Ski Club 2.0 Home
Snow Reports
FAQFAQ

Mail for help.Help!!

Log in to snowHeads to make it MUCH better! Registration's totally free, of course, and makes snowHeads easier to use and to understand, gives better searching, filtering etc. as well as access to 'members only' forums, discounts and deals that U don't even know exist as a 'guest' user. (btw. 50,000+ snowHeads already know all this, making snowHeads the biggest, most active community of snow-heads in the UK, so you'll be in good company)..... When you register, you get our free weekly(-ish) snow report by email. It's rather good and not made up by tourist offices (or people that love the tourist office and want to marry it either)... We don't share your email address with anyone and we never send out any of those cheesy 'message from our partners' emails either. Anyway, snowHeads really is MUCH better when you're logged in - not least because you get to post your own messages complaining about things that annoy you like perhaps this banner which, incidentally, disappears when you log in :-)
Username:-
 Password:
Remember me:
durr, I forgot...
Or: Register
(to be a proper snow-head, all official-like!)

Off Piste or Off Piste?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Reading about the tragic deaths in Italy and elsewhere got me thinking. There were a lot of comments about people skiing off-piste without proper equipment, guides etc and I have to admit I "could" be classed in that category.

It all depends how you define off-piste? I get the view that there is no such thing as "just off piste" (in the same way you can't be a little bit pregnant), but I also like the system in US resorts where you have in-bounds and out-bounds. Where out-bounds is what I would call "off piste"

I'm a very moderate recreational skier but like to explore the little cut offs between the pistes above Vallandry - those of you who know the area will be aware of the routes around Derby lift and next to Renard runs. They are of course off-piste - but I would consider to be reasonably safe.

Just intrigued about definitions and views - is the US categorisation a better approach?
ski holidays
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
The important thing about Euro off piste is that once you leave the marked and open pistes you have no guarantee of security from the resort (ok there are very occasional on piste deaths) and it is not always easy for naive skiers to differentiate between what is, and isn't safe. There are deaths meters from open ski runs every year, in particular in terrain traps in what appears to be relative safe off piste.



Resorts also tend to lay out ski runs in the less avalanche threatened areas so the off piste terrain is consequently more dangerous.

However there is a lot of terrain that is either completely or relatively safe from avalanches. You'll see ESF kids groups taking these little off piste rat runs on lower slopes between the trees etc with no gear because the instructors know it cannot avalanche.


For European mega-resorts working like this makes sense. It would be difficult to avalanche control all the area that is reached by lifts - indeed in France the legislation permits avalanche control only to protect ski runs and infrastructure.


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Wed 6-02-19 11:21; edited 2 times in total
latest report
 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?
@Boris,
Off piste for me is any location that I cannot convince the insurance company is on piste, should anything happen.
snow report
 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
@SkiingDad, hence why I always buy Carte Neige, as kids love the little tree runs between

Quote:

However there is a lot of terrain that is either completely or relatively safe from avalanches. You'll see ESF kids groups taking these little off piste rat runs on lower slopes between the trees etc with no gear because the instructors know it cannot avalanche.

@davidof, that very much describes the type of off-piste I do - but it is off piste technically and you need appropriate insurance
ski holidays
 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Boris wrote:

@davidof, that very much describes the type of off-piste I do - but it is off piste technically and you need appropriate insurance


Yes and it is very easy to stray onto more dangerous terrain as you search fresh powder without really thinking about it. It is easy to let your guard down when enjoying yourself in the sun and fresh snow.
latest report
 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
@davidof, +1

The more important definition is whether it is avalanche terrain or not. Plenty of completely safe terrain next to the piste, as well as kilometres away from the nearest piste. Proximity or otherwise isn't very relevent; you just have to learn how to read the terrain.
snow conditions
 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@Boris,
Boris wrote:
@SkiingDad, hence why I always buy Carte Neige, as kids love the little tree runs between


Not having skied in France for 20+ years, my information may be off, but I get the impression Carte Neige only covers the rescue, not the surgery, hospital bill, repatriation, etc.
snow conditions
 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@davidof, agreed

Appreciate there is no 100% safe areas, the ones I frequent have visited over 15-years of visits to Vallandry, so an reasonably sure of lie of land.

