By Dan Egan EBS Contributor
Big Sky has received massive snowfall this year with more than 60 inches falling in recent weeks. The snow has been deep, light and plentiful. The storms that passed through the region this season have been the topic of skiers and riders nationally as Montana, and specifically Big Sky, has had the best conditions in the country.
With an area as large as Big Sky Resort, there’s powder for all abilities. If you’re skiing the lower mountain on the trails, check the grooming report and ski your first few runs on the groomed trails that have fresh snow. This is a great way to get your balance and enjoy some fresh tracks.
Once you’re warmed up and ready to dive into deeper snow, select some open terrain where you won’t feel constrained. There are plenty of options for this around the resort, such as the Meadow on Thunder Wolf, Africa off of Ramcharger, and the Bowl off of Powder Seeker.
Speed and momentum are your friends when skiing powder. Speed will allow your skis to float up in the snow making it easier to turn, and momentum will help you initiate the next turn.
Powder creates friction as you ski through it and this will keep you at a constant speed. If you try and slow down from turn to turn, you’ll lose balance and be less efficient and you’ll become fatigued during your run.
Ski the run in sections. Don’t try and go top to bottom without stopping even if you feel pressure from your “powder hound” friends. Skiing the slope in sections will allow you to make three to four good turns before you stop and regroup. This will be more efficient, saving the energy in your legs, and it’ll build your confidence. It’ll also allow you to ski the section without the constant worry of trying to slow down every turn.
Many skiers tend to over-turn in powder to slow down. This creates problems when the skis get too far across the hill; the skis lose momentum to initiate the next turn and they sink lower in the powder, which zaps the energy from the skier because he or she has to over-rotate to initiate the next turn.
The other side effect of turning too far across the hill to slow down is that most skiers stiffen their lower leg, which pushes the downhill ski lower in the powder than the uphill ski, creating an imbalance.
Remember, stability equals long radius turns. Skis are most stable when they’re in a turn. They’re unstable when they’re flat or traversing across the mountain. So you want to lengthen your turn so the ski travels down the fall-line and not across it.
Keep your eyes focused down the hill to your next stopping point and make large, wide, sweeping turns to that location. As you ski, keep both hands out in front of you and pointed down the hill. If you drop the uphill hand down to your hip and allow it to twist your shoulders in the direction of your skis you’ll accelerate. If you keep your uphill hand reaching down the fall line in the direction you want to ski you’ll remain in balance and get the benefit of arcing, stable skis.
Along with the longer radius turn, match your uphill ski with the downhill ski. Move them both in the same direction at the same time and keep 40 percent of your weight on the uphill ski and 60 percent of your weight on the downhill ski. This will allow you to take advantage of your skis’ width and it’ll provide you with a wide, stable platform as you arc your way through all of the great powder around the resort this year.
Extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan has appeared in 12 Warren Miller ski films and countless others. He was inducted into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2016. Today he teaches clinics and guides trips at locations around the world, including Big Sky, where he’ll be teaching Feb. 22-24, March 1-2 and March 8-10, as well as during specialty clinics throughout the season. Visit bigskyresort.com or contact Big Sky Mountain Sports for availability. To find more information on Dan Egan camps and clinics, go to skiclinics.com.