5 Best Ski Resorts For Off-Piste Skiing
So, you want to venture into some snowy backcountry on your next ski trip? Well, here's the lowdown on the best ski resorts for off-piste skiing. From beginner-friendly routes to remote peaks that are only accessible by helicopter or on foot, these five destinations are amongst Heidi's favourite off-piste ski resorts.
What is Off-Piste Skiing anyway?
First off, let's just clarify what off-piste skiing is. Simply put, off-piste skiing is all about skiing on slopes that are not marked or groomed. Most off-piste skiing areas are also unpatrolled. Experience the joy of dropping in on glistening virgin snow and blasting down uncrowded, natural terrain. Heading out into the backcountry and immersing yourself in the snowy wilderness is simply magical.
But, without wanting to be killjoys, we urge you to stay safe on the mountain. Off-piste skiing can be risky; avalanches, rocks, cliffs and other unexpected obstacles are all possible when exploring off the beaten track. Off-piste skiing insurance is a must. And make sure you are clued up on avalanches. We recommend carrying a transceiver, shovel and probe within your group, and know how to use them! Want to find the best off-piste snow? Hiring a local guide is a surefire way to make the most of your freeride time and stay safe.
Best Ski Resorts for Off Piste Skiing
Chamonix takes pride of place at the top of many off-piste skiers' bucket lists. This freeride mecca is adorned with seemingly limitless off-piste terrain. And with a unique micro-climate influenced by neighbouring Mont Blanc, it boasts a mint snow record. Bring on the pow! Book a guide to explore gnarly lines from Aiguille du Midiand, and don't miss the Vallee Blanche run down into Cham. Grand Montets above Argentiere is where the most challenging pistes lie. Whiteout conditions? No problem! Head to Les Houches to rip it up through snow-dusted forests.
St Anton, Austria
If deep powder gets you springing out of bed in the morning, St Anton is blessed with epic dumps of snow - more than almost anywhere in the Alps. But be quick. Freeriding is popular here, so you'll need to be up early to enjoy dreamy first-track runs. If you snooze you lose. Freeride aficionados will revel in steep drops from the top of the Valluga II gondola - just make sure you have a guide in tow. New to off-piste skiing? Arlberg offers 'itineraries' - aka routed off-piste runs - the perfect introduction to un-pisted terrain. Send it!
Located in the prevailing track of snow storms from the North, East and West, and with sky-high altitude, snow is usually abundant in Engelberg, Switzerland. Powderhounds rejoice! An impressive network of ski lifts whizz you up to The Big 5 - the best off-piste ski runs in the area. Laub is one of our favourites, a world classic with wide and lengthy descents averaging an impressive 35 degrees. Bring on the shred! And Ski Lodge Engleberg is the place to hang out with fellow freeride devotees and re-fuel with a juicy burger and refreshing beer after a big off-piste adventure.
Alagna, also known as 'Alagna Freeride Paradise', is a great choice for a more rustic setting away from mass market crowds. A magnet for off-piste skiers in the know, this quaint alpine village is set at the foot of the Monte Rosa massif. There aren't many marked pistes on these giant mountains, so there's plenty of room for epic freeride tracks. And, unlike most places in the Alps, heli-skiing is possible here. Alternatively, grab some touring skis and earn your turns with a hike up and a super sendy run back down. Woohoo!
For those looking for a real challenge, with buckets of powder to boot, then look no further than Fernie in Canada. Don't let it's charming old mining town heritage fool you, this resort was built by and for the best of off-piste-skiing. While resorts like Banff and Whistler are world-renowned for their off-piste, Fernie's under-the-radar appeal brings you thousands of untouched acres of pure powdery champagne snow. Whether you'll go bonkers for its 'five legendary bowls' or you prefer chucking yourself down 40-degree chutes, Fernie was built for those who want stories for a lifetime.
Want to take it up a notch? Snowcat skiing is where it's at! Join a group or bring your own and ride the tank-tracked snow cats to untouched areas of Fernie's expansive off-piste. Experience the thrill of making fresh lines, every. single. time. Then when you reach the bottom, jump back in the Snowcat and be whisked away to a brand new area to do it all again. What could be better?
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