Getting the Right Skis
Before venturing on, or better said, "in" the snow, getting the right skis was imperative. In the Kirkwood Demo Center it wasn't hard to find powder skis, because you had to really look to find a ski any thinner underfoot than 90mm. I have never before skied on anything wider underfoot than 78mm, nor longer than about 168cm, but for my time at Kirkwood the techs in the Demo Center recommended a pair of Volkl Katana - 111mm wide at the bindings and 176 cm long. What a difference!
I'm not saying Fat Skis are the magic bullet for perfect powder skiing, but they will bring you so much closer to being comfortable in fairly deep snow. Did I fall during the lesson? Of course, I did. Did it hurt? In that knee deep fluff, only my ego got hurt, while trying to get back upright without looking like a real flounder.
My instructor, Jon Mullens, a transplanted Aussie who fell in love with Kirkwood and was loaned to me from his duties at Expedition: Kirkwood, for a morning powder lesson, was skiing on a pair of Moment skis. His were the M1 model by Moment and had much stiffer flex than mine, but were just right for Jon, who could really get it going in the powder.
As any good instructor would, Jon took me on a test run to see where I was technically and technique wise. On the fat skis I actually surprised myself. Of course, this test run was down a blue trail that was not very steep, and skiing was slowed by two days of powder snowing on it. But, I felt confident, so we headed up the Cornice Express to get a little steeper and deeper.
Into the Powder Teeth of Kirkwood
My lesson was during a steady snow. On the chair I couldn't even see the top. This was a good reminder to ski any unfamiliar area with a trail map or, better still, with someone who knows the terrain and the way down. As we rode the lift, Jon and I discussed some of the basic powder techniques like equal balance and center on the skis, pole plants, and pressure on the uphill ski for practice - it all sounds so easy on a charlift.
Once at the top, Jon knew exactly where to take me. First, I followed him across a ridge toward Sentenel Bowl, where we skied round some cliff areas pausing to watch some intrepid lads hucking off a 30' cliff near Jim's.
Here's where the true eastern skier that I am, had to get off the proverbial pot, and make a go of it. This single black terrain, groomed in New York, would not have given me pause . Here, it seemed a long narrow chute full of deep powder. Jon said "Fall Line, Momentum and Turns" and started down - straight then four or five turns across the fall line and turned to me.
I took my cue and started down the fall line. I was shocked at how the skis rode to the top and picked up speed. This is where I got spooked, tried to turn to slow and the turn just seem to continue into a traverse and stop. Now, this proved to me that I could turn off the fall line, and the speed quickly bled off as I traversed and actually sunk me down in the powder.
When I made my way down to Jon, he kindly told me I was in an awkward stance, was over concentrating on staying balanced, tended to in the back seat initiating the turns but other than that it was going to be a great morning.
Part 2 - Skiing Powder at Kirkwood
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