Gear Guide for Deep Powder
“Will my gear be the right gear for heli-skiing?”
We get that question a lot.
Complimentary powder skis or a powder board is included with all our packages, but knowing whether you’ll need our gear can help you plan ahead, so you know how much you need to bring on your trip.
So here’s a short guide to help you figure out whether your stuff will measure up.
We can’t cover a thumbs up or thumbs down on every possible setup of course, but this will give you an idea of what variables we consider and help determine what side of the threshold your gear is on.
*DISCLAIMER: No matter what you plan for, you can always opt to use our powder gear last-minute. No problem!
Your enemy: narrow waists, a lot of sidecut, ultra-stiff or carving/hardpack-designed skis
Your friend: a waist of at least 100mm, very little sidecut, softer, flat or reverse camber, early-rise tips.
In deep snow you’re looking for stability, liveliness and a shape made for powder. Rather than pushing on one downhill edge at a time, you’re looking for more equal footing on a steady platform that springs you through each turn.
Basically, if your skis aren’t designed for powder/backountry, they won’t do as good a job. Does that mean they CAN’T do the job? Not necessarily, no, but we’re just talking about how to enjoy the conditions the most.
You want to avoid:
- Skis skinnier than 100mm at the waist – probably not big enough
- Your racing skis – a very different job
- Your carving skis – same problem
- Your all-mountain skis unless they’re truly a powder hybrid
All-mountain skis are designed for the mountain. As in, in-bounds at the resort. They’re designed well for the ice, the groomers, the bumps, the chop. Not necessarily skiing deep enough to lose sight of your skis all day. All-mountains can be on the borderline of appropriate, but we still recommend going to powder-specific sticks for the best performance.
You want to have:
- Early-rise tips or some reverse camber at some point along the ski
- A waist of at least 100mm – 108 or wider even better
- Very little sidecut
With a rockered ski, whether full or part rockered, don’t be afraid to go 10cm longer than you would normally ski. The turning radius is smaller, since the active edge is shorter. So it’ll ski shorter than it looks, but the added length gives you more float and more stability.
We carry the Blizzard Zero G and Blizzard Rustler. Waists from 108 to 112mm, lengths from 160cm to 190cm. We love them because they give you all the immediate benefits of jumping onto a ski made for pow, but they’re not fully rockered – they keep some traditional camber under your foot. So they push back and push through the turn in a more familiar way. Instead of feeling weird and foreign, they just feel like FUN.
Park boards need not apply.
What we mean is: size is your friend. You need some float. That comes via some decent area beneath your feet.
Boards (or a board sized) for jibbing, flipping and sliding rails are not made for cruising through pow. Quite the opposite. To have success in the deep stuff, you need to make sure your board is adequately-sized for your height and weight.
You want to have:
- For most people, a board 10cm longer than what you normally ride
- A board with more width
- A FAT nose with some early rise in the shape (a fat nose makes a huge difference)
If you’re 5’9″ or taller, you should be riding something no shorter than 160cm if you want to float in powder. For the especially tall folks, you can get on something 170cm or bigger no problem.
If you’re shorter than 5’9″, a board in the 150 – 160cm range is a good bet, but don’t go shorter than 150cm (unless you’re TINY).
If you’re concerned about stepping up the length, aim for something with lots of rocker – it’ll ride shorter than it’s actual length, it’ll pivot easily and be a dream in the trees, while giving you all the float you need.
We carry Never Summer powder boards (Revolver, Raven and Summit), lengths from 156cm to 172cm. They’re rockered, with fat early-rise noses, and they really like to surf the pow.
All our guides have not just one pair of skis or one snowboard. They build a quiver over time.
That’s because they know you don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. Different conditions call for a different setup. Get the right tool for the job, and you’ll win!
Something to consider while you’re packing your gear: Do You Want a Vacation, or an Adventure?
Feature image: Claire Dibble
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