Sunday, April 18, 2010

Understanding Rockered and Cambered Boards OR, For Those About to Rock(er)? Snowboard Tech

With all this new snowboard technology emerging, deciding on the right board is a more difficult choice than ever. This article is going to cover rockered (reverse camber)boards, their variety and how they differ from traditional cambered boards, which is what have dominated the market for the last 25 years or so.
NOTE: Companies are using many different terms for rockered, or reverse cambered boards, so pay attention to the stat sheets on each board. Names like Banana, Chilidog, Iroc, LowRize, are all terms for rockered boards.
CAMBER. If you lay a traditional board on the ground, it will bow up slightly in the middle, off of the ground. This is camber.
WHAT IT DOES. When you turn, the middle of the board is forced along the sidecut to touch the snow, allowing the board to bend in the direction you are turning. By forcing the flex of the board against that of the camber, the board achieves better pressure on the edges, giving you 'grip' through your turn. By nature, the camber is creating constant pressure on your tip and tail, the widest points of the board. Typically, these points are where you will catch an edge and fall, as the camber forces them into the ground. A stiff board, or one with a lot of camber increases this likelihood.
BENEFITS OF CAMBER. By the same token, these characteristics are also what give the board it's 'pop'; for better ollies or spring off of the tail, whether it be springing off the lip of a jump or springing you out of a turn. For a competent, aggressive rider, this is often preferred when jumping, carving, riding the pipe, racing, or just enjoying the feel of a solid edge in the snow for a stable feeling ride.
ROCKER. Ok, now picture a board laying flat on the ground. With rocker, the middle of the board is touching, and the tip and tail are off the ground. Hence, reverse camber. These boards have a 'loose' feel to them compared to one with camber, as it is much easier to release the edges of the board when turning or shifting your weight front or back.
1. They work great in powder. The turned up tip allows the board to stay afloat in soft snow, while the turned up tail sinks more easily at the rear, putting much less strain on the back leg. This can eliminate the need for a longer, powder specific board. Also with this type of board, it is not as important to move the binding stance towards the rear. This is very appealing to the freestyle rider, as they can ride more of a centered stance, making tricks in powder much easier, not to mention making it much easier to ride switch in pow.
2. Great for beginners. Since the tip and tail are off of the ground when your weight shifts, it is almost difficult to catch an edge. Actually, great for anyone who wants to make easy turns without a lot of effort, or someone who wants a loose, surf- style feel to their turns.
3. Great for jib- style park riders. Nose presses and manuals almost feel like you are cheating on one of these, but make for some super fun and stylish box and rail tricks. Also, when doing spins on jumps, the lifted edges can save you if you hit the ground without completing your spin; you can just pivot the board around to land without snagging the edge.
That being said, there are many variations of this technology. A rocker with one continuous curve ( think of a smile) has a very loose feel. Whenever you shift your weight off of a foot, that end of the board will lift, releasing the edge from that end of the board. This is great for beginners as it is almost hard to catch an edge, as well as being a good shape for powder. The downside to this is that it is somewhat difficult to actually set an edge once a turn is initiated. Companies have solved this issue by adding 'bumps' along the sidecut of the board. If you look down at the top of a board, it is somewhat hourglass shaped due to the sidecut. The 'bumps' bring out the edge along the sidecut, usually around where the binding inserts are, and towards the center. The most widely recognized of this technology is Lib Tech's Magne-Traction, which has a series of 'bumps' along it's edge to maintain edge hold. Burton calls their tech Pressure Distribution Edges, which bumps the edges out where the binding inserts are. This tech holds great when on edge, as there are several contact points of the edge in the snow. Again, each company has their own name for this technology, so do your homework when shopping. One other way to add edge hold to a full rockered board is to add camber in two separate spots, under each foot. This gives the board a loose feel when flat, but the camber kicks in when the board is put on edge. This also returns some of the 'pop' feel to the tail. Looking at one of these from the side, think of it as a 'W' shape; rocker in the middle, then camber on each side, then lifted tip and tail. Other boards are flat through the middle and are rockered from around the binding area towards the tip and tail. Again, this gives the board a loose feel when flat, as the edges are slightly lifted, but the flat center of the board allows it to hold an edge. Many of the park specific boards are using this tech.
ZERO CAMBER. Like it sounds, these boards are completely flat. They have a loose, neutral feel, but since the tail is on the ground at all times, they still have somewhat of a 'pop' when doing ollies, jumping, or coming out of turns.
There are other variations of this technology out there, and all of this being relatively new, expect things to change slightly over the next few years as companies dial in riders' needs. For some, one may be better than the other. Others may prefer a 'quiver' of boards, with a cambered deck for one application and a rockered one for another. Me? I'm just giving you some insight into what to look for the next time you shell out your hard earned cash on a new deck!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Epic Days; Put 'Em in the Bank

