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Ski Bowls Safe Skiing Tips

Ski Bowls Safe Skiing Tips

For many skiers and snowboarders with some experience, their perfect day is to ride deep, untouched powder. Some ski resorts are lucky enough to have ski bowls perfect for scoring the first tracks in deep snow.

In this article, we will delve into the details of ski bowls and give you some safe skiing tips so that you can enjoy ski bowls to the fullest.

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What Is A Ski Bowl?

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A ski bowl is an area on the side of a mountain, concave like a huge bowl. They get their shape from glacial erosion and are prominent in the United States and Canada, thanks to the local geology.

Ski bowls are often the best places for fresh powder, as the resort does not groom them with snow machines. They are left to collect snow and provide a natural skiing experience.

Ski bowls usually take more effort to get to, so they are generally quiet. So if you get up early in the morning, there’s a good chance you will have the bowl to yourself.

Some ski bowls require more skill to ride than others. You can come across ski bowls perfect for experiencing your first powder turns, but others require much more skill and expertise to ride safely.

Why Do People Like To Ski In Bowls?

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Some skiers and snowboarders like to cruise around the resort, while others prefer the challenge and experience of powder snow. The great thing about bowls is that they suit both types of people.

Bowls require skill to get down them safely, but they can be entertaining, as they often have less challenging lines.

The fact that many bowls are not directly serviced by lifts means that you can often ski fresh snow for several hours before it gets tracked out. This also means that skiers and snowboarders get to experience a pure version of their sports.

Part of heading to the mountains is to enjoy the incredible views. Bowls are often at high altitudes, so you can get an excellent viewpoint before the ride down.

How Hard Is It To Ski In A Bowl?

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You may be an experienced intermediate but the idea of heading to an untouched bowl can feel a little intimidating. This is understandable, as standing at the top of some of these bowls can be daunting.

As we mentioned earlier, some bowls require more skill than others. Therefore, you need to find out if a bowl in the ski resort you are visiting is suitable for your experience level.

The other thing about ski bowls is that the terrain can vary. For example, one minute, you could be floating in fluffy powder and the next skidding on ice.

Safe Skiing Tips For Ski Bowls

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1. Choose A Good Weather Day

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Bowls are at their best on sunny days for many reasons. Your vision is severely compromised on a cloudy day or during a whiteout. Therefore skiing a bowl can be dangerous and not a lot of fun.

When you can’t see well, you spend your whole time just picking your way down the mountain, which isn’t very enjoyable. Also, low visibility can hide hazards, such as drops, undulations, and bumps.

Skiing a bowl on a sunny day allows you to ski at your best. You can see everything allowing you to avoid hazards, etc. Alternatively, you can see where the drops are to catch some airtime when you want to.

2. Watch The Weather Forecast

This follows from above, as watching the weather forecast will allow you to plan your ski trip. If you are lucky enough to get fresh snow on your trip, save the first clear day for skiing in the bowl.

This way, you can explore the rest of the mountain when the conditions are not at their best. But you can make the most of the good weather days by planning ahead.

3. Get Up Early

On a day when there has been a fresh snowfall, this is not the time for a lie-in. You need to be at the ski lift before it opens, as you will be at the front of the line, allowing you to get to the bowl before everyone else.

Don’t forget; there will be many people intending to ski fresh powder in the bowl. If you are a few minutes late, you will miss your opportunity to ski untracked snow.

4. Make Sure You Have The Skills To Ski A Bowl

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If you are a beginner skier, a bowl shouldn’t even be on your radar yet. Even the tamest bowls will prove too much for an inexperienced skier.

Start with mastering skiing on green runs and progress to blue and red runs. When you feel confident with these, try to find some easily accessible powder close to the groomed slopes.

Gaining this experience is invaluable for skiing bowls safely. Depending on where you are, being competent on blues and reds may be sufficient for skiing the local bowl.

However, many bowls require more skill. Therefore, you may need to be good enough for black diamonds before heading to the bowl.

Ski lessons are the best way to progress your skiing to the appropriate level. Your instructor will be able to bring you up to speed with the skills and knowledge necessary to ski your first bowl.

In fact, a ski instructor will take you to the bowl when you are ready. They will be able to coach you down, so you can get to the bottom safely while having lots of fun.

5. Ease Yourself In

You may see skiers and snowboarders jump straight into a bowl and start enjoying the fresh powder straight away. But, even if you are confident in your abilities, you should not do this if you are standing at the top of a bowl unfamiliar to you.