I won't touch areas looking steep or genuinely off-piste - i.e. you need to hike across/up to them
snow conditions
 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
one of the classic safe or not safe questions applies to the ever popular "under the lift run" and I mean under a chair or such not a cablecar....the lift company tend not to build lift pylons in areas where they will be subject to "frequent" avalanches and if its tree lined then they more than likely cut down a bunch of trees to put it in, and these tree stumps can act like the rails on alpine roofs or avalanche barriers by holding the snow in place.

If you playing an odds game its safer than most but if you get hurt its still off piste.
snow report
 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
@SkiingDad, it is the rescue only, but many insurance polices won't cover off-piste rescue.

Actually it looks like it covers a lot more than rescue https://carreneige.com/static/documents/2018-2019/tableau-garanties-cn-integral-during-gb.6766c9d7c485.pdf
ski holidays
 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Discussion has been had many times. Reality is only you know - hence so many will stick to the mantra off piste is off piste. Some people have even said you shouldn't ski off piste with children under 16 because they aren't adults and they need to make the decision themselves if they want to take the risk. Probably the same parents that won't let their kids play out alone because they might get mollested by a stranger.... they might but chances are tiny and is it really healthy to try to live a 'no risk' life.

There is safe off piste, absolutely no doubt about it. Whether you able to recognise it only you know.

I looked into the US system recently. It's not perfect, there are still some avalanches and victims. However, it mostly works because of the size of the ski areas and the terrain. Worth noting also, lift passes are generally more expensive too.
snow conditions
 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.
The US system doesn’t define “off piste”. It’s a strictly European term.

A “run” is only so named to identify approximately where one is, and where it goes. And often time, locals will name pockets of the mountain with nicknames, which sometimes became official.

North America resorts also “name” an entire mountain side as “run”. There’s no concept of piste vs. off piste.

The official terminology is “groomed” vs. “ungroomed”.

(Europeans skiing in North America transport their own terminology over by referring ungroomed runs/area as “off piste”. It has no bearing on avi controll)
ski holidays
 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
@Boris, at least for the policies I have available, it's pretty much all or nothing. Unless a helicopter is involved, the rescue cost isn't necessarily that significant. In my experience (complex fracture of the tibia and fibula last year), the cost of the rescue operation was less than 5% of the overall cost. (On piste, did not involve a helicopter.) And yes, the insurance company did ask several times whether or not it was on or off piste.
latest report
 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Layne wrote:
Some people have even said you shouldn't ski off piste with children under 16 because they aren't adults and they need to make the decision themselves if they want to take the risk.


Yes, I've said that in the past. I wouldn't ski off piste in anywhere subject to avalanche risk, crevasses etc with my son.
latest report
 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
In Europe a sensible principle is "if you can't articulate why it is safe/low risk then don't go". Hence bobbing down the side of a mellow gradient piste will often be fine, straying over a mini ridge into the next gully may not be.

It is dangly bits however to think that proper off piste means hiking to etc. As others have said - proper dangerous offpiste can be mere yards away in most resorts in Europe.

Ease of access is why this is an issue (not that anyone would want to restrict it). The unware can see others doing something and think they'll do the same. At least in N America where there is a clear resort boundary (and often defined gates to pass beyond it) the casual punter is aware they are getting into something different.


