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Off-piste restrictions in Italy

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi all

Experienced skier going skiing with competent 16 year old son. Keen on "simple" off-piste, i.e. off to the side, staying in the same bowl and mostly within eye contact of the piste. Occasional itineraires, etc. Considering a day or two with a guide.

Very much enjoy Italy for the quiet mountains, relaxed atmosphere and good food. Have had lovely times in Gressoney and Arabba, and looking for other suggestions.

Thinking about Sestriere, but somebody has told me that the authorities are stricter there and prohibit simple off piste without snow shovels, transceiver etc.

Any advice gratefully received.
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We skied Sauze-Sestriere last year, and we are going again this year. There was loads of off the side of the piste skiing, through the trees. Even 3 days after a 50cm dump, we still were making fresh tracks.

My kids are 13 and 14, but they had a blast in the trees there. I would go to Sauze though. I figured out, the bit of the mountain that had drag lifts had the best skiing. I could have felt disappointed about it, but on the other hand, it kept all the punters out of the best skiing, I was happy to sit on a drag lift when it meant the punters were elsewhere.
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mate, authorities should be strict....no equipment = no off piste
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The Piedmont region has a law requiring the gear.

I also have a vague recollection that a lot of areas frown on near off piste, the idea being that you are free to get yourself in trouble but not others.
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The simple summary about the rules in Italy is that no one seems to understand them fully. I've rambled on about this before... I've asked ski instructors, local mountain guides, visiting mountain guides and spent a lot of time searching the web.

What is clear is that there *are* rules, they vary from province to province. For example in Aosta it is permitted so long as you are properly equipped, and the Police have been know to do spot checks at points where off piste runs reach roads [first hand account from a Chamonix based mountain guide]. This is the only place where I found very clear rules.

In Veneto (i.e. Eastern Dolomites) I *think* it is banned completely but a lot of people still do it. Francesco Tremolada seems to suggest in his excellent book (http://www.versantesud.it/en/shop/freeride-in-dolomites/) that you will be OK if you keep well away from pistes, if you ski off piste anywhere that could threaten a piste then you may get in to trouble.

Alto-Adige (Western Dolomites) seems to tolerate it, I have not been able to find the official rules but did not see any signs saying it was banned, whereas signs were obvious when you skied over the border to Veneto. Even so I am very wary and would apply the same idea to keep well clear of pistes and certainly not ski slopes directly above pistes.

As for Piedmont, from what you say it sounds like the same rules as Aosta regarding carrying a transceiver, probe and shovel. Given that you absolutely need to carry these items anyway it's no hardship. If you go with a guide you should at least find out what is generally acceptable in that area and they should be able to lend you the gear (or arrange hire).
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@gravity assisted, Sestriere is in Piedmonte which (since 2009?) mandates basic avvy kit if off piste.

http://www.onthesnow.co.uk/news/a/6430/italy-passes-avalanche-law-for-off-piste-skiers--heavy-fines

The new(ish) free ride area off Punta Indren in Gressoney (Aoste) is also, f'rinstance controlled fairly closely.

I suspect there are also general laws that might not be very helpful if you were involved in an avalanche and I am pretty sure that the liabilities for setting one off that hurts anyone or damages property are also pretty painful.

I'd echo @chamo74 but also that even with gear, if you haven't trained and practiced with it it's not so much use either.
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chamo74 wrote:
mate, authorities should be strict....no equipment = no off piste


That doesn't sound unnecessarily harsh.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
and with or without gear make sure insurance covers you for offpiste without a guide. Lots of offpiste accidents involve busted ligaments etc - it's not just avalanches.
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No one with any sense should go "off piste" without the correct equipment, training and buddies. Though many idiots do!
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Hi everyone - yes just a few more thoughts on this:
- yeah having the equipment = absolutely
- knowing how to use it for = for sure otherwise what's the point
- staying out of trouble to begin with = best idea yet having the best kit won't save your life

as for the "restrictions" regarding off piste in Italy - yes it varies from region to region - some being very restrictive indeed (Alta Badia is a good one) where it is not banned but you better stay well away from the pistes and then some...
Aosta valley equip is mandatory and no off piste when level 3/4
best thing to do is educate yourself as best you can and seek the help of a professional
Francis
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Quote:

Very much enjoy Italy for the quiet mountains, relaxed atmosphere and good food. Have had lovely times in Gressoney and Arabba, and looking for other suggestions.



