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How to handle white out condition when skiing off-piste?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Just use my incredible skill to schuss from top to valley.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Quote:

How to even stay upright in a featureless sea of white?

That's easy, 'cos if you don't you'll spill your beer wink
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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?
under a new name wrote:
@abc, that's a rather different set of questions then...

I know my opening post was a bit too vague. But I also know people don't tend to read long post in detail. So I had to fill in the detail in a follow up post.

Basically, the "off-piste" part really only means no piste marker to follow.

I'm not talking about route finding. I assume one is on terrain one is quite familiar with. Or alternatively, relatively easy terrain that has no danger even if slightly off course.

But even in such situation, there're problems. One being any terrain undulation are hard to spot. Small rock face that are normally pretty obvious aren't any more. Not only you worry about skiing off such, but you can also ski right smack into a thinly covered rock wall!

And one's sense of speed can be way off due to lack of reference. The universal advice is "take it slow". But it's not always easy to tell how fast or how slowly one is moving! Even stopping is sometimes difficult to define until one puts something down on the ground (I mean snow). Then there's the well known issue of vertigo...
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 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
abc wrote:

But even in such situation, there're problems. One being any terrain undulation are hard to spot. Small rock face that are normally pretty obvious aren't any more. Not only you worry about skiing off such, but you can also ski right smack into a thinly covered rock wall!

And one's sense of speed can be way off due to lack of reference. The universal advice is "take it slow". But it's not always easy to tell how fast or how slowly one is moving! Even stopping is sometimes difficult to define until one puts something down on the ground (I mean snow). Then there's the well known issue of vertigo...


Rocks (/bushes, trees) are actually exactly what you want, as it's dark things like that that give your eyes the contrast and reference they need. Very unlikely you wouldn't notice a rock wall - even when plastered in snow/ice they still stand out as a darker shadow.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@abc,
Quote:

And one's sense of speed can be way off due to lack of reference. The universal advice is "take it slow". But it's not always easy to tell how fast or how slowly one is moving! Even stopping is sometimes difficult to define until one puts something down on the ground (I mean snow). Then there's the well known issue of vertigo...


There is a current thread on bend ze knees about this stuff that I posted on.
I find ski by feel in those conditions. I get more feedback when I'm turning so I turn a lot. There is a bit more too it - check out the thread if interested
snow conditions
 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
Quote:

Easy get a GPS or compass and map (which are prerequisites to Backcountry travel anyway)

And of course an altimeter. Start digging a suitable snow hole and be prepared to wait it out
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Total white out is horrible. 3-4 years ago myself and mate who've skied the same slope for 10 years in St Anton ended up lost 40-50m of the edge of a black and ended up above a man-made 10m high wall behind the generator station. If we'd fallen off that we'd have been in serious trouble. We could hear the distant whirr of the lift station and also hear voices, we were only 50m from the lift station but it was really worrying and disconcerting at the time. Just shows how easy it is to get seriously lost. We laugh about it every time we go past on the lift now!
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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!
Completely disorientating! I learnt to ski in Scotland so well used to bad conditions and poor vis (usually mist now snow, mind!) and am happy heading out in anything if the lifts are running and I'm familiar with the resort. Even then I'd hate to be caught in proper off piste in full white out.

Two incidents on piste stick with me, both close to lifts:
Chamonix - convinced I was stood still. Next thing, head first off a 6 foot bank that was invisible.
Flaine - convinced I was side slipping slowly. Planted a pole. Not moving anywhere!
Planting a pole gives a good reference to ground speed - handy when the snow is being whipped along by the wind!
The Flaine incident was scary - on piste, red, but could only just make out one marker from the next. Below me I knew there was a convex roll into a cliff so had to side slip until I got sight of the next marker, back checking all the time.
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Despite all the advice to stay home when conditions are bad, I've been in a total white-out off-piste on several occasions. It's quite common to have highly localised pockets of dense cloud on a mountain and for visibility to close in very quickly and unexpectedly. Five minutes later, you can be in glorious sunshine.

Ski close, don't lose sight of the person in front and keep shouting between the group to make sure there hasn't been a split is my advice. And be thankful you have a guide who knows the mountain intimately. I've always been amazed that our guide can continue to ski confidently and navigate with absolute precision through a featureless wasteland.

If you actually are a guide, you don't need any advice from me. If you're chancing your luck off-piste without one on unfamiliar terrain near a cliff in white-out conditions without a guide, you deserve everything bad that will happen to you.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
30 odd years ago, was on a guided day from Cervinia to Zermatt and back.

On the way back, weather came in and we found ourselves in a white out.

The guide says, keep close and we'll have a headcount every couple of hundred meters.

We started out with 8, but at the first count.... 1, 2, 3..... 7, 8, 9, 10.

Eh?

"Er... yeah, we saw you and it looked like you knew where you were going so we followed you. Is it alright?"

Must have ended up with 20 odd.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Jonny Jones wrote:

If you actually are a guide, you don't need any advice from me. If you're chancing your luck off-piste without one on unfamiliar terrain near a cliff in white-out conditions without a guide, you deserve everything bad that will happen to you.

Between those two extreme ends of the off-piste spectrum, are all the shades of gray (not quite "white"). rolling eyes

One IS familiar with the general terrain, so one knows there's NO cliff. The only thing the guide-less punter "deserve" is to frozen to death due to not able to figure out which way is up and which way is down. Shocked
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