Instead, slide into the bowl and get a feel for the snow and the slope’s gradient. But once you are familiar with the bowl, you can just go for it the next time you ski it!

Depending on the snow coverage and the entry point, you may have to drop off a cornice into the bowl. If you are not too confident about drops, you can sit on the edge of the cornice, dangling your legs over the side. Then push yourself off the ledge and land on your skis in the soft snow.

6. Watch Out For Natural Hazards

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As ski bowls are left by the resorts to provide a natural skiing experience, they are often littered with hazards. Even though the powder snow looks smooth and even, there may be things that can catch you out just below the surface.

Powder snow hides rocks, tree stumps, and chunks of ice that you can hit with your skis or snowboard, causing you to fall. Some ski resorts do an excellent job of placing signage and poles around hazards that they have identified.

However, they can’t mark everything, and different snow depths and weather conditions can change the bowl too much to highlight all hazards. Therefore, you need to be ready to react to clipping things under the snow with your skis.

7. Pay Attention To Signage

We have already covered ski resorts marking hazards, but there may be other signs you need to pay attention to.

If the bowl has a barrier across it, it means it’s closed, so you should not ski it. There is a legitimate reason for the bowl to be closed, which usually comes down to safety.

A ski bowl may be closed due to avalanche risk, or the ski patrol is about to set off a controlled avalanche in the area. You don’t want to be skiing in the bowl to be chased and buried by several tons of snow.

The ski patrol may also close the bowl due to the lack of snow. Often later in the season, the snow is too thin to cover the hazards mentioned above. There may even be streams and waterfalls that would typically be covered in snow the rest of the season.

Ski bowls are usually on the edge of the resort’s ski area. Therefore, you may see signs that say “out of bounds.”

Never duck under the rope and head out of bounds in the American and Canadian ski resorts. These areas are not patrolled or have any avalanche control. Skiing out of bounds is illegal, and you don’t want to get on the wrong side of the law.

The rules in Europe are very different. You can go anywhere, but you must be prepared and educated in avalanche awareness and rescue.

8. Wax Your Skis Or Snowboard

When you are skiing in the bowls, you want your equipment to be working the best it can. Therefore, you should wax your skis or snowboard or take them to a shop for a service.

When your skis or snowboard have plenty of wax on their bases, they will run faster. This means you can ski fast and have as much fun as possible.

Having skis that run well is always handy when skiing in bowls. There are often flat sections, especially towards the bottom. So being able to keep your speed up will help you get past the flat areas and back onto a slope.

Wax also gives your base an element of protection against rocks under the snow.

9. Don’t Ski The Bowl On Your Own

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Although some ski bowls are controlled and patrolled, you should never head into them on your own. The terrain can catch you when you least expect it, and you may be out of sight of other slope users.

It’s always safer and more fun to ski with other people. You should also keep each other in your sights and have a charged cell phone in case one of you gets into trouble.

10. Become Avalanche Aware

Some bowls are not patrolled or controlled; therefore, you must be aware of avalanche risks before skiing them. Avalanches are extremely dangerous and can trigger without warning.

Before heading to the bowl in a ski resort, find out if it is controlled or if avalanche equipment is required. The trail map should indicate the need for avalanche equipment, and there may be a sign at the entry point.

In Europe, you just have to assume that any slope not groomed requires avalanche equipment. You take the risk into your own hands.

A basic avalanche rescue kit consists of a probe and shovel inside a backpack and a transceiver strapped to your body. The transceiver is an electronic device with two modes, send and search.

Everyone in the group skis with their transceiver in send mode. If someone gets buried in an avalanche, everyone else switches to search mode to locate the victim.

Once the victim has been located with a transceiver, the rescuers use the probe. They push the probe into the snow until they feel the resistance of the person buried in the snow.

Using the probe helps the rescuers to dig accurately with their shovels to get the buried person to the surface.

Knowing how to use avalanche rescue equipment is essential for any backcountry skiing trip. But it is more important to get educated on how to stay out of trouble in the first place.

Booking an avalanche awareness course will help you and your group stay safe. Most ski schools offer this kind of training, which is exciting and fun. Often, your instructor will take you to some fantastic powder fields, including bowls.

11. Plan Your Line

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When skiing or snowboarding a bowl, it is best to look down the mountain to plan your next two or three turns. If you just think one turn ahead, you will often just be reacting to the terrain.

