Our friends over at Ongosa have put together this handy guide to assist preparing for skiing and snowboarding off piste. It is super important to stay safe doing this sport we love so following some basic rules and hiring a guide will help you enjoy your day on the mountain to the max!
4 preparation essentials before you ski off piste: Powder days seem a faraway dream for the moment, but while you spend your summer getting ski-fit (that’s what we’re all doing right?!), here’s a list of four essential things you’ll need to have prepped, before you even leave the chalet.
Any skier on the mountain is at mercy of Mother Nature. On the piste, however, risks are assessed and managed; off piste the decisions are yours. To be able to plan a trip to the backcountry, monitoring the weather and snow conditions is one of your best tools. Make note of recent activity: avalanches, cracking, whoomping (that strange rumbly noise snow makes when it’s scrunched or moving), sudden rises in temperature or strong winds. All these things should make you question your trip, or at least look at how you can manage the risks they will present.
Speak to a local, or hire a guide who will have detailed knowledge of what the conditions have been like all over the mountain. They’ll be able to tell you if your ideas are safe or silly. In addition to what’s been going on recently, look up a detailed forecast. Again, any predictions of high wind, heavy snow or rising temperatures should flash a red light, however if it’s a forecast for bluebird powder days, it could be your signal to rally the troops!
There are optional items to take skiing off piste: fancy technical jacket, weird-tasting energy sachets, Go Pro paraphernalia, the list goes on! And then there are the essentials: beeper, shovel and probe. Skis or snowboard too yes, but let’s not split hairs… You don’t have to immediately invest in a beeper (transceiver), shovel and probe if you’re new to skiing off piste.
If you head out with a guide or off-piste instructor and they’ll often have kit to lend you, or point you in the direction of a hire shop. Furthermore, you should be taking a map, compass and first aid kit. First aid kit for yourselves, and for your skis that is; imagine being stuck up at 3000m with the breaks jammed on your skis and no way of fixing them… no thanks! This may sound like stating the obvious, but check and double check that all your kit is functioning and fully charged. It will not only be dangerous if you’re stuck with faulty kit, but you will have carried that dead weight for nothing.
The conditions are looking good and all your kit is tip top. Now the human factor plays its part. An ideal group size is between two and four people, of the same fitness and skill level. This is so important because it means your goals and attitude are likely to be the same too.
It’s vital that everyone has the same level of risk perception, ie. no one person is going to push others outside of their comfort zone. It will become clear if you’re all on the same page when you plan how to tackle certain ascents and descents. If you know the area, and conditions, this shouldn’t be a problem. If not, hire a local guide who will help to put together your itinerary, and show you the most amazing routes you’d never have found. Either way you’ll be preventing the need for snap decisions on the hill (some of course, are unavoidable).
The last thing that you must have agreed before you head out and up, is what to do in an emergency avalanche situation. Besides having the local snow patrol’s number and being equipped with all the (fully functioning) kit, you need to be extremely well practiced and comfortable using it. Even if one person in the group’s knowledge is slightly lacking, it puts the whole group in a higher position of danger.
This goes for using your shovel and probe as much as the transceiver. Effective probing and shovelling techniques can make or break a rescue. Using a transceivers and shovelling are both more efficient activities when you work in a team, so make sure you have your plan decided before you reach the snow. Plenty of resorts have transceiver training parks with beepers buried for you to find. Or, on a bad-weather day, why not hire an off-piste instructor and spend a couple of hours getting some tips, and hunting out their beeper, to refresh your skills.
Find out more about Ongosa
Ongosa is a helpful tool to assist you with finding the best instructor or mountain guide. It allows you to search through some of the best ski and snowboard professionals in Europe. All of the instructors and mountain guides have been handpicked for their experience and qualifications in order to provide the best service. All you have to do is tell Ongosa your holiday dates and requirements then they find the best matches for you that are available to book.
Will this ski season be known as the winter that kept on giving? The start of winter didn’t get off to the best start but February, March and April have seen fantastic snowfall with many ski resorts in the Alps still open during the last week of April. El Nino has smashed records in North America with reports of increased visitor numbers thanks to the magnificent snowfall throughout winter, creating one of the best seasons in recent years. Jackson Hole in USA ended the season totaling over 10 metres of snowfall for its 50th anniversary year!
