What is “going a little bit” off-piste. Is it safe

Credit Chris Souillac

A little bit of off-piste

Skiers and boarders know there is a risk from avalanches if they go off-piste.  For many this means they will only go off piste with a guide and will not venture into the backcountry without professional help. And if you have no training and do not have a lot of experience of going off-piste, this is a very wise precaution.  On the other hand many people go and do “a little bit of off-piste”.  It is commonly thought that nipping off the side of the piste is just fine.  Lots of people do it and for most people, most of the time it is just fine.  But did you realise that 50% of avalanche accidents happen within sight of a piste?  There is danger next to the piste as well as out in the wilder off-piste.  But where is the line between a little bit of off-piste and full on off-piste.

This begs the question on what is a “a little bit of off-piste”?  Is it safe to cross between pistes?  is it safe to go on that tracked out slope?  When do you have to start worrying about avalanche danger and when do you have to start to assess and manage the risks?  The answer is that you must understand the risks and think about danger as soon as you go the other side of the piste poles and as soon as you leave the marked piste.  The picture attached is of an avalanche accident that happened within 50 metres of the piste.

The risk is within your control

The second important statistic is that 90% of avalanche accidents are triggered by the victim or by someone else in the victim’s group.  The accidents are not the result of spontaneous avalanches, what you do determines how safe or dangerous it is for you.  By choosing to ski in the right places and in the right way, it possible to minimise avalanche danger and reduce avalanche risk.

Henry Schniewind create  HAT 20 years ago, when he noticed many people were going off piste without an appreciation of the risks.  HAT gives talks and training around the UK and in the French Alps to help ordinary skiers who go off-piste to decide when it is OK to go and when it is not OK to go, where is OK to go and where is is not OK to go.  These talks help you answer the question “Is it safe out there”

HAT talks in the UK November and December

Henry is in the UK this November giving talks in Chester, Manchester, Covent Garden, St Pauls, Tamworth, Cardiff, Bristol, Mendip, Glasgow, Fort William, Cambridge. click here