January 3, 2022

Off-Piste Snowboarding Techniques

by Roger

Snowboarding is an interesting activity that makes snowboarders yearn for more thrill as they continue gaining more experience. Off-piste snowboarding, a common terminology referring to snowboarding that occurs on terrains away from the groomed ones, is one of the experiences. Exploring these grounds requires a high level of off-piste snowboarding techniques. 

This is because, unlike on-piste snowboarding, it has both heightened levels of fun experience and risk. As such, it requires a high degree of expertise. This article focuses on varying off-piste snowboarding aspects with an objective to enlighten both off-piste first-timers and snowboard enthusiasts.

Table of Contents

What are Some of the Most Popular Off-piste Snowboarding Techniques?

Typically, there are a few techniques that snowboarders and skiers employ to navigate the steep slopes and the deep snow commonly associated with off-piste terrain. The techniques include:

  1. Hop turns: Hop turn technique is vital in off-piste terrains that are extremely narrow to explore using big arcing turns such as chutes and gullies. This technique involves getting low. Usually, someone plants the pole, flexes the knees to absorb energy as they crouch down, and then explodes up using the energy absorbed. Afterward, they pivot around the pole they had planted. This is followed by repeating the technique in a series.
  1. Blocking the pole plants: When snowboarding, pole plants are vital in helping the skier time and tighten their turns to get down off-piste slopes. This technique is highly efficient in helping manage the very steep slopes. Hacking the technique involves planting the pole on the inside of a turn, timing it appropriately, and then placing it at a forty-five-degree angle with the skins. This is followed by pushing the hand gradually down the hill around the pole in a manner that enables it to plant the other hand for the next turn.
  1. Kick turn technique: This is one of the most effective methods employed to change the direction of the skis while maintaining the same elevation. They can be used whenever a skier intends to turn but are more significant when negotiating off-piste terrain.

This technique involves placing the downhill pole, kicking your downhill leg, shifting the weight, and bringing the uphill ski around.

Related Article: What Is the Relationship between Rappelling and Snowboarding?

How Do You Prepare for Off-piste Snowboarding?

As a skier, it is expedient to prepare in advance, particularly before the winter season. Proper preparation involves checking the ski gear to ensure that it is in the right order, thereby eradicating unnecessary inconveniences. 

Experienced off-piste snowboarders prepare themselves in the following ways, among others. 

  • Tuning the skis precisely: Experts advise that skiers tune the skis sufficiently to perform at their best. Snowboarders can achieve perfect performance if they sharpen the edges, wax the bases, and tune the skis beforehand.
  • A thorough check of the essential hardware: Before the winter season checks in, it is paramount that a skier takes time to ascertain that the skins are in the right condition. Ensure that the glue is not loosely fitting since it can easily ruin the adventure when it falls off. Moreover, it is crucial to ascertain that the skins have a front and tail clip. Other significant routine checks involve; binding, boot, and transceiver checks, among others.
  • Gear check: Further preparation includes finding out that the essential gear is in the right condition. Ensure to check the helmet, goggles and sunglasses, gloves, the base layers, the insulating pieces, and shell clothing and zips.
  • Physical training: Mountain sports are quite demanding. It follows that skiers and snowboarders should thoroughly prepare to ensure they are physically fit before the touring season sets in. Notably, off-piste skiing requires extensive fitness, specifically aerobic exercises, than on-piste skiing. This is because there is a lot of walking (wearing the ski boots), skiing, carrying, dealing with a highly intriguing snowpack.

What are the Benefits of Off-piste Snowboarding?

Snowboarding is one of the best ways to unleash the hidden potential, unwind, and relax from routine activities. The adventure nature of the activity is at the center of the unique characteristic related to the activity. Off-piste snowboarding has further merits, having great enjoyment compared to on-piste snowboarding. A perspective into off-piste snowboarding unveils the following benefits that are lacking in on-piste snowboarding.

1. Heightened level of thrill

Adventuring off-piste skiing may be compared to a private club, where the skier tours the backcountry without the gaze of the masses. It has its challenges, but they are a significant factor in adding the thrill associated with off-piste snowboarding.

2.  It is more versatile

Off-piste skiing allows the skier to employ further techniques that are impossible with on-piste snowboarding. As such, a skier can navigate tighter and steeper couloirs and longer skis, which can only be exercised in vast fields where high speeds are commonplace.

3. Extensive control over the experience someone has had

Off-piste skiing guarantees the capacity to use the experience that a skier has gained to greater limits. With the help of a guide, someone can know the best runs and routes and the terrains that they should exercise caution while adventuring.

4. Exploring uncommon grounds and unbeaten tracks

Adventuring in the backcountry gives snowboarders and skiers the chance to exploit all their skills on relatively free grounds. They are, therefore, able to explore new tricks and grounds while enjoying their privacy and the sound of their skis against the wind, something which adds to the fun of their experience.

What are the Risks Associated with Off-piste Snowboarding?

