How to Slay a Pillow Line

Ian McIntosh has tips for conquering pillow lines.

Good pillows form in areas where rocks step down the mountain like a staircase or where big boulders have piled up from old rockslides. You’ll need a ton of snow for these lines to be skiable. Choose one that has a wide, clean run-out. Although pillow lines may look fluffy and inviting, they can turn you facedown in a second, so pick your route wisely.

When skiing the line, remember this: You will be going much faster than planned. Find a place in the middle of your line to check your speed. Deep powder can help slow you down. Keep your knees bent and your body centered over your feet. If your balance shifts too far backward or forward, you will get bucked. And it won’t be pretty.

If a pillow collapses under you, think quickly. Exit away from the falling snow while avoiding trees and rocks. If the only safe escape is in the same direction the pillow is rolling, then try to stop and let it roll away. If all else fails, do your best Houdini and get the hell out of there.

Obstacles will come at you quickly, so look ahead. Use your knees to absorb each pillow. At the bottom of your line, extend your legs and stomp the last landing. Hip checks and backslaps look sloppy, so make sure to stick it clean.

Avoid pillows that are: Tracked out. Formed with shallow snow cover. Clogged with trees and rocks in the run-out. Your ex-girlfriend's.

- Skiing Magazine, December 2008



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