How to Ride Powder on a Snowboard

Riding powder is the best feeling you can have on a snowboard. Powder snow is light, fluffy, fresh fallen snow. In fact, it is made up of about 90% air, which if you think about it, means that riding powder is almost like flying through the air!

“This is why you really need to learn how to ride it properly so that you can experience the joy of powder riding for yourself.”

We can actually work on powder riding technique on the groomed slopes. Although this doesn’t feel the same as riding in powder, it will give you a good idea of the theory, save you time and not waste good snow when you do venture off into the deep stuff.

Use the length of the board 

When riding powder we need to use the full length of the board. If you try putting your board across the fall-line in deep powder and side slipping, its just not going to work! Your board will dig into the snow and you’ll fall forwards down the hill. This is because you would be using the width of the board rather than the whole length, from tip to tail. 

We can think about the turns the same way. If we have the board riding along its length from tip to tail then we will get a lot more float than if we skid the board sideways across its width. If you are riding powder correctly then the tail of the board should follow in the same track as the nose.

In this way, riding powder is a lot like carving. But there are some major differences in technique…

Keep the nose up

The first major difference between riding powder and riding hard pack snow is your weight distribution. On hardpack you ride, most of the time with your weight evenly distributed between your 2 feet.

In powder, you ride a lot more from the back of the board with your weight on your back foot. How far back your weight needs to be depends on a couple of factors:

  • How fast your riding
  • How deep the snow is

The faster you ride, the less far back your weight needs to be. And the deeper the snow is the further back you need your weight

So if you’re riding fast in not very deep snow, then you don’t need your weight to be too far back. If you are riding slow in really deep snow , then you’ll need to get your weight right to the back.

A lot of people talk about leaning back when riding powder. But for me, we don’t really lean back, which will put you off balance. It’s more just a shift of your weight over your back foot. To do this all you need to do is make sure your back knee is more bent than your front knee. This will shift your hips toward the tail of the board and you’ll feel more weight pushing through your back leg.

The more weight you need on your back foot, the more you bend your back knee.
To put this into practice, you can start off with some wide-open, cruisey turns on an easy blue slope. Next, try shifting your weight back towards the tail of the board and initiating the turns with your back foot. You can use your back foot to turn in the same way as you use your front foot when you first learn to turn on a snowboard.

Try to feel your back foot rolling from the toes to the heel as you turn the board. This will be a pretty horrible feeling turn on a groomed run, but once you get into the powder it will feel awesome!

Use the surface area

The third difference in how you need to adjust your riding is in how you edge the board. On hard snow you want to be focussing on creating edge angles and digging your edges into the snow. But, if you edge too hard in powder the board will sink into the snow too much. 

Instead of thinking about edging the board, try and think about using the whole surface area. Imagine that with each turn you are creating a platform of snow under your board and then you are pushing the base of the board against that platform. 

Keep your speed up

As I mentioned above, the faster you go the more float you will get out of your board. So setting off with your board straight down the hill will help your board get up to speed before you start making your turns.

Next your turns should be more open than turns that you’d do on the groomers. 

The extra resistance created by the deep snow will slow you down so your turn shape should be more open and more pointed down the hill.

Try making your turns bigger and doing fewer of them. Your board should spend more time pointing more down the hill and less time turning across the hill. 

Plan ahead

When starting out riding powder, its a good idea to try any maintain a constant speed. If you go too slow your board will get bogged down and you could end up walking out, and if you go too fast go could end up losing control. 

So try and think a few turns ahead, look at the terrain and adjust your turns depending on how steep the slope is in front of you.

Get as much time practicing as possible!

It would be great if every day you woke up, you were greeted with a fresh foot of powder, but unfortunately, that is a pretty rare event! So when it does snow you need to make the most of it! Make sure you check the forecast and if it is going to snow, set your alarm so that you are on the first lift. That way you’ll be able to make the most of the fresh snow before it all gets tracked out.

