The Heli-Ski Blog

Heli-boarding tricks for getting up from the deep

Posted by Topher Donahue on Mar 15, 2010 3:15:00 PM

Someone wrote this comment after an earlier blog entry: "I quit snowboarding because I could not find a satisfying answer to this question? If you fall in deep powder, how do you get up? On a flat? On a hill?"
It seems like such a tragedy for someone to give up on the good life because of the difficulties of falling in deep snow, so I asked around for some advice on getting back on your board after a fall in the deep and fluffy.  

Theresa Clinton of Prior Snowboards, based in Whistler, had this to say:
"Ha ha! Yes, getting up from a fall in deep snow can be a struggle, that’s for sure (oh boo hoo!).  If you’re on your back/butt side, the best thing to do is log roll onto your stomach and then kneel and pat down the snow in front of you with your hands so that the snow compacts and you can actually get some leverage to push up with. Or, if you’re in the trees, grab a branch to help pull yourself up.  If the snow is just ridiculously deep and nothing’s working, then take off your board and use it with your hands as a snow-flattening tool to stomp out a small bench in the snow. Then have a seat on your snow bench, take a few breaths - be thankful you’re riding such sick pow - then put your board back on and you can sit up/push off from the bench.  Then SHRED!!! (and try not to fall again)."

Kevin Christakos, assistant manager of CMH McBride, watches both snowboarders and skiers struggle in the deep.  He had advice for getting up as well as for making every part of a deep powder day a little easier:

"Falling down in deep snow sucks equally on a board or skis; the advice is similar, if it is steep enough to easily push yourself back up, do so. If it is kinda flat and deep it's almost best to free one foot and get upright before you put your foot back in (or ski on). On a board, anyone who has riden at all will know that if possible flip to the toe side and push yourself up from a kneeling position. The hassle is always getting up from a heel side fall, toe side is easy to get up from."

Kevin added these tidbits to make a powder day while helicopter snowboarding a little easier:

  • Clean the snow out of your binding before they go in the basket, if the snow is a bit moist it will be ice at the top and it's harder to clean- leads to heli stress

  • Carry a snowboard tool and a couple extra screws in your pocket

  • Ask the guide on the landings "which way are we going" so you know where to put your board on and if you need to walk a little.

  • Don't cut the corner before a traverse without checking with the guide, he may be avoiding something - like a crevasse.

Bruce Rainer, shop guru at CMH Galena, had this suggestion for CMH heli-riders: 

"If it is really deep, take off your guest pack and use it as a platform to help you get up."

And a few other tips:

  • If possible, leave your goggles on your face after a wipeout.  Clean the snow off the lenses and around the vents while they are on your face.  If you pull them off, they’ll get snow inside and take more effort to clean.  
  • Try to yell at your partner as you fall so they know something has happened. 
  • If the snow is not too bottomless, borrowing a friendly skier’s poles can help you get out of a hole without taking off your board.  
  • If you find yourself falling more than you’d like, don’t be too proud.  Ask another rider to stay behind you for a bit so you can build up your confidence knowing somebody is there to help you if you need it. 
Finally, when you get home from the best powder skiing on the planet, don't expect much sympathy from your friends when you tell them how hard it was getting up after falling down in epic,  bottomless powder.

Photo by Topher Donahue/

Topics: Ski/Snowboard Tips, CMH McBride