What is a face shot?
A face shot occurs when snow sprays a skier or snowboarder’s face on a powder day. The snow must be deep and light enough (e.g., blower, Champagne Powder®) and the rider must have sufficient speed to elevate the snow to face level.
SnowSlang’s staff hard at work at Copper Mountain. Photo by/of Mitch Tobin.
I took the shot above with a GoPro camera attached to the end of my ski pole. I was skiing the Mine Dump trail at Copper Mountain and found the tops of the moguls to be the perfect spots to trigger the face shots. Here’s an animated GIF from that sweet run:
Epitome of the powder day
The face shot is staple of ski porn and the money shot for many an alpine photographer. The moment of being blinded by snow has become visual shorthand for powder perfection. Plenty of sports allow you to hurl through space and time at high speeds, but there’s nothing quite like having the landscape shower all over your head. The closest thing I’ve experienced is being hit by whitewater during a rafting trip through rapids.
Here’s a video I made of a crazy day at Loveland Ski Area in Colorado that included multiple face shots, as well as me being run over by an out-of-control skier bombing down the slopes.
How to get face shots (while skiing)?
As noted above, the quality and depth of the snow are critical ingredients in the making of a face shot. I made the diagram below to explain how these two factors interact. I think about 6 inches is the minimum amount of powder needed to generate a face shot, but it has to be super light powder. Beyond a certain point, the snow can get so dense and heavy (e.g., the Sierra Cement common in California) that face shots simply aren’t possible.
Is there a powder face shot technique?
The consensus among powder pigs is that the best way to wallow in the white stuff is to make ensure you’re hitting the deepest pockets of snow with enough speed, which means steep slopes. If you lean back on your skis, your tips will float to the surface, which can be helpful in maintaining speed, but that surfing motion isn’t conducive to making the swerves or turns that kick the snow up into your face. This is why I find a mogul field to be a great place for generating face shots: by banging off the bumps, you elevate the pow. Similarly, I’ve enjoyed many face shots while tree skiing because you’re forced to make lots of turns.
You’ll obviously want to be wearing goggles while in face shot territory. If you’ve got a beard or mustache, be prepared for the snow to stick to your face and for you to start resembling a Yeti!
- Topher Donahue, a photographer who regularly shoots face shots for guides and guest of CMH Heli-Skiing opines on why some skiers get buried and others get skunked.
- A pretty good discussion on Reddit’s skiing sub-reddit
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