I love my off-piste skiing and snow boarding. I away venture from the marked slopes whenever and wherever I can. We are all aware of the ‘headline’ dangers of avalanches. Deaths by avalanche are well broadcasted when these unfortunate events happen. However there are other hidden dangers when skiing off-piste, of which many skiers (and boarders) are less aware.
Let me share with you some of my experiences. A few days ago I skied in La Cluzas, La Balme to be precise. The powder snow was knee deep and fresh. The cold weather kept the snow consistency amazing bột thông công. The phrase ‘Champagne Powder’ came to mind. Happy days! These conditions make powder skiing effortless and one can easily get careless.
In search for ever fresher, untracked powder I opted for a steep section in the trees. A few short turns, picking up speed and I was flying. Suddenly I got caught in what worked out to be a low growing tree branch hidden by deep powder snow. The next thing I know was heading face first down the mountain and coming to an abrupt halt. Bang, my head and body was buried in deep snow. Gravity doing its job making me sink steadily into deep powder whilst my skis and my boot were looked in the tree’s branch.
No signals of any pain were transmitted from my foot to my brain. The branch was obviously thick enough not to snap but not as thick as to not give in and break my ankle. I did not have a lot of time thinking about my fortune as my head already bedded in powder was sinking in the soft stuff. I was gasping for air, drying to breast stroke out of the stuff, as it would be my first swimming lesson.
Panic set in and I desperately tried to carve out some space underneath my face. But here the Champagne Powder worked just like quick sand. The more you remove the more fills the space. Having no way of turning onto my back, I eventually hit a branch and my face and body stopped sinking. Remember snow depth under and around trees is often much deeper than on piste. I was probably lying in 150cm powder.
Stable now, get air and come down from panic station. I am now hanging in a 60% gradient and trying to lift my head to check out the position of my right foot and ski. I can’t see them but I know my right foot, my ski or both are stuck. I try to get the poles out underneath my body, not helped by the 95kg on top of them. Once freed I use one of the poles to release my right binding. Can’t see but somehow I manage to press the release mechanism at full stretch.
Shit, the ski is loose but the boot is still stuck and under tension because my full weight is hanging on it. I am getting desperate. I am reasonably fit but the past minutes have taken it out of me. I am trying to turn and reach a branch to pull me up and out of my misery. A few energy draining attempts and I am ready to give up.
Remember Terminator 2 when the light in his eyes goes out, that as me. But luckily for me, like in the films, the lights when back on and I managed to pull myself up with a branch and out of my misery – somehow.
Remember this little story next time you ski or board off-piste. There are little traps and risks everywhere when skiing off-piste, not just in the obvious spots. You might not be as lucky as i was.