Back in 98 I think, I went to Mammoth with a few friends. It was one of those gnarly winters, and we hit snow in the high desert a good hundred miles before the mountain. Unheard of. Four of my friends and I had ridden there many times together, and one, Len was new to our pack. Long story short, between snow, beer, a total lack of common sense (bringing chains for a VW GTI that I knew would not fit), and a crazy Frenchman from Montreal who had no problem fishtailing at 70mph through 8 inches of fresh without chains, it took us 7 hours to complete this 4 hour journey.

In typical Mammoth fashion, we woke to several feet of fresh powder, along with 45 mile an hour winds, shutting down most of the mountain. We made the best of it of course, finding our white room in the trees on the lower chairs. Next day, the storm was clearing, but the winds were still blowing it out, and ski patrol had the top shut down. As any Mammoth local knows, this is exactly the time to head to June Mountain, Mammoth's little known sister some 30 miles north on the 395. Sure enough, pulling into the parking lot, we were greeted by maybe 30 other cars, blue skies, and just a strong breeze. Holy shit, we had heaven to ourselves! Heading straight to the top, we found run after run of open trails and untouched powder. Now, even for the seasoned vet, this is a rare treat, but our friend Len had never seen anything like it. First run, looking down the untouched canvas, I gave Len the go ahead for first tracks. "you've got three turns and then I'm coming after you!" After all, "no friends on a powder day," right? After lunch, we were still finding untracked on the open trails, rarely seeing anyone else. An epic day for all, but for Len, who had never had a day like this, proclaimed it his "best day ever."
Shittily, Len died of cancer right before he turned 30 in 2000. As far as I know, that day at June was still his best day ever. Last night, I drove 15 miles an hour through zero visibility in a storm to make it to my local mountain, hoping for some El Nino pow in April. Total nightmare. Today, in April of 2010, I rode untracked powder on trail under bluebird skies and was reminded of that day riding with my good friend Len. Point is, this is why we snowboard. Remember these days, they are what help make it all worth it. Some of those turns were for you too, buddy.

Putting Your Board Away. Or, What the Hell Happened to Winter?

OK, for those of us being blessed by El Nino, this post is a little premature but, there will come a time when your board's services will no longer be needed. At least for a few months. When finished riding for the season, there are a few things that should be done to keep your board in good condition while you ignore it and go skateboarding and drink beer at the beach.

Firstly, wipe it down and get all the dirt and other crap off the top and bottom. To best maintain the core's integrity, it is best to remove the bindings. Be sure to mark on your board where they were and your stance and foot angles. Since you probably milked the last hot, slushy days out of your local mountain, there is probably some disgusting dark grime on your base. Remove this either by using wax remover or hot scraping it. Hot scraping is waxing your board with an all- temp wax, and then scraping it off while the wax is still warm. The dirt and grime will stick to the wax and be pulled out when you scrape. This is the better of the two methods.

Finally, re-wax the board with the all- temp wax, coating the base more heavily than usual. Also, allow the wax to get over the edges too, as this will help keep them from rusting. Done. Put your board away somewhere relatively dark and cool for the summer.

Why is this important? The base of a snowboard is sensitive to UV rays, hence somewhere out of the sun. The base is also porous, so this treatment maintains it's integrity, keeps it from drying out. Come fall, just scrape that protective coat off, re- wax with your normal, fast concoctions of wax, and your baby will be ready to run like hell for another winter!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Turn Up The Base!

