17December 2019

Q&A: How is heli-skiing different for snowboarders?

Different gear, some differences to note.

What’s definitely NOT different? One plank or two, we’re all out there to experience the joy of floating through pow in the untouched backcountry.


A smooth backcountry snowboarder ticks all these boxes:


You gotta look ahead

The terrain won’t always be planar downhill pitches. There’ll be little flats, rolls and traverses to find the next best fall line. Just like you would look ahead for a good place to stop inbounds, somewhere you can stand and get sliding again, this becomes even more important in the deep stuff.

Skiers can just pole for a couple strides and they’re all good.

Your guide will always consider this when they choose a safe re-group spot, but looking ahead on your own behalf is definitely the way to go.

All that glorious pow can be tough to get going in if you stop without keeping your head up.




You can’t rely on the side-slip

The hard-pack heel slide to re-position (or the ‘falling leaf’ where you slide back and forth on your heel edge) doesn’t really work out here. The snow piles up under your board and you’ll fall right over backwards. You need to be able to consistently and confidently turn and carve your board to move through the terrain.

That’s why riding pow looks so graceful, like surfing – washing it out, or stuttering along on an edge, just doesn’t work in the conditions.

Skiers can get away with this a little easier since they have two, narrower platforms to work with, that can side-slip in the pow with less resistance.

Think flow. Think float. Follow the smooth lines your board was designed to make.

snowboarder throws a powder cloud in the bc backcountry

Speaking of board design….


You gotta have the right board

Deep snow calls for more float – making sure you have enough board underneath you.

Many people will be okay with their current setup, but if your board is on the small side for your height and weight, you may struggle. We have complimentary powder boards for anyone who’d like to take something bigger.

Check out our Gear Guide for Deep Powder to see how your ride measures up.


And knowing that the three above might not go perfectly…


You gotta be fit

Once anyone, skier or rider, has the hang of powder, it feels like a lot less work than being on hardpack. But until it’s old hat, your body will always work harder when it’s still adapting to something new.

If you’ve been relying on your heel edge too much, the backcountry will show you that, and you’ll be pushed to work harder.

If you aren’t looking ahead or fail to hold the speed needed for a transition, you might need to walk or jump a few steps.

And anywhere on a line, if you want to taste-test the pow and take a soft tumble, getting upright can be tiring when you don’t have anything solid to push off of.

If you’re in good shape, it’ll be no big deal.


Once you have all these boxes ticked, it’s all about going from smooth to smoother. Check out 4 ways to Charge With More Flow next.






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