Powder skiing (or backcountry/off-piste sking), is skiing on naturally fallen snow that has not been prepared by a piste basher. It is often referred to as powder as it is generally soft deep powdery snow that you will sink into. This is often thought to be the ultimate type of skiing, as it can require a lot of practice to get good at, and floating across the top of the powder can give you an amazing adrenaline rush.
Skiing in powder can be quite different to skiing on a piste due to the fact that you now have to try and make the skis float, and you can't really use the edges on the skis any more. When you start skiing through powder you need to lean back slightly to try and keep the ski tips above the snow, and then as your speed builds up you bring your weight forwards to the middle of the ski. Also keeping the skis closer together will help you float above the snow.
Skiing off-piste also presents the danger of avalanches. Because of this off-piste skiing is best done in groups, with everyone equipped with transceivers, shovels, probes and other avalanche equipment. Skiing off-piste can be perfectly safe, it is just important to know what you are doing before you try anything too risky.
To minimise risks when skiing off-piste it is advised to keep a distance of at least 10m between skiers, never to traverse over another skier, and to take steeper slopes or higher risk areas one by one waiting for and watching each other from a safer area out of the way that an avalanche would travel.
Avalanche Danger Levels
Depending on the snow conditions, there are 5 levels of avalanche danger. These levels change with the altitude of a slope and can also change through the day as the snow conditions change.
Level 1 - Low
Avalanches are only likely to be triggered by high levels of additional stress on very few, extremely steep slopes. Generally safe off-piste skiing conditions.
Level 2 - Moderate
Avalanches are only likely to be triggered by high levels of additional stress on steep slopes. Good off-piste skiing conditions as long as local danger zones are taken into consideration.
Level 3 - Considerable
Avalanches are likely to be triggered even by low levels of additional stress especially on steep slopes. Spontaneous medium-sized avalanches are possible, and large avalanches happen occasionally. You should be very careful when off-piste skiing, and try to stay on moderately steep slopes assessing each slope before skiing it.
Level 4 - High
Avalanches are likely to be triggered even by low levels of additional stress on many steep slopes. Spontaneous medium-sized avalanches are quite likely, and large avalanches are very possible. Off-piste skiing is only possible on flatter slopes with a very careful avalanche assessment.
Level 5 - Very High
Large spontaneous avalanches can be expected, even in moderately steep areas. Skiing off-piste is generally not possible.
For more information on avalanches please refer to Avalanche.org
On to the Learning to Ski section.
This section will be updated with more information on technique and graphics in the future.