off piste skiing

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  • off piste skiing
  • Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    LHS is right but as to what slopes avalanche someone needs to check facts

    Not trying to present myself as an expert by the way.

    I’ve been to a couple of avalanche lectures, sat through online courses and videos and done basic transceiver drills a couple of times, but that’s about it. (I ride slackcountry. Wouldn’t go any further without a guide and gear as I’m well aware I don’t have the practical knowledge)

    The stuff about slope angle is pretty common to all of those though so I’ve no reason to doubt it.

    e.g. Here is a similar diagram from the online avalanche course at the Canadian Avalanche Centre.

    nbt
    Member

    ir12daveor wrote:

    legend – Member
    Sorry, this is a completely ignorant attitude that is leading to stupid accidents.

    Good read that. Some very interesting points that people need to read and understand

    FunkyDunc
    Member

    Some good advise and some very bad advice above.

    Double pole planting to get extra lift is a big no no.

    Although I get what people are saying about the ‘bounce’ it is actually the wrong thing to do, as you end up using your body to turn, rather than letting the skis do all the work.

    My advice would be 1. If your loaded get coaching in a small group, you will learn off each other.

    2. If your not loaded ski with some one who can do it.

    3. Try and try again.

    Powder skiing is all about relaxing, being soft and smooth and not pushing too much on the skis.

    Rather than bounce, just role the knees, and then the skis will start going in to reverse camber and as they return to normal camber that gives you the natural lift, there is no forced bouncing involved.

    Off piste skiing is an art. When it clicks it just clicks, but it can take a long time getting there.

    I agree there will not be many who have skied 45+ degree slopes here. That is truly steep and your arm touches the hill on the uphill side. At that angle its a whole different turning technique to the ones people are mentioning here.

    Plus at steep angles avalanche risk is reduced, but its still there, plus the fact you are normally dropping in from an arete etc with cornice. Also 35 ish degrees plus, the snow pack falls with you when your skiing down.

    Try the alternate Valle Blanche routes. Straight out the tunnel and immediate right, thats nice and steep 🙂

    Premier Icon Bushwacked
    Subscriber

    Looks like I might be investing in some guide time when I get there. Off with some snowboarders so no one I can follow sadly.

    Cheers for all the info – can see me doing some slackcountry initially.

    St Anton seemed to have load of opportunity and loved Route 17

    B

    legend
    Member

    I should’ve known that the STW fun police would be along at some point.

    That article is about people being dicks and not understanding their affect on the snow pack and other skiers/boarders. Any use of “no friends” that I’ve ever heard relates purely to “if your sorry ass isn’t put of bed first thing, I’m nailing the virgin pow without you”

    Gotama
    Member

    Top of the couloir extreme in Blackcomb is somewhere between 48 and 50 depending on who you speak to. Mellows out pretty quickly to 40 ish though. We got some strange looks as i was in scoobydoo suit at the time whilst a mate was dressed as bananaman 😀

    Funkydunc has some good advice. Most importantly though don’t lean back as some have suggested, just stay centred over the skis and be patient with your turns, don’t force it, particularly by kicking the heels out. Also steer with your hips as you do on your bike.

    And double pole plants….yeeeesh 🙄

    Gotama
    Member

    St Anton is fantastic although be careful with the slack country as you can get yourself in serious terrain pretty quickly.

    These guys are very good if you’re looking for guides who will provide you with instruction. We had a guy called Pico who could ski or board with the highest level group of each, very impressive watching how easy he made everything look.

    http://www.pistetopowder.com/

    but I think for most of us that chart is a warning that “red run” off-piste should not be considered “safe”

    Safe is relative. Red runs don’t exceed pitches of 40%, ~22 degrees (do your own research to confirm this). The chart clearly shows that starting an avalanche at that angle is unlikely.

    Avoiding steep slopes on higher risk days is the advice given by HAT. But Henry does warn:

    Slab avalanches generally release on slopes of more than 30° above (steepness of a black run). BUT you can trigger a big avalanche on much shallower slopes if there is a nice steep loaded slope above, especially when the danger rating is high: 4 or 5.

    That is a nightmare.

    blurty
    Member

    I was like you, I got together with mates and we hired Alison Culshaw (top off-piste coach in Chamonix). http://www.offpiste.org.uk/ all off us improved massively and got a huge confidence boost.

    If you can’t get a group together, she also runs courses.

    email me if you want to know more

    TurnerGuy
    Member

    These guys are very good if you’re looking for guides who will provide you with instruction.

    have to disagree somewhat about pistetopowder.

    Most people seem to use them for single days guiding, so if you do a weeks course it is disjointed as it is full of people coming and going, overestimating their skill levels and therefore being in the wrong group, etc. If you get pushed up a group you will often go to a different guide.

