So you want to go off the trails into that deep powder on the sides? Or try some ungroomed slopes in a different area of the resort? Here’s what a snowboarder needs to know about going off-piste!
- Gear: you need to have the right gear. A small board, or a race/carving board, will not perform well off-piste. You need a board with a lot of surface area underneath, to keep you floating on top of the snow. Ideally you could step up to a size larger than your old board, a bit longer and maybe even a “Wide” model. There are also specific boards for powder like “Swallowtail” boards, which have a curved-triangle cutout at the back to make it easier for you to stay on top of the light fluffy stuff.
- Technique: The big problem in POW is when the nose of the board sinks under the snow. Then you’re going down, and it isn’t gonna be pretty. To keep the nose up, lean on your back leg, and keep your weight there. This lets you lift up the nose of the board and keep it from diving under the snow and taking you with it.
- Setup: your board has to be set up properly. This could mean changing the setup the night before when a big dump of fresh snow is on the way. Basically, you move the bindings farther to the back of the board. Just like we mentioned under “Technique,” the goal is to move your weight to the back of the board. Try moving your bindings one or two screw-holes back in the hole pattern, if you can.
- The Flats: with skis, it’s not so bad to be stopped in powder. You can push yourself along quite easily. But on a snowboard it totally sucks – you have to unstrap and slog your way through the snow like some kind of board-footed mutant. When you go into an off-piste area, make sure you know where you’re going and have a plan to get out. This means making sure there is not a big flat area at the bottom where you will get stuck and have to hike out. Watch others who are going into the area and see if they have to stop and push. Check if there are snowboarders flailing around helplessly. If so, stay out or find a better path that comes back to a piste sooner, before the flats.
Stay safe off-piste, and if you’re really going far out, take a shovel and a phone! Read up on avalanche safety if you’re going somewhere with any risk. Wherever you go off-piste, make sure to HAVE FUN!