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Off Piste Course Recommendations

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I am a confident intermediate and have skied 99% of my time on piste. I have around 30 weeks experience typically skiing for 2 weeks every year.

I have an opportunity to ski with some mates on a guided off piste week, but the criteria from the guide/instructor is an ability to ski off piste.

Can anyone recommend any courses &/or instructors who could improve my confidence off piste, particularly in powder?

I had in mind a 5 to 7 day course, perhaps with a group where the focus is to improve skills, ideally based in Europe during January 2018.

I would travel alone, so the idea of a small group with shared experiences would be good.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@DavidYacht, do you actually want to ski off piste or are you thinking of doing this just because your mates are? Got to say you sound like a very committed piste skier....

Ironically, technically, skiing off piste requires broadly the same technique as on piste with a few minor adaptions. Beyond that it's simply down to practice and experience. I've never had any specific off piste tuition but I suspect it would involve a) improving general technique much like normal skiing tuition but off piste and/or b) stopping people from skiing massively different to how they would on piste. Also of course being with a tutor means you go on appropriate terrain and not get yourself in the s**t like most of us have done and still do occasionally.

I've not done one but ucpa courses in France are ideal for singletons.

BTW skiing off piste, certainly in Europe means skiing powder, crud, crust, slush, slough and everything in between. It's not just a pretty face.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Very wise to do a course as if your mates are already competent you could easily feel you are slowing them up.

There are a number of companies that do courses, the minor snag will be avoiding the single supplement in their accom packages. That said snoworks do offer shares and the Ski Club of GB Freshtracks holidays also make provision.

Or you could book a cheap deal with a TO/self help and then join a group course in resort. I would pick an off piste mecca, eg Tignes and Val and then book on an independent course, them come back and ask for a recommendation from a resort expert on here. In Tignes I would recommend Evo2 in Tignes Le Lac who have a dedicated off piste team or TDC if they have a course running at the time you book. Don't leave it to the last minute as off piste clinics often book up early.

Finally, off piste skiing is much more than powder, those are the very good days. Despite all the marketing hype powder is down to the weather gods, there is a good chance in Europe that you will not see it in its purist form in a particular week. There is a tendency to call all fresh snow powder, it is not.
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Yes a good idea. Not sure that the likes of Evo2 have off piste groups every week - I'm pretty sure they don't in Chamonix. Best to enquire there.

Also Warren Smith, Snoworks, etc.

As mentioned - skiing powder on modern skis isn't difficult. At All. It's all the rubbish that comes with it that's more of a challenge.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@DavidYacht, agree entirely with the previous posts. The bargain maximum social way is any of the UCPA courses at the big French resorts. These include all food, accommodation, equipment and instruction. The main drawback with UCPA tends to be group size. It can be 8 or 10.

If you would like recommendations based on personal experience, either Alison Culshaw (Off Piste Performance) or Mark Gear (All Mountain Performance), both Chamonix based, are terrific. 4 or 5 days with either will make a significant difference to your skiing. If you opt for them, or any other of the excellent similar courses available don't hang about booking. Alison's places for next year will be booked up by the end of summer.
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Layne ... in response to your point. I have skied off piste, done some reasonably challenging things with local experienced skiers but I would like to broaden my horizons. I would hope through my experience so far that I have a platform to work with, but I dont want to hold people back.

I am also aware from this and other sports that you can learn a lot, very fast from good coaching.

On my various forays into fresh powder, I have loved the experience, however too many runs have ended with gaining too much speed, being unable to effect controlled turns, and ending up in a pile while searching for lost skis! Therefore this is probably the area in which I need to gain confidence.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@DavidYacht, Oh and I would expect that a single course would get you to the required level - assuming your basic technique is adequate. Can't guarantee you'll get powder in Europe though!

Sounds a little as though you're trying to force your turns in powder...
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
I'd have thought you'd be a prime candidate for the the sH Gnarly but Gnice trip.

Re your description of too much speed - sounds to me that you lean back too much possibly to keep you tips up. A better shaped ski may help significantly i.e decently fat with a rocker tip where you can really get over the front of your ski and ski powder as easily a groomer (Obviously that's not a substitute for the appropriate coaching as well - but if you have sub-optimal tools for the job the job becomes harder)
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DavidYacht wrote:
Layne ... in response to your point. I have skied off piste, done some reasonably challenging things with local experienced skiers but I would like to broaden my horizons.

