Hang out with a more experienced ski and riding crowd for long, and you will undoubtedly hear the word “off-piste” tossed around a few times. “Off-piste” is one of the industry's favorite buzzwords but many of us do not really know what it means.
What is “Off-Piste” terrain?
-away from prepared ski runs.
-to deviate from what is conventional, usual, or expected.
Look at the trail map and take note of all the cut, groomed and named runs. Off-piste is everything else. Trees, bumps, bowls, ridges, glades. These areas are often unnamed and unmarked on the mountain, but hold amazing secrets to be discovered by the experienced skier or rider looking to up their game.
Off-piste areas often hold secret powder stashed yet untracked by riders. They are a great way to explore places you have yet to see and escape the crowds on holiday weekends! But they do not come without risks of their own.
Follow these 5 tips for exploring new terrain, pushing your skill level, escaping crowded runs, and staying safe at Snowbasin Resort:
Ski with a Partner - Similar to skiing trees, make sure to stick with a partner should you become injured. Unlike the groomed official runs, you will often find yourself alone. (Part of the appeal, right?) Chances of someone finding you should you become lost or injured, are far less. So ski with a friend, maintain line-of-sight with them and communicate which direction you will head next.
Make sure your skills are adequate for the terrain - Do not venture into new terrain if you are uncomfortable or unable to skillfully ski the steeper groomed and bumped up conventional runs at Snowbasin. Terrain can change quickly, rolling from a pleasant grade to steep and cliffy. Don’t get in over your head. Snowbasin offers a ton of high quality “on-piste” terrain to explore first, especially off the Allen Peak Tram, John Paul Lift, and Strawberry Gondola.
Obey all marked signs - All ropes, signs, and closures are for your safety. The Snowbasin Ski Patrol works hard to keep the mountains safe and will close areas due to avalanche mitigation, thin snowpack, cliffs, or other dangers. Skiing off trail is fine, but don’t duck the ropes or ignore the signs.
Learn to read the snow conditions - After a recent snowfall or on a warm day, off-piste terrain can hold many amazing turns. But there is also a time that skiing off-trail isn’t suggested. Learn to read the snow conditions and the direction of the terrain. For example, a south-facing slope (often in full sun), after many warm days, will be icy in the morning and not fun on a chilly day until there is another snowfall. Sun, wind, direction, and temperature can all affect the snow quality - changing it from fluffy powder to breakable crust. Learn to predict the snow quality or choose terrain that has an “easy out” should conditions be unideal.
Get educated - As your off-piste skills grow, become educated on avalanche dangers. Snowbasin Resort works closely with the Utah Avalanche Center and the Snowbasin Ski Patrol to educate the public on the dangers and skills needs to safely negotiate avalanche terrain. Attend a Know Before You Go seminar or an Intro to Avalanche class. (There happens to be one February 23-25, 2017 at Snowbasin Resort!) Check out https://utahavalanchecenter.org/education for more info.
Best Off-Piste Terrain at Snowbasin Resort
Ha! You thought I was going to answer that, didn’t you?!
That is the fun of off-piste terrain! Exploring new areas and finding them yourself. So pull out that trail map, make a plan, and enjoy exploring! See you on the slopes!
Alyssa Erickson I am a wife, mom, rock climber, skier, coffee lover and all around adventure lover with a passion for writing. I have my B.A. in English Literature from the University of Colorado and am the founder of KidProject.org. I live and play near the Wasatch Range, partnering with my husband and teaching my kids to make the most of life and the One who gave it to us.