For some skiers, the allure of trying out off-piste skiing is simply too great to resist and they head out in search of new slopes. If you are one of those skiers who have simply given in to the adventures to come, it’s crucial to have the right gear. If you are a beginner it’s a good idea to go through the cross-country skiing beginners guide.
Also, it’s important to practice a few moves and skills to help you deal with the powdery deep snow such as the kick turns, blocking pole plants, and hop turns. This is what to expect when skiing off-piste, but first…
What is skiing off-piste?
Off-piste is a term that has its origins in France and means going off the set trail. It is very much used by skiers and snowboarders. Since this is a new terrain that has not already been set by skiers or snowboarders, you are likely to come across a variety of conditions which include deep snow, bumps, narrow chutes, crud as well as very steep slopes.
The term off-piste is also used sometimes by backcountry to refer to new terrain that is away from the boundaries of a certain resort. Perhaps one of the great skills to learn is how to carve skiing.
Some off-piste skiing essentials
The first thing that you should always keep in mind when skiing off-piste is the risks that are involved.
The first is avalanches. These are a major concern and you must know how to prevent avalanches. A level one avalanche course is essential and should be certified by The American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education. (AIARE)
Next, you will need to ensure that you have the right gear. This will include an avalanche transceiver, a probe, and a snow shovel. But having the gear is only the first step. You need to also know how to use the gear. This means that doing practice before heading out. Also, it is always a good idea to have an avalanche airbag backpack. In case there is an avalanche, this will keep you on the surface.
Blocking pole plants
Doing blocking pole plants when skiing off-piste and downhill will allow you to time your tuns perfectly. And not only that, you can make much sharper turns, for better maneuvering down off-piste slopes. This skill is also used when you need to negotiate steep slopes.
The name comes from how the technique allows you to block the upper body movement. It keeps you from accelerating down too fast. By making sharp turns, you reduce the speed and keep it in check.
To perform the blocking pole plant technique, take the pole and start by planting it on the inside of a turn.
Timing is crucial and should be done when you are setting the edges of the skis. Next, take your downhill pole and place it at an angle of 45 degrees to the skis and then push the hands slowly down the hill. Then you will ski right around the pole to ensure that you are now ready to plant your other hand with the next turn.
Ensure that you have the best ski helmet to keep your head well protected in case of a fall.
How to do a hop turn
When off-piste skiing, some slopes such as gullies, couloirs, and chutes are simply too narrow to make large turns. For this, you need to learn how to hop turn.
To do the hop turn you will need to first ensure that you are at a low position. Crouch down and flex your knees as you plant the pole ready to make a turn
You are now in a position to prong yourself and you can use that energy to jump from the crouch position and using the planted pole as the pivot.
The third step is to repeat the process. As you are coming to land now plat the other pole and crouch up again ready to hop another time.
If you are a woman skier then make sure you are wearing the best women’s ski jacket.
Doing the kick turn
If you want to change direction while not losing your elevation, the kick turn will help. You can use this technique anytime that you want to turn. However, you will find that the kick turn is highly useful when you are going down very steep slopes.
I say you when off-piste skiing you found yourself on the edge of a very steep slope that you are not very comfortable skiing, then you can use the kick turn to change direction.
To perform the kick turn technique, start by placing the downhill pole. When the skis are pointed sideways, you are going to now turn the upper part of your body such that it is now facing downhill. Next, take your downhill pole and place it uphill right behind you. this will put you in a position where you can use both poles as well as your uphill foot to maintain balance.
Make sure that you have the right ski pole and that you know how to size ski poles.
Now kick using your downhill leg. Using a forward and upward sweep, lift your downhill ski. This will bring it around and Infront of the body. The action will face you in the other direction.
Next, you will need to shift your weight. You will do this by transitioning the weight to the downhill leg and ensuring that you are standing securely on it by getting the right balance.
Then you will need to bring around the uphill ski. After you have right your weight onto the downhill leg, take your uphill ski as well as the uphill pole. Next, bring these around to the other ski and pole. Now you will switch to allow you to face the other direction and the uphill ski and pole will become the downhill ski and pole.
Tips for efficient off-piste skiing
Other than having the right tools and using the proper skiing technique for off-piste skiing, there are a few tips that can help you make the most of your skiing off-piste.
1. Make rhythmic up and down motions
If you want to ski off-piste in the most efficient and energy-saving way, you will need to make rhythmic up and down motions. Start by ensuring that the ankles, the hips, and the knees are compact and comfortable.
Next, you are going to extend upwards as you gradually extend the ankles, the hips, and the knees. However, you will be stopping before the body is fully erect. Now ensure that your body is only moving in this range in a regular and constant up and down motion and ensure that your hands are forward.
If you say you were to stand up a bit too tall, then the skis will accelerate forward and your body will be left behind. This will result in the backward lean. Note that all-mountain skis are among the best for off-piste skiing.
Note that the skis should be weighted the same to help you maintain your balance. You will also be able to link turns together much more harmoniously allowing you to ski off-piste much more easily. Your rhythm will set by the first turn to make sure that you perform it right.
2. Do proper timing
During off-piste skiing, you need to make sure that you are exaggerating your moves. This is because of the powdery snow. There is a feeling of skiing in slow motion. You will need to be patient and persistent when riding the powdery snow as this is the only way you are going to learn how to deal with and have control of this type of snow.
Next, you will need to push the feet continually into the snow when making the runs. Avoid giving up on your turning by doing it too soon as this can cause the skis to accelerate causing backward lean and loss of control.
3. Speed is a good thing
Think of it this way, the airplane will lift off once it reaches a certain speed. Also, the speed boat will lift over the water’s surface after it reaches a certain ideal speed. When the snow is powdered it will create a certain level of resistance to the skis as well as the boots and the lower legs due to the sinking.
Because of this, maintaining balance and turning becomes a strenuous task. The solutions come by maintaining a certain ideal speed. This will reduce the resistance and allows you to ski on top of the snow.
This will also ensure that you maintain your balance and burn more efficiently. It’s prudent to keep this information in mind when deciding on how to buy skis.
Globo Surf Overview
If you want to go off-piste skiing, then you will need to learn a few more tips and tricks to ensure that you ski most efficiently.
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- Tips for efficient off-piste skiing, purepowder.com