Off-Piste Skiing: Staying safe in the backcountry

Pete snow report in Courchevel, February

Pete’s excited about the recent snowfall – but how do you stay safe?

Off-Piste Skiing Safety

If you do decide to ski off-piste, you should know what you are doing and have some training. Or ski with someone who does like a professional guide or fully qualified instructor (not just a mate with all the gear and no idea…). However, even this is still no guarantee, and it should be understood that it is never a completely risk-free pursuit.

This year 49 people have already been killed by avalanches in the Alps, and 8 people died in 4 separate avalanches in 1 day in Switzerland on Saturday, 31st January. This is despite many of them being experienced, off-piste skiers. So how do you ensure it is your dream powder day, not your last powder day?

Off piste skiing in La Tania

How do you have your dream powder day, not your last powder day?

Go with someone who knows what they’re doing

If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t venture off-piste without someone who really does. Ensure you are all carrying the right equipment, and have at least some basic idea how to use it. The risk can only be reduced to an acceptable level by a skilled and experienced person making good decisions. So…

Take an avalanche course

The basics should cover:

  • Warning signs (red flags)
  • Safe terrain selection and travel practices
  • Weather and snowpack evaluation
  • How to interpret the avalanche bulletin
  • Avalanche rescue skills using transceiver, probe, and shovel
  • Understand the role that the “human factor” (human error) plays in avalanche accidents

Here at New Generation, we offer off-piste sessions for people on holiday to help you stay safe.

Want to read more?

Check out these sites which have more info on off-piste safety and avalanche awareness.
Backcountry access
Avalanche training
Utah Avalanche Center

Pete skiing off piste in Courchevel trees

Skiing safe = waaaaaaay more fun in the powder