How Real Are “Secret” Powder Spots?

When it comes to good powder spots, there’s a feeling that the locals (and sometimes the seasonaires) know where they are, and do their best to keep them secret. It’s privileged information. Meanwhile the holiday shredders out there stick to the snow you can see from the chair, unbeknownst of pristine powder stashes within reach.

I’ve got nothing against that – the keeping it secret part. If I knew a great area that no one else knew about, I’d be inclined to leave my friends and I with our own, secluded powder field. Especially if I’d worked hard to find it.

But how real is this? Two or three days after a decent snowfall – are there really people still claiming awesome freshies when everything you can see from a lift has been tracked out? Is regular Joe the punter really blind to some great lines that aren’t actually that far away?

Or is that just folk lore?


Secret powder spots are real!

I did some asking around, talked to people, and it seems that the resounding answer is very real. Secret powder spots are there, they’re real, and the people that know resorts well are taking advantage of the fact that the masses are un-informed. And maybe it’s best that way?


So what are we talking about here, off-piste? The slackcountry? My first though was the slackcountry, but I suppose it’s both. I’m not sure there are official or consistent definitions for these, but this is how I think of them:

  • Off-piste tends to be classified as areas within the resort boundary that aren’t marked as trails.
  • Slackcountry – I understand this to be backcountry areas that are close to a resort. You should be able to access the slackcountry using resort lifts plus a little bit of hiking, or perhaps a decent amount of hiking. I suppose this implies that the slackcountry is outside of the resort boundary…

“Places that people wouldn’t think of going to” – was one of the ways it was described to me. That could be a stash of snow inside the resort, just hidden from view. Equally it could be beyond the boundary, requiring more effort.


What does this mean for the holiday snowboarder?

Naturally, if you don’t normally venture too far from the piste, it’s hard to say what treasures could be waiting to be found behind that peak or leading down into the neighbouring valley. Without having the time, and most likely the expertise, to explore, it’s easy to concede that those areas aren’t for you. If they do exist, they’re certainly hidden from plain view, giving them a kind of secret feel.

Is that something you and I should try to correct? Should we be bothered that we’re potentially missing out on additional powder reserves? Or should we accept the limitations of our snowboarding timetable?

Personally, I don’t like conceding, I don’t like the idea of missing out. I recently considered the pros and cons of returning to the same resort, to build knowledge. There are other methods too – some ideas that I’ll be writing about soon. I don’t expect to be handed a map to the hidden freshies, but I’d like to do my best to get good, powder lines.

So what do you think? Are there really secret powder spots that some people are fortunate enough to know about?

And if so, do you have any plans to increase your chances of scoring fresh lines on your next snowboard trip?


  • Reply September 24, 2010


    I think you can find fresh lines – it all depends to what degree. Finding ” a hidden / secret spot ” is obviously more difficult, for one, its hidden AND a secret, but when you think that the majority of people that go on winter holidays just stick to the groomed pistes there are always little bits of the pow to be had – you’ve just got to work for it.

    Only this year I took a friend who had never been on a hike before traversing across a large off-pist face, just to get to some fresh stuff (so he could experience it). Sure, tons of people had already made the traverse track for us, but the further you managed to get, the cleaner the slope and less tracked it was.

    I think you’ve just got to think outside the box, and try new routes on the mountain, obviously those that are safe and not out of your experience level, and if you do manage to stumble upon the “secret garden of pow pow” then its a bonus!


  • Reply October 3, 2010


    Yeah, I agree, you can still get really awesome fresh lines, 10 yards from the piste. YOu just gotta be quick, or ride in a quiet resort. I also agree with the exploration attitude, that’s the only way to find new stuff, to look for it, to put the effort in. I guess not everyone knows how rewarding it can be…

    And here’s a +1 for riding safe and not going beyond your experience level.

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