Growing up, I remember each ski season a week would arrive in which my dad would eagerly count down the days. The ski bag would come out and skis were placed inside, followed by a gigantic duffle that held ski clothing, après ski clothing and one freshly pressed tuxedo. Sitting upon his suitcase, I listened to stories about the Canadian Rockies and how he experienced it via helicopter skiing. It sounded exotic, thrilling and I pined for the day that I would get to go.
Fast forward to my high school graduation. My father asked what I would like as a graduation gift? In which, I promptly replied: “Heli-skiing”. I had heard legends about the skiing, the lodges and, of course the après nightlife. But my most vivid memory was how my dad spoke of the “ultimate powder buddy.” This was of utmost importance, because the “ultimate powder buddy” relationship afforded a deep state of resonance, which allowed the pair to ski harmoniously through trees, over boulders, down chutes and in bowls without having to overthink, over plan or even speak. I knew that if I were given a chance, I would have to be the “ultimate powder buddy” which in turn would solidify my place on the annual heli-skiing adventure.
The joke in skiing is “no friends on powder days!” What this implies is on powder days all manners give way to the great snow at hand. If you are slow, see ya! If you fall, better hope your gear is still on! It sounds harsh, but for a lot of skiers the perfect powder day is hard to beat. Honestly, the only way to beat a great powder day is to share it with someone! Over the years my dad and I have truly become the ultimate powder buddies for one another. Here are our favorite tips to remember and consider on your next powder day:
- “Tell us tonight, 've' know tomorrow.” This is one of our favorite sayings from a long-time heli-guide. The night before a powder day, egos seem to surface and stories get longer as the moon gets higher. But all the stories in the world slip away the minute anyone hits the slopes and that’s when we all realize how we ski.
- If you suddenly see only the tops of trees or just sky… STOP! Know your terrain. If you are skiing and the terrain shifts suddenly, stop and reassess your path and plan of action.
- Know your limits, be safe, don’t take unnecessary risks and know the snow (is it stable? Is there danger of avalanches?)
- Sound and rhythm are essential. When we ski powder together, especially in trees, we laugh, shout and talk to one another. Maintaining a degree of contact via sound allows us to know where one another have been, this is important when tree wells are a feature.
- If the snow is unstable, stick to the ridges and avoid slopes that lead to gullies, and gullies in general.
- Work as a team. You don’t have to follow right behind one another, instead you can ski along side, sling-shot back and forth and, of course, figure eight on the open bowls.
- Know your surroundings. Look down the hill, see your path, but also note your periphery. See each other by checking to the side now and again.
- Before you begin, always pick a meeting spot. At the beginning of each run, note where you expect the finish and if you plan to stop before the final meeting point.
- Look for the path not at the trees. Like any sport, look for where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go!
- Whenever possible, look back at your tracks and at the amazing terrain you just skied together. Note: sometimes in ski areas, admiring your work takes a backseat to getting back to the chair and catching more powder before it is skied out.
- In chutes and narrow lines, have one skier go first. The first skier should not stop until they are clear of the chute. This allows the next skier to enjoy the line without any worry of running into you.
- If you go into the back country without a guide, know what you are doing, have the appropriate gear and be safe!
Overall, when you have good communication, common sense and are compatible skiers, it is more fun and safer to ski with someone on a glorious powder day. As the adage goes: no friends (boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, etc.) on powder days, but when the powder buddy is right… it’s magic. Like I said: only Grandpas on powder days!
For more powder, think outside the resort! Here are a few local powder-seeking outfits to discover and our favorite Canadian Heli-skiing resource:
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The views expressed on Snowmamas are those of the individual authors, who are independent contractors of Park City Mountain Resort, and may not be factually accurate. These views are not intended to reflect the opinions of Park City Mountain Resort, its owners, its management or its employees. Snowmamas' authors have or will receive a paid trip to Park City Mountain Resort or will receive other compensation for their participation as an author.