Off-Piste Skiing With Snoworks Ski Courses

Phil Smith Director of Snoworks Ski Courses reports on safety and Off-Piste Skiing with Snoworks. Photo: Phil Smith with Gordon and Tinker from Anatom. UK agents for Backcountry Access and Snoworks partner for off-piste safety equipment.

In the days of instant news everyone is aware of any off-piste incident in the Alps within a few hours. Our thoughts always go out to the people, their families and friends that have been involved in any of these events. Any news no doubt creates some apprehension for anyone that is planning some off-piste skiing and that is entirely reasonable.

Off-piste skiing is undoubtedly one of the most exhilarating sports around, ask anyone that partakes in this sport. Skiing powder is a wonderful experience, hence it’s popularity. The risk of off-piste skiing is proportional to the risk a skier is prepared to take like most things in life. It is entirely feasible to ski off-piste with very low to no risk. Just stay on very gentle slopes and away from any nearby slopes with an avalanche potential. If skiers seek more adventure and move onto steeper or more exposed terrain then the risk increases accordingly.

Ski instructors and mountain guides have a tight network of information sharing. At Snoworks the instructors and guides meet every single morning prior to skiing to discuss and assess the local conditions and the skiing that is being planned for that day. The routes, the snow, the weather conditions and the group members and their desires and goals are discussed in detail by our staff. Plans are discussed and agreed by all members of staff. You can rest assured your safety and that of our staff is our number one priority.

• Guests requiring safety equipment are issued with the most modern BCA Tracker 2 avalanche transceivers along with metal shovel, probe and backpack.

• Instructors and guides meet every morning to discuss local conditions with the most up to date local information available.

• Staff are fully equipped with 2 way real time communication.

• Guests are fully trained in companion rescue and required to demonstrate the ability to locate buried transceivers within a certain time and be familiar with emergency procedures.

• Guests are moved between groups to ensure everyone is skiing slopes appropriate to their skill level.

Along with these standard safety procedures if the off-piste is considered inappropriate at any time for guests then the course structure is changed accordingly to reflect this with related development taking place on piste or other appropriate slopes.

The desire of guests seeking more adventure, often unaware of the risk this involves, can sometimes add pressure to the instructor or guide to deliver a course that meets guests’ expectations. You can rest assured on a Snoworks course at no time, on any course will an instructor or guide allow their decision making be influenced by any guest in such a way that it increases risk to either yourself or our staff.

The skiing planned will be explained in detail prior to the commencement of each day and if plans change during the day you guests be informed accordingly. You will always have the option to opt out at any point or switch groups. Yours and our staffs well being and peace of mind is at the forefront of our planning.

Snoworks have invested in BCA safety equipment along with Float Airbags and we have between 15 to 30 airbags (depending on the course) available as an added option. This is in addition to the standard recommended safety equipment.

At Snoworks you can rest assured that your safety and that of our staff is our number one priority.

Phil Smith
Director Snoworks All-Mountain Ski Courses
Worldwide Ski Adventures

Backcountry (20) off-piste (22)