Fair enough. It was just a question as you said you'd skied "30 weeks" and "99% on piste".

DavidYacht wrote:
I would hope through my experience so far that I have a platform to work with, but I dont want to hold people back.

All sound thinking.

DavidYacht wrote:
I am also aware from this and other sports that you can learn a lot, very fast from good coaching.

Mmmm. Good coaches will quickly identify areas to correct or improve that is true. But the correction or improvement is unlikely to be very fast. Nevertheless, a bunch of sessions spent with a good instructor and a group of like minded individuals can only be a good thing. In effect the instructor is half mountain guide in this scenario. He'll no doubt drag you down places you may have been unsure about attempting. And he won't allow (within reason of course) any of the group to wuss out when things aren't splendid, as they inevitably won't be.

DavidYacht wrote:
On my various forays into fresh powder, I have loved the experience, however too many runs have ended with gaining too much speed, being unable to effect controlled turns, and ending up in a pile while searching for lost skis! Therefore this is probably the area in which I need to gain confidence.

Not an uncommon problem for sure. Partly/mainly comes back to this issue I mentioned earlier of either poor technique and/or doing things differently to on piste.

Are you skiing on fattish ski's? It doesn't completely overcome technique and experience of course but no point restricting yourself on account of poor tools for the job.
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It is fair to say that because of my on piste bias, I have a particular liking for Experience 84's which tend to flatter me. I had a dabble with some Soul 7's a while back, which led to an "all the gear and no idea" moment which I don't particularly want to repeat, hence the idea of getting some lessons. I would rather do this on a dedicated trip, since the last thing I want is to listen to my mates talk about their great days out, while I have been in the classroom.

Sometimes you have to take a step back to make a step forward.

But please keep the ideas coming!
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Quote:

which led to an "all the gear and no idea" moment which I don't particularly want to repeat, hence the idea of getting some lessons


Admirable. If only more folks were so sensible. DOTM's comment makes more sense than mine about forcing the issue. But hey, we aren't commenting from any sight of what's going on.

Given that 84mm underfoot would have been described as "fat" a few years ago... wink
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@DavidYacht, I did an introductory course to off piste skiing with alpine coaching this year. Loved it. They don't have a course in January 2018, but do have one in February if that is of any interest. http://www.alpinecoachingsnowsports.net/courses-1/#new-page-3
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
DavidYacht wrote:
I had in mind a 5 to 7 day course, perhaps with a group where the focus is to improve skills, ideally based in Europe during January 2018.

Mid-January would be optimal from the point of view of least busy. So you should be able to get a good instructor/provider, group sizes will probably be smaller and it would be easier to hire ski's more akin to what you are doing should you choose to do that. The flip side is obviously the weather can be pretty bleak. Probably more plusses than minuses.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I presume all these outfits will throw in some guide of ava gear and safety training which is another plus.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@Layne, All the ones I did do! There is also free DVA training in Tignes on an evening (it was on 2 evenings last year) in the DVA training area, one led by Evo2 and one by ESF. If you come in Jan wear warm clothing and very warm boots, an hour after dark is a chilling experience Embarassed
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Guy came on here to ask for recommendations of off piste instruction, not really sure why there is a bunch of armchair advice on how he skis (without seeing him ski) or trying to put him off, I'd hazard that most skiers are 99% on piste unless they have someone to go with that gets them in to off piste...

David - Evo2 is a good recommendation, there are also some good weekend trips in Chamonix a few friends on that improved their skills a lot in a short space of time, they were good on-piste skiers but lacked the experience off piste, for sure it made them much safer to ski with!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I've done a few good trips with Snoworks. If you're going solo, then I would book only the course and then do DIY flights and accommodation. That will probably work out cheaper than paying for the single supplement on their accommodation.