So, you just had your new board waxed, and people are still passing you on the flats. What the hell? All bases are not created equal, and which type you have can drastically dictate your top speed.

There are two basic types of bases, sintered and extruded. These are basically sheets of p-tex several millimeters thick that constitute the bottom of your board. Both are available in various densities/ hardness, and are porous to absorb wax.
Extruded: The less expensive of the two. This will be on a board designed for someone starting out, or a very casual rider not looking for high performance, or someone who wants a very low maintenance board. Think of an extruded base as coming from a block of p-tex, and a thin layer is sliced off, making the base. Imagine a cheese slicer. These bases are usually found on lower end boards, usually the under $400 categories. While an extruded base is not designed for speed, it is easy to repair and requires less maintenance, making it appealing for entry level boards and many jib- specific models.
Sintered: Ok, take that sheet of p-tex and slice it lengthwise, making long spaghetti strings of p-tex. Now compress them back together into a sheet for the base. In a nutshell, that is a sintered base. This process makes them harder (higher density= faster) and more porous (better wax absorption) than its extruded little brother. Not surprisingly, this raises the price of the board. Most board with sintered bases start at $400 or so. Any board considered a "high performance" model will have a sintered base.

How hard is it? Like I said, both sintered and extruded bases come in different densities/ hardness. The harder the base, the faster it will run. A softer base, while more susceptible to damage, is also easier to repair. Most companies use a number system to indicate the hardness of the base: the larger the number, the harder the base. An extruded 1500 base is much softer than, say, a sintered 4000 base. If you had two identical boards, but with those two different bases on them, the sintered one would run much faster.

A Few Extras
There are many things that companies can add to the base to make them faster. Bases with graphite built into them are among the most common. Basically, during the sintering process, graphite is added, to reduce friction and increase speed. A wax impregnated base, like it sounds, has wax built in. This allows future waxings to bond better with the base, which not only speeds things up, but you won't need to wax quite as often. Another benefit of the wax infused base is that it adds density to the base, making it harder as well. Some other exotic sounding stuff you'll find in higher- end boards; gallium, indium, Teflon, zeolit. Sounds tech? It is, but basically all these things serve one purpose, reduce friction to improve your glide; go faster!

If you don't know the importance of waxing, check out my other posts! Waxing makes a HUGE difference in how fast your base will be. Again, an extruded base does not absorb a ton of wax, so it is not as noticeable as a sintered base, but a good wax job on a high end sintered base is a wonderful thing! No more getting stuck on the flats, no problem getting enough speed for that 50 foot kicker, no more getting passed by 9 year olds in ski school..... it's on!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Can You See the Light? Or, What's Up With Goggles?

Sure, you gotta look steezy, but wouldn't it rule if your goggles actually helped you see BETTER? First, let's talk about the actual goggles; we'll get into lenses in a bit. Goggles come in a ton of sizes and shapes, mostly so that one will fit that weird, gourd shaped head of yours, so try as many on as you need to find a good fit. They should be comfortable, of course, and the foam should create a seal around your face. Gaps are not good. Pay special attention to the fit around the nose, as this is where most people have problems. Speaking of foam, the better goggles have two or three layers of foam for comfort, usually with fleece against the skin. If you sweat a lot, are sensitive to foam, or are looking for maximum comfort, look for this feature. If you do sweat a lot, get the largest goggle that fits your face; the more air around your eyes, the less likely fogging will occur. Another fog preventer is venting. Check to see if the frame has foam or mesh vents on all sides of the frame.

The Lens: There are two types of lenses.
1. Cylindrical. This is the traditional shape that curves around the face from ear to ear.
2. Spherical. This is the newer style. Like a sphere, it curves around the round shape of the eye, in all directions. This causes less distortion looking through the lens, as well as creating more air space inside, which helps reduce fogging. Also, more expensive.
Any decent goggle (say, over $40 or so) will have a dual lens. If you look at the goggle closely, you will see that there are two lenses in front of your eyes, a few millimeters apart. This is to help prevent fogging. You do not want a single lens goggle. Believe me.

