Off-piste, or freeriding, attracts skiers and snowboarders who are more expert, but also those keen to feel the adrenalin rush of skiing or riding fresh snow.
Off- piste slopes are always a challenging experience: indeed, the tracks are constantly changing: in the condition of the snow, in its consistency - from powdery, firm, or in-between; or in terms of the quantity of snowfall - light or moderate; or just because of the surrounding landscape that might plateau off, become wooded or narrow down to a corridor.
So when on fresh snow firstly you need to be highly adaptable. Of course, this needs to be coupled with high technical skills and excellent control of the skis or snowboard, but you also need to be extra aware: indeed, these kinds of slopes are far more dangerous than the classical runs.
Having said this, there are a few tricks to help with freeriding that go for both skiers and snowboard users.
- Use your body weight to advantage. The most common mistake is to rely solely on your legs. Nothing could be more wrong: in fresh snow the ideal is to use your body weight, leaning forwards slightly so putting less strain on your calf muscles.
-Use your arms more. Off piste it is essential to keep your balance: to find your centre of gravity, in spite of the instability of the snow, you will find that you need to use your arms much more than usual.
-Avoid any sudden movements. Movements necessary for navigating fresh snow are much gentler and more harmonious than usual ones: this way you maintain your grip on the snow and avoid losing your balance on the first bend.
Another factor to keep in mind is safety. It is a good rule when starting freeriding, to never take a descent alone and to be well equipped. Off piste must-haves, in particular, are:
-A helmet. Essential for every descent, but even more important when on fresh snow.
-Avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel. An avalanche transceiver is a device for finding those buried in an avalanche, whose value cannot be underestimated, when you move off the normal pistes. They are usually sold together with a probe that can detect a body under a layer of snow, and with a shovel that is small enough to fit in your rucksack.
-Rucksack airbag. This accessory, that holds a fair amount, means that as well as your personal things, you can also carry an avalanche tranceiver and shovel, but also, by pulling a release handle, you can open an airbag on your back that helps protect your body and keep you above the snow.
Finally, to get the most out of off-piste, you need lots of practice: having followed all the advice and taken all the right precautions it is actually only experience that makes a real freerider.