1. Off-piste snowboarding is dangerous

Numerous unforeseen dangers are associated with off-piste snowboarding. Snowboarders often find themselves in unexpected accidents when they abruptly encounter crevasses and tree wells. Furthermore, there is a very high chance of being an avalanche victim.

2. Heightened level of stress and tension

When snowboarders explore the off-piste locations, they ski on thick snows. Unless someone has highly specialized equipment, they are likely to experience a lot of stress while touring.

3. Avalanche packs have been known to go off when least expected

This is a rare occurrence. However, it is quite significant since it makes the pack useless when a rider highly needs it.

How Do You Get the Most out of Off-piste Snowboarding?

Off-piste snowboarding’s ultimate objective is getting an ultimate experience. This is achievable when a skier has the right off-piste knowledge on appropriate snowboarding hacks, which include but are not limited to:

  • Understanding avalanches: When going off-piste snowboarding, the most significant information is on avalanches, which are obtainable from the avalanche reports. It follows that a skier should read and understand the avalanche reports clearly. Note that avalanches are the riskiest things when skiing or snowboarding off-piste.
  • Find friends or associates to snowboard with: Fun activities are better when done among people that someone is acquainted with. A significant aspect to consider is the associate level of knowledge on the terrain of a specific off-piste location. The team, an individual, chooses should also be people who can readily alert authorities in an accident.
  • The right equipment: Typically, someone needs to be sufficiently prepared with the right equipment, including a map, shovel, transceiver, and probe. Furthermore, it is important to be acquainted with using each item.
  • Knowledge of the weather conditions: An off-piste tour is better when someone has adequate knowledge of the conditions they are expecting as they set out for the adventure. Weather information, snow report, and visibility is highly critical. Typically, the right skiing days are days when the wind is mild and has high visibility. The temperature should not be so low to produce too much ice.

What Equipment Do You Need for Off-piste Snowboarding?

Whether a newbie or a snowboard enthusiast, experts advocate certain must-have equipment before someone gets off for an off-piste adventure. While the traditional equipment is critical, there are other items that someone should bring along. The equipment is critical in enhancing the safety of snowboarders and skiers.

Must-have equipment and Items

It is important to note that the following items must not miss in the checklist when someone is heading out for an off-piste adventure:

  • Shovel: This is equipment whose role is helping to dig out a person when they get stuck in the snow. Some other uses include creating kickers and digging out cars, among others.
  • Transceiver: This is a must-have item for every party skiing off-piste. They play a role in enabling the location of people who happen to get buried in an avalanche.
  • Probe: This is another must-have item found in the rucksack. A probe usually contains depth makers that are important in enabling the location of people once they have gotten buried.

Other highly significant equipment

In addition to the must-have equipment, it is paramount that a snowboarder brings along the following items:

  • Airbag: This is an essential item that a skier should activate immediately when an avalanche approaches. The avalanche airbag usually brings snowboarders to the surface, preventing them from getting buried following an avalanche occurrence.
  • Backpack: Someone can acquire various types of backpacks if their budget does not allow for an avalanche airbag. The backpack should generally have the following: a safety compartment, a Hip Pocket Chest strap that contains a signal whistle, an Insulated drinking tube guide, Hip belt Compression straps, and an SPS flex-back protector, among others. 
  • Helmet: Helmets are specifically important in covering the head and protecting the head from injuries in case of accidents. It is also essential to carry water, snacks, a map, gloves, a head torch, and a compass.

Where Should You Go for Off-piste Snowboarding?

There is virtually an unlimited array of destinations where ski enthusiasts can satisfy their desire for off-piste snowboarding. Here are a few of the highly-rated skin and snowboard destinations:

1. Chamonix in France

This is the most world-widely acknowledged ski destination that every snowboarder and skier dreams about. Its popularity amongst people arises because of its famous run in the world. It has about twenty-four kilometers of terrain where skiers run across the Colle del Gigante and Mer de Glace.

2. Aspen Snowmass in the United States

Ranked amongst the leading ski resorts in Colorado, Aspen Snowmass consists of 4 ski areas that envelop the Aspen and the Snowmass Village. Buttermilk, one of the smallest of the four, is popularly known as a host for Winter X-Games, with the most recent scheduled to run from 28th Jan 2021 to 31st Jan 2021. It has deep and steep terrain, setting it aside for expert snowboarders.

3. Vail Mountain Resort

This is one of the largest ski resorts in the entire world and the biggest in Colorado. It is suitable for all snowboarders since it has sufficient terrain to factor in every level of skiing. The resort is acknowledged for its large size, covering over 5,289 skiing acres and vast diversity. It has three different terrain parks where riders satisfy their desires.

4. Zermatt in Switzerland

Acknowledged as a dream ski resort for most skiers, Zermatt finds recognition as the best winter sports location for sports in the Alps during the winter. Notably, its vertical drop is the most significant in Switzerland.

