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Photo: Anton Enerlöv

Lifestyle

5 important things to know before skiing off-piste

More and more skiers are discovering the joy of gliding weightlessly through bottomless snow. But before heading out beyond the groomed slopes, you need to make a few safety checks. Here are five things you must know before going off-piste.

Off-piste skiing has become trendier and trendier. But to be able to ski in a good and safe way, you need to be aware of a couple of things. Here are five basic tips from certified mountain guide Yann Décaille. 

Photo: Anton Enerlöv

Always bring the right avalanche equipment

An avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe are essential equipment that you should always take with you when skiing off-piste. The transceiver should be switched on all day (on at the car, off at the bar, as the Americans say) and worn close to the body, at least 20cm from a cellphone. It’s incredibly important that you know how your avalanche transceiver works in an emergency situation. The shovel should be of metal and strong enough to clear heavy and hardened snow quickly. The probe, which you use to locate someone buried in an avalanche, should be at least two meters long.

Keep an eye on the conditions and where you are

Reading avalanche reports each morning is a good way to get an idea of the current conditions. The reports tell you where possible dangers lurk and help you to choose the right places to ski on that particular day. Sometimes, west facing slopes are good to avoid while east facing slopes may possibly have both powder and stable conditions. The choice is then simple. But you still need to know where you are. Never chance it. Following tracks often works, but not always.

Photo: Anton Enerlöv

Never ski alone

If you were to get caught in an avalanche or suffer an injury off-piste, time is the most important factor and where ski companions are essential. Plus, it’s much more fun to ski with other people.

Hire a mountain guide

A guide is the best way to stay safe off-piste while their local knowledge also guarantees the best skiing, which means you can relax and focus entirely on that. A win/win. Don’t forget to ask about anything you’re wandering about — why are we stopping here in particular? Why did we ski on this side of the snow field? How can I get better at reading nature’s signs? There’s no such thing as a silly question so take the opportunity to learn more while you’re out in the snow.

Photo: Anton Enerlöv

Never be afraid to say no

On many occasions, peer pressure and fear of missing a good powder run have resulted in less well-considered decisions being made. Off-piste skiing is fantastic, but no run is worth risking life and limb for. Going back is never a wrong decision.

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Last edited: January 11, 2019

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