La sécurité en hors piste WEDZE

Safety when skiing off piste

The pleasures of winter sports combined with the exceptional sweeping landscapes of the mountains are an entirely new experience and thrill for the sports user. The feeling of freedom and elation is highly sought-after by thrill seekers. However, you should take care to leave no stone unturned in your preparation.

Off-piste skiing can be dangerous if you are not experienced in avoiding the risks; taking to the slopes in the heart of the mountains is for experienced skiers and snowboarders, who are well versed in negotiating all kinds of pistes and perfectly at home on the most challenging terrains.
Before, here is some sound advice for novice freeriders.


When skiing off piste, you are on powder snow rather than groomed slopes, which requires special equipment in order to enjoy the skiing experience to the full, and especially to float properly on deep snow. What's more, you need to remember that there are certain dangers involved when skiing off piste, such as avalanches and invisible natural obstacles (fir trees, rocks).

The following is the equipment that every off-piste skier needs:


  • wide skis or a wide snowboard in order to provide added lift and avoid sinking into the powder snow
  • a helmet, which is essential in the event of fall, and all the more important in rocky areas
  • a back protector, to absorb the shock of falling on the back
  • an ARVA, avalanche transceiver, which transmits and receives radio waves
  • a beacon, which can be used to find the location and depth of the victim in the event of an avalanche
  • a spade, for quickly digging out and freeing a buried skier.


In addition to this essential equipment, it is advisable to take some supplies with you, including water and a survival blanket, in the event of having to spend the night on the mountain.


Practice using your avalanche transceiver in the ARVA parks: you must know how to use it before going off piste, for being located as well as locating other freeriders.


When in the mountains, and all the more so when off piste, the weather conditions can have a critical effect on safety. That's why it is important to check the weather forecast and the risk of avalanches before each outing.
The wind, snow fall and temperature variations can all have an effect on the risk of an avalanche being triggered.
The risks, ranked on a scale from 1 (low) to 5 (very high), are as follows:

Risk 1: Low
The covering of snow is well stabilised. Snow slides may occur, although they will only be triggered on extremely steep slopes overloaded with snow.

Risk 2: Moderate
The covering of snow is well stabilised, except on some steep slopes. Avalanches are possible on some steep slopes overloaded with snow.

Risk 3: Marked
The stability of the snow covering is moderate or relatively light on many steep slopes. a relatively slight surplus of snow may be sufficient to trigger avalanches, some of which may start spontaneously.

Risk 4: High
The snow covering is not stabilised on most slopes. Numerous medium to large avalanches may be triggered spontaneously.

Risk 5: Very high
Even on relatively gentle slopes, major avalanches are expected.

Do not take unreasonable risks; From risk level 2, it is advisable to postpone your Freeride outing until the weather conditions are more favourable.


Notify a close family member or friend of your itinerary and expected time of your return. In the event of unexpected snowfall or rainfall, return to the resort immediately. Do not return by yourself to a location you have previously been introduced to by a professional, because the conditions may have changed and may now be dangerous.

Take a guide with you on your first few outings! If you do not know the mountain very well, go with seasoned professionals (guides and instructors), who know the mountain like the back of their hand.


Pauline MARTIN
Dialog leader