Common mistakes when snowboarding in powder

These are some of the most common mistakes I see people making in the powder and the things I spend most time trying to correct when I’m teaching people:

Kicking the back foot around

This one comes from poor technique riding on the groomers, and its a mistake which is really common! To be able to kick your back foot around the turn you need to stand on your front foot, and you don’t want to do that with deep powder! If you find yourself often catching your nose when turning then this could be the cause of the problem. The fix is to go back to basics of how to turn, so you can make smooth rounded turns. Then try making that same turn shape in the powder.

Leaning too far back 

This is another common one, which comes from the common misconception that all you need to do in powder is lean back. But you can definitely lean too far back, which will put you off balance and make your back leg really tired! You just need the tip of the board above the snow, and remember – speed it your friend! Try taking a more direct line so that you get more float and can stand more on both feet.

Staying on your heel edge

A lot of riders out there struggle to turn onto their toe edge. Whilst you might be able to get away with this on groomed runs, poor technique will catch you out when you get into powder.

Again it comes down to the basic technique of how to turn! If you turn onto your toe edge by pushing out your back foot then you are going to struggle. Try finding a mellow powder run and just linking up smooth S turns. This will help you develop a feel for the toe edge turn before taking it to a steeper slope.

Hopefully these tips have helped. Riding powder is not only one of the best feelings that you can experience on your board, its one of the best feelings period! So its worth spending a little time working on technique so that when an epic powder day comes your way you wont be floundering in the snow but floating through it like a boss!


Powder Riding FAQs

Equipment choices

With all the choices of different types of snowboards on the market today it can be a little daunting deciding on which board you need for which conditions. So first off, lets clear up a few commonly asked questions about what kit you need to ride powder:

No you don’t! The good thing about snowboarding is that you can pretty much do any kind of riding on any board. Of course, some boards are more suited to riding powder, and will make learning a bit easier. Powder boards have a directional shape, meaning that they have a longer nose than tail and are designed to ride in one direction. Twin tip boards are symmetrical nose to tail, this means they have a little bit less float in the powder than directional boards, but you definitely can still ride them in deep snow. The only exception is if you have a twin tip board which is on the short side for your height and weight  – then you may struggle a little.

If you are going to go out and rent/buy a board specifically for riding powder, then I would recommend a Volume Shift board. These boards are shorter and wider than conventional shape meaning you get the same surface area and float, but the shorter length makes it easier to turn. Ideal for learning to ride pow!

Personally, I never set back my stance on a powder day. Definitely, if you are riding a directional board then I wouldn’t bother. Snowboards are designed to have your weight set in a certain position on the board, so messing this up too much can affect how the board performs in the turns.

The only exception would be if you have a twin-tip board that is maybe a little short and you have a ton of fresh snow! Then you will need a little help keeping the nose out of the snow. In that can I would recommend shifting both your bindings back an inch toward the tail.

One of the major advantages of snowboarding over skiing is that riding powder is waaaay easier on a board! This makes powder riding accessible for most intermediate riders. Even sometimes if I’m teaching beginners and there’s a bit of powder around I will take them outside the groomed runs for a couple of pow turns!

But before you really start riding powder, you should have the basics mastered. That means being able to link clean turns with good technique. Also being able to do some basic carving. Carving will give you the feel of opening up your turns and letting the board run along its length rather than skidding sideways, but more of that later…

For your first time riding powder you want to pick terrain which is safe, easy, and simple to get in and out of. The best place to find this is right next to the slopes. Look for fresh, untouched snow right next to a slope that you know already and are super confident riding. That way if things don’t work out in the powder you can hop back on the groomed slope.

You also want just the right amount of snow as too little and you won’t get that floaty feeling and too much will be really hard to ride through.

Obviously, in the mountains you’ve got to work with what you are given, but here would be a checklist of my ideal terrain and conditions for teaching a first-timer in the powder:

Ok, so obviously we can’t choose how much snow we get to ride in, but let’s pretend for a second that we can order up the ideal amount of snow to learn to ride powder in.

I would say 8-12 inches or 20-30cm of fresh snow is the ideal depth to give you the feel of riding powder. Any less than that and you will start to hit the bottom when you turn. Any more than that and there is a little less stability under the board and it starts to get a little harder to keep the nose up.

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