    The tuition you get is minimal because of that – most people are in the group for guiding so don’t expect them to stop and do much tutoring, just the odd tip.

    If you do a weeks course you would expect to get some reasonable training about equipment, rather than the cursory check that the transceivers work and not much more. Because people are there day-by-day they haven’t time to dedicate a morning to teaching how to use the transceivers.

    Nothing like an integrated week-long course, like for example Warren Smith’s Academy (which I recommend fully – all-round excellent – your skiing will come on a lot).

    So it works out quite expensive for what it is.

    I did it last year to avoid skiing with my mates (!) who are now a lot more experienced than me but also quite cavalier about their skiing, and sure enough at the end of the day they had stories about just missing one of the many large cracks that were occurring on the south facing slopes.

    If I had followed them and gone down one I don’t think they would have noticed, and wouldn’t have been in any sort of position to help get me out!

    globalti
    Member

    DO NOT ski off piste without insurace for off piste skiing; if you have an accident the secouristes will not lie about your position and your insurers will refuse to cover you.

    If you’re doing more than just cutting between pistes in a resort, wear an Ortovox, know how to use it, don’t ski alone and do carry rescue kit like probes and shovel.

    A pair of all-mountain skis like Rossignol Bandits make coping with powder and crud much easier.

    TurnerGuy
    Member

    Rossignol Bandits

    old-school – they don’t make them anymore! Plus narrow now.

    I bought some Rossi S86 the other year which are wide-ish and have a rocker – so good for all-over – but Rossi noticed that and stopped making them.

    But they look narrow now as people ski 90+.

    olddog
    Member

    I have spent a lot of time boarding in Canada and the States, and, in my experience, these are the best places to learn off-piste. Generally speaking they draw a boudary around the skiable area within in which there are pisted runs and unpisted sections. These are all deemed safe ( within the context of a sport that is inherently risky) certainly in terms of avalanche. Also it is easier to get insurance for this inbounds off piste, don’t need a guide, it’s patrolled etc.

    I learned from a guide in Whistler, it was a three day programme which was mainly guiding for experienced boarders or skiers with a few top tips thrown in. The best advice I’ve ever got was don’t look at the trees or you’ll hit them, look at the gaps – I have now adopted this as a life philosophy! Don’t know if they still do this, it was last century, but anything similar is really worth it. My gf did the ski version and we ride the slack country happily together.

    Slopes also much less busy that Europe, I’ve boarded off the back off Mammoth for hours in freshies and the only people I saw was my partner and the lift guy.

    You need to check the rules on between piste eg in Italy I have a feeling that the any off piste at all is illegal without a guide, and the ski patrol can fine you.

    And make sure you have the right insurance

    rewski
    Member

    Bandits were great, had those a few years back. Big fan of salomon crossmax when they first came out.

    grum
    Member

    I’m off to St Anton in a month or so – just praying for freshies. Where’s some good areas/runs in St Anton to find slack country fun without hiring a guide?

    Gotama
    Member

    TurnerGuy – Fair point re piste to powder although i possibly worded it badly as i meant hire them for a days guiding within your group of mates and the guide (or at least in our case) will give you tips here and there. However by doing it that way the instruction you receive will be nowhere near as good as the WM ski academy or similar. However having had a decent experience with them using them as a guide i’m disappointed to hear their offpiste instruction is set up as you suggest. That is rubbish and i would be royally pi*8ed off if i’d turned up expecting a week of off piste lessons with skiers of a similar level but just got shoved into the various daily groups instead.

    Italy. The law was passed in 2003 in the the Piedmont region and supersedes the national law: Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx and Bardonecchia. Thankfully not spread to Aoste, Courmayeur, 4 valleys, Cervinia

    You MUST have avalanche safety equipment if off piste riding in Piedmont.

    Where’s some good areas/runs in St Anton to find slack country fun without hiring a guide?

    There’s tonnes top of Rendel, Kapall, Valluga. Start by checking out the Itineriaries marked on the piste Map.

    TurnerGuy
    Member

    In one avalanche book I read the guy would pack a large rucksack out with a uncompressed down jacket.

    The jacket would be good for emergency wear, but also its bulk, whilst not weighing much, helped pack the rucksack out, increasing its size, and therefore helping him to keep ‘up’ in an avalanche.

    Avalanche flow is granular, like cornflakes, so the big stuff floats to the top – so you want to make yourself as big as possible – hence the airbags.

    Apparently when snowmobile riders get caught they often find the snowmobiles sitting on top of the snow in good condition, the rider being somewhere beneath, probably dead.

