Woods

by: Aaron                                                                                                                                                                       rider: Kate Holmes

So today was an epic pow day. It was that beautiful snow, light and fluffy,  but still solid enough to hold you up. As the wind kicked up it was time to take it to the trees. I took my first tree runs of the year with some people whose riding I was unsure about. They are good riders on the trails, but obviously the woods are a whole different beast. While watching some of these folks pick their way down I came to a realization. It is not their riding that is their issue, it’s their strategy.
TURN SHAPE I see a lot of people falling back into what I call pickin’ and kickin’. This typically involves a lot of weight on the back foot, and a lifting or sliding of the tail of the board to turn. I have a couple of issues with that. A turn that involves sliding the tail of the board around takes longer for the board to find the new edge. The woods are not a place for turning slowly!   If I can give you another argument reason to avoid slapping or sliding your back foot around it is this… If you clip something with the tail of your board you will probably get bucked off your line. If you kick with enough force that same object will probably spin you around making you fall backwards, and nothing good can come of this when you’re surrounded by trees!
Instead of the painful (on so many levels) “Pick and Kick,” let’s go back to what works on the trails.  Try staying more neutral on your board (weight more centered).  Focus on initiating your turns with your front foot (and by extension ankle and knee).  Front foot turn initiation works very efficiently on groomers…it also works in the trees.  Remember you need to steer the nose of the board through the trees first.  For more tips on riding in deeper snow, you may want to check out Pow 101.
Choosing Lines So now we’re making better turns but something is still off. Riding in the woods is all about opportunity. When I stand on top of a line, I look down to see where I want to go. I don’t see every individual turn in my head, but I at least look and say “I’m here, I want to go there.”  Next comes the decision making.  I need to find the clearest path to that spot.  I do this by looking for white spaces rather than at the trees themselves.
Adaptability People get locked into only making small, tight turns in the woods. This can actually hold them back from being able to follow a line.  You need to constantly vary your turn shape to what the line you are following gives you. You might not think there is room for large radius turns in tight trees but oftentimes there is.  Take time to see the bigger picture.  Pick your spots, slash some pow, and drop some rocks. Have a plan, take a partner, and look for fresh snow. Finally, remember that trees are our friends, don’t hurt them by smashing into them!

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