The Crystal Ski Holidays Blog

Off-piste skiing; a safe how-to guide

CorbetsFor advanced skiers going off-piste can be an exhilarating experience.

So when we were asked by our facebook community to provide some guidelines for how to (safely) take on the coveted powder found by going off the marked pistes, well, we couldn’t let our community down. Here’s a few hints and tips to help you get the most from your search for powder.


  • If you can’t/haven’t skied powder before then take an instructor and get them to show you how it’s done, it’s nothing like as forgiving as skiing the piste but new equipment makes off piste accessible to most
  • It also takes a few more leg muscles so make sure you get fit before you go, cycling is probably the best all-round exercise you can do and some gyms offer get fit for skiing/snowboarding sessions through the winter so look one of those up
  • Some ski resorts will mark off-piste areas on the lift map, so it’s always worth studying that to see if there are recommend off-piste areas
  • In USA/Canada there is no such thing as “off-piste” as they work within a boundary which allows you to ride anywhere within boundaries and some of it will be pisted and some not. You get a real off-piste experience without going outside the patrolled ski area – this is a key reason North America is so popular with powder skiers
  • Some countries and resorts have different rules and regulations as to where you can ski and board, with some even imposing fines and imprisonment if it is deemed you endangered others so it’s well worth talking to the local mountain guides and ski schools to find out the local rules


  • If you are going truly off-piste then ensure that you have a qualified guide or instructor
  • Ensure you have understood the dangers and checked the area you are skiing is safe
  • Always make sure people know where you are going and never go off on your own
  • Know your own ability level, don’t do anything you can’t handle
  • Are you insured? Most winter sports travel insurance do NOT cover you for skiing off-piste, if you are considering doing it then make sure you have adequate insurance


  • Powder skis will make life incredibly easier and now manufacturers are making hybrid skis which can be used on piste and in powder, perfect for exploring the entire mountain
  • If you are really venturing into the backcountry then an avalanche transceiver, radio and shovel are a must and you must be fully trained in how to use them

How to find the best stashes

  • Locals are always good to make friends with, they often have their secret little spots where even a few days after a dump of snow you’ll still find powder
  • Guides are not only highly recommended but will also make best use of your time off-piste by knowing where to head and when

Off piste skier, Delirium

Top places to find good off-piste skiing

  • USA and Canada are great, especially Colorado, Utah and Whistler. These areas and resorts are known for their abundance of powder and due to them allowing you to ride anywhere ‘in bounds’ you can experience off-piste skiing without leaving the patrolled area
  • Europe also offers some amazing and varied off-piste, the Vallee Blanche in Chamonix is a well known route with spectacular views and great off-piste can be found in St Anton, Austria (a qualified guide is a must)
  • Deux Alpes also has some great off-piste around the resort which a local guide will be able to show you. Once you progress, your guide will be able to take you ‘La Grave’, accessed from Deux Alpes. This is the only resort in the world that is 100% off piste – a real power paradise

(courtesy of Whistler snow school)

  • Ski a straighter path through the snow, letting your skis “run” and control your speed through snow resistance rather than turn completion. If you get going a little fast, aim your skis into a “pillow” of snow to slow down (oh, and you may want to keep your mouth closed!)
  • Stand slightly more on your heels than you would skiing the groomed runs. Keeping the tips of the skis floating is critical to your success. You certainly don’t want the skis to “submarine”!
  • Use the technology – “Rocker skis” are produced by all the major ski manufacturers. The skis are very wide and the tip and tail go reverse camber (the skis look bent when held together). This design encourages the skis to “float” and the end result is “The most fun you’ll ever have!”

    It’s almost like cheating – so why not demo a pair the next chance you get.

That wraps up this post and we hope this will help you next time you search for powder. Good luck with your powder skiing this season and make sure you visit us again soon.

Also, why not join us on facebook and join in the ski/board conversation, keeping up top date with all the latest news, blog posts, photos and video.

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