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Ten Things You Need to Know About Skiing Powder

How to get up in deep snow, avoiding "tree wells", and other powder-related tips.
posted: 12/10/2009

For some good options for new powder skis (and other gear you'll need on a powder day), check out our Powder-Day Gear.

by Kelly Bastone

1. Mt. Baker, Washington, averages 647 inches annually—the most snowfall of any lift-served area in the Lower 48.

2. Fact: Rockered skis make skiing powder easier. Get yourself a pair for super-deep days. See page 45 for some good options. For more on rocker, go to

3. The East’s deepest powder is at Jay Peak, Vermont, which receives an average annual snowfall of 376 inches—61 inches more than Mount Washington, the Northeast’s highest summit.

4. Give trees a wide berth. Branches often prevent falling snow from piling up around a tree’s trunk, creating a hidden hole or “tree well” that can swallow unsuspecting skiers.

5. Getting up in deep snow is hard. Form an X with your poles on the powder to create a surface you can lean on to push yourself back up to standing.

6. Press your shins into the tongues of your boots. This will fight the tendency to lean back to keep your tips above the surface.

7. Storms that deposit light, cold snow on top of a denser bottom layer create the best powder conditions. Storms that dump thick, heavy snow on a fluffy bottom layer elevate avalanche danger.

8. Pop out of your ski in powder? Jam the tail into the snow, to the heelpiece of the binding, so the tip is pointing up at a 30-degree angle. Press the toe of your boot in and then easily step back in.

9. Light powder is easier to ski than heavy powder. The BC interior and Utah are good for learners because both regions get quantity and quality.

10. Ski-area bars often celebrate big dumps with drink discounts. If the 24-hour report claims a certain amount of fresh, booze prices get slashed. Ask the bartender.

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