Back over in the Alps some of our leading resorts received over 8 metres of snow during the season, including St Anton, Tignes and Flaine. British skiers and snowboarders basked in the excellent ski conditions throughout most of winter.
Powder day in April in Les Arcs
Here at Iglu Ski we work with over 50 ski holiday tour operators in order to provide the largest amount of ski deals in the UK market to ensure we can find the best holiday for our customers. We currently have ski holidays available in over 200 resorts across 16 countries with thousands of ski chalets, hotels and apartment options. With this broad selection of holidays available we have an excellent insight into UK skiers and snowboarders favourite ski destinations. Here are your best-selling ski resorts for winter 2015/16: 10. Courchevel The swankiest ski resort in the prestigious 3 Valleys comes in 10th place again this winter as it attracts thousands of skiers and snowboarders every year to discover the world famous slopes. Despite its elite status, there are plenty of fantastic value chalets here including Chalet Cascades and Chalet Hotel Coq de Bruyere. View ski holidays in Courchevel
9. Les Deux Alpes Les Deux Alpes is consistently popular each season as it is one of the most snow-sure resorts in the Alps and is the perfect destination if you can only travel at the start or end of the season. Delight in the long hours of sunshine and party the night away in the legendary après bars. View ski holidays in Les Deux Alpes 8. Alpe d’Huez This bustling resort attracts extreme sports enthusiast all year round, but truly comes alive in the winter with it’s breathtaking alpine views from Pic Blanc glacier, it’s insane après scene and 250km of fantastic pistes including the longest black ski run in Europe! View ski holidays in Alpe d’Huez
7. Val Thorens If you are after top snow conditions then look no further than the highest ski resort in Europe. With skiing up to 3200m above sea level and access to the 600km of pistes in the 3 Valleys you are guaranteed a fun packed week in this ski wonderland. View ski holidays in Val Thorens 6. Meribel Discover one of the prettiest ski resorts in France and spend a week surrounded by charming chalets and beautiful tree lines runs in the largest linked ski area in the world. Meribel is popular due to the large variety of ski chalets and chalet hotels available. View ski holidays in Meribel
5. La Plagne This ski paradise has managed to push its way up 3 spots since last season as a result of the huge amount of ski accommodation on offer (Iglu Ski currently has 60 properties available) and the dependable snowfall (La Plagne received 839cm of snow in winter 2015/16). Head to La Plagne next winter to explore the extensive 425km of ski runs that make up the Paradiski area. View ski holidays in La Plagne 4. Les Arcs Les Arcs has secured its spot within the top 5 as it is a fantastic ‘all round ski resort.’ With spectacular views, towering peaks and connections to the equally-as-impressive La Plagne, you are always surrounded my pristine mountains vistas during your stay. Together with the fantastic ski area, choice of villages and bustling bars you are guaranteed an exhilarating week on the slopes in Les Arcs. Have you read about the new Mille 8 area?
View ski holidays in Les Arcs
3. St Anton British skiers and snowboarders love après. FACT. This is why year after year St Anton makes it into the top 3. If you want the best après, you head to St Anton! Once you’ve experienced Mooserwirt and KK’s there’s no going back to anything else. Winter 2016/17 will see a brand new cable car link in the Arlberg ski area connecting Stuben to Zurs making passage between the ski resorts much easier and faster. This will make ski holidays to St Anton much more desirable and the newly connected 305km of pistes may help push St Anton up the leader board next winter. View ski holidays in St Anton
2. Val d’Isere The Escape Killy duo take the top spots as the world famous ski area attracts thousands of British skiers and snowboarders once again. The charming Val d’Isere village has over 80 ski property options including Chalet Hotel Champs Avalins, Chalet Hotel Savoie and Chalet Lo Soli. View ski holidays in Val d’Isere 1. Tignes Tignes reins at the top for the second year in a row as the most booked ski resort at Iglu Ski for winter 2015/16. With high altitude skiing available nearly all year round, it is one of the most snow dependable resorts in Europe. Totaling 876cm of snowfall this season there has been excellent skiing available most of the winter and the greatest selection of ski chalets, hotels and apartments for all group sizes. View ski holidays in Tignes
Top North America
Thinking about next ski season? View 2017 ski deals
Are you still dreaming of tartefliette or fantasising about waking up in the mountains one last time? Weekend ski breaks or short ski trips are the perfect way to squeeze in a second ski holiday before the end of the ski season.
