What’s off piste? I suppose that’s the first question. In short it’s anything that’s not a groomed run. It can be just the little bit off the side or between runs, but it can be the desolate empty beautiful wilderness away from the crowds.
It can be wind swept, icy and hard work or it can be beautiful, deep, dry fluffy snow (and still require hard work, but in a different way). Obviously it’s the latter we all dream of and what I’m talking about here.
Before you head out deep into the back country you should try and get yourself fairly competent in the fluffy stuff, but how? Take a look at our top tips here and no matter which way you slide you’ll be entering the ‘white room’ in no time at all.
1: DANGER DANGER! As Guillaume our head mountain guide always shouts at us – ‘be autonome‘! This is basically Franglais for be responsible for yourself. Be aware of your situation, where you are, your ability level. Without a guide and particularly when you are learning the ropes stay close to the pistes – just because there are some tracks wandering off to the right, it doesn’t make it safe. Avalanches are a real danger, without safety kit and without guides you’d be a fool to head where you don’t know. By staying within the ropes you’re in the safest place. The other thing to note is don’t be too keen; early season snow doesn’t lend well to filling in ditches and tree roots and streams and whatever else might send you flying. Control your speed, know where you are and be autonome!
2: Lessons. Nobody is too good for a lesson. All the ski / snowboard schools offer off piste tuition and this could be your quickest route to picking up the technique but you can’t have them all the time. You should (and I guess this applies to any sport) try and ride with someone who is just a bit better than you. Watch them, follow their line, ask them. Everyone on the mountain loves to help others and it’s always great to have someone else to laugh at/with.
3: It’s all about the bounce. TBH that’s one of my mantras in life and it fully applies here. As you push away from stationary you want to try and keep the tip of the board or tips of the skis above the snow. A little bit of speed is your friend and you want to find a rhythm. Keep your body central as you would when riding normally; on skis try and keep your feet close together and lift your toes up, hands in front and bounce! On the board you’ll need to put most of your weight on that back foot, knees bent. Use the front foot to steer and bounce!
4: Get the right kit. The beauty about renting your equipment is that you can pick up gear reflecting the snow conditions. If you are going powder hunting on your poxy little park board or your skinny little slalom skis then life is going to be way harder for you. Now is the time to pick up a set of the phat bad boy skis you’ve seen in the films or maybe go for a board with a slightly longer wider nose (The Dupraz boards are SO cool). On both the bindings should be set back off the centre to help keep your tip(s) up.
5: Practise! As with anything in life, the more you do it the better you’ll be and the easier you’ll find it. Whenever there’s a little patch just to the side of the piste – get in it and chuck a couple of turns in. You will stack it. You will lose your skis. You will have to take your board off and ‘swim out,’ you will use language your mother would be horrified to hear and you WILL love it.
- MPora’s 9 Mistakes Every Snowboarder makes
- Tim’s blog – how to ski powder in 15 tips
- Whitelines Snowboarding – how to turn in powder
- How to Ski Powder Snow – Section 8