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Performance

Powder Day: What's a "Smear?"

Fat, rockered skis have changed the way we ski powder. Get with the program.

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The term “smear” only recently entered the skiing vocabulary, with the advent of super-fat, rockered skis. Smearing is the fundamental technique for new-school powder skiing, but it’s not one everyone understands. It helps to think of the difference between skidding and carving on flat snow.

Smearing is skidding a turn in powder, which just wasn’t possible on narrow skis. Skidding—or drifting—gives you options. At speed, it allows you to delay a turn—to avoid an obstacle, for instance. You can drift past that rock, say, without dumping much speed or throwing in an extra turn, smearing the snow with your skis the way a knife smears butter on bread. When you’ve cleared the obstacle, then you’re ready to set an edge, let the snow bend your ski into an arc, and finish your turn.

In this photo, we suspect Black Diamond athlete Martin Webrant is smearing for effect—to throw a huge, dramatic spray—rather than to adjust his line. But you get the picture.