Your Guide to Riding More Powder
Are you a seasonnaire? Probably not. How about a pro-snowboarder? Less likely…
But you still want to ride powder, right? Of course you do. Riding in deep, fresh snow is perhaps the most rewarding and fun part of snowboarding. But for the weekend-warriors out there, the holiday snowboarders, getting fresh lines isn’t easy. You’re not spending the whole season snowboarding, so with less time in the mountains, you might not even get any fresh snow…
That poses a real problem for those snowboarders who really want to ride powder, but can’t guarantee fresh lines simply by spending all winter on a snowboard. That’s what this page is about – a collection of ideas to help snowboarders like you to ride more powder. No one can guarantee fresh snow, but you can increase your chances. The afterbang Guide to Riding More Powder…
Choosing Your Destination
When it comes to riding powder, location, location, location is important. Some resorts have better snow records than others. Some countries have better snow records than others. And then there’s the traffic. Having lots of snow is great, but if there are also lots of people tracking it out, that powder isn’t going to last too long.
When choosing a destination, different countries have different approaches to giving snowboarders access to powder. Consider this article: Feel Safe Shredding Deep Powder in Canada, which takes a look at some of the rules and culture in Canada, compared with other places around the world.
Once you’ve got a country in mind, picking the resort itself is still important. Japan has become popular as a powder-fuelled destination. If you’re considering Japan there’s a great guide book that will help: Snow Search Japan. There’s a lot of good information concerning off-piste potential.
General resort guides are also useful. Whilst they don’t focus purely on off-piste and backcountry riding they do give attention to those areas. Two good options are: Snowboard the World Travel Guide and The World Snowboard Guide.
Knowing the terrain. One of the key factors that determines how much good powder riding you get, is how well you or the group you’re riding with, knows the area. Building up local knowledge can take a long time – consider the article: The Search for Powder: Should You Go to New Resorts or Return to the Same Place?
Getting Your Fresh Lines
Once you’re in resort – and there’s some fresh snow – there’s still some work to do in order to find good, fresh lines. Of course, there are the pockets of powder that you can see from the piste and from the chair-lift. These are the areas that will be targeted by the masses, because they’re the easiest.
But what about the other spots? It’s common to hear tell that a resort is excellent for backcountry riding, but how do you know? Consider the article: How Real are “Secret” Powder Spots?
Going beyond what you can see from the piste, there are several, practical steps that can help you to find the best places to go. Some of these are outlined in the article: How to Find the Best Powder Spots in Resort.
Using a guide. A guide can be a great way to get you safe access to good, backcountry riding. As far as assisted-off-piste riding goes, a guide is probably the cheapest option, and you can find them in almost every resort, which isn’t true of cat-boarding or heli-boarding. As an example of a guided-day in the backcountry, check out this case-study: Backcountry Tour in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, with additional photos here.
Cat-boarding for backcountry access. Cat-boarding is one of the ways that you can ride in the backcountry without having to make the ascent using your own energy. It has the added bonus of guides being included, so the safety aspect and the route are taken care of. If you’d like to know more about cat-boarding, check out the article: What’s the Deal with Cat-Boarding?
As an example of a day’s cat-boarding, check out this case-study: Fernie Day 7 – On the Cat.
If you really want to ride away from the crowds, outside of the resort, using a splitboard is a good option. It’s totally self-powered so you’ll be walking up before riding down, and in this environment you really need to know what you’re doing. But it’s very rewarding. Not heard of this before? Read the article: Do You Know What A Splitboard Is?
Being Safe When You’re Off-Piste
Being safe when you’re off piste is critical. Knowing what’s safe to ride and what isn’t safe can be a difficult decision. It’s important to be conscious of how much you actually know about the potential dangers of riding off-piste or in the backcountry. Consider this article: Be Careful – Are You Kidding Yourself When You Go Off-Piste?
