Why Ski Off-Piste?
Why ski off-piste? If you already know the answer, you should be interested in the contents of these pages, and if you don’t know why yet, but are an adventurous piste skier, then this could be the first step to skiing off-piste and doubling your fun.
For such a wide and compelling subject, there’s relatively little good information available about skiing off-piste, most of it confined to specialist books which are not widely available, and ‘Ski with a guide’, is simply not enough of an answer for most people.
Ski publications are sometimes shy to print suggestions which might take readers into dangerous situations, and it’s true that avalanche risk, along with the hazards of skiing among rocks, trees and cliffs, should never be underestimated.
But the risks off-piste can be managed and that process starts with basic information about skills and snow-science. Our avalanche and related safety pages aim to tell it like it is, not to put you off, and to help ensure you’ll be here next season, coming back for more.
There are more personal aspects to safety as well. It’s up to you to be realistic about your fitness, experience, and skiing ability before taking on off-piste routes, whether with a guide or without, but we recommend you hire a guide.
As a minimum you should always carry a transceiver, probe and shovel, and know how to use them; so should your companions. Above all, you should never ski or ride off-piste alone as the consequences for lone skiers getting caught and buried are almost invariably fatal.
The most comprehensive, enjoyable and the safest way to gain experience is on courses of the kind offered by specialist guiding organisations such as Piste to Powder in St Anton, Mountain Tracks in Chamonix and Top Ski in Val d’Isere.
Just be prepared for your ski experience to go to a new level. It’s not all about powder: there’s a range of less appealing and more challenging snow to master, as well as an inevitable growth in your appreciation of the mountain environment, and great camaraderie.
Our off-piste section includes features about some of the best off-piste skiing, written by mountain guides and other experts who are willing to share their hard-won knowledge and spread the word in this way, reflecting their enthusiasm for seeing skiers develop their full potential.
For many skiers it’s a one-way trip, with no going back to conventional skiing holidays. If it all sounds a bit committed, trust us; it’s well worth reorganising the rest of your life for.