If you’re planning on a big powder day, it is worth spending the time to set the stance back an inch or so on your board before you head out on the hill. This will typically give you a longer nose and a shorter tail, putting your weight to the back of the board and helping the nose to rise out of the powder.
Riding in powder can have a tendency to slow you down, so a really simple technique you can use is to change the shape of your turns. When riding powder you can use open turns (the board doesn’t go fully across the fall line) to help maintain speed instead of closed turns (board goes across the fall line in each turn). You can also use turn size to adjust your speed – the general consensus is that smaller turns help you to control speed whereas bigger turns help you to maintain speed, as the board spends longer pointing down the hill. Take into account the terrain and volume of traffic to help you make the best choice.
A common technique that has been around for years is to shift your hips towards the tail of your board to put more weight on your back foot, this helps to raise the nose of the board out of the powder. Although this definitely works, it can mean that your back leg tires quite quickly (the burn), so we might not be able to enjoy riding all day. It can also compromise our ability to move to adapt to the continually changing terrain.
Another technique that produces a similar end result of rising the nose out of the powder is to periodically pump the board. Do this by shifting your hips towards the tail and press down your back foot - similar to what you do at the end of an Ollie. This doesn’t need to be done in every turn and therefore allows you to leave your body in a more relaxed, centred and mobile position. This hopefully means you can ride all day as you don’t feel the burn as rapidly.
Over the years there have been all sorts of developments in board shapes and cambers, which all have their pros and cons. If you are going on a trip where you know you are ‘guaranteed’ powder days then it is worth considering a powder board or one that has a rising nose and tail – this could be a full rocker or a hybrid. Again this helps to keep the nose from submarining under the powder.
You can use your edges to help keep your speed under control, however a too-aggressive edge angle in powder can cause the board to sink, losing speed and potentially falling over. When riding powder try to think of riding with less edge angle, some people liken it to a surfing sensation where you ride on a flatter base to help keep the board on top of the snow.
But the best tip is to get out there EARLY. Powder days are the best: get up and get the first lift and ride all day!
Alyn Nash is a CASI Level 4 snowboard instructor. He teaches on the SnowSkool snowboard instructor course at Big White in British Columbia, Canada.