Last edited by Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name: on Wed 6-02-19 14:20; edited 1 time in total
latest report
 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

The more important definition is whether it is avalanche terrain or not. Plenty of completely safe terrain next to the piste, as well as kilometres away from the nearest piste. Proximity or otherwise isn't very relevent; you just have to learn how to read the terrain.


yes, this.
snow conditions
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@Dave of the Marmottes, Fair comment re hiking - was thinking more of specifics than a general comment i.e. from top of Derby chair I have seen people hike up for the off-piste, and also see an avalanche. The between runs below chair are IMO safe due to gradient, tree cover etc
ski holidays
 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?
Boris wrote:
@Dave of the Marmottes, Fair comment re hiking - was thinking more of specifics than a general comment i.e. from top of Derby chair I have seen people hike up for the off-piste, and also see an avalanche. The between runs below chair are IMO safe due to gradient, tree cover etc


Ah there is a whole can of worms re the fallacy of avalanche safety below the tree line etc but I think we know what you mean.
ski holidays
 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
Quote:

if you can't articulate why it is safe/low risk then don't go"


So, linked to above, it's not steep, ESF are taking the 4-yr olds in there, it is tree lined (as earlier point natural avalance break), I've done it countless times and know the routes, there are no overlooking steep bits which avalanches could run in from

As you say can of works - and hence reason for asking question - I agree that anyone going properly off piste is going to need the gear, training, guides etc. Off piste 'lite' you don't really.
snow report
 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I'm a bit like you @Boris in that i ski off piste without safety equipment quite a bit - in my local resort which tops out at 1700 metres and in a mountain range that has only had I think 1 recorded avalanche death in 30-40 years. Most of the pitches are not 30 degrees, most of the off piste is in the trees. I know I'm taking a risk, but in my head it is totally within acceptable limits for me - I'm MUCH more worried about smacking myself into a tree than i am about being buried in an avalanche. I am infinitely more cautious if I go anywhere high alpine, if I'm in verbier for example and off piste, i'll always have a pack, even though many others on the same slopes would not. I think its largely down to an amount of self assessment of the risk. Interestingly for the first time I think ever, when off piste locally last weekend I noticed a fair few people with airbags and full kit so clearly more and more people taking all necessary precautions, everywhere. Avi risk was posted as 2.
snow report
 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
Boris wrote:
Quote:

if you can't articulate why it is safe/low risk then don't go"


So, linked to above, it's not steep, ESF are taking the 4-yr olds in there, it is tree lined (as earlier point natural avalance break), I've done it countless times and know the routes, there are no overlooking steep bits which avalanches could run in from

Well, you clearly articulated why it's safe.

Unless someone can point out what you may have omitted to make it UNsafe...
latest report
 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Off Piste is clearly safer tham On Piste
snow conditions
 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
davidof wrote:
Layne wrote:
Some people have even said you shouldn't ski off piste with children under 16 because they aren't adults and they need to make the decision themselves if they want to take the risk.


Yes, I've said that in the past. I wouldn't ski off piste in anywhere subject to avalanche risk, crevasses etc with my son.

Sorry I wasn't clear. The person was saying no off piste at all, regardless of how mellow.

Regardless, the risk of avalanche is clearly a) subjective and b) impossible to be precise about. I like to tell myself I err on the side of the caution with my children but I am not sure that is true in reality. It's hard to distinguish anyway because frankly I don't want to be caught in avalanche myself either.

The other thing with kids is it's a constant worry anyway.
snow conditions
 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
coddlesangers wrote:
.... I'm MUCH more worried about smacking myself into a tree than i am about being buried in an avalanche. ...

This.

It's obviously healthy to think about slide risk. The extreme position of "you'll die if you stick more than one foot across the piste boundary" risks easy ridicule as it doesn't reflect reality and contradicts everyone's experience. The issue is more about how you assess the risk of specific terrain, in the knowledge that it's not patrolled or controlled. That's the same "skill" you use in the back country, and good practice for it. In assessing the risk you may sometimes conclude that the controlling of adjacent piste reduces the risk (of slides from above, for example). It's probably also keyed by skiers, so there's some risk reduction from that. All "off piste" is clearly not "the same".

I like the North American approach because I can ride alone, and I need less local knowledge. Contrast that with the Alps, where I'm going to get nothing, because I don't know the conditions, I'm doing all my own risk management, and the locals know where the goods are and grabbed them hours ago.

As far as air-bags, I'm a skeptic, but my bag weighs pretty much the same as a standard shovel pack. I use it because the marginal cost is nothing. I don't use it at resorts, although I would if I rode off piste in the Alps. In that case I'd have it armed all the time where allowed. I would also not chop the harness off the bag, as many do. This is the same rationale I and many people use for transceivers and other stuff. I've ridden enough and seen enough to have no illusions about the uselessness of all of this should I screw up.


