Ice, powder, et alia.
Physically speaking, a snowboard doesn’t know the difference between ice, packed powder, and deep snow. Most of the differences are in your head. So long as you follow good riding technique, you should have little difficulty in dealing with the extremes of snow depth and hardness. Some snow is just a little harder, faster, and a little less enjoyable. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind which might make your riding easier and more enjoyable.
Generally speaking, ice forgives few mistakes. However, Ice is very hard, and as a result, will hold an edge under very high pressure without structurally deforming. The catch is that you must be riding well. Ice requires commitment, and an aggressive state of mind. Being aggressive, however, does not imply that you should ride like a bull in a china shop.
If you don’t commit to your new turning edge, you will likely be skidding through the initial phase of the turn. Once a skid develops, it becomes more difficult to put the board on edge, due to a buildup of ‘force’ in the wrong direction (the tangental direction of your momentum). In putting the board on edge, we also move the body to the inside of the turn, with a combination of angulation and inclination, to put ourselves in a strong position.
In order to control our speed, we must shape a turn and channel our energy, both difficult to do if skidding on ice. If you can commit to a turn early enough, you allow the edge of the board to firmly engage with the snow surface before you have too much momentum in the wrong direction. Once on edge, the board will begin to turn as a result of its forward movement, the resultant decambering and the sidecut.
It is important that your body be properly angulated once the turn is initiated, and you begin to channel your momentum and energy back across the hill34. Not enough angulation and you will be pulled out of the turn. Too much, and your edge angle will be too high and the board will begin to chatter. Additionally, if you move too far inside the turn, angulated or not, you begin to move weight off of the turning edge, which decreases its grip, which increases the radius of the turn, which, in turn, dumps you on your face.
An aggressive mindset is necessary due to the fact that you don’t want to skid to scrub off speed. Any speed and momentum left over from one turn must be dealt with in the following turns. If you have far too much speed at any one point, you must begin to gradually deplete it over the course of several turns, once again due to the fact that skidding is not going to help your balance and stability. Rather than think about how you can get rid of excess speed all at once, try to take it somewhere. Be aware not only of where you are, but where you would like to go.
Riding on ice is not something to be done if you are feeling passive, or have no energy in reserve. Since you probably won’t get too many mistakes before you crash, it would be best to ride in a proactive, rather than reactive manner. Mistakes usually happen when we react incorrectly or overreact to a problem. If we ride with intent, and act decisively, we may reduce our mistakes and decrease our reaction time as well. If we wait for things to happen, then we will be continually trying to catch up to our motion. If you are tired, call it a day.
(Review chapter 12, sections C and D, chapter 13 section D)
Riding on flat icy terrain gives us the opportunity to experiment with our riding without having to deal with excessive speed and the fear that goes along with it.
The ability to recover from a skid, (a washout of the tail of the board) is exceptionally valuable35. Think of skidding on a board much like skidding in a car on a slippery road; the skid is a result of turning too sharply, and to correct you must straighten out your line of travel. If, for instance, the tail of the board begins to slide out on a heelside turn, you need to get the nose of the board moving ahead of the tail. You have two options here, waiting for the tail to grab and then resume your course, or physically straightening out the board’s travel by working your lower body against your upper body.
Since your upper body weighs more than your lower extremities (usually), it is possible to use the heavier body part as a ‘base’ off of which you might move the lighter part. If the tail of your board begins to slide out, it will do no good to try to gain a new purchase with the edge by pushing harder against it, as you will only succeed in skidding further sideways. The extension of your rear leg shifts more pressure to the front of the board, which is what caused the problem in the first place. However, if you momentarily relax, and at the same time pull your back foot up underneath you, you will straighten out your line of travel, allowing the edge of the board to gradually regain its grip. Relax as best you can and be flexible. The harder you exert yourself and try to overpower your board or the surface of the hill, the less likely you are to succeed.
Powder Reach over and turn the volume knob down from around 8 to just below .75.
