Off Piste Adventure – the Benefits of Ski Guidance
Guest Blog Post
Our guest blog post this week is brought to you by Louise at our highly recommended local ski school ZigZag.
We hope you enjoy this blog post about the joys of guided off-piste skiing/boarding!
Why hire an off-piste guide?
Anyone who takes regular ski holidays has probably experienced a moment midweek when they start to wonder about the kind of skiing the locals do and the places that they go. You’ve skied all the pistes that you set out to do, and now you wonder how to find those hidden powder stashes and special routes that most tourists don’t even know exist…
The answer is a guide. Here in France, a guide isn’t just a ski lover or local looking for some extra pocket-money. Guidance is taken very seriously, as there’s some pretty extreme terrain around and it deserves a very high level of respect because accidents can very quickly become serious.
When we talk about a guide in France, we mean a Guide de Haute Montagne (High Mountain Guide); an experienced mountaineer qualified at the prestigious Ecole Nationale des Sports Alpin (ENSA) in Chamonix.
To become a High Mountain Guide, a huge amount of mountain experience is required, along with a high level technical proficiency in all alpine disciplines on snow, ice, rock, and mixed terrain, including ski touring, off piste skiing, ice climbing, rock climbing, canyoning and so on. This highly respected qualification typically takes around 5 years to pass with extremely high level of commitment (and tuition fees) required.
With the safety and wellbeing of their clients in their hands, guides do not take their jobs lightly. Here at ZigZag we employ several High Mountain guides to provide off piste skiing days, ice climbing excursions, plus Valley Blanche and heliskiing trips. We choose to work with only the best guides available. Our guides speak English and are willing to plan bespoke itineraries to suit guests’ levels of ability – including showing you the way to a restaurant you’d probably have never otherwise found!
In terms of security, a guide is of no use unless each skier is also provided safety equipment, and knows how to use it. ZigZag’s professional guides provide top-of-the-line safety packs for each guest, including :
- an ARVA (avalanche victim search device)
- a probe
- a lightweight snow shovel
Be aware that anyone who offers to guide you off piste without providing this equipment isn’t a professional. Without these essentials, your safety is unassured. If you’ve got a group of keen skiers or boarders who’d like to learn more about avalanche safety, ZigZag also offers avalanche education evenings, where a professional will talk you through the do’s and don’ts of off piste skiing.
Here in the Grand Massif we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to off piste skiing and snowboarding. With secretive tree runs through the forests of Les Carroz and Morillon, steeps and gullies throughout Flaine, and the ever-impressive Gers bowl, there’s plenty of terrain to keep off-piste fanatics busy. The Veret-Gers descent will take your breath away, and the Pas de Sales (which includes a 50m abseil half way down!) is the cherry on top of a great week’s skiing. A guide will take you to wherever the skiing is best, so you make the most of your valuable ski time.
Conditions have been excellent so far this winter, making it a great time to get out and about in the mountains. February has brought plenty of sunshine after heavy snowfalls early in the season, so while there’s not a lot of fresh powder around right now, there’s still a lot of fun to be had in the untracked back country. Those looking for something really memorable should try a Valley Blanche daytrip to Chamonix, or if you’ve got some cash to spare, there’s still powder to be found heliskiing in Italy.
Get out there properly equipped and properly educated, and you’ll enjoy your off piste adventures so much more! If you’re keen to book a ZigZag guide or would just like more information, contact us at [email protected].
Thanks again to Louise at ZigZag for this week’s blog entry!
For ski lessons in Samoëns and professional guides, we recommend Zig Zag.
Until next time…