Essential Off Piste Safety Tips
Posted by George Biffen
Everyone loves the white stuff… knee deep powder that is.
We all have that inner urge to conquer some powder on our holidays, whether that is touring hours up the mountain or just off the side of the piste. At Powder White, we can find your perfect powder hound holiday today.
With the recent spring ski powder and avalanches in Tignes, I wanted to share my own tips and research for keeping safe off piste. This is where you need to stop and think about these tips to keep you and others safe in the powder.
Before you even think about going off the side of the piste poles, make sure your insurance covers off-piste skiing as many standard health contracts will not.
In many places such as Val d’Isere you can purchase off piste insurance from the lift office, called Carte Neige coverage. This can be purchased for about €2.70!
I get my off piste insurance from specialist Mcgregor Insurance – this company is run by keen skiers and offer the most comprehensive cover for all mountain-based eventualities.
Get The Gear
There are 5 essentials when going off piste:
– Transceiver – used to finding people buried under the snow.
– Probe – Used to probe down into the snow and located the individual.
– A metal head shovel – why metal? Well, because if you have a cheap plastic shovel, it is more likely to break…then what do you do?
– Rucksack – to carry your equipment..duhhh. A bag such as Oxtovex is ideal for off-piste.
– Mobile phone – make sure it is fully charged and don’t use all the battery on filming your mates.
And there is also a 6th essential… snacks and water!
I had only recently purchased a Camelbak and I can honestly say, it is a life saver for keeping me hydrated throughout the day, especially after a night out.
TIP – keep it next to your bed for those sore head mornings.
Snacks are also vital to keep your hunger at bay and provide you with the energy you are burning off in the backcountry.
I use Tribe bars as they are full of natural energy and taste good too, as some energy bars can offer a sugary and stale taste. They are designed for endurance sports, so long days on the mountain makes they ideal.
Get The Training
So you have all the gear.. but no idea!
That’s not going to help your friends under the snow.
There are many online videos, courses and tutorials to help you become confident with your own gear and knowledge of avalanche safety.
You can greatly reduce the chances of having an accident (and have more fun) off-piste with these simple reminders
This is a great video by Red Bull ‘Know Before You Go’:
Take 15 minutes out of your busy day to watch and learn the basics.
Get Your Mates
There is a common saying “NO FRIENDS ON POWDER DAYS!” What a load of Rubbish for 2 reasons.
1. If you get caught in an avalanche, who will rescue you?
2. Why would you want to take up all the powder when you can’t share the excitement and experience with them.
Don’t go it alone, enjoy the ride with your friends.
Make sure you’re with people who are the same level as you as there is nothing worse than taking someone with you who cannot keep up – it’ll ruin both your days. Get people you know and trust – people that can keep you safe and also have a great time with.
1 inch is not good enough…
Just because it has started to snow in resort doesn’t mean it will protect you and your skis or snowboard from what lies beneath.
Those rocks and tree stumps will still be there.
Let a good base layer settle in the areas that have been bare.
Don’t be tempted to follow others who think they will get the best snow when it has only just fallen.
Remember, good things come to those who wait.
This is me in March 2017… and I waited until the next day to hit the Le Fornet Trees in Val d’Isere.
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