For example, when I've done courses with them in St. Anton, I've always booked my own flights to Zurich, taken the train to the resort, and found a B&B in town with a single room.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@sethpistol, because, you know, the internet?
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I was in a very similar position a couple of years ago as a long time piste skier and booked a course with Icicle Mountaineering to raise my game a bit and start skiing off-piste. Their off-piste course based in Chamonix was excellent, really good instruction with a Guide and very good value for money. They could not have been more friendly and helpful and as I did not mind sharing a (comfortable) apartment there was no supplement as a singleton.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I have done a few (ESF, Snoworks, Freshtracks) but can highly recommend Mark Gear at Allmountainperfomance too. Chamonix is accessible with a short transfer and good access to single accommodation in hotels and chalets. He will pick you up and bus you to the mountain.

Snoworks is more sociable but the Mark Warner single supplement is a bummer. You may be able to find a separate single deal with crystal/total ski/inghams. Using the cheap chalet of http://mountainsunltd.com/home/ maybe an option. I have done it and only did the first four days of the snoworks course.

Ski Club Fresh tracks have well instructed weeks in Flaine all through the season and occasionally with single rooms at minimal supplement. Mind you the chalet is a distance from the meeting point and the chalets have bathroom availability reminiscent of the 80s.

Enjoy.
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It was mentioned above, but check out UCPA (action outdoors). I did a 4 day intro to offpiste, full days of guiding, in Val D'Isere last year. Good fun and great value, if you don't mind a hostel environment. Only minor issue was I was in a totally French group with a French guide. It seemed to be 50% French, 45% Swedes, and 5% other (brits, Dutch, Belgium).
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
I can't give you any personal recommendations but I've heard very good things about Powder Extreme in Verbier from a friend who spends a week or two with them every year
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Freeflo (http://www.freefloski.com/courses/) gets very good reviews from friends that have been on her courses or have had a 1-2 day session with her. Based in Tignes.
She also spends a lot of time exploring the area on skins so knows the area intimately.
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@DavidYacht, Great attitude, you'll be fine! After 30 weeks of piste skiing you'll probably have better technique than most of the people reading this forum.

The SCGB fresh-tracks holidays are very good - but don't choose Val or Chamonix - the Flaine trip is the best. Yann Westercamp is a great guide and an excellent instructor. The Flaine trip usually has a good mix of learners and improvers, without big ego's. It's very unlikely that your chosen week will have powder, but the guides are good at finding the best snow.

http://www.skiclub.co.uk/skiclub/skiclubfreshtracks/flaine.aspx#.WV4tTumBGUk
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A bit surprised that no one has mentioned our very own offpisteskiing:
http://www.offpisteskiing.com/courses

Okay, there's nothing in January yet but things may change. But bear in mind that touring often takes place later in the spring when the snow is usually more stable.

Several years ago now, Mrs A and I, separately, went on courses run by different companies but actually hosted by Simon. We both took to him immediately and, time and again, have been back for more. His style is very patient and understated but you sure get to learn plenty. He also has a fantastic eye for finding the best snow which, alone, is probably worth his fee.
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@DavidYacht, you could take a look at the InsideOut Skiing trip to 3V in Jan - piste to powder / all mountain intro. Video to keep of your best face-plant efforts thrown in for nowt Very Happy
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
I would second offpisteskiing. Very thorough with big emphasis on safety and then fun! Gave me a few gamechanging tips. And has a snow nose.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@Double Bombardino,
Quote:

Video to keep of your best face-plant efforts thrown in for nowt

You should know! That Japanese face plant was one of the best I've seen. wink
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
hawkesbaynz wrote:
Ski Club Fresh tracks have well instructed weeks in Flaine all through the season and occasionally with single rooms at minimal supplement. Mind you the chalet is a distance from the meeting point and the chalets have bathroom availability reminiscent of the 80s.


Do you mean that the bathrooms at the chalet remind you of the 80's as that was my experience! I shared a room with someone and we shared a bathroom so I wouldn't say there was anything strange about the bathroom availability?

Agree RE the distance from the meeting point but you could ski down. Annoying that you had to take the bus back up though!
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
I was there the single option over 55s week and had my own room. However shared the bathroom/loo with another chap. The third room had a shower/basin but no loo so he used ours. The two chaps who I shared it with like enjoyed a good 30 minute soak in the bath in the evening which invariably buggered up going to the sauna for me as I like a shower afterwards. Morning were not a problem as they did not shower and were in their one pieces at breakfast even before I got up (7.30am). Yes they were elderly!