Lenses come in many different colors, and that's not just for matching outfits, really! Mirrored lenses cut glare in the sunlight, help with the lurk factor since nobody can see your eyes, and look cool, but generally do not work well in low or flat light conditions (cloudy, snowing, nighttime). For bright, sunny days, obviously a darker tinted lens is nice. Something that lets in 15% to 30% of the light. For an all around tint, usually the 25%- 50% range will work, depending on what your weather is usually like. A good range for stormy, flat light conditions is 50%- 85%. This is usually a little too bright for sunny days. At this point, you might be thinking that it would be a good idea to have two pairs of goggles, or at least an extra lens. Extra lens? Yup, if you didn't know, most higher end goggles have lenses that can be replaced.

Lens Tints. Believe it or not, a different color lens can have a huge impact on your ability to see, especially in the shade, snow, fog, or other low or flat light situations.
Sunny/ Bright Light. Brown, bronze, and gray are great for very sunny days, and a mirror will help cut the glare.
Night Riding. Clear, yellow, light rose, light persimmon, light orange. These colors help add definition to the snow, making it easier to spot dips and bumps, along with generally adding to depth perception.
Cloudy, Snowing. This is probably the most important one. You can't see the ground, the bumps, anything. I find a rose tint to give me the most definition, but persimmon and orange are good too. No mirrored coatings are needed here. A medium darkness tint (say 30%-50%) should give you a good all-in-one lens if you are only going with one lens. This will make visibility pretty good in most conditions.

What the hell? So, based on this info, you should be able to find the perfect goggle/ goggles for you. Need more guidance? That's why I'm here. When looking for a new goggle, I first find something that fits. I sweat like a pig while riding, so I need the largest, spherical frame that will fit on my face. Also, I do some homework to find a style that will be around for a few years, so I can keep replacing the lens as needed (find a style that has been around a while, has pro models, or something you see a lot of people wearing are good indicators). I make sure that the lens tints that I prefer are available for that goggle. As I do not like to change lenses in the parking lot while there is shredding to be done, I own two pairs of goggles. My sunny, Bear Mtn, general lens is a mirrored rose, with around a 20% light transmission. This is great for sunny and mostly sunny days, and still works when the shade hits in the afternoon. For clouds, snow, and general nastiness, a non- mirrored rose lens with around a 60% light transmission.

Wear a helmet? If you do, make sure the goggles fit with it! The top of the goggles should be flush against the top lip of the helmet. Be sure the strap is long enough to fit as well (some goggle companies have longer straps or 'extender' straps available to accommodate helmets). Also, the helmet should not be overly pressing the goggles down on your nose. Comfort is what we're looking for here folks.

If you wear goggles all the time, it might be worth it to you to spend extra for a really nice pair of goggles. I replace the lens every year or two, and the frame usually lasts 4- 5 seasons. For the most part, you do get what you pay for, and a premium goggle usually will start around $60 and can easily go over $120. Hopefully now you will be looking good as well as seeing good! More shitty puns? I'll see you on the slopes!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chosing the Right Bindings

Most people will tell you that boots are the most important part of your setup. True, and bindings fall into second place. With the right boots and bindings, you can pretty much ride any board without much trouble. As far as traditional bindings go (we'll get into step-ins later), there are three main types.

1. All aluminum
2. All plastic (actually, most of these are made of nylon, usually reinforced with fiberglass or something similar)
3. Hybrid. Like it sounds, usually part nylon, part aluminum.

