By Dan Egan
Explore Big Sky Contributor
We all want to wake up to the perfect powder day – the “Holy Grail” of skiing – and if you’re at a resort on that day, here are a few skills that will help you find powder paradise.
Early bird. It’s a cliché, but if you think it’s going to snow all night, wake up and head to the mountain to be there two hours prior to the chairlifts opening.
Be prepared. Call the resort, find out if there’s a “first tracks” program that provides early access to lift opening. It’s worth every dime to be on the first chair of the day.
Have a plan. Most decent powder days will see delays in lifts and trails opening. You’ll have to move across the grain and be willing to risk being caught up in the herd. Think hard about where you’ll go. It might be worth letting the first pack go and pouncing on a delayed trail opening.
Keep a sharp eye on ski patrol. Ask the patrollers lots of questions, watch their movements and listen to any radio chatter that might give you the edge on conditions and locations. If possible, grab a chairlift ride with a patroller and pepper them with questions, and most importantly, respect.
Set expectations. Discuss your plan with your ski pals and be clear about the “keep up and meet up” policy. Discuss your plans and be honest about what your goals are. If you’re showing people around the mountain, be patient. If you’re a selfish powder hound, state the obvious and buy the first round of drinks at happy hour to make up for any hurt feelings.
Breathe. Most skiers burn out on powder days because they hold their breath while skiing. Make breathing a priority as you “shred the pow” to ensure you’ll have some gas in the tank to ski buzzer to buzzer.
Mind over matter. On deep days the powder can often be wind blown, crusty or inconsistent. Don’t get caught up in the quality of the snow, focus instead on the experience and go for quality of runs.
Island hop. On certain days cut-up powder snow is better than fresh tracks. You can find lots of joy in skiing the islands of snow between the tracks. “Island hop” your way from powder turn to powder turn.
One good powder day will drive many skiers’ addiction to deep snow for years. Ask other skiers about their best day ever and settle in for a good story that happened one glorious day in the past.
During my skiing career I’ve seen all types of snow, all over the world. In the past 30 years I’ve had my share of perfect powder days and I allow that definition of “perfect” to be wide open. Some days it’s the people I’m with, other days it’s the texture of the snow or a beautiful location.
Keep an open mind, be prepared, be patient, and stay focused on the weather patterns at your favorite ski area.
Extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan has appeared in 12 Warren Miller Ski films and countless others. Today he teaches clinics and guides trips at locations around the world including Big Sky, where he’ll be teaching Feb. 26-28, March 5-7 and March 12-14. Find more ski tips from Dan Egan at skiclinics.com/education/skitips.