You learned to ski on the beautifully groomed trails of a manicured mountain. You have grown to trust those safe trails and have never ventured off onto the fluffy, ungroomed powder… until now. You have decided to begin off-piste skiing and are wondering where to begin and what to expect. Included here are a couple tips you will want to keep in mind when moving onto the wilder, ungroomed trails of off-piste skiing.
Avoid Skiing Alone
If you are following all the recommended steps for safe skiing, going off-piste should not increase the danger too greatly. However, when you are out traversing the backcountry, there is more room for error if you are alone. Especially when it comes to avalanche danger, it is always wiser to travel in groups of two. If you must ski alone, be sure you have notified someone of where you are going, what route you plan to take and when you expect to be back.
Embrace the Speed
You will pick up more speed gliding through fresh powder off-piste. If you get anxious about going faster and try to go slow by snow plowing, you’ll wind up stalled in the snow and fighting. Try to stay controlled, but allow the skis to glide on the surface of the snow, getting lift and not sinking below the powder. Envision the air lifting over an airplane’s wings, you need lift from the snow in order to stay above the powder and successfully cruise down the mountain.
Perfect Your Posture
Posture is crucial for successful off-piste skiing. Aim for a stance that is narrow and a little crouched. Any slight imbalances could result in you falling and injuring yourself when you are off-piste. Your weight should be directed into the balls of your feet, because if you lean back too much, you’ll lose your balance.
Equip Yourself Appropriately
Any skier navigating the back country should be equipped with a few crucial devices. One of these is a beacon or avalanche transceiver that allows you to be found if you are buried in snow. You also will want a shovel to dig yourself out of deep drifts, as well as warm clothes and food and water. All of these necessities should be carried with you in a small backpack to ensure you have the safest and best experience on the mountain.
Slow Your Turns
When gliding through soft powder, be sure to take long, sweeping turns. The short, abrupt turns that are okay on groomed turf can result in you burying your skis and stalling into a drift. Practice these slower turns on groomed trails before taking them off-piste. Your skis should remain parallel while you maintain a crouched position over the snow.
Before heading out on any ski adventure, you should check snow conditions. With five levels of avalanche danger, they can easily change at any point during the day.
Once the level has reached three, which is “considerable danger,” caution should be taken seriously while skiing.