Many snow enthusiasts believe that there is nothing quite like venturing off into the backcountry and exploring the off-piste terrain. Perhaps it's the feeling of crunchy powdered slopes beneath your feet combined with the rush of the wind against your face and the crisp smell of fresh air... complete perfection. However, venturing away from the safety of the patrolled slopes comes with its own amount of risks and dangers; avalanches and bad weather are all too common and can pose life-threatening risks if you are not careful.
In these kinds of situations it is essential that you have a quality travel insurance policy to protect you if an accident or medical emergency should arise. All of our Alpha policies include emergency medical expenses, repatriation, air ambulance and a dedicated medical team on hand 24/7. However, in addition to having travel insurance we have put together our top tips for skiing off piste to help you stay safe on the slopes. Whether you are looking for advice on the type of terrain to be aware of or general advice, you will find all the information you need below.
What Should I Look Out For?
First of all take a look at the slope that you plan on skiing down and determine how steep it is. Avalanches generally happen on steeper levels, however they can also occur on gentle slopes (there may also be steep terrain above) so it is important that you know what to look for. Convex slopes get steeper on the way down, whereas concave slopes get less steep; also be on the lookout for cornices which are unstable snow 'waves'.
Have a look at other elements of your surroundings to determine whether it is safe to ski. For example, if you were caught up in an avalanche would you be taken over a cliff, fall in to a ravine or would you hit trees on the way down? These kinds of things can equal further injury and could potentially make it harder for the rescue team to get you out.
Weather should also be taken into consideration when choosing your slope. If it has been snowing heavily, windy or a sharp temperature increase, make sure you take extra care and precautions. Not many people are aware that noise can also play an important factor in determining whether it is safe to ski. If the sloped terrain starts to make "œwhumping" noises this is a clear indication that an avalanche is about to occur. Visual indicators include cracks of all sizes forming in the snow so make sure you keep an eye out for these too.
How Can I Keep Safe on the Slopes?
If you are keen to ski off-piste there are some further safety precautions you can make, just take a look at the advice below.
Unfortunately there is no guaranteed safety with backcountry terrain but despite the dangers, off piste skiing is great fun and gives you an adrenaline rush like no other. Our ski safety tips and advice purely act as a guide to help you gain a greater awareness, so you can be better prepared before venturing out on the slopes. For more information on snow safety, take a look at our Why Do Avalanches Happen guide.
As always, it is vitally important to make sure that you invest in a quality skiing travel insurance cover before you depart - a specialist Alpha Wintersports policy is ideal as it includes medical expenses and repatriation as standard.
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