Before getting into specifics, some general binding info. A softer flexing binding is going to be better for people starting out, as they are forgiving. This allows the rider to flex the binding some without the board reacting instantly, possibly putting them on their butt. These bindings also work well for the jib- loving box and rail guys for the same reason; they can tweak and shift their bodies while on a box without the board over-reacting. Now, the flex comes from several places. First, the baseplate will flex a certain way heel to toe, as well as side to side (like when you pull your knees together to flex the board). Secondly the highback, which will dictate how responsive your heelside turns are. Lastly, the ankle strap; softer allows forward flex, stiffer offers more support. Usually a softer baseplate will also have a softer highback and ankle strap.
Stiffer bindings are generally better for freeriding, going fast, and maintaining stability. Many pipe riders like stiffer bindings too, for the quick response time. The stiffness makes these responsive; when you shift, the bindings are going to turn your board. Quickly. For the accomplished rider, this may be a good thing. Again, a stiffer baseplate will usually have a stiff highback and ankle strap. The firm ankle strap gives one great support on toeside turns, as well as more stability all around; jump takeoffs, landings, riding fast through variable terrain. The downside would be some loss of flexability, both forward and side to side.
Other details. Toe straps. These days, most toe straps are going over the toe, as opposed to over the foot. Over the toe for most people is more comfortable, as it does not put much pressure on the front of the foot and also helps pull the foot back into the binding. This is mostly a personal preference, take your pick!
Highback rotation. I will not buy a binding if the highback does not rotate, and while most people don't bother, it is one of the single biggest adjustments that can be made to your bindings to improve your riding. Stand over your board and look down over your front binding. Since you have the binding angled forward, the highback is no longer parallel with the heel edge. By rotating the highback so it is even with your heel edge, heelside turns will be much easier and more responsive towards your efforts. As far as freestyle goes, the highback will be out of the way of your legs when tweaking laterally or medially, so you can tweak out airs and jibs and do them with even more style!
Padding. Typically, the higher end the binding, the more padding it will have. If you jump or do other high impact riding, this might be worth the extra cash.
Another price note: A decent, quality binding starts around $100, and can run over $400. Anything much less expensive should probably be avoided. Bindings have a lot of parts and cheap bindings are a nightmare to find parts for, as well as often being of poor design. Also, and this is a generalization, but usually the softer flexing bindings are going to be less expensive, and the stiffer ones will cost more as they have a little more tech built into them to make them stiffer.
Try before you buy. There is nothing wrong with bringing your boots with you to buy bindings. I sure want to know how that strap feels over my boot before I spend another $250. Also, all bindings fit differently, so I need to see how my boots fit in there. Most bindings are made in 2 or 3 different sizes. Loose gives some play for the freestyler. Tight gives the freerider a little more support. Just because they match your board doesn't mean they feel good on your feet! Like boots, try a few pairs on. See the difference between a $100 binding and a $300 one. Try a soft one, then a stiffer one. Make sure the buckles are easy to use. Again, this is all personal preference.

Ok, let's start with aluminum. And before we get into this, don't believe people who tell you that aluminum bindings do not flex. Bullshit. Burton's three highest end boards are made from aluminum, and they flex just fine. It is just a matter of how much aluminum and where it is on the binding. You can purchase soft and flexy, or stiffer and supportive. A supportive aluminum binding tends to run less expensive than an equally stiff nylon binding because the nylon needs a lot of carbon or fiberglass reinforcement to equal that of aluminum, raising the cost.

Nylon. Like I mentioned earlier, plastic-looking bindings are most likely made of nylon. To make the binding stiffer, companies will add fiberglass to the nylon, and carbon for a really stiff ride. Nylon bindings tend to be more damp (absorbs vibrations) than aluminum, which is why you see extra padding under the baseplate of many aluminum binders to absorb shock. One downside to an all nylon binding is that the heelcup is usually fixed to the rest of the baseplate. That means that you must use the round binding disk to center your feet on the board. A medium flex nylon binding might have 15% fiberglass built in, while a really stiff one may have 30% carbon built in. Just some things to look for when shopping.

Hybrid. Typically, a nylon baseplate with an aluminum heelcup. Many companies prefer this construction as the nylon baseplate is softer, allowing the board to flex lengthwise, while the stiff heelcup is responsive from heel to toe. This construction also allows (usually) one to center their foot on the board by adjusting the heelcup, and then the center disc can be used to make minor tweaks to their stance width. This is usually true with aluminum bindings as well.

And then.... Not sure what is best for you? Let me confuse you with this: if you ride a soft boot and want more support, then a stiffer binding can help. Conversely, if you ride stiff boots, you might not need all the support of a stiff binding as well. Also, a well designed binder should allow for strap adjustment. Some like the ankle strap high on the foot for support and ankle/ heel hold, others like it low for flexibility. Like I said, try before you buy!