    Another writer reckoned it will only be time before adrenaline junkies start ‘riding’ avalanches with their airbags – then re-priming them and going back up for the next ride…

    olddog
    Member

    Thanks for the clarification on Italy, I last rode there in Md di Campiglio, even there very few people doing anything off the marked runs at all so I assumed the rules applied to all Italy. Anyway, outside of designated skiing areas I’d be hesistant to ride off piste without a guide or proper local knowledge and equipment anyway

    globalti
    Member

    old-school – they don’t make them anymore! Plus narrow now.

    Rossignol Bandits are wide enough for a touring ski; I’d like to see you try to fit a climbing skin to anything wider then follow a narrow zig-zag!

    LHS
    Member

    The airbags definitly work, believe me, but as per my previous posting you must do as much as you can to never get yourself in the position that you need one. Most people killed in avalanches will suffer injuries before being buried by being carried into rocks, trees or off a cliff.

    Gotama
    Member

    Stuff we did without a guide was just the obvious runs coming back down from valluga towards the main ski area. With a guide we went over the back of valluga 2 and down the north side towards zurs. We also did a run over the back of rendl which was fantastic, again with a guide though. To be honest all my proper off piste stuff is with a guide, whether its touring or just going out for a day with skins from a resort; basically anything where i’m going outside the edges of a ski area boundary. I’m not confident enough in that environment to risk it, nor do i profess to know the area well enough to not get lost!

    olddog
    Member

    The idea of doing anything with avalance other than absolutely everything to avoid is madness to me. I’ve seen aftermath, swathes ripped through mature trees, roads brushed aside – bad bad bad.

    I always check out the avalanche risk even though I ride in-bounds, this is why I like N America, they take avalanche risk seriously and close down sections if any credible risk.

    Plently of fun on the in bounds off piste – Snowbird holds good memories to name just one.

    mechmonkey
    Member

    I was like you, I got together with mates and we hired Alison Culshaw (top off-piste coach in Chamonix). http://www.offpiste.org.uk/ all off us improved massively and got a huge confidence boost.

    If you can’t get a group together, she also runs courses.

    +1 Girl knows her stuff. A day with her or any other similar off piste ‘coach’ is a very good place to start. Difference between this and a ‘guide’ is that a guide is there to show you a route and safely get you through it, with limited instruction towards your technique.

    I came away from my European Mountain Safety course with a decent amount of knowledge and development of my skills on variable terrain. I also had an overwhelming feeling of just how much I didn’t know, how hard it is to make objective judgements as to the safety of certain slopes and route selection whilst touring etc. A realisation of how un informed my decisions had been during my previous off piste exploits. There is a lot to understand, local knowledge and snow history being key.

    You know nothing and any slope could slide on you anytime. Ride with people who are better than you and have more experience and ability than you, they be the ones who’ll be digging you out when you get caught in a slide.

    Off course wide/fat skiis help but it’s like MTB there is a lot of BS about ski needs. For three of past 4 years, I have mixed between rossingal bandits and the 9S slalom ski. Unlike the slalom planks of my youth, I didn’t even notice them (9s) being slalom skiis when using them off piste but they were a riot on piste. Yes they wouldn’t have been first choice for OP but basic technique will overcome most differences in equipment!! Having said that changed to K2s this year!

    Painey
    Member

    I’m off to St Anton in a month or so – just praying for freshies. Where’s some good areas/runs in St Anton to find slack country fun without hiring a guide?

    You should never go too far off piste without a guide, that I can’t stress enough but there’s plenty in St Anton to choose from. Should that be a little more serious than you perhaps fancied then just give any of the ski routes a go. If you’re not familiar with what these are they’re just unpisted areas which are avalanche controlled so effectively off piste but without the worry of getting buried/lost.

    Of these most people do Ski route 33, Mattun, at the top of the Kapall chair. Some good other ones dotted around the ski area though so try them out.

    Rendl has some good spots. You can drop off the ski route that takes you underneath the main bubble up the mountain and go through the trees, just don’t drop too low or you could have an interesting route out. We saw girl waiting to be rescued whilst hanging in a tree last week!

    If you get to the top of the Zammermoos chair you can cut underneath it to the bottom of the drag lift and then drop into the side of Steisbachtal, often called Happy Valley. A horrible bottleneck of a blue run but it does hold good snow on the sides.

    Plenty to do in St Anton but if it’s been snowing get out early as it gets tracked out very quickly.

    TurnerGuy
    Member

    Rossignol Bandits are wide enough for a touring ski

    I have some Bandits, went for the S86s as everyone was reckoning they were their replacement – couldn’t fault them – rocker worked really well.

