A quick caveat. I am neither an instructor or a guide. I am merely an experienced enthusiast. Skiing off piste is dangerous and fatalities occur particularly in ‘powder’ conditions. Skiing off piste must not be attempted without a guide and even then it is not risk free. Very few survive avalanches so prepare yourself well and hire a guide.
Why ski off piste?
Off piste is a magical landscape devoid of human impact and as nature intended. There is huge pleasure and liberation in following your own chosen path rather than a piste prescribed for you. You are forced to be more aware of your surroundings and notice detail in the mountain that you miss when you simply whizz down on the piste.
Off piste skiing is conclusive to getting in ‘the zone’ because the environment aids you. In sports participants talk about being in ‘the zone’, a feeling like none other when for once in our modern lives we are not focused on ‘doing’ something we are just ‘being’. In short a human being not a human doing. That feeling of just being is the sum goal of meditation so either get an orange robe on and go to Tibet on a year’s silent retreat or let’s grab them powder skis!
Off piste all you can see is a white isolated canvas waiting for you to make your mark. The more senses you can switch off the easier it is to focus on the ones that keep you present in ‘the zone’. Off piste there is little to hear, smell or taste so you are reliant on your sight and sense of feeling. You feel your way down the mountain adjusting your legs like suspension on a bike, falling in to the mountain’s natural rhythm and there you are in ‘the zone’. Like a computer with a hundred programmes running, you hit ‘the zone’ and it is like an instant reboot, complete mental clarity, bliss.
Off piste skiing tips top 5 tips
- Get fit! You often have to hike to get to the best places or out of them! Cycling is good for building the required leg muscles, read a previous post here.
- Bring water and snacks. Ain’t no shops in the back country and when your fuel tank is empty you are going to want to refuel.
- Dress for the occasion. In my opinion the colder it is the better the snow so you are going to want to dress up warm however if you have to hike with your equipment you are going to get very hot! The solution is to dress like an onion and take a rucksack so that you can add or subtract layers as required. If you feel the cold read out post here.
- If in powder, get the right tools for the job! Speak with your hire company ideally in advance because on a powder day powder skis fly off the shelves. Powder skis are a little wider than a normal ski to allow you to ‘float’ on top of the non pisted snow.
- If in powder, adjust your weight. Want to know a neat trick, if you want to impress your friends and ski a straight line between pistes in powder just lean back as you go. This will lift the front tips of your skis out of the snow however you can’t turn in this position. To turn you want to keep your tips up and your weight a tiny bit of centre to the back. The easiest way I know how to do this is to aim to have your toes on the roof of your boot while in a ‘normal’ ski position. This will keep your tips and weight slightly back.