight towards the tail. To turn, there's nothing better then leaning over the edge and doing a pure, skid-free carve. To turn sharply, place more weight on the back foot while pushing out at the same time. To quickly transfer to the other edge, lightly spring up over the snow and set the opposite edge, remembering not to bury the nose. Everytime the board leaves the snow it has a tendency to sink as it lands, so remember to keep the nose up by placing more weight on the back foot. This is even more important when landing a big jump. Depending on the depth of the powder, you might even want to have your board at a 30-degree angle to the snow with your hands spread out behind you to catch your fall. If you do happen to eat the snow, it may be harder to correct and ride away then on hardpack, but it definitely won't be as painful!

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