    Mates with the equivalent Legends kept complaining about the tips catching on stuff – one filed the edges off!

    nbt
    Member

    Big fat skis will help compensate for technique. MY tehcnique’s not great (I still step turn quite a lot) but I’ve been pretty happy on Movement Flames (78mm underfoot) for the past few seasons

    Premier Icon Rio
    Subscriber

    Big fat skis………78mm underfoot

    I think that would qualify as a narrow ski these days; even my touring skis are 88mm underfoot.

    TurnerGuy
    Member

    I still step turn quite a lot

    Warren Smith Academy for you then…

    nbt
    Member

    Rio wrote:

    Big fat skis………78mm underfoot
    I think that would qualify as a narrow ski these days; even my touring skis are 88mm underfoot.

    sorry, that was the point I was amking but got distracted and didn;t finish. BIg fat skis will help but they are not magic, and you don’t need them. If you want to ski knee deep powder, you need to be knee deep, and you won’t be knee deep if you’re floating on top of everything

    I do have a fatter pair but at 92mm underfoot, they’re not exceptionally big.

    mefty
    Member

    Another who would say don’t worry too much about the skis, I learnt to off piste on 205 Giant Slalom Skis, whilst it took a bit of time to get right, I find it very easy now using my rather old “all mountain” skis which apparently are skinny now at 70 mm underfoot.

    Sadly, off piste skiing rarely just involves skiing powder, you normally travel through some crud to get to the best spots and the real pros will have a slightly different technique for each type of snow. However, a good basic technique will get you down most things.

    Whilst not for the OP, the suggestion that skiing off-piste should be restricted to guided sorties is rather sad. I have skied off piste in areas I know well without guides, it is just a question of risk assessment. Therefore, you do need the kit and know how to do it, and if you are going on a glacier, rope, a climbing harness, with an ice screw attached is not over kill. I would also talk to guides to check their up-to-date knowledge beforehand.

    Edukator
    Member

    92mm for powder – at the spatule.

    legend
    Member

    Last season I was playing on Nordica Soul Riders all the time, a cool 97mm underfoot. Got to change your technique on piste when you’re beasting out GS turns, but they’ve got a decent sidecut so they do ski well. Even fun in the lift queue when you notice you’ve got a snowboard attached to each foot 😀

    Edukator
    Member

    But what’s the point of skiing powder in skis that mean you’re on the surface rather than knee deep?

    Greybeard
    Member

    A useful tip when in powder is to take two 3m lengths of 5mm brightly coloured ribbon, tie to rear binding and stuff into end of trouser. If a ski comes off it’s much easier to find it.

    As for technique, give the skis time to turn. On piste, you can force them round and get away with it, in powder you can’t force them and they take longer to react.

    And get a monoski!

    fraseruk
    Member

    I’m a snowboarder learning to ski and don’t have the experience to make narrow skis work in powder, so if the snow is deep fat skis are a solution.

    Last year in Engelberg with a lot of fresh snow:

    Day 1: 79mm waist – awful, hard work, needed good technique that I didn’t have. Thought about going back to the board after that day.

    Day 2: 113mm waist, getting an awful lot easier. Having fun by lunchtime.

    Day 3: 125mm waist, feeling too easy, maybe good in Alaska but didn’t feel like a challenge. Apart from when it got hardpacked, when they became sketchy as anything 🙂 Definitely worth remembering off piste is not the same as powder.

    FunkyDunc
    Member

    A useful tip when in powder is to take two 3m lengths of 5mm brightly coloured ribbon, tie to rear binding and stuff into end of trouser. If a ski comes off it’s much easier to find it.

    I completely disagree with this.

    Do you bindings up so they will not come off. You will not suffer injury from skis not releasing in powder.

    If you are skiing any reasonable depth of powder you simply will not be able to get back up the slope to retreave the ski, and then getting it back on would be impossible…. goes back to the fact said above that many people on here will never ski truly steep or deep stuff.

    Much better to have your skis stay on and just use the steepness of the slope to rotate your skis round and you can then stand up down the falline.

    Modern fat skis really help in less than ideal conditions,whih helps anyone at any level of ability, but as has been said you an do it on any ski because done corretly it is the reverse camber of the ski that creates the turn, and sets you up for the next one. Even the sidecut of the ski is almost irrelevant.

    Premier Icon stilltortoise
    Subscriber

    Despite years of on piste experience I’ve never clicked off piste. I had some lessons in Chamonix where the instructor saw my on piste technique and suggested I should be good off piste. Nope 😥

    Edukator
    Member

    Do you bindings up so they will not come off. You will not suffer injury from skis not releasing in powder

    .

    I strongly disagree. My friend who’s got his leg in plaster for two months would disagree too. I wind the bindings down for powder, you’re more likely to injure your knees in a fall but the ski is less likely to come off while skiing as there are less shocks and you load the ski in line with your leg rather than applying lateral forces.

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