Riding powder means several things. First of all, if you try to turn by twisting your board, you will fall. If you turn by moving forward at all times and lightly pressuring your edges, you will probably have fun36. Either way, because of the snow depth and the width of your board, you will have a rather large ‘platform’ under your feet. This underfoot support provides the sensation of floating, but it can also bring you to your knees without much warning. Because powder is soft, it is easier to bend or decamber your board. This will allow it to turn much faster than you are used to. For that reason, avoid making sudden weight shifts from foot to foot, or from edge to edge. Subtlety is your savior. You can carve a turn just as easily in powder as you can on hardpack, you just have to be careful not to move too far inside your turn to fast, or to lean excessively into the turn. Also, you might find that it is very easy to overload the nose of the board, which will make it ‘over turn’, resulting in a stall which will find you cleaning snow out of the back of your jacket. For that reason, be especially aware of your foot to foot weight distribution, and shift it somewhat to the rear foot. This is not to say, however, that you want to sit back on the tail of the board all the time.
Ten rules of powder
1. Me first.
2. No waiting (unless stuck in a tree well).
3. No whining.
4. No wimps (see above).
5. Keep hands out of snow (you ain’t no boat, and they ain’t ruddahs).
6. Regular breathing is a good idea.
7. Tuck in your shirt.
8. Snow sticks to flannel.
9. Don’t take your goggles off once you put them on. Clear vents frequently to avoid fogging.
10. There are no powder rules.
Broken, chunky or loose snow. Dune theory.
When riding on loose and weird snow, avoid the urge to leave perfectly clean, deeply gouged tracks in the snow. The snow isn’t going to have any part in it, and neither is your board. Riding on this junk is a lot like walking to the top of a sand dune; your footprints will be poorly defined and you will slip backwards on every step, but as long as you continue in the right direction, you will get to the top. If you can maintain a solid position on the board, allowing you to keep it on edge and pressure that edge, then the turn will come off just fine. You will have to get used to the sensation of controlled slippage, which, after awhile, will seem normal. Avoid the tendency to try to create a platform to turn off of; the snow probably has little structural integrity, and you will have better luck in letting go of a failing turn and starting the next one while still in balance. Try to flow. Once again, try not to move inside your new turn too quickly, as the board may not come around as quickly as you expect it to.
Rear foot weighting in weird snow-tp’s pressure angle theory(drive) and eb’s achilles grip sensation.*
When riding in loose snow, or heavy wet snow with widely spaced bumps, you may be hesitant to move your body downhill over the board to put the board on edge and start the turn. This hesitancy is understandable, and to be expected. Why should you assume, for instance, that your board will slice through what appears to be a large mogul, or that it will turn through the loose piles of snow that often line the sides of steeper trails late in the afternoon? You shouldn’t take anything for granted, and yet you should not hesitate to experiment. Remember though, the longer you wait to begin your turn, the more speed you pick up, and the more difficult it will be to channel that energy into your next turn.
In lieu of well developed crossthrough, one of the better ways to turn through inconvenient snow is to focus on not moving too far inside the turn too early. Additionally, make sure that you stand either in the middle of the board, or slightly back of center. By moving inside to a lesser extent, and centering your stance, you avoid the tendency to pressure the nose of the board through an area of the turn when your speed is increasing, and mistakes would be amplified.
Standing centered on a toeside turn, try to generate pressure forward of the arch of your rear foot, towards the toe edge of the board. On a heelside turn, try a mirror imaging of the same, or (assuming hard shell boot) roll your ankle in such a way that you can feel pressure along the inside of your achilles tendon. Either way, the object is to make certain that you are, in fact, accurately pressuring either the toes or heel of the rear foot. Once you are aware of where you are standing, you can experiment with pressuring earlier in the turn, and with varying intensity as needed. Once again, move to the inside of the turn only fast enough to counter the tendency to be pulled back out of the turn. Be adaptable; the shape of your board is constant, the snow conditions and your bodily movements may change without notice.
(34) … is important… Important more so for a rider whose agility is compromised by inadequate boot/binding setup. I realize that I come back to this frequently, but it cannot be stressed enough. The overall point here is that ice provides little room for error, and finding the ideal degree of edge angle and pressure distribution can be tricky.
(35) The ability… (see also note 13) Skidding is a result of over-pressuring the front of the board. If the board skids easily on a heelside turn, move the bindings towards the tail one increment at a time until the skidding tendency disappears. Skidding should be the result of a proactive movement, rather than a situation that just appears. Due to the arrangement of our body on a board, the preponderance of weight moves to the front foot on a heelside turn, and to the rear foot on a toeside turn. This is why heelside turns often skid, and toeside turns often ‘rail out’.
(36) If you… Not to be confused with the idiotic ski teaching mantra of ‘Get forward’, I simply mean that one should embrace the flow rather than fight it.
*3/23/2012 This becomes fairly significant at a later date. Stay tuned…