By Wild Bill Kelso, PSIA Certified Instructor

This season’s thin snowpack is still excellent for beginners and fun for intermediates.  Experts and thrill seekers will have to wait for more white stuff from heaven.

It is important to protect and maintain the condition of your skis and board for more reasons than you may think.  Thin snow is rough on your skis or board since a fresh tune may only last a morning. Avoid hazards to keep your skis from getting damaged.  It’s not just your precious (and expensive) equipment to be concerned about, but your skiing suffers when your edges and running surface are damaged.  Damaged bases and burred edges make skis squirrelly and hard to control.  They won’t carve or glide.

For your safety and better skiing, here’s what to expect with thin snow:

  • Dirt – not the best but could be worse.  Think of sandpaper on your wax and ptex.  Wax makes your skis turnier and easy to control (not just faster).
  • Grass – ski right over… no prob.
  • Gravel –  If you ski over gravel it rolls with the ski like a marble.  Damage is repairable.
  • Hard granite rocks aka Rocky Mountains – avoid at all costs.  They can destroy your skis and you too.
  • Tree tops – avoid these.  They may look small but are two to four-foot tree tops buried in snow and frozen hard.  They will trip you up and could hurt you.
  • A little fresh powder covers and hides the hazards.

Ski around these obstacles and step over them if you can.  You have to be quicker on your feet.  Slow down more than normal to have time to react.  The sides of the run are usually a good bet when things get sketchy.

Expect thin snow when the hill gets steeper after a drop off from the flats.  Slow down before the transition since you can’t see the surface after the hill drops off.   South facing slopes have much less snow than other directions due to sun exposure and steep slopes do not hold snow as well.  Sometimes you just have to emergency stop, and shuffle backwards or sidestep your way out.

Skiing with your head down (looking tor rocks) is not safe and will hurt your technique.  Keep your head up to see where you are going and glance down with your eyes.  It’s worse in the moguls where you normally have to look four or five moguls ahead to plan your run (and the rocks are hiding the gullies).  If you ski with your head down looking for rocks, you can’t look ahead and read the moguls.

Carry a small kitchen stone to knock off the burrs at lunch.  Rub-on paste wax is handy too such as Swix F4 in the blue tin.  Most long-time skiers and boarders save their old skis for use as “rock skis”.

Colorado has been blessed with excellent snow over the past ten years and this current situation is cyclical and will improve.

Ski safely and pray for snow.

Wild Bill

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