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Leah Evans on the Art of Pillow Skiing

Pillow skiing is rad—especially when you watch a GoPro video like this one of Travis Rice. You can’t help but think, “Wow, pillows are just so easy…” But there's more to it than meets the eye.

We met up with pro skier Leah Evans to discuss how to drop pillows properly. Evans, who is affectionately known as “The Pillow Queen” by her peers, is one of the best pillow skiers in the world. Her ability to visualize, execute and land pillow lines never ceases to amaze even other pro skiers.

“Pillows are so interesting because they look so fun to ski, but they are just so difficult,” Hadley Hammer tells us. “I think what always amazes me with Leah’s skiing is how technically good she can be in really tricky terrain. She is like a ninja. I think it is rare to see [anyone] ski pillows as well as her.”

“Pillows take technical skills, precision, and fluidity,” Michelle Parker tells us. “Leah is the best female skier when it comes to skiing pillows—which is not easy terrain to navigate.”

Evans currently lives in Revelstoke, British Columbia, a few hours away from where she grew up in Rossland, BC. Both ski towns are in the Monashee Mountains and home to “interior B.C. powder," world famous for ridiculously good skiing and delightful powder. Evans’ current and childhood playgrounds are most people’s once in a lifetime ski trip.

She can’t actually remember the first pillow she skied, just that she would try a tiny drop, then a bigger one, then a bigger one, and so on. “There wasn’t a moment,” Evans tells us. “I just remember committing.”

Evans’ childhood surely plays a part in her talent for pillows, but it takes more than practice. It takes the combination of precision and a really thoughtful person like Evans to execute a series of pillows.

“Skiing pillows is a little bit of a gamble. You never know what you’re gonna get and 'I think it's going to be OK' doesn’t really cut it,” Evans tells us. “I have been on tons of filming trips and seen pros struggle quite a bit. You can’t ski pillows like a big line. Skiing pillows takes such a specific technique. It is the most technical side of freeskiing.”

Evans has taught hundreds of people to ski pillows. She has helped many women progress into pillows through her wildly successful Girls Do Ski Camps. Lucky for us, she has shared a few major components of her pillow-skiing strategy.


“Looking from the bottom, start the visualization process. Gain as much information as you can. Precalculate and make sure you take some time to do your homework. Pick your start zone and your exit zone,” says Evans.


“I will pick a landmark, like a tree that is sticking up,” says Evans. Then I know that I have to stay 50 cms on that side of the tree.”

Evans likes landmarks that can also help her manage blind roll-overs that are common in pillow skiing.


Seems like an obvious step, however the way you get to the top matters. Evans prefers to ski tour up, because it will help her with assessing the terrain and the snow, which is the next step.

Once at the top, she glances over to scope her first transition and see if the exit is flat or not. Then she does a run through in her mind, incorporating what she saw from below.


Not all powder is good powder, especially when it comes to pillow skiing.

“You never want to ski fast,” says Evans, “so if the snow is fast snow, I will not ski pillows. The perfect powder for pillows is interior powder, which is not light but also not super heavy.”

More than likely you’ll be picking up speed when you ski pillows, so you’ll want to be aware and manage how fast you’re going This starts with snow choice. Evans has had one close call while skiing pillows. She landed on a pillow which had a surface hoar/crust weakness in the upper snowpack and it shattered the whole pillow line, setting off a mini avalanche which nearly took her out.


“If you do turn, do it in the air so you don’t white room yourself,” Evans says. “I’ve learned a lot about transitions over the years and I’ve had a lot of crashes.”

These transitions on and off pillows are what Evans is famous for.


“Stick to your plan,” Evans says. She can’t stress this aspect enough.

“Once you have your plan, trust yourself and commit to the line because you don't want to hesitate when skiing pillows. The visualization will help you be prepared for the wild ride of the pillow line.”


“Sit a little back like you are going down a staircase on skis,” says Evans. “Have your hands relaxed like you are casually driving a car and make sure you are always looking at your exit.”

Evan’s also has her skis mounted close to center, which is very common for freeskiers.

“Before dropping in I’ll say ‘3,2,1, having fun’ because it's exciting to see what you’re capable of on and off skis,” Evans tells us.

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