Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Top Three Ways to Ensure Fun and Safe Off-piste Skiing

Despite the challenges and the often cited risks, skiing off-piste or in the backcountry certainly has its irresistible charms, so much that more and more people choose it over the established ski runs that are accessible in the resort and that are within easy reach of your catered chalet. Aside from the thrill and that palpable sense of adventure, off-piste skiing also appeals to those who simply want to ‘push the limits’ as far as the winter sport is concerned. Here are three important tips to ensure a safe, memorable backcountry ski run.

Get ‘In The Zone’

By ‘getting in the zone’, we simply mean adopting that presence of mind that allows you to be acutely aware of your surroundings. This awareness is important when you’re outside your catered chalet and negotiating the backcountry. Simply put, it can spell the difference between you having a great time and a terrible experience. The point is that even when you’re having so much fun, you must always be on the look-out for certain danger signals. For example, you must always be aware of tree wells, the loose snow around a tree that can be as deep as twenty feet, and avoid them as much as possible. When off-piste skiing with a group, it’s best if you go down marginal areas one by one so that when something happens, only one person is involved, while the rest can work to search or rescue. Make no mistake; skiing in the backcountry is fun, but only if you know what to do.

Ski with a Reliable Guide

If this is the first time you’re visiting the French Alps, you might find that even the established runs can be tricky. More so with the off-piste ski runs, as not only are they farther away from your catered chalet, but they may also pose certain hazards if you go out there on your own. If you intend to ski off-piste, you must let others know about where you’re going and you must not go alone. Find a reliable guide who knows the area, and one that has spent years guiding visitors and teaching them about the finer points of the winter activity. It just so happens that the resorts are home to a number of ski professionals who will be more than eager to assist you and help you have a great time in the backcountry.

Gear Up

As we’ve mentioned, the backcountry is different from the established runs. It is wild and poses a lot of unexpected surprises, and some of those surprises may not be very pleasant. If you take care of the previous two tips, then the only thing you have to worry about is having the proper gear. When you’re off-piste, you’re usually much further away from the resort’s facilities and amenities and even your own catered chalet, so it’s best to adopt a ‘survival mind-set’ when choosing the right gear and equipment. The vital basics that you must carry with you include a beacon, a probe and a shovel. The beacon works by letting others know of your location in the event that you get lost or involved in an accident. The probe works with the beacon in determining a body’s location. And the shovel, of course, is self-explanatory, but choose one that is made of high-grade aluminium and not plastic.


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