Updated: Aug 16
Off-piste skiing is the alpha and omega, the holy grail of skiing. Getting off the slopes is like stepping out of the gym to go for a run in nature. It's life to the ones who love skiing.
But off-piste skiing involves a set of objective dangers, of whose can result injuries, or event death.
In these conditions, is it a sensible idea to ski off-piste or not ?
Before to answer this question, let's check first what the main dangers of off-piste skiing are.
The most commonly considered of these danger are obviously avalanches. But they are not the only ones.
There are other less well-known dangers associated to the practice of off-piste skiing, such as:
* Trauma. For information, there are far fewer accidents of this type in off-piste skiing than skiing on piste, even after the proportion is compared to the number of practitioners in each of these two disciplines.
* Slipping-off, when you fall and slip without being able to stop, with the possibility of having an obstacle in your path and hitting it. This mainly happens on wind-hardened slabs, also known as hard-blown, and still frozen spring snow, subjected to cycles of melting during the day and then freezing at night.
These risks, if they are inherent in the practice of this activity, must awaken the prudence and the spirit of analysis and observation of off-piste skiers.
You have to know how to change your objectives downwards when conditions, or changing conditions, make it appropriate.
Carrying out this work of analyzing the snowpack and the terrain is a professional skill, and this learning requires years of practice.
You also need to know how to navigate in the mountains so as to expose only one person at a time to danger while skiing, knowing where to stop and regroup safely, knowing which lines to choose so as not to endanger others.
You must also be wearing a complete safety equipment kit : Avalanche victim detector (DVA), shovels, probes, ABS® airbags, radio, etc. And be trained to help avalanche victims.
All these risks, even if they can't be lowed down to zero, can be very strongly reduced with some knowledge and some skills.
If you do it in good conditions, if you know the mountains, and if you practice it with care, applying the basic rules of backcountry skiing, making sensible safety choices at any moment, it can be not more dangerous than sailing or surfing.
Any physical activity involves taking some risks. Even simply crossing the street. Is this a reason why we shouldn't cross the street ? I don't think so.
And skiing off-piste bring so much pleasure and satisfaction in your life, takes you so close to the nature and to the elements, helps you to learn so much about humility and about helping each other, that it is in itself a whole school of life.
So despite the risks, is it a good idea to ski off-piste ?
I would say YES, if you do it properly.
Here is my tip :
I strongly advise you to use the services of a ski instructor specialized in off-piste, or of a mountain guide - who even if he is not an instructor, knows the snow and the routes well-.
In Val-d'Isère for example, a very high place for skiing in the world and in particular for off-piste skiing, several structures specialize in off-piste supervision, and offer their customers the highest standard of services in terms of security.
PowderWeGo, off-piste ski school in Val-d'Isère and off-piste ski trip organizer to far destinations, like freeride and ski touring in Japan, ski touring in the Lofoten islands - Norway, sailing and ski touring in Norway, Heli-skiing in Russia, ski trips to Val-d'Isère, or even worldwide luxury ski destinations...
Do not hesitate to get closer to such structures to introduce you to off-piste skiing, or to practice your passion in the best safety conditions.
Enjoy off-piste skiing, stay safe 🙂