A Guide to Backcountry Skiing

For the more experienced skier, some commercial ski resorts might not seem to be as thrilling as the ski slopes of the unbridled wilderness. However, off-piste skiing can be extremely dangerous and there are a few safety aspects to consider first before you go plummeting down nature's own homemade ski resort.

Is off-piste skiing dangerous?

Steep, unkempt slopes carry a high risk of an avalanche as do the windward sides of a hill where snow has been blown over. When this happens the snow is looser and not compacted which can make skiing more dangerous.

Off-piste slopes don't undergo the same level of maintenance as a ski resort, making visibility of rocks and cliff edges more difficult. After taking out your travel insurance policy, make sure you add on your winter sports cover especially before going off-piste, just in case you lose your equipment or get injured.

Safety guide to skiing off-piste

Not only do you need to ensure that your equipment is sturdy and high-spec, you should also do some reading up on avalanche risks. When you ski off-piste it is vital that you consider avalanche risk and also be wary of jutting-out rocks, trees, crevasses and other hazards.

On the day that you set out, you should check the local International Scale of Avalanche Hazard Rating. This is a 1-5 scale (5 being the most significant risk). Risking a trip based on the rating of a previous day is a dangerous move; even on a lower hazard rating, the risk of avalanche is still important.

What is freeride skiing?

Surprisingly, the start point of a freeride ski is usually a ski resort. Unlike off-piste skiing and slack-country skiing, freeride skiing goes slightly off course around a ski resort. This type of skier usually utilises resort elevation to go up the mountain, but might also hike uphill using skins or snowshoes as a means of getting to untouched snow and explore the mountain away from crowds.

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