Off-piste skiing/snowboarding

Are you always at the back of the lift looking longingly at those fresh curves in the untouched snow? Do you dream of skiing or snowboarding through knee-high powder snow? Skiing or boarding with the feeling of floating through the snow? And do you want to learn all that with enthusiastic fellow SAC members and an enthusiastic instructor? Then the NSAC off-piste courses are for you. The NSAC organizes several off piste courses every year from the NSAC chalet, that is located somewhere in the alps. There are a total of three different courses: the off-piste basic course, the freeride 1 (F1) and the freeride 2 (F2). With the off-piste basic course you learn the basics of skiing or boarding off-piste. You work on your off-piste technique and get familiar with the basics of avalanche science. In F1 you develop your skiing technique and avalanche knowledge with the aim of being able to ski or board off-piste in all conditions that you can find around a ski area. You also occasionally make a short hike from the lift to find even more fresh powder snow and to practice orienting yourself in the terrain. At the F2 you expand your knowledge and skills by skiing in even more challenging or steeper terrain. For an overview of the different courses, see the course overview and the website of the winter program of the NSAC.

What exactly is off-piste skiing/snowboarding?

Most people can form an image of skiing or snowboarding, but what is the off-piste variant of this? The name actually says it all: you go skiing or snowboarding off the slopes. When skiing or snowboarding off-piste, you often take the lift for the first part, but then you go down where there is no slope. That can be right next to the slopes, but it can also be on the other side of the mountain. You often have to walk a bit to get there. Sometimes you can do this on your ski boots with your skis or board in hand, but because that is quite heavy, you often use special skis (touring skis), a special snowboard (splitboard) or snowshoes for this. Once you have reached the highest point, with a bit of luck you will find a long descent through the powder snow where no one has skied before. You then put the first tracks in the fresh snow!
Skiing or snowboarding off-piste is more difficult than on-piste skiing or snowboarding because the snow is not prepared like on-piste. Sometimes the snow can be deeper than your knees and that's harder skiing than on a smooth, groomed slope. You can also encounter many different types of snow, and each type of snow skis differently. Finally, obstacles such as rocks and trees are not neatly removed or shielded, as is the case on the slopes.
Isn't skiing off-piste dangerous? That is a frequently asked and valid question. After all, in the ski areas there is always a warning that you can get caught in an avalanche if you go off the slopes. The pistes are checked every day and closed if the avalanche danger is too high. There is no such control outside the piste. When skiing off-piste, you must therefore be aware that you are doing a risk sport. Never go off-piste skiing without knowledge about avalanches, without having read and correctly interpreted the avalanche report and without having an avalanche set (avalanche beacon, probe and shovel) with you, so that you can ski correctly and quickly and act when someone does get caught in an avalanche. Knowledge of orientation is also important, because you cannot just follow the piste signs down. You learn these skills in a course (for example from the NSAC). Once you've gained enough experience to be able to go on your own, however, endless off-piste adventures in the fresh snow are within your reach ;)