Powder Manifesto: Making the Most of a Big Day

Horseshoe Cliffs on Crystal Mountain’s Northway chair.

Days 24 & 25: March 14-15, 2016

Late-winter storms have just delivered two of the best powder days of the year.

While racking up vertical, the SkiZer found himself thinking about powder-day strategy. His chairlift meditations led to the following Powder Manifesto.

Build powder karma

Powder attracts a crowd, there’s no getting around it. When you have a bunch of aggressive dudes competing for fresh turns, there’s bound to be bad behavior.

Don’t be That Guy.

Example: SkiZer was enjoying a stellar start when he arrived at Crystal Mountain’s Chair 6. A crowd of skiers and boarders was waiting at the lift like a pack of hungry jackals huddled over a kill. The line slowly inched forward.

SkiZer found himself on a chair with one of the snarling jackals. As we neared the top, the lift abruptly stopped, and we waited … and kept waiting.

It was a mechanical failure. The Crystal Ski Patrol sent word that we might be stuck for a long time, and possibly even need to be evacuated. As we sat gazing at the powder below, my chairlift mate became increasingly agitated.

Finally, he’d had enough.

“I’m going to jump off!” he screamed.

A ski patrolman stationed at the top of the lift heard him and shouted, “If you jump, we’ll pull your ticket.”

Good karma, free ski pass.

As soon as the patrolman left sight, the jackal leaped into the fresh snow and skulked away. SkiZer stayed put.

Ten minutes later, the chairlift started and SkiZer was quickly off.

“Thanks for your patience,” the patrolman said, handing over a voucher for a free lift ticket for the next day.

The ski jackal disappeared. SkiZer likes to think he was caught and sent packing. But even if he wasn’t, SkiZer played by the rules, built good karma, and got a free ticket out of the deal.

Stay with a winner

Too often, skiers take a great run, then rush to what they imagine will be an even better run. This often leads to disappointment.

SkiZer believes that if a run is good, you should stay put.

Example: SkiZer headed to the Northway chair and found first tracks on the run Penny Dawg’s. It was fantastic.

For whatever reason, hardly anyone was taking this thrilling drop, so the SkiZer returned, milking it for four untracked runs. Penny Dawg’s paid off big time.

SkiZer takes one of four great runs down Penny Dawg’s.

Stay strong

Mornings are intensely busy on a powder day. The crowds arrive early and compete for every turn.

SkiZer calls these people “The Hit It and Quit It Crowd.” They go hard for a couple of hours, then leave. If you can stay strong for the entire day, you’ll be rewarded late.

Example: The Hit It Crowd was long gone when a late afternoon flurry dumped fresh inches of snow on the hill. SkiZer stayed until the final bell and scored fresh tracks on empty slopes.

Traverse to Throne
Traversing on the top of Chair 6 toward the Throne.

When to hike

SkiZer believes in staying in-bounds on a powder day until the slopes are completely skied-out.

Many of the ski jackals are obsessed with scoring freshies. At the first sign that the backcountry is open, they stomp, swear and push people out of the way as they rush for first tracks.

Why not go for the low-hanging fruit first?

Example: The South Backcountry opened and a steady conga line of skiers rushed out of bounds. As the feeding frenzy went on in the backcountry, SkiZer still found great lines in-bounds.

Later on, SkiZer did go hiking.The rush of the jackals had passed, and SkiZer found fantastic turns in their wake.

Try this move

SkiZer likes to think that he has a sixth sense that draws him to hidden untracked snow.

One technique that seems to pay off every time is the “Patented Cutback Move.” Here’s how it works:

When you come to a ski run, don’t immediately turn downhill. Instead stay high, keep traversing, and then, like a big-wave surfer in Hawaii, make your “cutback” onto the run. Other skiers will have cut in early, leaving fresh tracks on your cutback side.

Don’t be greedy

A final thought in the Powder Manifesto: It’s a big mountain out there with lots of lines to ski. You can afford to hang back and let a fellow skier grab that powder shot while you watch. If you do, good karma will reward you with your own freshies — guaranteed.

Afternoon sun opens near the King.
Skiers enjoy the slopes of Paradise Bowl on Northway.

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