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Original Issue

How to Float the Fluff

The best powder instructor in the country is Eddie Morris, assistant director of Alf Engen's ski school in Alta, Utah. Morris is a calm and reasonable man—good to have around on a first encounter with the bottomless snow that unnerves the best of skiers. Once a Morris pupil is relaxed and "sitting back," he is soon floating through powder, his skis planing like a hydrofoil. Steep slopes do not seem so steep with deep powder to brake the descent, and the snow itself is so light and dry that the skier seems to sail through his turn. On the following pages Morris shows you how to ski western powder, a technique that a parallel skier can master during a week's vacation. The lesson begins at the right, as Eddie shows how to sit back and enjoy yourself.

"SIT IN A CHAIR THAT ISN'T THERE," says Eddie Morris. "Start by lowering your hips to this position. Keep your back and neck straight. Press your knees and ankles forward until you feel pressure against the front of your boots. Keep your weight directly over your boots, not pitched forward as on hard-pack (dotted lines)." On the opposite page Wilma Johnson exhibits flawless posture as she glides through a turn.

"WEIGHT BOTH SKIS EQUALLY," Eddie tells his students. Morris believes the current practice of keeping weight on the downhill ski is overtaught. "We need both skis to keep us afloat in powder," says Eddie. To start a powder turn, sink down a little from normal powder posture, then unweight by rising out of that "chair" and lifting your skis with your knees. The skis will plane up in the snow, allowing you to twist your feet in the direction you want to go. As you enter the fall line, sink down again to weight both skis, thrusting them down and out of the fall line. A strong heel thrust slows you down and controls the radius of the deep powder turn. "Bank your skis in a powder turn. Don't edge them as you would on a packed slope," warns Eddie. "You'll fall."

"USE FLEXIBLE SKIS. Without them you are sunk," cautions Eddie. A stiff ski will dive in deep powder, a flexible one will plane up. In the diagrams at right, a 180-pound man stands on Head's Competition Giant Slalom ski (top) and the company's Deep Powder model. Not only is the powder ski more flexible fore and aft, but its deflection is greatest where it counts, just ahead of the binding. The hingelike action of the tip—"the shovel," Eddie calls it—keeps the ski and skier afloat, planing in deep powder.

"YOU CAN'T BLUFF IN THE FLUFF," is a Morris maxim. If your weight is too far forward your tips will sink and you will wind up head down in the deep snow (left). If you weight your downhill ski the uphill ski floats still farther uphill and the lower ski sinks and throws you (center). If your weight is too far back your skis will run out from under you on steep powder slopes, leaving you behind.

"ACCENTUATE THE ANGLE," says Morris. Drive your hips farther into the hill for the steep powder slopes (right) than you would for hard-pack conditions on easier runs (left). The lower angle of your hips keeps your body low, increasing both leverage and stability needed in deeper snow.

"THE POLE STARTS THE SWING," says Morris, who shows what he means in the perfect powder turn above. The touch of his pole to the snow initiates the unweighting. When he completes one turn, his opposite pole and hip are already cocked, ready for another. "One good turn deserves another—right away," Eddie says. Establish a slow, smooth rhythm as you float through your powder turns. "Hold pole action to a minimum. Flailing your poles will upset your rhythm. The basket should never be more than a foot off the snow" says Eddie. Another Morris tip: "Look about 20 yards down a slope. Looking down at your skis tilts your weight too far forward."

"SLASH THROUGH CRUST," Eddie advises. Sun and wind often form patches of crust on powder. To break through it, lock your knees and ankles together and set both edges in a quick and powerful thrust. Relax your edges as you check your speed. Then go on to the next turn. There is almost no skid in a crust turn. If you hesitate, crust stops your skis short and topples you downslope. "In difficult snow, make your first turns at five miles per hour. Get a rhythm of 'grandma' turns going before you let out the throttle. Keep turning. Don't lose touch with the snow," says Eddie, who is shown blasting through at the right.