It’s the stuff most snowboarders dream about, fresh powder is why we shred, and it’s on the top of our minds. It’s why we curse icy days, and skip school during a snowstorm. For those of us in the midwest, we get excited about any powder day. Whether it’s an inch or a foot, it doesn’t come often, but when you ride the mountains, something changes inside of you. Deep powder snowboarding transforms you, and it’s for the better.
Deep powder boarding ruined me for riding in Minnesota. I still ride here, but it’s hard to get into it. Usually I hit the slopes for a couple hours, get a good workout and go home. It keeps me in shape for Colorado where I pull out all the stops. Someday I’ll probably move out there, but the timing hasn’t happened yet.
When you’re deep powder snowboarding there’s a lot of things to watch out for. I’m going to hit on some of the major mistakes I’ve made, and hopefully you’ll avoid those pitfalls. As always, shred in style, and shred safely. It things don’t look right, avoid it. Life is too short to deal with an avoidable injury. I’ve had my share of concussions and other injuries, it’s not fun.
What Is The Best Snowboard Type For Deep Snow Riding?
Generally when you are powder riding, you’ll want an all mountain board rather than a park board. The flex on a park board will exhaust you faster, and you want faster response times. This can be achieved by having a stiffer board.
Personally, I switch between my Burton Custom X and my GNU riders choice on powder days.
The Custom X, is really fast, and super responsive in powder. I’ve mitigated some of the response issues on it by attaching some Ride bindings to it. (Click Here To See How I Did It.) Buying a powder board is a bit much for the average rider, so I recommend finding a mountain board. Especially when it’s your first time out there.
As time passes, and you shred more, you’ll know what you want. You’ll have an understanding of what messes you up too. If you check my blog post on snowboards it’ll give you a bit more information on what to buy for any circumstances.
There are deep powder boards out there, and if you’re going to be regularly shredding in Colorado, Washington, Or Montana. I’d suggest getting one. It’ll give you a better edge when you ride, but if you’re like me, and you only hit the mountains up twice a year. All Mountain is the way to go. You’ll have 90% of what you need right there on your feet, and the board will be epic back home too.
Camber is very important, because you want the board to naturally float to the top of the snow when you’re riding. If you’ve ever ridden deep powder, hopefully you’ve never leaned forward. I have, and I face planted directly into the snow. It was almost impossible to dig myself out. When you are powder snowboarding, be very cautious about your setup, and always shred with friends, because a friend can help dig you out.
For camber I swear by a hybrid camber board, if gives you great pop, and excellent control. Don’t worry if you have another type of board shape. You can always make adjustments to your stance and bindings to help mitigate issues. I use my GNU riders choice on powder days for when I go tree riding. The flex is perfect, and the camber is excellent. You couldn’t ask for a better board.
Powder Snowboarding Stance
Normally you’ll want your snowboard stance to be centered over the board. This is the general setup, especially for beginners. If yours is different that’s fine, but generally this is the default.
When you setup your snowboarding stance for powder, you’ll want to make a minor change. Give it a setback stance. What does this mean? It Means you move your front and rear bindings at least one screw back on the board. I always recommend one screw at first and then make adjustments as needed. At least until you know what you want. This causes your weight to sit farther back on the board, and makes the nose rise. Your board will then naturally float on top of the snow.
If you mess-up, and setup the board wrong by placing the bindings forward, it will force the nose down. Don’t do that, it’s very tiring and uncomfortable. You’ll constantly be buried in the snow, and digging yourself out. Also probably hurt yourself by hitting a rock, or tree root. If you find yourself in this predicament, start riding switch, it’s your only hope.
Pro-Tip: don’t forget to reset the bindings when the powder day is over. Set back stances are fun on powder days, but they aren’t as much fun on a groomed run.
The Epic Feel Of Powder Snowboarding
Powder Snowboarding is something you have to experience, it’s hard to describe. but to me it’s heaven. As you fly through a run with everything going smooth, and the board just glides over the snow. Powder is what makes it all worth it.
I have a lot of favorite tree runs in Colorado, but on the top of my list is one called Thresher Glade In Beaver Creek. I know there’s a lot of better tree runs out there, but one of my fondest memories is from my first time riding there.
I’d taken a friend of mine out to Colorado, and he’d never ridden trees or deep powder before. This was my 3rd or 4th trip to Colorado, but I was still a mountain riding novice. The night before we rode Beaver Creek a huge snowstorm hit the resort. It blanketed the mountain epically. So of course we were on the first chair tearing it up, and exploring the mountain.
My First Time In Thresher Glade
I’d spent most of my time at Vail, and had never visited Beaver Creek, so it was quite by accident when I stumbled upon Thresher Glade. I wasn’t sure where I was going, and made a wrong turn. I think I was following some other Snowboarders, and then I stopped in front of a sign that said danger, immovable terrain. As I looked ahead, and a wall of trees rose up in front of us.
My buddy asked what we should do, and he started to unstrap. We were in deep powder and that would’ve been dumb. I yelled at him, “Don’t unstrap,” at at the same time turned my board into the trees. He screamed something about not going in. I responded back to him, “into the breach,” eventually he followed and became a tree rider.
How to get up when you fall in deep powder?
The first rule about deep powder snowboarding is do not fall, because getting back up sucks. In the back bowl of Vail I once spent 45 minutes trying to get up. It was in waist deep powder and I was stuck on a plateau. I could see the next drop and it wasn’t far away, but the powder prevented me from reaching it.
If you’re going to fall, make sure you fall on an incline, this way you can get the board beneath you and you’ll start to gain speed. If you’re on a plateau (like me) its going to be difficult.
Best Practice To Get Up In Deep Powder
To get up you’ll have to get the board underneath you again. This is really tricky, and the snow will be exceptionally heavy. Once you do that, and you are on top of it. Try to lean back a little, and at the same time, aim the board on a downward slope. Hopefully you’ll start to gain speed, and even a little is good at this point. With the board moving and your weight leaning back, your board will start to rise above the snow. This will cause less friction and give you more speed and distance.
This move takes balance and skill, on top of that you’ll be powder boarding which is exhausting. When you ride in deep powder, you’ll come home exhausted. It’s an insane workout.
How Exhausting Is Snowboarding In Powder?
A few seasons ago I went to Vail in December. I always need to get into Snowboarding shape at the start of the season. I thought I’d be fine, and I’d only ridden twice that season so far. It had been snowing 12″-18″ a day by the time I got out there, and I was stoked.
On my first day I started riding trees, and I got trapped a lot. The combination of the elevation (I wasn’t climatized) and lack of stamina caused a lot of issues for me. I remember ending the first day early going and going back to my hotel. I fell asleep around 6pm, and woke up the next day at 8AM.
The next few days I got smarter. I split my time in the trees and on groomed runs, I wanted to be out there the entire time, and needed to be safe. I really should’ve been smarter about that trip.
At the end of the season, I went back out to Vail. It was probably the beginning of march, and I’d been riding 4-5 days a week for 3 months. We had powder days and I had no issues riding all day. It was a night and day difference to my previous trip.
The moral of the story, ride what you can handle, and know your skill/stamina level.
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