Perhaps I am getting old but I like my own bathroom/loo.

There was inadequate snow to ski down to the meeting point. Even half way thru the week the short run from the bus stop was closed requiring the town lift.

However it was a good set up. Nice food. Reasonable value. The guides were great.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Fair enough, yes, I wouldn't book a single room and expect to share a bathroom (especially not with 2 others...) but would expect to if I was sharing a room!

Seconded on the great guides and good food with plenty to drink. Other good thing is that they do a range of weeks for different standardsna d at different prices so you can pick which suits you best.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
+1 for Snoworks who are excellent. See this link http://www.snoworks.co.uk/dates_detail.asp?dateid=1144
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
As far as the rooms in the Freshtracks chalet in Flaine are concerned, the options are explained when you book. I have stayed in both chalets which are next to each other and shared a normal standard twin room as you might expect. I usually make my bookings early and have been able to have the choice.

I would not describe the chalets as reminiscent of the 1980s as even if you are sharing a bathroom there is plenty of hot water and the quality of the food was excellent.

Both weeks I stayed I recall were in February and the track down to the village was well covered.

I can also recommend Snoworks who I also use regularly.
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Ray Zorro wrote:
@DavidYacht, I did an introductory course to off piste skiing with alpine coaching this year. Loved it. They don't have a course in January 2018, but do have one in February if that is of any interest. http://www.alpinecoachingsnowsports.net/courses-1/#new-page-3


Hi
I was just wondering what the level was of the people who went on your Alpinecoaching course?
I quite fancy having a go at off piste, but would need a complete beginner off-piste course (I’ve only ventured off once and it took some time for me to untangle myself from my skis / poles and work my way back to the piste...)

Any info gratefully received

Thanks
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@Homey, I would expect any of the ops offering o.p. Would have “novice” weeks.
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@Homey, You've probably seen on the blurb for the course
"This course is ideal for skiers of a good piste level ( reds and blacks) who want to make the transition from piste to off piste. During the course you will learn how to adapt your technique, learn new tactics, learn how to use the important trio ( transceiver, shovel and probe). We will also learn the basics of mountain safety / awareness and interpretation of the terrain and avalanche forecast.

There are some great off piste opportunities in and around the ski area and a short walk with skins opens up huge All terrain arena."

If that is you, then I'd say go for it.
Alpine Coaching is run by Pete Gillespie, Head coach at Hemel - an excellent instructor http://alpinecoaching.co.uk/about-me/#bio

On my particular course I'd done the least (with no off-piste trips), and some had done a number of trips before. But as long as you are willing to have a go and have reasonable fitness, I'd say give it a try - they are conscious of the level of the skiers and wouldn't take anyone where they didn't feel safe. There were about 7 on the course and in addition to Pete, there was also a local guide to show us routes.

Pete would be really happy to chat with you about it if you had any doubts - though he is away this week in Hintertux. His contact email is on the website.

I didn't have the skis, skins or the touring boots, so Pete sorted out the hiring in resort (delivered to the hotel) and I got some brand new kit. Very nice!!
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Many thanks.

Much appreciated 😀
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@DavidYacht, have a look at:

Evo2 in Tignes
Piste to Powder in St Anton
All off Piste in St Anton
Oxygene in La Plagne
ESF all over the place
UCPA introduction to off-piste courses
Freeride center in Fieberbrunn

I would recommend Piste to Powder or All Off Piste in St Anton - plenty of single room B+Bs in St Anton too. Email them/phone them about your requirements. You will absolutely love it. Do yourself a massive favour and hire some 100mm plus waist skis, powder will eventually become really pleasurable - it will be the crust, crud, ice, and porridge all mixed up together that will be less pleasurable. Good luck!
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
I have booked Evo2 in Tignes for three days with the fourth day option of the return heli-ride to Mickeys Ears Lac de Chevril if the snow is okay for a decent price. Staying in a single room with Mountainsun Ltd too. Cheapish four day trip.

Must try that St Anton trip one day.
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Does anyone know of backcountry route from Arapahoe Basin over Loveland Pass down into Loveland ski area?
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