Essential safety equipment. If you’re snowboarding in terrain where there’s an avalanche risk, you really need to be carrying the proper equipment. For avalanche safety, the three must-haves are:
- Avalanche transceiver (or beacon)
It may seem like the transceiver is the most important piece of equipment. However, the transceiver only helps you to find where a person is buried, it doesn’t help you to get them out. Using your hands or your snowboard absolutely will not do, you need a proper shovel. What’s more, you can waste a lot of time digging in the vicinity of someone buried, only to miss them by a small amount. That’s where the probe comes in – it helps you to find exactly where to dig.
If you’re thinking about investing in the proper safety equipment the following online stores may have what you need. Dogfunk, for snowboarders in the USA continually stocks avalanche safety equipment. Blue Tomato, for snowboarders in the UK and mainland Europe also has a good range in their Touring Equipment category. Both stores offer good customer service.
Knowing how to use it. Once you’ve got the equipment the next thing to do is to learn how to use it. The best option is to take an avalanche safety course. There, you’ll get hands on training from experienced guides.
You can also practice yourself. As an example, consider this transceiver practice session on the beach: BCA Tracker Practice Session 2.
Picking up knowledge. There’s a pretty good overview video in the post: Avalanche Mountain Safety Video. If you’d like to see more videos, Teton Gravity Research have a bunch covering avalanche education. The Backcountry Access site also has a page for avalanche safety and education – they’re the makers of the Tracker DTS transceiver.
There are also many books on this subject – although to begin with, a course and some hands on training is more useful. That said, the review of pocket-sized The ABCs of Avalanche Safety may be interesting.
Having The Technique And Equipment To Ride Powder Well
Riding powder can be very rewarding – the best feeling on a snowboard. But it can also be frustrating to begin with because the technique is different to riding on groomed trails. It’s uncommon to have instruction for riding powder, and with fresh snow being less frequent than snowboarding on piste, there isn’t always a lot of time to work on technique.
Getting instruction. Unlike the abundance of freestyle trick-tips out there, there’s less material available to help with riding in deep snow. Snowboard Addiction do however have a video lesson targeted entirely at riding powder. Their freestyle videos are excellent – so the riding powder lesson may be of interest. Consider the review of: Snowboard Addiction’s Riding Powder Lesson.
Another instructional DVD/Book that has bee popular for a long time is Neil McNab’s “Go Snowboard”. It covers all riding technique, starting from the beginner stage. To be fair the DVD excels at intermediate and advanced technique on the piste, but there is a small section for adapting that riding for off-piste. It’s also very cheap; consider the review of: “Go Snowboard”.
Having the right board. You don’t need a powder-specific snowboard to ride in deep snow; it’s not essential, but it helps. Exactly how much it helps is an interesting question – one that is addressed in the article: How Important is Having the “Right” Board for Powder?
Even without changing your snowboard, or adding a board to your collection, simply moving your bindings back can help out, especially if you’ve got a short, twin setup. As an example of some of the things you might consider when looking for a board that’s good for riding deeper snow, check out: Getting the Right Powder Board – the Capita Charlie Slasher.
Reliving The Experience
Many snowboarders enjoy capturing their riding experiences with photos and film. But when it comes to riding powder getting those shots are that little bit harder – because fresh snow isn’t always available, and getting “set up” to take the shot isn’t straight forward. That’s why good powder-photos and powder-sequences are more rewarding.
If you’re after photos you need to be riding with friends – but you should be anyway when you’re riding off-piste. Assuming that you’re in a group, you can rely of yourself to get some decent video, as you’ll see in the example below. Both the Go Pro cameras and the Contour cameras are popular with snowboarders. Many people attach them to poles so they can video their own action – the results can be great!
If you’re tempted by one of these cameras – here are some places you might look:
- Dogfunk.com for riders in the USA, stocks both the Go Pro and the Contour.
- PointofViewCameras for riders in the UK, stocks both the Go Pro and the Contour.
- Blue-Tomato for riders in Europe, stocks the Contour.
Check this out – reader Adrian Knowles shredding awesome powder in Alaska and capturing it with his Go Pro…