CT - How to ski well off-piste - title

How to ski well off-piste?

Tempted to go off-piste? Discover the top tips and techniques of Cédric Bonnivard, Freeride instructor at La Clusaz, helping you get the right technique for taking on the powdery slopes!

Interview with cédric bonnivard
freeride ski instructor at la clusaz

Hello, could you introduce yourself for us?
Hi, I've been a ski and snowboarding instructor for 18 years, and a fitness trainer at the Pôle France ski centre in Albertville. I handle the Freeride Generation Group at La Clusaz which I founded with Vincent Michaud four years ago. 

Who can try Freeride? Can anyone go off-piste?
In my opinion, anyone can go off-piste, but only if you do it in the right conditions. If you're sure of your technique and your skiing level, you can easily adapt to the kit, the snow quality on the slopes, the terrain and the conditions on the day, and react as needed in the event of any issues. However, if you're not sure of your level, head out with a guide or an instructor who will take you onto an easy route, such as piste edges, which are the ideal place for testing your skills and learning to master different snow types.

How to properly assess your level and skiing technique
Start off gently with easy off-piste courses, on the edge of the pistes. The snow isn't packed and the presence of trees can be a great way of learning to quickly change your trajectory, which is a good exercise. 

The technique

What are the good techniques to master once you've started going off-piste?
The first rule is to make sure you stay in your fall line.
Too many crossings can cause a cutting effect in the snowpack, which can be a real source of danger. Keeping your chest up and straight while streamlining your bodyweight as much as possible, with your shoulders centred with your fall line, and your weight on the outside as you turn, and you'll ski down your powdery slope like a dream.

How to stay well-balanced In the fall line?
The aim is to keep your chest up and straight, dissociating the top and bottom of your body. With your shoulders pointed downhill, you'll take on your curve while placing your weight on the outside edge.
After that, it's all a question of feeling it out, the idea being to stay supple and light, and to trust your skis. 

How to ski well off-piste?

Regardless of your kit, skiing in powdery snow requires you to stay fairly soft and delicate in your pressure and sequences.

The different types of snow

Why does the snow type matter? Are there different techniques?
Of course, you'll need to adapt your skiing to the snow type. You can count on these techniques to get you through almost any situation.
- On crusted snow, opt for what we call an "uphill stem turn" , where you bring your ski in towards the other to turn, a little like the snowplough technique, but less pronounced.
- On soft springtime snow, put as much weight backwards as your thighs physically allow. This is what I call the "survival technique", what's important is being able to get down the slope…
- In powdery snow, knock yourself out (not literally) with large curves or high-speed turns!My advice would be to do less curves and, especially, to use lighter pressure. For a good high-speed turn, make sure to keep your weight over the middle of the ski, keeping the ski tip visible, without leaning forward, in what we call an "intermediate approach".
- Over humps, physics plays a big role. You'll need to play on flexions to absorb the humps and to be able to change your curve while being reactive and vigilant. 

How to ski well off-piste?


In terms of safety, what are good practices?
First and foremost, it's essential that you prepare for your skiing session properly. Consult the ski patrol team members and double-check everything on the morning of your ski so that you're up-to-date with the changing weather. If it's your first time taking the route, it can always be a good idea to have a professional join you. In any case, never head out alone.
Secondly, you need to head out with at least a minimum of safety equipment, namely:
> a helmet, 
> a backpack for safety kit and a pair of gloves or an extra windbreaker jacket, and which can also be fitted with an "abs" system, an AVD (Avalanche Victim Detector), 
> a probe and spade used to locate and free a potential victim.

Don't forget, a small snack and something to keep you hydrated, whether it be water, tea or coffee, are also important parts of your safety kit !


The mistakes to avoid at all costs?
Pressing on the heel of the ski, leaning backwards. If you opt for a light tongue pressure, you can stop quickly and easily. The other mistake to avoid is leaning to the inside, which is certain to cause you to fall…

Plus, never underestimate your strengths or form! It's important to be able to do a U-turn whenever the conditions aren't all right. Finally, in terms of safety in the field, the basic guidelines are a manual to be followed in all conditions and on any terrain :
- going down the slope in single file to avoid overloading
- not stopping in the middle of the slope
- stopping in an unexposed spot

Any final words to wrap things up?
Balance, lightness, reactivity and vigilance, and the off-piste becomes an exceptional universe, full of amazing thrills and fun.  
I hope you all have a great season !

How to ski well off-piste?


Wedze communication team

Wintersports lover

Our other top tips for off-piste skiing

off-piste: safety above all teaser

Safety off-piste

Off-piste you must know the terrain, its risks and your abilities. Our tips for a completely safe and successful outing are right this way.