5. Val d’Isere in Europe

Acknowledged as one of the greatest ski resorts in Europe, Val d’Isere prides itself in having a stretch of 300 plus kilometers of sufficiently interconnected ski terrain. Moreover, the ski resort boasts of more ski lifts that exceed a hundred and fifty. It is one of the few ski areas with altitudes extending to more than 3000 meters and having snow that lasts to the spring. It is a great choice for expert skiers and snowboarders.

There are numerous other destinations where people can go for off-piste snowboarding, including Cortina D’Ampezzo, Telluride, Niseko, St. Anton, and Kitzbuhel in Austria.

What Do You Need to Know to be a Good Off-piste Snowboarder?

Becoming good at off-piste snowboarding is relatively easy for a person with experience in snowboarding. If someone wants to become good at off-piste snowboarding, they should know avalanche safety and possess the proper gear.

  • Avalanche Safety:  The real concern for off-piste terrain is avalanches. As such, it is important to have sufficient training on avalanche safety when switching to off-piste snowboarding. At the least, anybody willing to explore off-piste terrain should have a certified level-one course.
  • Possess the proper gear: Whether as a group or individual, everyone that goes snowboarding on off-piste terrain should possess the proper gear for the tour. They must not mist a probe, a shovel, and an avalanche transceiver, among other items. They should have sufficient training and practice on using each of the items sufficiently.

What are the Most Common Mistakes People Make with Off-piste Snowboarding?

There is hyped information about the thrill associated with off-piste snowboarding, which lands most off-piste first-timers in various mistakes. Some of the common mistakes made by first-timer off-piste snowboarders include the following:

  • Ignoring the trail map: Most newbies have fallen to the temptation of skiing on the piste that appears prettier than sticking to the train map. Subsequently, this comes at a cost since the lifts usually shut, leaving the snowboarder stranded and finding other means to trail their start point.
  • Slowing down before reaching the flats: This is another common mistake that makes many people walk slowly along the piste. Experts recommend that when someone notices they’re approaching a flat area, they should gain as much speed as they can.
  • Over layering: It is quite easy to wear too much clothing when considering that someone will be going to extremely cold places. First-timers have a tendency to make this mistake, which makes them overheat and sweat throughout the day.
  • Failing to be attentive on all sides when at the cross in the run: Often, first-timers do not remember that pistes are unlike motorways in several ways. They also do not remember that people run in varying directions, resulting in unnecessary accidents.
  • Tendency to lower the chairlift quite early: This is a common mistake with newbies in off-piste snowboards, making them clunk over other people’s heads.

Most of these mistakes are avoidable if someone is attentive and follows the guidelines they learned during their training.

What is the Biggest Challenge when It Comes to Off-piste Snowboarding?

Typically, the biggest challenge when doing off-piste snowboarding entails dealing with avalanches. They are likely to come when least expected and are thus the riskiest occurrence with off-piste skiing. If not adequately prepared, a skier may get buried by an avalanche.

Skiers and snowboarders should have sufficient knowledge of avalanches before engaging in off-piste snowboarding. Expert advice recommends that snowboarders ensure to use a guide’s services when going for off-piste adventures. It is paramount to know areas that resorts monitor for avalanches, check the piste map, or seek information relating to avalanches from the resort’s information office.

How Can You Improve Your Skills in Off-piste Snowboarding?

Like every other activity, snowboarders can achieve significant experience with continued improvement. It is possible to improve on off-piste snowboarding by following the following guidelines.

1.  Acquire the right gear: Typically, there are varying gears for different activities. It is essential to understand the differences when acquiring the equipment for snowboarding a person is interested in. The challenging nature of off-piste snowboarding requires extensive attention to obtaining the correct gear when buying.

2.  Train how to snowboard both ways: It is essential to learn how to snowboard while facing all the directions until someone gets comfortable with both the regular and the opposite way. This will ensure freedom and control when moving on the steep slopes.

3.  Join an off-piste snowboarding course: If someone cannot find a trainer who can train them sufficiently, they should find off-piste snowboarding classes and get professional training.

4.  Try watching off-piste videos on the internet: The internet has good video tutorials that can help someone improve their snowboarding. It is crucial to learn and exercise gradually rather than learning everything at once without training.

5.  Be honest on the skills and capacities: Being honest with yourself is at the center of self-improvement. It is recommendable that people interested in up their off-piste snowboarding game are open with their abilities and skills. This way, they can know what areas require attention and work on them.

Final Thoughts

A chance to engage in off-piste snowboarding and skiing is a dream come true for most people. However, people should have rich information on all aspects of off-piste snowboarding when approaching this adventure. Among many other considerations, someone should train sufficiently, get the right gear, and follow all the guidelines. This way, their experience will be fulfilling.

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About the author 


Roger was born into a family of climbers. As the youngest of his siblings, he was also the most ardent climber of them. Small and agile, he practiced climbing all day. Today, Roger teaches children how to climb the large rock walls safely.

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