Mammoth Mountain Powder Day | How to Ski Perfect Turns

That fresh, untouched snow is the reason ski bums get up so early in the morning during and immediately after snow storms. And it’s the reason visitors jump in their cars and head North on US 395 as soon as the first snow flakes start to fall.

Here are a few tips, tricks and considerations for making your Powder Day even better.

What exactly makes snow “powder?”

Powder is a term used to describe it when the moisture content is low making the snow light and fluffy. Powder skiing is the closest you’ll ever get to sprouting wings and flying.

The most important differences between powder and regular day skiing are the equipment you use and how to deal with the natural resistance deep snow creates while skiing.


In addition to wider skis, you definitely want rockered, early-rise skis. They help your skis float on top of the snow.

“Rockered” skis are essentially reverse-cambered. The camber is the bend in the ski. Normally if you were to lay your skis on the floor, there is an upward bend at the center of the skis. Reverse-cambered skis have an upward bend at the tips and tails (the two ends).

If you don’t already own reverse-cambered skis, you can rent a pair. Footloose Sports in Mammoth Lakes has a “try before you buy” option that ranges between $35- $55 a day. The shop’s sales people are also informative and easy to talk to when you have questions.

If snowboarding is more your thing (and you’re still reading this for the fun of it), then WaveRave is your best bet for advice and solid gear. All of Wave Rave’s employees are boarders full of good tips and tricks.

Powder Strategy

In powder, you slow down more than expected.While this may be great for checking your speed, you can also get bogged down easily. It’s not fun having your skis dive deep, sending you “over the handlebars” to wallow in several feet of snow. Here are some basic strategies for keeping you on your feet:

  • Adopt a nice athletic stance. Keep your hands on front of you about shoulder-width apart, and keep pressure on the front of your boots. Don’t lean back in an attempt to get your tips to float up out of the snow. Just like driving a car, you can’t steer properly from ” the back seat.”
  • Turn your skis with your feet. Unlike skiing groomers, where your skis do much of the turning for, you’ll actually have to do some work to get your skis to turn.
  • Float your skis to top of the snow with every turn. While reverse camber technology can help, you’ll want to exaggerate weighting and unweighting your skis, almost like you’re bouncing through each turn. Once you get the hang of it, the floating sensation you get as you glide through the cloud-like snow feels like flying!
  • Remember, “One-Ski, One Turn.” Treat your skis like one, turning with your legs and feet instead of trying to edge the ski. It’s always important in skiing to keep your top half relatively still and quiet while turning and rotating with your lower body. Professional Ski instructors call this upper/lower body separation and, it’s one of the most important steps to effortless powder skiing.

Other Tips

Try new things. In powder, you can try the places and smaller-type turns that you aren’t normally comfortable committing to. However, use common sense and know the area your skiing. Rocks, trees and other obstacles can disappear under a small amount of snow. Crashing into one of these obstacles can cause serious injury. When in doubt, talk to someone on ski patrol about your abilities and current mountain conditions.

Get out there early!  For the best powder day, you want to get up early in the morning. Plan on being at Mammoth Mountain well before the lift start operating to ensure you get an early chair.

Check out the trees. Once the top and the obvious bowls get tracked out, I like to head for the trees. I have skied powder all day long in the trees!

Lesley-Ann Hoxie

Lesley grew up in San Diego, attended college in The OC, worked at The Onion in Los Angeles, and has spent the last three years in Mammoth Lakes where she works at the newspaper, Mammoth Times. In her free time she enjoys skiing, archery, and learning high-altitude cooking techniques.

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