Off piste skiing is an exciting way to explore the mountains and find some untouched snow away from the busy resort slopes; but to have the best experience, some good planning and preparation is required. We have listed some tips to help you make the most of your off piste adventures.
Hire a Guide
Hiring guides to venture off piste is not compulsory but always highly recommended. Professional guides will be able to give you advice on safety and lead you in any difficult conditions. They will also know the best routes to take to remove the chance of getting lost on the run back down to the resort, or venturing into any dangerous areas. They can also tailor your off piste experience to suit your level of experience; meaning riders can safely challenge their skills without finding themselves on runs that are too advanced.
Before exploring the snow to be found off the piste map, with or without a guide, it is a good idea to get up to speed on avalanche safety and how to select the slopes that are safe to snowboard. Online resources such as Henry’s Avalanche Talk provide a useful pool of information on everything from the triggers of avalanche and signs of a dangerous slope, to the best techniques for a safe run.
Out of Bounds Gear
A transceiver is a vital piece of safety kit for those exploring the backcountry, with time being of the essence if you run into any trouble. Air bag backpacks are another useful piece of equipment that can be life saving for skiers who are buried in an avalanche. Skiers can also keep in touch on the snow with voice communicating goggles that allow riders to talk to friends within 1600m of each other.
Navigation technology is another useful tool when boarding out of bounds, with gear such as GPS enabled gloves to help you stick to your desired routes; whilst also measuring data such as speed, altitude and distance to analyse runs back in the resort.
Choose the Resorts with the Best Off Piste
Choosing a resort with a good selection of off-piste will also allow you to make the most of your trip to the slopes. Avoriaz is a good example of a resort for those who are venturing off the slopes for the first time, with ‘Snowcross Zones’ that are unmaintained, but still monitored for avalanche risks.
Chamonix also has a choice of unmaintained snow by the pistes for those that are less confident. Additionally, there are plenty of runs for the more advanced, including one of the most famous off-piste routes in the world; the Vallee Blanche, which stretches 24km back into the centre of Chamonix town. There is a wide choice of steep couloirs to test the legs of the most advanced skiers.
Plan a Heli-boarding Trip
Heli-boarding or heli-skiing is a more exclusive way of experiencing some fresh powder snow; a great activity for friends on a group holiday. Boarders can enjoy the breath-taking scenery on the private helicopter ride to the highest altitude slopes, followed by backcountry boarding of the untouched snow.
Chamonix, Tignes and Val D’Isere are all alpine bases from which groups can be flown to the nearby Italian or Austrian peaks to explore the off piste terrain.