This just in! Now that rockered boards are making a showing, bindings are being developed to work with them. Cants. Cants angle you feet inwards using a wedge in the footbed of the bindings. This allows for wider stances, as the cants will angle your knees together some. This makes turning easier, and takes some pressure off the knees. Also, with the rockered nose and tail curving up, the wedge of the cant makes it easier to get pressure onto the tail, essentially giving the rider more "pop". This was in vogue in the 80's and early 90's, and hopefully cants are back for good! Another early 90's technology that is coming back are baseless bindings (and similar tech designs). The idea here is to eliminate as much (or all) material from under foot as possible. This allows the board to flex fully, eliminating "dead spots" under the bindings, while allowing much greater feel of the snow underfoot. With better technology than 15 years ago, these are much improved over their forefathers. Some companies are using flexible baseplate material or flexing or folding binding discs to accomplish similar results. Snowboard technology has really been spreading its wings the last few seasons, it'll be interesting to see what stands the test of time.

Step-ins. Speaking of standing the test of time, step-in bindings turned up in the mid 90's and have since gone the way of the dinosaur. Still, nobody likes having to sit and strap in at the top of every chair. The first wave of step-ins by design made the boot act like a ski boot, providing all the support. Many of these boots were uncomfortable, and were only compatible with one system (at one point, there were at least 5 major step-in systems on the market, all different and incompatible with each other). The new systems all use regular boots, and just have easy entry bindings. We'll get into these in another post, but again, this is new technology (for the most part), so we'll see what lasts and what falls by the wayside.

Now you are armed with the info to find yourself the perfect pair of bindings. Take your time setting them up; it will make all the difference in your riding! Also, read my Shoe Goo blog so everything doesn't come loose on you on the hill!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How to Ride Powder (Or, the BEST DAY EVER!)

Yeah, it's really that good. Ever heard the phrase, "no friends on a powder day"? Ever hear someone try explaining to their boss how they got a windchapped, goggle face while at home in bed with the flu? Yup. That good.

Since it's looking like El Nino is back to bitch slap the Southern California mountains like I haven't seen in years, many of you masters of the groomed runs and hardpack would probably like to know how to handle the deep fresh stuff. I almost don't want to spread this knowledge, cause you are going to end up tracking out lines that could have been mine! But, to promote snowboarding, I'm just gonna have to make sacrifices.

I wouldn't say powder riding is hard per say, it just takes a different technique. Firstly, Equipment. You're going to sink; if it's deep, you're going to sink a lot. To help ease this, a longer board is nice. I weigh around 145lbs and use a 155cm board for most stuff, which is usually high speed groomers and whatever until I find the park. Then, lots of jumps. If I'm going to Mammoth after 2 feet of fresh, I ride a 160cm. If you are going to use your same board, you will want to move the bindings back towards the tail of the board, so the front end is a few inches longer than the back. This will help keep the nose of the board up and out of the snow. If you end up wanting a second board for powder (it's worth it), look for something 3- 6cm longer than your normal board. There are many powder-specialized boards, all designed to keep you floating and make life as fun as possible. Boards with rocker by design help keep the nose up, tapered boards (the tail is narrower than the nose) do the same by allowing the narrower tail to sink. And yes, this is important. When your nose sinks in powder, a typical result is a nose dive, followed by you pitching face first into said powder. Now you have to get up, and every time you push with your arms, they sink further. We'll get into this more later, but it sucks and should be avoided at all costs, unless you really want to entertain your friends. Make sure you are wearing good, waterproof gear, especially gloves. Odds are the humidity is higher than you're used to, and you'll have your hands in the snow more than usual. If you are in Utah or Colorado, ignore this, but out here in California, Mammoth and Tahoe have what is often called Sierra Cement. This tends to stick to you quite well. For all these reasons, good ventilated goggles are a must. I almost had a powder day go to shit because I couldn't see through my fogging goggles (in a pinch, the hand dryers in the bathroom can really help get the condensation out of them).

