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February 07, 2022 3 min read

Powder is a Mind State: A Guide To Staying Positive When Conditions Are Negative by: Mallory Duncan

Preseason foreplay is a vicious thing. Ski movies start dropping in October but in the Pacific Northwest, the snow doesn’t usually start to stack up until December. Occasionally we’ll get an early-season storm but that quickly melts away, leaving us skiers riled up and unsatisfied.  

This year things have looked a bit different for me. Fighting my way back from a multiple ligament knee tear meant taking a reluctant step back from skiing. I’ve been spending a lot more time in town where I’ve been getting the local perspective on early season conditions. Let's just say, opinions have varied drastically.

One group has a very pessimistic outlook: claiming the skiing is terrible and powder is non-existent. The other is much more optimistic, stating it’s “all-time up there right now!”, as they show me a POV clip of skiing through deep snow surrounded by sharp lava rock. It’s strange to be caught in the middle between the two groups, especially when I don’t have the means to go find out for myself. 

I’m not sure which is worse, the negativity from the “fairweather skiers” or the stoke from the ambitious skiers. 

Whatever the case, I’m starting to realize this type of thing happens pretty much every year. Sometimes at the beginning of the season when it's low tide, and other times in the middle when a dry spell hits. It’s telling to see how people react when conditions aren’t great. Some complain while others spend that energy hunting down powder stashes up high.  

 

 

 I believe envy is a struggle that every passionate skier confronts from time to time.

 

Similarly, I’ve noticed skiers love to point to other parts of the country and say, “They’re getting dumped on, I wish that was happening here.” This even happens when the conditions are good. Thanks to social media we are continually made to be envious of our fellow skiers. Forever tapped into who is skiing better snow than us. Even before social media that same mentality existed – “The Game of Gnar” makes fun of this concept. Perhaps it’s just in our nature as skiers to compare ourselves to one another. I believe envy is a struggle that every passionate skier confronts from time to time.

 

 

I was more appreciative of what others were doing. I was genuinely stoked to see people “getting after it” instead of comparing their experience to mine.

 

I think being injured helped me better combat that jealousy. When you’re injured, everyone is skiing better snow than you, so you have to learn to accept it. I did that by lowering my expectations. Without the prospect of skiing myself, I was more appreciative of what others were doing. I was genuinely stoked to see people “getting after it” instead of comparing their experience to mine.

Eventually, I was able to start skiing again but didn’t want to lose the perspective I had gained from being on the sidelines. I hadn’t skied in 274 days, so maintaining low expectations was easy – I was inspired to ski regardless of the conditions. Hampered by a weak knee, unencumbered by the expectation of powder, and unconcerned with outdoing anyone; my only motive was to hike and ski.  

The day was December 5th and I made my first turns of the season on bulletproof ice, but if you saw the smile on my face you would’ve thought it was 3 feet of fresh. In doing that I realized powder is a mind state.  

 

 

So, here’s my two-part philosophy for staying positive when the skiing is mediocre:

  • All snow is good snow when you're expecting bad snow. If you come into a ski run expecting the best run of your life you’re almost always going to be let down but if you’re expecting sketchy survival skiing and get 4 inches of fresh, it's going to feel like a foot of blower. So, for an added 8 inches of powder start by lowering your expectations.   
  • Just because someone else is getting radder, then it doesn’t mean you’re not also getting very rad. Embrace your inner radness and be happy that you still got to go skiing even if the condition weren’t the best in North America.

Whatever it is that motivates you on the less inspiring days of winter, embrace that, because it’s convenient to be stoked about skiing when it's dumping powder... maintaining the excitement to ski when conditions are less ideal is more impressive. That’s the partner I want to be skiing with all season long.

  
Mallory Duncan
Bend's backcountry hero and independent outdoor goods rep.