There is something almost spiritual about skiing fresh, deep powder. About being away from the crowds skiing through stunning scenery. Any serious skier will at some point want to get away from the pistes, throw on a pair of fat boys and experience what off piste skiing in Europe has to offer.
For the hardcore backcountry skiers, grab a guide and get some avalanche training, then get out into the wilderness to experience jaw dropping scenery and untouched powder. For the slightly less adventurous amongst us, there are plenty of resorts that offer easy access to some fantastic powder fun.
Get off piste ski training
There are some great training courses available for off piste skiing in Europe. From beginner off piste courses, to more advanced clinics for experienced skiers wanting to hone their powder skiing techniques. Check out Piste to Powder in St Anton, or Evolution 2 in Chamonix and Tignes.
You can book a days training or longer courses to learn all the techniques and safety measures you need to become a competent backcountry skier, from experienced professional instructors. These courses normally incorporate guided back country tours so you get to experience great off piste skiing while you learn.
Here are our top 5 resorts for off piste skiing in Europe.
Off piste skiing in Chamonix
Chamonix is Europe’s off piste Mecca and the best resort for those looking for an off piste challenge
Who: Suitable for all levels of off piste experience
Why: Easy access to huge powder fields, and Europe’s longest off piste runs the Vallee Blanche
This has long been a favourite of the off piste skier in Europe, with a huge range of off piste possibilities available. Les Grandes Montets offers mile upon mile of powder, easily accesses from the lifts. Huge powder fields surround the 27km of groomed runs, which draws those searching for Europe’s best off piste conditions year after year.
Argentierre is an ideal base for an off piste snowboarding holiday. There is a wide range of accommodation within a short walk from the lifts & a few decent bars for the essential après ski. Buses run all day from Chamonix for those that want to see more of the area.
Any serious off piste junkie will want to ski the Valle Blanche, Europe’s longest off piste run at nearly 20km, with a vertical descent of 2700 metres. Join a guided group or hire a private guide, to get the most out of the region and let the experienced local guides, take you to the best spots. Evolution 2 runs a 5 day off piste ‘all mountain’ course for skiers and boarders, culminating in a Valle Blanche run on the final day.
Off piste skiing in St Anton
St Anton is Austria’s premier off piste ski resort
Who: Skiers of all levels can enjoy the off piste here
Why: Endless backcountry possibilities, top quality ski guiding and powder schools.
St Anton is famous for its party atmosphere and when combined with nearby Lech and Zurs it is also Austria’s premier off piste destination. It has great off piste opportunities suitable for all levels ranging from seriously hardcore backcountry runs for the experienced only, to more gentle off piste areas for those beginner and intermediate skiers.
Piste to Powder offer fantastic ski guiding in St Anton. They can take you to all the best spots in the area which make this one of the best off piste skiing resorts in Europe. Piste to Powder also offer off piste training courses so you are prepared to go back country without guides.
Off Piste skiing in La Grave
There is only off piste in Le Grave
Who: Experienced off piste skiers only, don’t go without a guide
Why: The most challenging terrain around and a unique resort without a touristy vibe.
La Grave is unlike most other ski resorts as there are no pisted runs. As the name suggests, La Grave is for the serious experienced off piste skier only. La Grave is excellent for off piste if the conditions are right but if there is no fresh snow it can be very difficult.
Take the cable car up to 3200 metres, and then just pick your line down the unmarked and unpatrolled mountain, looking out for jagged rocks, crevasses and avalanches. You will be rewarded with some of the best off piste skiing in Europe. Vast glacial runs and steep chutes, away from the usual signs you are in a ski resort.
La Grave is a firm favourite with the hardcore off piste crowd, who have been coming here to test their nerve and skill since the 70’s. I need to say it one more time: Do not try to ski La Grave without a guide.
Off Piste Skiing in Verbier
Verbier is an upmarket Swiss resort with great off piste
Who: Anyone that wants to enjoy fresh powder & off piste challenges
Why: Heli-skiing in Europe & Mont Fort for one of Europe’s best guided off piste holidays
Verbier is upmarket resort even by Swiss standards. It has resort with lots of off piste opportunities suitable for all levels. It is one of few places in Europe where Heli-skiing is offered meaning you can find untouched deep fresh powder. So if your budget allows you can jump on a helicopter for the ultimate backcountry experience.
Verbier has some very accessible off piste terrain that can be reached from the lifts, or via a short hike. Try out the Mont Gele or the Vallon D’Arby & you’ll find huge powder bowls waiting, with varying degrees of difficulty. Verbier also offers some fantastic back country with lots of unspoilt and rarely visited areas. +
You can go back side of the mountain from the gondola on Mont Fort for one of Verbier’s best off piste experiences. However make sure you take a guide or someone experienced with that route or you might not find your way back. As with any back country riding you should all the appropriate safety equipment and avalanche training.
Off piste skiing in Tignes & Val D’Isere
Tignes & Val D’Isere make up the Espace Killy
Who: Every off piste wannabe – novices to insane off piste skiers
Why: 25,000 acres of off piste, pisteurs couloir & legendary back country
Espace Killy covers the world famous resorts of Tignes and Val D’Isere. It is a huge favourites with British skiers and snowboarders in part due to the part atmosphere. Espace Killy has approx 350kms of marked pistes but covers an area of 25,000 acres a lot of which is skiable in good conditions.
There are a wide variety of off piste runs from seat of the pants steep runs, such as ‘The pisteurs couloir’ to more sedate and wholly safer options. Both resorts offer a range of excellent ski schools offering off piste courses and guided tours. Evolution 2 offer day courses and tours, as well as longer more intense learning options.
Book a holiday off piste skiing in Europe
There is a wide range of off piste skiing in Europe with holidays to suit different tastes and budgets and Travel Action can help you find the most suitable for you. You can stay in your choice of accommodation ranging from budget self-catering apartments, to luxury hotels and cosy all inclusive alpine chalets.
With Travel Action all off piste skiing holidays are custom made for you but without the tailor-made price tag. You can choose a short break or weekend, a week or longer. We can book your off piste course, guides and equipment hire and help you fully plan the perfect holiday off piste skiing in Europe.
Contact Travel Action to help plan your off piste ski holiday on (UK only) 0844 811 8489 or visit www.travelaction.co.uk