Carve the Ice or Hit the Pow? All Mountain Skiing Guide

So I’m an east coast skier. Yup. There, I’ve said it. Now don’t judge, west coasters – I came out here to ski with you because I heard the powder was deee-vine. However, little did I realise what “good powder” meant. Here are some tips and tricks for hitting both the ice and the pow so that you can have a great ski day no matter what. And also some of the most popular ski runs in Whistler.

Carvin’ the Ice

Ski Ice

We’ve all heard about the icy slopes out east, and I know you powder hounds cringe at the “khkhkhkhkhkh!” sound of ice on your edges. However, don’t turn your nose up at it yet – skiing on hardpack can be a fun time if you know how to ski it right.

Groomers provide slalom racers with a slope to tear up on their edges with unbelievable speed and control. Watching them hit those posts while hearing the grating of ice under their skis proves that skill can be had on icy groomers. However, most of us aren’t racers, so let me tell you what else these groomers have to offer, and how to tackle them with confidence.

First, ice calls for edges. Get. Your. Edges. Sharpened. Without edges, you have no control as you take tight turns, and you can easily spin out. With sharp edges, you can curve your skis at such an angle that they hug the mountain and give you control over your turn. Keep an eye out for dings and burrs on your edges that can catch on the hardpack and send you flying.

Second, to enjoy skiing hardpack, you need to modify your stance on ice. Unlike powder where your weight is farther back, you’ll want to have your stance and weight centered over your skis. To achieve this, bend at the waist, which lowers your hips, and lean your upper body down the fall line. This allows you to put pressure on the inside edge of your downhill ski while angling your knees and ankles uphill.

Third, when you do hit an icy patch, the worst thing to do is freak out. Best to ride it through, rather than stopping by digging your edges in further. If you must stop on ice, gently edge your skis in while sideslipping down the hill to a gradual stop.

With these skills in mind, skiing on ice makes you prepared for all sorts of conditions. Being able to edge your way down crunchy 18% slopes in complete control allows for a kind of skiing that is adaptable and versatile. For what is ice but just, as we east-coasters call it, “loud powder”?

Check out some Whistler and Blackcomb groomers, such as Franz’s Run, Zig Zag, and Schoolarm – some of the most popular ski runs in Whistler for those looking for a fast run all day long – to practice your new hardpack skills.

Powder Power

Fresh powder in the alpine - Photo by Mike Crane
Fresh powder in the alpine – Photo by Mike Crane


Now that I’ve thoroughly convinced you that icy skiing is not only doable, but also essential for the skier who wants to take on the whole mountain, it’s time to talk powder.

I’ll be honest: there isn’t much that compares to jumping from powder puff to powder puff on some steep mogul runs. The west coast offers skiers and snowboarders alike a chance to improve their skills while helping build thighs of steel. Moguls are a powder haven specialty: there’s nothing quite like weaving in and out of the virtual jungle gym that five-foot lumps of snow creates. To tackle these runs, pay attention to the bumps ahead of you, so you can pick out a route down. Planting your pole and taking pressure off your uphill ski allows for tight turns, while leaning back helps you float over the bumps you don’t go around. Runs like Staircase and Whistler Bowl offer some of the most advanced and epic mogul runs anywhere in the west and they are indeed some of the most popular ski runs in Whistler amongst the moguls hunters.

Skiing fresh powder in Harmony's alpine bowls
photo: Mike Crane/ Tourism Whistler


Through the trees is where we next venture. Taking it slow is key. Bring a buddy with you and leapfrog with them so you can look out for each other incase of injury. In addition, apply pressure to the arch and heel of your foot – this will bring the tips of your skis out of the powder and give you more control. Finally, know what’s below you: stay away from creek beds and twigs sticking out of the snow. With these tips in mind, tree skiing can be a blast. Check out Blackcomb’s Bark Sandwich and Whistler’s Sanctioned for some tree-riffic runs.

Powder skiing - Photo by Mike Crane

And plain old powder? Same as mogul skiing but you’re making your own moguls. It’s choose-your-own-adventure! Take advantage of fresh powder by extending your legs in the middle of each turn so your skis push through the snow. This compacts the snow so that it pushes back as you turn, with the classic, gentle “whoosh” of powder escaping your skis’ edges.

There’s no denying it: powder skiing is power skiing. So lean back, and enjoy the ride! 

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See you on the slopes!