The term off-piste originates from the French language and is commonly used by snowboarders and skiers to describe the terrain that’s off the groomed trails. Navigating through off-piste terrain, you can encounter a wide variety of snow conditions and terrain features that could put you and your crew in danger. While exploring an area beyond the boundaries of a winter resort may seem interesting, you need to take into consideration the risks of being off-piste. Below are five tips to lower your risk while riding off-piste.
1. CHECK THE WEATHER CONDITIONS
Weather conditions are crucial, not only for snowboarders but also for the skiers. The weather and snow reports will largely determine whether you can or cannot go skiing out in the open. Elements such as the visibility of the environment, the intensity of the snowfall and the ferocity of the wind are vital to whether or not you can ride off-piste harmlessly.
2. LEARN TO READ THE AVALANCHE REPORTS
Avalanches are probably the biggest danger of snowboarders who decide to go on off-piste and backcountry rides. Is it therefore necessary for snowboarders to learn how to read an avalanche report. Although all avalanche forecasts have a different layout, they all contain the following elements:
- The current avalanche danger level, numbered from 1 to 5. This number represents the chance of avalanches.
- The altitude in metres where the avalanche danger is.
- The aspect of the face where the danger is most present.
- A description of the current avalanche risk.
3. TAKE A PARTNER WITH YOU
When it comes to exploring the off-piste terrain, the more the merrier, but remember to choose your snowboarding partners carefully. You need partners who are on the same level as you, who know how to move into the terrain as well as you and who can offer their valuable help in the case of an emergency. Think of them as a Sam to your Frodo.
If you insist on exploring an off-piste area on your own, you should always tell someone back at the resort. For example, if you’re on a company trip to the Alps, let a co-worker know. Visiting the Alps on a company trip has never been easier than with Nuco Travel, who offer seamless snow holidays to the most incredible resorts. In this scenario, if one of your coworkers is staying back at the resort, inform them of where you’re heading and when you think you’ll get back. In the event that something goes wrong, this person should be able to alert the authorities about your disappearance.
4. TAKE AN AVALANCHE PACK WITH YOU
If you’re heading out off-piste, you’ll definitely need an avalanche pack. An avalanche pack contains a transceiver (please don’t forget the batteries), a shovel, a probe and a map.
5. PLAN A ROUTE
Plan and adapt your route to the abilities of the whole group. Also, take into account the types of terrain (trees, rocks, rivers and so on) that you might be crossing and the weather conditions. Knowing the route and how to navigate it with a map and a compass is essential during your ride to off-piste areas.