Thinking about Sestriere, but somebody has told me that the authorities are stricter there and prohibit simple off piste without snow shovels, transceiver etc.



@gravity assisted,

I definitely recommend Sestriere and Sauze (either but I think Sauze is a bit nicer) for off piste provided you enjoy tree skiing. By alpine standards the tree skiing is superb - nice spacings and good angles - and there is loads of it easily accessible from pistes and low risk from an avalanche perspective. We were carrying the gear but no one was checking and it would be hard to see how they could - it is mainly "duck off a piste here and get swept up at the bottom there" terrain that doesn't have pinch points with special lifts or gates to access bowls (like say Punta Indren).

As I say, I do carry gear but TBH there is quite a lot of terrain in that area that I would ski without it under low risk conditions.
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errr, @chamo74,
Quote:

no off piste when level 3/4


So no off piste most of the time then?
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Quote:

Aosta valley equip is mandatory


So if you ski outside the piste markers you are in danger of having your ticket pulled? How does that work?
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
jedster wrote:
Quote:

Aosta valley equip is mandatory


So if you ski outside the piste markers you are in danger of having your ticket pulled? How does that work?


In Courmayeur it's the Police who enforce the ski rules, both on and off it. If they are busting you, they're not bothered about your ski pass. It's a fine or gaol depending on how naughty you've been.
They are practical (unlike American ski patrolers - and yes I've had my fair share of dealing with some idiots there) if you are skiing the fresh at the edge of the piste, even skiing out of sight of the piste but within the skiing area they won't raise an eybrow let along be bothered,
BUT if you come skiing back down the road towards the Zerotta chair with no pack on be prepared for at least a good talking to, conditions dependedent a night or 2 in Aosta!

The first time I saw the Police in Courmayeur I thought they were a bit of a joke, standing in the sun smoking or sitting in the Cafe drinking expresso and skiing on dubious looking gear.
But when I saw them take off after a drunken Russian who was pinballing down the slope with the grace and ease of a local race kid skiing home using the other skiers as slalom gates, my impression changed - said Russian was out of the country not to return (ever) by the end of the day.

If you scream passed them at high speed but in control and not getting too close to your fellow skiers they won't run after you, no point, might brake a sweat and your only trying to make em jellous not braking any rules!
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Thanks all for your helpful thoughts
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 Poster: A snowHead
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I've skied offpiste in the Sella Ronda with guide and we were fine...got chased sans guide on the first trip.

Skied Courmayeur and La Thuile a couple of weeks last winter without any issues.
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Now of course all of the above can be slightly different when skiing with a guide Smile even if the rules/laws still apply.
Idris' quote above is spot on for many places - not just for Italy!

After all everyone wants to enjoy the fun off piste - they're just trying to make people realise they need to do it in a responsible way.
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A little cautionary tale about the Italian judiciary

http://backcountrymagazine.com/photos/snow-shooter-yves-garneau/
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Quote:


A little cautionary tale about the Italian judiciary

http://backcountrymagazine.com/photos/snow-shooter-yves-garneau/


That is one crazy story. Puts you off wanting to ski off piste in Italy!
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BMG wrote:
Quote:


A little cautionary tale about the Italian judiciary

http://backcountrymagazine.com/photos/snow-shooter-yves-garneau/


That is one crazy story. Puts you off wanting to ski off piste in Italy!


