FREERIDE FUN: SAFETY FIRST!

The exhilaration of skiing powder snow together with the dramatic scenery of the mountains give you a sensation of freedom that thrill sensation seekers particularly appreciate. However you should never forget about what is essential: staying safe when going freeriding. 
Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze

Freeride skiing has been growing fast for the last few years, thansk to the evolution of skiing equipment, with wider skis with which snow powder is more accessible, easier to ride. The growing reputation of international competitions such as the Freeride World Tour, and the easy and worldwide broadcasting of freeride skiing movies and edits, spreading incredible images of white sparkling landscapes, with perfect lines, avalaible with just a mouse click, have greatly participated too.

But freeride skiing, as much a dream as it seems, is a true sport where fun and pleasure can only come with great caution and the appropriate safety measures when going in the mountains in winter.

 

 

BEFORE YOU GO FREERIDE SKIING: GETTING PREPARED

You want to know how the true mountaineers stay safe when going in the mountains? Preparation is their one and only secret. Before every trip, they thoroughly study their route, they get information from other mountaineers that have taken the same route the days before about the conditions out there, how is the snow coverage, how are the tracks... They check the weather forecast, the avalanche danger evaluation bulletin (issued by the National Weather Forecast Service), prepare their equipement. They cover everything they can, and try not to leave anything to chance. And follow the same golden rule if the conditions are not ideal: stay put, turn back or postpone the trip.

 

To get prepared like a pro, you can already follow this preparation list:

Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze
PREPARE YOUR OUTE

 

Choosing you route means you will adapt the technical difficulty and possible risks to your own level of experience, physical abilities and knowledge of moutaineering and freeride skiing. You also need to check that the chosen route doesn't involve a restricted area.

Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze
ALWAYS BE ACCOMPANIED

 

Getting prepared also implies choosing one or more persons to go with you, persons you can trust when in the mountains, that share the same goals and with whom you feel comfortable freeride skiing.

Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze
CHECK THE WEATHER FORECAST

 

In a preparation purpose, you will choose a day for your trip according to the weather forecast, normally a few days in advance. So you will need to verify that the weather forecast doesn't change and if so, if it changes to bad weather, postpone the trip or maybe just cancel for this time.

Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze
CHECK THE SNOW CONDITIONS AND THE AVALANCHE RISKS

 

You can find all the information you need in the BERA - the avalanche danger evaluation bulletin - on the National Weather Forecast Service website (MeteoFrance) and in the snow information issued by the ski resorts, usually available on their websites as well as at the tourist office. What you really need is to check that you are not going freeriding when the snow is not good (icy snow, packed crusty snow or not enough snow) or when the avalanche risk is too high. Always remember that avalanche risk depends on the particular area you will ski, in connection to the degree of the slope and the local topography. Snow patrol will always be of good advice on that kind of information. Also beware of areas exposed to winds.

Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze
PREPARE YOUR SKIS

 

Or have them prepared in a ski shop. Check the bindings safety settings (release tension adjustment) as you will want your bindings not to release too quickly if you want to be able to ski fast some parts of your descent. Also check the quality of the sole waxing and the sharpening of your edges. 

Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze
PREPARE AND CHECK YOUR EQUIPEMENT

 

All your equipment needs to be checked before every trip, especially your safety equipment. Verify your AVD battery (Avalanche Victim Detector), the shape of your probe and snow shovel, and that there is no problem on your backpack.

And in any doubt, reach out to a mountain professional who will be able to advise you!
Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze
IN THE FIELD: OBSERVE AND STAY SAFE
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Once you have left for a great day outdoor freeride skiing, you need to stay sharp and focused on safety all the time. Preparation in itself is not a guarantee of safety. The mountain environment is full of surprises and obeys only to its own rules, according to an important number of variables: weather of the previous couple of days, weather of the day in question, repeated passing of skiers or lack thereof, evolution of the snow conditions...

 

There are however some rules and tips that will allow you to be as safe as possible:

Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze
WHEN LEAVING, GET LAST MINUTE INFO

 

With the snow patrol or mountain professionals (guides, ski instructors, local freeriders). They will know if an avalanche has recently released on your route, or give you more precise information about the snow conditions or the avalanche risk in the particular area you're going to. Precious information, these persons often being themselves freeride lovers who regularly ski the routes you will discover.

Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze
DO NOT FOLLOW OTHERS' TRACKS

 

Without knowing where they go. You have prepared your itinerary, you know the route but once on site, tracks go another way? If it's not your route, do not follow them. They might lead you to technical difficulties or a difficult slope, above your skiing level of experience.

Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze
OBSERVE YOUR ENVIRONMENT

 

How nice to be in the mountains, away for the noise of skilifts and the crowd of skiers! This is the perfect moment for you to take a break and listen to the mountain. The sounds of the wind or the moving snow are sometimes much more revealing of hidden dangers. Observing with your eyes is as important as with your ears: a creep in the snow cover (breaking line) implies that a snow slab is about ready to detach itself, a pile of snow on a ridge can fall at any time.

Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze
READ THE TERRAIN

 

What you will see on site, no map can tell you with so much details. The snow cover can completely change the topography of an area, creating cavities or hills where there usually aren't. A reflection can indicate ice, to be avoided, a ridge line can mean unstable snow cornice.

Mountain is learned by going in the field with expert mountaineers or professionals. Mountain Guides get their knwoledge and expertise from years of learning in the field with mentors like other mountain guides, a parent or a mountaineer friend. Want to know our tip to be as safe as can be in the mountains? Turn to a mountain professional to guide you, and learn from them, all the time.

Les conseils sécurité ski freeride de wedze
THE EQUIPMENT

The mandatory safety equipment

Starting with your skis or your snowboard: wide enough, with rockers, you will float in powder snow like on a cloud and you will preserve your energy. The best way to enjoy your freeride skiing to the most and avoid injuries due to exhaustion.

And then there's the indispensable safety accessories and equipements that you need on a freeride skiing day:

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ON YOU

A helmet, which is the only thing that will come between your head and the rocks that hide under the snow…
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A proper freeride skiing outfit (high pants or bibs for example) to avoid snow going in
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A AVD (Avalanche Victim Detector), a beacon that emits and receives waves and thus will allow to locate your position under the snow

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A backpack

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IN YOUR BACKPACK 

 

A snow shovel and a probe so that you can locate and free the victim from the snow if an avalanche occurs and someone is in it. Your backpack can also be equipped with an "abs" (air bag system), with inflatable balloons that will maintain you on the surface of the snow slab in case you find yourself in an avalanche.

** FOR THE EXPERTS **

 

A good mountaineer that is not accompanied by a mountain professional will carry with him some extra accessories, depending on the route chosen and its diffculties, the weatehr forecast, the snow conditions... like: a climbing harness, a rope, a descender, snap hooks, ice axe, a pair of crampons, and for the most experts ice pitons.

 

With that kind of equipement, they can get themselves and their companions out of numerous situations like abseiling, a difficult passage where you need a rope, climbing a difficult and icy slope...

les conseils de Wed'ze, ski et snowboard by decathlon
WEDZE'S ADVICE

Don't forget the first aid kit and communication device!

 

Away from the pistes and the secured domain, a first aid kit with the relevant items might save the day and won't be much of a hassle carry. Survival blanket, lighter, multitool pocket knife, energy bar, in addition to the usual items for the little injuries and traumas, might be of great help if needed. And a communication device, like your smartphone, to raise the alert in case of emergency.

 La montagne en Freeride - snowboard

Whatever the risks are, only a mountain professional can give you the proper advice and guide you in the right places.
And offer you the best freeriding sensations…

Get the right equipment:

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           BACKPACK

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      SAFETY PACK

Preparation, caution and the right equipment are like the 3 musketeers of your best freeriding days: inseparables... Also with the notion that when your are out in the mountains, you are never in absolute security, 100% safe dosen't exist. The secret of mountaineers? The more, the merrier. The more you go out there with people of experience, the more you learn from them, the merrier you get each time, and the more prepared you are to face any kind of different situations.

You know now how to prepare at best and where to learn the safety rules and measures. Ready to go out there and get your best freeride sensations?

PAULINE

Communication team, ski and snowboard lover

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