I don't personally like the concept of "being correctly equipped". The implication is that somehow "the risk" could be completely mitigated by a tick list of toys to carry. I must be getting old because I'm suspicious that we may be heading for a "gear first" approach to this, where as actually an "intelligence first" is what's needed. No amount of gear will help if you ignore the snowpack. And how many "avalanche kits" have been used to dig a snow profile?

--
Kids? I don't have them so I don't know, but I would not be there myself if I felt there was a significant death risk. I think the issue would me more that sometimes mistakes are made and you get to a place you're less than comfortable with. If you go out with kids, that's the risk you're taking: that you put them into that place by accident. I don't think I'd "take" anyone who wasn't responsible for themselves. I don't want to make choices for others.
latest report
 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
Quote:

I'm suspicious that we may be heading for a "gear first" approach to this, where as actually an "intelligence first" is what's needed. No amount of gear will help if you ignore the snowpack.


+1

In fact, I know at least one Chamonix local who has dispensed with his Airbag as he felt he was beginning to trust the airbag more than his judgement and experience and riding lines he'd never have considered before the bag was acquired.
snow report
 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Layne wrote:
I like to tell myself I err on the side of the caution with my children but I am not sure that is true in reality. It's hard to distinguish anyway because frankly I don't want to be caught in avalanche myself either.


There was an interesting statistical analysis comparing the chance of being killed in an avalanche between "experts" and "clueless idiots" (as I think they are known here Happy ). The experts didn't have to get much wrong to end up having a greater risk of death than an a newbie given the number of days they typically ski in a season. The margin is pretty thin.
ski holidays
 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.
philwig wrote:


I don't personally like the concept of "being correctly equipped". The implication is that somehow "the risk" could be completely mitigated by a tick list of toys to carry. I must be getting old because I'm suspicious that we may be heading for a "gear first" approach to this, where as actually an "intelligence first" is what's needed. No amount of gear will help if you ignore the snowpack. And how many "avalanche kits" have been used to dig a snow profile?



Clearly the "intelligence first" approach is what's needed but there also needs to be a degree of commitment to learning for it to be useful. I don't think there are any stupid questions re avy and off piste safety but I'm pretty sure that there is a fair degree of bluff and bluster when it comes to practice and actual experience, No -one wants to be the guy who holds up a powder day by insisting everyone digs pits for 30 mins so they personally know what's in the snowpack on aspects they are going to be skiing. And there is certainly a degree of "published risk is only 3, we're good to go" that seeps into thinking. And those with more experience don't necessarily take neophytes along on the whole journey as to why the factors add up to acceptable risk.

I've said before that kit isn't that expensive and whether someone has invested in it is a fair heuristic for their "intelligent commitment" to doing off piste properly and might have actually practised with that specific kit. I exclude airbags from the equation of kit - they are a personal choice and one that most of us who buy one hope will be entirely wasted money.



The best airbag is one you never have to pull. Maybe we need to get into our heads that the best powder day is one we spent digging pits, flagging trigger points and walking away from epic lines brah. Not a lot of fist bumps in "sweet depth hoar bro!" though.


Last edited by And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports. on Wed 6-02-19 17:17; edited 1 time in total
ski holidays
 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
philwig wrote:

I don't personally like the concept of "being correctly equipped". The implication is that somehow "the risk" could be completely mitigated by a tick list of toys to carry. I must be getting old because I'm suspicious that we may be heading for a "gear first" approach to this, where as actually an "intelligence first" is what's needed. No amount of gear will help if you ignore the snowpack. And how many "avalanche kits" have been used to dig a snow profile?

I'm always puzzled by this also.

The gears are only needed AFTER a slide! In fact, AFTER a burial!
latest report
 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@philwig, @Dave of the Marmottes, agree with those sentiments.
ski holidays



Terms and conditions  Privacy Policy