I've heard similar stories before, but only when other skiers were killed or injured. This is indeed alarming. Does anyone know where in Italy it was.
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I always take these sort of stories with a bit of doubt. I have few friends who were taken to off the piste by police and taken in for interrogation, because in Italy, there's speed limit of 40km/h on piste (they forgot to tell that one of them smashed into some other skier, and the other one was drunk like hell). Well.. it's not, and you can ski at 100km/h and you still won't be chased by police if you don't put others to danger. In all these years, I have seen many carabineri even with radar guns, and some of them clocked me at anything from 80 to 100+ km/h and none of them gave me hard time for this (once or twice I was stopped but just for laugh to show me they locked me down at such speed. So honestly, I doubt someone would be sentenced to 1 year in prison for nothing. I believe he was sentenced, but I doubt that's whole story what's written there Wink
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Googled a few more of these stories 'italy avalanche prison'.
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primoz wrote:
I always take these sort of stories with a bit of doubt. I have few friends who were taken to off the piste by police and taken in for interrogation, because in Italy, there's speed limit of 40km/h on piste (they forgot to tell that one of them smashed into some other skier, and the other one was drunk like hell). Well.. it's not, and you can ski at 100km/h and you still won't be chased by police if you don't put others to danger. In all these years, I have seen many carabineri even with radar guns, and some of them clocked me at anything from 80 to 100+ km/h and none of them gave me hard time for this (once or twice I was stopped but just for laugh to show me they locked me down at such speed. So honestly, I doubt someone would be sentenced to 1 year in prison for nothing. I believe he was sentenced, but I doubt that's whole story what's written there Wink


True, but the fact he was even arrested does pose questions as to what or what might not be done on skis?

I'm sure you would agree that it would be advantageous to have knowledge of any local laws governing actions on the snow?
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@sah, Yves just got back to me, this happen in Arabba.
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@Super Steezy agree. And I also agree Italian police (all 10s of different branches they have) are most of time pain in the a** to deal with, as they act like they rule the world. But I still think there's more behind this then it has been said.
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If we go around the piste markers and onto the fresh at the side of the piste in Arabba, are we likely to be chased? Would be good to know with BB12 coming up and I know that not everyone has got avi gear, but on a 15 - 20deg slope, lots dont seem bothered.
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@primoz, you are probably right as this did happen 2011 ish when Italy were winging on about new legislation regarding setting of slides and were being raw sensitive about off piste activities that endanger others, as to whether or not it was introduced I dont know.

Yves story might be just be a case of wrong time wrong place, talking of which....

@captainslow a couple of years ago I pulled out a young' un from under a full burial not more than 20 meters from the side of a piste.
The pitch couldn't have been much more than 20 degs, wind slab admittedly, but wrong time wrong place or right time right place since he was on his own and had no gear, I just happened to be eyeballing it for my next lap.

Mind you I am fairly lax when it comes to gear on side of piste days, I have carried my transceiver regardless since then.
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@Super Steezy, Most don't seem to consider it a real risk, but as you say it can and does happen. As others have said off piste is off piste and anything's possible, but in reality its not that simple. I don't know anyone that would carry gear to bump up and down the edge of the piste and around the piste markers. On the other hand 50m off piste and no gear many would consider too far. In between the two its grey and everyone seems willing to accept a different level of risk.
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A French ski instructor made a very good point to me though. She knew I had a transceiver as I’d skied with her off piste a couple of days previously and she saw me with my kids, on the piste, without it.

When I told her that I was only planning on skiing to the side of the piste she said something very interesting.

She told me that, when the French teacher took the kids down the closed piste and some ended up buried in a slide that it was only because there were enough people nearby with transceivers (the kids were wearing them apparently) that it wasn’t a lot worse. She challenged me to always wear it, and showed me that she had one on even though she was instructing strictly on piste that day, in case it might be needed to help someone else. I took that to heart and, pretty much, always have mine with me these days.
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I can only relate our experience last week in Val G, which was...no restrictions that we could see. We skied lots of sidecountry and between the trails, never out of eyesight of the marked pistes, and never saw anyone who might discourage us. Having said that, it was warmish and sunny, and there wasn't a ton of fresh snow. If it was a proper dump, overcast etc., we'd have stayed on the trails. As it was, we were pretty cautious, as there are lots of rocks around the Plan Gralba area in Selva.
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