Next, head for the steepest runs you are comfortable with. Powder is much slower than packed snow and if you stop, getting stuck is a serious possibility. It's easiest to start off just going straight, with your base flat. You want to turn more like on a surfboard, wakeboard or water ski. Lean back so the nose is up, and with more weight on your back leg, you will sort of "fan" your front leg back and forth to make turns, pivoting around your rear leg. You will still be flexing your board, but more lengthwise, not along your edge like on hardpack. The deeper the powder, the more prevalent this becomes. In deep stuff, trying to turn like you would on hardpack by putting even pressure on the front or middle of your edge will nosedive you right into the white room. You'll see. Also, if the powder is really light, and over 15 inches deep or so, you can actually slow down while going straight. You are already leaning back, so the front of your board is angled out of the snow; now just push a little harder straight down with your back leg, angling the nose up even more. This resistance will slow you down nicely, and is nice if you are riding in trees (don't ride there? you will when you learn to ride powder!) and need to slow down but don't have room to turn. Just "brake" with that back leg and point it between that tree and rock! Those are pretty much the basics; some practice and you'll figure it out. Next are some problems associated with shredding said powder, but let's not let that piss on our cornflakes!

I'm not going to tell you where the best places on the hill are for powder, but the easy one is the trees. I will tell you that many people stay on the trails, so the trees are more likely to have untracked fresh. Secondly, when the weather is shitty, there is less wind blowing in the trees and the depth perception is better.

All powder is not equal. Fresh, untracked sheets of white are the best. Best turns, best landings, best days. This is usually a small window after a storm, and most mountains can be mostly tracked out in a day. So, you are going to be left riding through some tracked powder. This can be a project, especially in the deeper snow. When you are on fresh and hit a track, your board is going to drop into that track, maybe an inch, maybe a foot. Anyway, if you don't pay attention, you can really get pitched around, think bull riding. I try to hit these things perpendicularly, so my nose just bounces up and back. When you start getting in really choppy stuff, keep the legs bent to act as shock absorbers and work on keeping the nose up and try not to let an edge dip too far into a track, or a snag and fall will ensue.

Falling. Actually, falling usually is not too bad. Just like on hardpack, do NOT put your arms down! If the snow isn't that deep, you could bust a wrist just like on the groomers. Plus, you never know what could be buried under the snow; rocks, logs and other stuff that's not fun to fall on. Lastly, you will just sink more. Spread out your arms so you stay on top and minimize sinking in the soft stuff, like a snow angel! If you are tumbling, protect the melon, and try not to get twisted too weirdly. I like to flop, myself (cursing and shreiking like a little girl optional). Also, if your friends are like mine (god forbid) the second you go down they are going to try to spray the shit out of you with a rooster tail of powder. This is great if you like snow in your face, and down your jacket and pants all at the same time while trying to get re-oriented.

Getting up. The biggest problem besides fighting people for fresh lines is trying to get up in this wonderful, sometimes nightmarish stuff. However you land, it's usually easiest to turn onto your butt, get your board down hill and try to sit up. If on your stomach, try to get your board downhill, and sort of squat and push so your weight is over your board and you can stand and get moving. This is why we want to be on the steeper runs. If your arms sink when you push up behind you, try packing snow into your new armholes so you can push up. When I stop, I'll try to get against a tree or rock if possible. That way, I don't have to deal with getting up; just turn it back downhill.

Couple extras. Often, your powder days are going to be overcast, or snowing. Be sure to have the right goggle lens. A light rose has great definition in flat and stormy light, yellow is good when it's darker with flat light, light orange or persimmon are pretty good too. Mirrored, grey, brown, and darker lenses can make it really difficult to see. Buy a backup! Gloves with the gauntlets that go past the wrist can help keep snow out of the sleeves. Mittens are nice cause they tend to be warmer and dryer than gloves, and are easier to take on and off. You will probably be taking them off more than usual, to get snow off your bindings, boots, goggles, ass, you name it. Jacket; make sure it has a powderskirt. They seen stupid, but most resort shops have these little sponge/ squeegee things in a tub on their front counter for like $3. These actually work great for getting snow off your lens.

So that's pretty much it. This was a lot longer than I anticipated, and it kind of sounds complicated. Let me put powder riding in perspective. It's not like learning to ride, and easier than most jumping tricks and jibbing. Some of the world's top pros have walked away from fame, contests, money just to pursue fresh powder. Yeah, it's that good.