Q&A: How do you guarantee good powder?
Let’s be clear: powder snow is good news. Full stop.
No scratching or scraping sounds. Deep enough to silently bounce through each turn, or to feel the swoosh, a little resistance as a wave of snow engulfs your boots, your knees, or more.
Fresh tracks. AHHHH. It’s so, so good.
But when you live for the deep stuff, you know there’s levels of better and best. Not all deep snow is created equal, and it definitely doesn’t ride equal.
If it’s the life-changing kind you’re after, how do you get it?
The greatest powder you’ll ever ski will be (1) low-density and dry, (2) it’ll wait for you to get there, and (3) you’ll actually get there.
Sound densely obvious? Stick with me.
Go high and dry
Powder snow is good, but the really good, mwah! champagne-level stuff is the DRY STUFF. The less moisture the snow has in it when it’s falling, the lighter it will land as it stacks up, leaving lots of air in between the flakes.
When you ski or ride through snow that’s mostly air, you sink in, it feels bottomlessly deep, it floats, you float. There’s no feeling like it.
You get lighter, drier snow in places that stay colder (higher elevations) and places that aren’t right next to the ocean (Interior B.C. instead of the Coast). The Purcells? Check, and check.
With frontcountry resorts, the dream is to be in position the morning after the storm, hustle for first lift and charge all the fresh tracks you can get before they’re gone in a couple hours.
Even in the backcountry, the time pressure can be real.
Coastal zones can get reliable winter storms and serious snow accumulation, but all that snow usually comes in windy and wet. If you catch the storm while it’s happening, it’s magic, but sadly, the magic doesn’t last.
As that storm snow settles, the moisture content sets it up dense and heavy, and faceshots in the white room get traded for what we Interior snobs like to call “cement-imetres”.
Powder days in Whistler can be epic, but if you’re not there when it’s happening, it’s like it never happened at all.
In the higher elevations of the Interior, though, like the Purcells, a fresh dump of low-density pow can stay champagne-quality for weeks without a touch-up, as good as the morning after it fell.
We’ve had guests completely shocked at the amazing snow quality in the middle of a drought!
High and dry means you can relax if the timing doesn’t line up perfectly. It’ll be there waiting for you.
More isn’t always better
Too much of a good thing is definitely a thing. We want it to snow, oh yes. Without the storms, there’d be nothing to enjoy.
But, when it comes to heli-skiing, seeking out the place with the most possible snowfall can backfire.
If it never stops puking, it’s really hard to fly. And if we can’t get there, nobody is enjoying all that sweet white gold. Instead, we’re watching the centimetres build up on the blade covers and praying for a break.
If you want to ski the best powder around out of a helicopter, seek balance. Solid snowfalls combined with regular bouts of high pressure systems.
Remember: high and dry means the powder doesn’t need to constantly be replenished to be mind-blowing. And conveniently, drier snow often falls in a drier climate. Where sunny days allow us to get to places like this:
Are you feeling the theme by now?
DRY is your friend. It makes for the best-quality powder that isn’t time-sensitive, and falls in a climate that’s much more conducive to heli-access.
There may be no guarantees in the wilderness, but knowledge is power when you want the gamble to be much less of a gamble.
The Purcells is the champagne-powder capital of the world, AND, where heli-skiing was born. Check out three other ways our backcountry earned its fame.
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