9 Mistakes Every Snowboarder Makes When Riding Off-Piste For The First Time
You will get stuck in a ditch and spend twenty minutes sweating, trying to dig yourself out
You've mastered the art of linking turns. You are slashing down the piste on your snowboard and popping off the little side hits. But you've not really ventured off-piste.
Let me tell you now - once you go off-piste, you never go back. Riding powder is pretty much the best thing in the world, as any seasoned snowboarder will tell you.
Even if you aren't a morning person, as soon as you see fat soft flakes falling from the sky, you won't find getting up for first lifts quite so tortuous anymore.
We spent last week on Mint Snowboarding's Off-Piste Freeride Course in Morzine, France learning about the tricks and tips for shredding off-piste
So what can you expect from those first forays into the un-pisted terrain? Read on...
1) You Won't Believe It's As Great As People Say
Hunting fresh powder is like a drug. Once you've experienced slicing your board through an untouched powder field, you will never want to ride anything else.
Pistes will pale in comparison. I've known many park rats who've decided to hang up their baggy hoodies and don a transceiver and a splitboard in pursuit of fresh lines.
Riding powder is amazing. Fact.
2) You Will Discover It Is Bloody Hard To Turn
So, you've left the piste, you are cruising through the soft snow until.... Holy crap! Why is my board sinking? Welcome to the love/hate relationship you will have with powder, my friend.
When riding in the deep stuff, you need to put a decent amount of pressure on that back leg to keep the nose of your board out of the powder. If it's your first time, you will definitely feel the leg burn after a few minutes.
But make sure you don't straighten that front leg completely - otherwise you won't be able to turn and you'll end up face first in the pow.
3) You Will Get Stuck In A Ditch
I can guarantee this will happen to you within minutes of riding through a powder field for the first time. You are carving through the snow, whooping to your mates when suddenly you've stopped. You are in a ditch and you can't get out.
I think it took me half an hour to dig myself out the first time I got stuck in a ditch. Plan your route so you stay high, people. Avoid the dips - however tempting they may seem - it won't be so fun when you have to climb out sweating and swearing. Again.
4) You Won't Be Able To Get Up Once You've Fallen Over
You are waist deep in snow. You push down with your hands and they just sink even deeper into the snow. You start to sweat, your goggles are itching. You are totally exhausted.
Falling over in powder is a ball ache - particularly on a snowboard when you don't have a handy pair of ski poles to push yourself up with.
Our best tip? Flip yourself over so you are on your toe edge. Take off your backpack and put it down on the snow - then push up on the bag. Voila!
5) You Will Find It Totally Exhausting
Your back leg will be killing (see above). Your knees will be shaking. Your arms will be aching from pushing yourself up out of the snow. Riding through powder is hard work.
But, at the end of the day, you'll be seriously glad you got out of bed.
6) You Will Head Off Without Avalanche Safety Kit
..... Until you realise that's a really, really bad idea. 75 people were killed by avalanches in Europe alone last year.
In the Portes du Soleil, there have already been a handful of major slides - two which came onto the pistes - so it just goes to show, nowhere is completely safe.
Get yourself on an avalanche safety training course. They aren't expensive, they are only a couple of hours long but the knowledge you will learn could save your life (or someone else's) one day.
Mint's Off-Piste course provided us with a great grounding in transceiver training and spotting potentially risky terrain.
7) You Will Crash Into A Tree
This can be pretty serious, but nine times out of ten you will find yourself wrapped around a rogue tree stump (or stuck upside in a tree, hanging from your board) crying with laughter at your less than graceful slam.
8) You Will Lose Your Hat/Googles/Dignity
Powder tends to turn the cautious among us into total loose canons. The landings are so soft, you can just hoon it, right?
I can guarantee when you bail, it will be in a spectacular fashion. Powder spray everywhere. Googles will fly off. You helmet will bounce on your head like a ping pong ball. Your phone or car keys will fall out of your open pocket. Finding these items in a powder field is a nightmare.
At least snowboarders don't have a tendency to lose their sticks quite as often as skiers lose skis in powder. Feel sorry for that dude who has spent the last two hours looking for his brand new Volkls with no luck....
9) You Will Take Your Board Off - And Not Be Able To Get It Back On
When you get really buried in a big powder pile, you will be tempted to take your board off. If you can help it, don't do it.
Firstly, you could drop your board. If you are hiking back up a 100m steep section and you let go, well that's goodbye snowboard for this season.
Secondly, once you do try and strap back in, the binding will be so clogged up with snow you'll want to hurl you stick at the nearest tree.
Oh, and definitely don't try and tighten your loose bindings while sat in powder. That never ends well.
10) You Will Never Look Back With Regret
So this last one isn't a mistake, but many people would be forgiven in thinking riding off-piste is just..... OK.
Those people have never tried it before.
That feeling of getting first tracks of the day, floating on top of the snow, whooping in the sunshine with your mates. It doesn't get better than that.