The Heli-Ski Blog

Powder photos: The art of the face shot

Posted by Topher Donahue on Feb 7, 2012 8:50:00 AM

I used to think that the face shot, that blissful moment of deep powder skiing when the snow pours around your head, was purely a phenomenon of snow quality.  But shooting photos of CMH Heli-Skiing guides and guests has taught me that face shots can be controlled by the skier, and that some skiers have taken the face shot to an art form.   These photos, taken over the last couple of weeks in the deep powder nirvana around Revelstoke, BC, where snow depths are near record levels for this time of year, reveal the art of the face shot.

face shot immersion
Quite often I’ll get photos of two skiers descending the same pitch.  One skier will disappear into the powder on every turn, while the other will seemingly never get the snow higher than his or her waist.

skis in deep powder air
I spoke with a guide about the phenomenon, and he explained one of the reasons ski guides sometimes avoid the face shots is so they can maintain the best visibility when making route-finding decisions.  

going deep snowboard style
With today’s fat skis, the face shot has become even more voluntary.  For those of us not making the route-finding decisions, getting huge face shots is a big part of the fun of deep powder skiing. John Mellis, the manager of CMH Cariboos and one of the best face shot artists I’ve skied with, explains that there are 3 parts to making face shots happen:

  • You gotta make something happen to get the snow to really fly.
  • Try to move your skis or snowboard like a dolphin swimming playfully - diving under and then popping out of the snow between turns.  
  • Get out of the back seat - when you lean back, fat skis float to the surface and you don’t get the penetration needed for a good face shot.

Any of you powder hounds out there have any other tips for the ultimate face shot?

Topics: Tricks of the Trade, Skiing Pictures, Snowboarding, SkiFotos