If one week a year just isn’t enough to overcome your ski itch, or you don’t have the time to take a full week off, then a short ski holiday may be ideal for you.
We have a selection of 3 and 4 night getaways that run over the weekend or during the week in France, Austria and Switzerland. Weekend ski holidays are available in a large selection of hotels and chalets in top resorts across the Alps including Meribel, Morzine, Chamonix, La Plagne and Brides Les Bains. There are even coach travel options from the UK if you are looking for a super budget getaway.
By taking an extra two days off over the weekend, you can get up to 4 days* skiing or snowboarding, plus the opportunity to enjoy a vin chaud on top of the mountain just one more time (*if you are able to get a Thursday evening inbound flight and a Monday evening outbound flight).
Morzine in France
1. It’s a great value ski holiday if you are on a budget2. Trying out a new resort and exploring a new ski area3. Maximising your time off over the weekend4. Opportunity to go on a ski holiday more than once a year without using up all your holiday time5. Enjoying and fun, healthy sport
Le Petit Dru Hotel in Morzine, France
4 Nts - 24 Mar 2016 from £759 pp
Hotel Beaulieu in La Clusaz, France
4 Nts - 31 Mar 2016 from £499 pp
Chalet Cleopatra in Les Menuires, France
4 Nts - 14 Apr 2016 from £474 pp
View the Top 10 Ski Resorts for a Weekend Ski Break
There’s recently been some speculation about how safe skiing is with all the injuries the contestants have experienced on the current season of ‘The Jump.’ Comparing skiing and ski jumping is like comparing football to gymnastics. They are 2 separate sports that use different equipment, require different techniques and performed in different locations. Both skiing and ski jumping are extreme sports, you have to understand the risks you are taking when signing up to these snow sports. Just like any other sport, if you abide by suggested safety rules (FIS Rules of Conduct) you can experience these fantastic sports in a fun and safe manner. The contestants in The Jump take part in a wide variety of snow sports that are all considered extreme sports. Many of the sports attempted in the show are normally only carried out by professionals. The average skier wouldn’t have ever tried ski jumping, skeleton or snow cross. The risk of injury in skiing and snowboarding is low, for every 1000 people skiing and snowboarding in a day, on average between 2 -4 will need medical attention (0.2-0.4%). Sports that have a higher risk include: Football, cycling, baseball and basketball. Find out more about staying safe in the snow.
Don’t confuse skiing with ski jumping. Learn the facts here:
1. Location: A Ski Jump VS a Skiers piste
Even the easiest ski jump wouldn’t be touched by most skiers, ski jumps are generally reserved for the professionals.
A ‘green’ piste is the easiest slope on the mountain and is designed for beginner skiers. A green piste has between 6-25% gradient. As a skier progresses they can move on to the blue, red and then black pistes.
2. Skis: Jumps skis VS Mountain skis
Jump skis are 1 and a half times the athlete’s body length.
Mountain skis normally come up between your chin and the top of your head and then snowboard come up a little shorter.
3. Clothing: Ski jump suit VS ski wear
A skier would get extremely cold on top of a mountain in a tight onesie!
4. Air Time: Flying 100m through the air VS Keeping your skis on the slope
There’s no jumping involved on the mountain unless you choose to. Skiing just involves gliding across the snow on skis.
5. Bindings: Jump bindings VS Mountain Bindings
On a jump ski, you are essentially attached by a toe clamp at the front and just a cord at the back of the boot.
On a mountain ski you are secured into a step in binding that clamps at your heel and toe in order to provide maximum support.
Read more expert guides | View ski deals | Safety in the Mountains
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