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Freeride Technique - Shoulder Positioning

When skiing powder or freeskiing off piste terrain it's important to realise, especially if you haven't had too much experience in this type of environment, that certain things you may do on piste natuarlly may not work so well here.

Upper Body Management

A common problem for many skiers moving from piste to off-piste is upper body management and this is directly related to their shoulders. When you ski on piste and are trying to make dynamic turns you tend to stand with rounded shoulders. This usually aids a dynamic stance.

If your shoulders are rounded in powder or off-piste terrain you may find them putting you out of balance. (The main reason for this is that when you are freeskiing you tend to find yourself trying to absorb large pressure shocks from the ever-changing terrain.)

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Powder - Shoulders
If your shoulders are forwards when you're in the process of trying to absorb then you will find that no matter how much you try to take the shock by absorbing with the legs, the shoulders will cause the whole body to be hurled forwards with a huge break at the waist.

This almost always results in eating snow!
Try to think about managing your shoulders for a while. Again, start on the piste, then when you feel you've got the hang of it try it in the off-piste environment. A little bit of modification here can save a whole lot of time puttin skis back on after that front flip that you didn't want to do!
Wind Effected Snow
There's a major difference between light powder snow and new snow that's been affected by high winds. When fresh snow falls with high winds it gets compacted together and rather than having a soft forgiving feel to it, it actually becomes quite firm and is therefore not so easy to sink into.

When the fresh snow gets like this you need to take a different approach to skiing through it. The firmness of the snow means that you've got to work a lot harder to ski it. You need to adopt a way of skiing where you are 'powering' through your turns.
Power Turning can be achieved by really forcing your legs out underneath you and keeping a constant pressure against and into the snow.

As you start your turn allow yourself to rise above the snow as it will be difficult to turn in. As you come above the snow get prepared to start driving your skis back in it again to round your turn off.

The amount of power needed to push the skis back in the firm surface of the snow is twice as much as you would normally need. It's a bit like going in the gym and stacking up a couple of extra blocks for your leg extensions.

If you are working your legs with this degree of power you'll find yourself powering through the firmly packed wind blown snow and actually enjoying what would have been a nightmare run.