When you plan ahead, you can spot lovely pockets of snow, features to jump off, and avoid dangerous obstacles. But if you just react to the terrain at every turn, you won’t have as much fun, and you can get yourself into trouble.

12. Know When To Call It A Day

You may have had your eye on a bowl all week, but sometimes, heading to a bowl might not be the best thing to do. Knowing when to turn back and find a safer way down the mountain is essential.

All too often, people get to the top of the bowl and the weather closes in, but they go for it anyway. As we mentioned earlier, weather can play a massive part in your experience of skiing a bowl.

If you make the decision to ski a bowl in poor weather, you can be putting yourself and your group in jeopardy. Bowls are wide open spaces with little opportunity to take cover.

The other time you need to know when to call it a day is when you feel tired. Most ski and snowboard accidents happen when tiredness sets in.

Skiing a bowl when your legs are tired, or you just don’t feel energetic enough, is not a good idea.

When the weather closes in or you feel tired, if possible, take the groomers back down the mountain and head to the bar.

13. Ski In Single File Towards The Bottom

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Ski bowls are usually pretty wide, allowing you to make wide turns and enjoy the terrain. But they often funnel to a narrow passage at the bottom.

Everyone will have to ski down the narrow section, so you should be aware that people skiing in different lines will come together as the bowl shrinks.

Whenever you are skiing in a bowl, you must be aware that the people around you will fall into the same line at the bottom. You also need to remember that the downhill skier has the right of way.

14. Always Stop To Help Others

We have already highlighted the dangers of skiing in a bowl, and accidents can happen to anyone. If you see someone lying in the snow, or has obviously fallen, stop to see if they are OK.

Most of the time, they will be fine, but it’s best to check on them in case they need help. It would be awful to find out that someone was in trouble, but you didn’t stop to help.

15. Use The Right Equipment

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The best time to head to a ski bowl is on a blue sky powder day. Your experience will be enhanced if you are using the right equipment.

You will find it more challenging if you attempt to ski a powdery bowl with short and narrow skis. Therefore, it is best to choose a good pair of powder skis that will give you plenty of float in the deep snow.

If you don’t have your own powder skis, you can rent some from a local ski shop, ready for your epic powder day on the mountain.

This is another reason why watching the weather forecast is a good idea. Other skiers in the resort will have the same idea, so if you can rent some powder skis before everyone else, you can be sure to get the pair of skis you want.

In addition to this, ensure you are wearing the appropriate eyewear. Skiing or snowboarding in powder is best when you wear quality goggles. If the weather is sunny, choose a darker lens, but if the visibility isn’t too great, a yellow lens is a good choice, as it will add contrast to the landscape.

Nobody should ski without a helmet, but this is especially true in a ski bowl. The rocks hidden under the snow can cause serious head injuries that a quality ski or snowboard helmet can prevent.

16. Wear The Right Clothes

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The nature of a bowl means it collects lots of powder snow. Deep powder sprays up to your chest and higher, so it can easily get into your jacket and pants if you have inappropriate clothing; this is not the time to ski in jeans.

Skiing powder is hard work, and you can work up a sweat. Therefore, it’s best to wear highly waterproof and breathable ski clothing.

Quality ski clothing also has features such as powder skirts and snow gaiters. These seal you from the snow that would typically get through poor-quality clothing items.

It is also essential to wear a good base layer under your ski clothing. Thermal underwear is made from technical fabrics that enhance your comfort while skiing.

The technical fabrics help your body regulate its temperature and quickly dry. This means you can stay comfortable for longer while shredding the bowl.

17. Have Fun

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The first time you ski a bowl, you may be intimidated. This is a good thing, as you will ski in a manner that will keep you safe.

But, you should grab the moment with both hands and enjoy every last second. Carving through a bowl in deep powder is a unique experience that will stay in your memories for a long time.

Remember to take photos or capture your first run on a GoPro. The photos and footage will inspire you to ski more and get better at skiing in bowls.

Final Thoughts

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Now you have a good idea of what a ski bowl is. You also have some great tips that will keep you safe and allow you to maximize your fun.

You should always put your and your group’s safety first. Never take unnecessary risks. The bowl isn’t going anywhere; there will always be another opportunity to ride it.

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Ski Bowls Safe Skiing Tips

Author: Peter SalisburyPete is the Owner of KayakHelp.com. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of KayakHelp.com. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.