“Avalanche” is probably the most frightening word said to a skier.
One brave and lucky heliskier managed to avoid a dangerous situation by out-skiing an approaching avalanche.
How to ski in powder
We’re hoping you never come close to a fright like this. But skiing in powder can be a great thrill, even when there isn’t an avalanche chasing you.
Skiers and snowboarders love fresh tracks on powder, but what about deep powder, the kind that comes up to your neck? Heli or cat skiing drops you into a completely different world of snow, and it’s not as difficult to navigate as you might think. Roko Koell is a heli ski and mountain guide for Canadian Mountain Holidays, and has been introducing skiers and riders to the joys of “deep pow” for nearly three decades. He believes that all intermediate skiers can heli ski, and offers a few tricks and tips to keep you floating.
Forget your every day skis. Rent powder skis, which are wider, help you balance, and keep you floating above the snow. Ski poles are typically shorter for powder skiing, since they dig into the snow.
Although there are programs for beginners, intermediate skiers will have the best results, largely from having the experience of reading terrain.
Try and keep equal weight on your feet. It takes practice, and you’ll want to practice with small slalom turns. When it comes to powder, the more you can push equally off your feet, the more you will float.
Three things to remember to avoid getting stuck:
- SPEED: Keep a minimum speed, if you go too slow, you’ll experience more resistance, and won’t be able to turn.
- VERTICAL MOVEMENT: It’s the heartbeat of powder skiing. Move your body up and down to create the momentum you need to coast over deep snow.
- POLE PLANTING: The trigger for turning. At the moment your body is lowest, plant the pole and push up.
At CMH, all clients receive avalanche orientation and training Guides receive extensive terrain reading, first aid and rescue training, and each guest is equipped with a radio, avalanche beacon, and shovel. Avalanches can happen, but they are extremely rare.
It’s important to stay hydrated and drink something after every run, as you’ll burn through a lot of calories. A morning stretching will help tired muscles.
Originally from Austria (where he was a coach with the national ski team), Roko marvels at mountain playground at his fingertips. Says Roko “At CMH we heliski an area about three quarters the size of Switzerland! Within two days, most people who never believed they could do it are floating in powder.”