Snowboarders are starting to look to explore the un-pisted mountains as they start to become tired of the black runs on the piste map. We have therefore listed five of the best resorts in the Alps for finding some excellent off-piste terrain, but be sure to get up to speed on avalanche risks and safety equipment beforehand.
Tignes is the most snow-sure resort being at high altitude, and has one of the longest seasons in Europe. Its off-piste scene also hosts a stage of the Freeride World Tour each year.
The terrain is popular as many of the off-piste routes are still served by lifts, giving easy access to some untouched snow. There is plenty of choice between the backcountry routes and the deeper snow at the sides of the pistes.
St Anton offers 180km of off-piste terrain to explore. The resort offers heliboarding for the extreme riders, with a tedious trek to the start of the run replaced by a helicopter ride taking in stunning views of the surrounding mountain scenery.
Chamonix has a varied choice of powder snow to descend, but perhaps the most famous is the 24km Vallée Blanche run which stretches from 3812m up the Aguille du Midi to the centre of Chamonix. The unmarked, unpatrolled route will test the stamina whilst providing some of the best scenic views in the area.
There are a number of routes of varying difficulty to choose from and hiring a professional guide is not compulsory but is recommended for any off-piste snowboarding. They will give the best advice on safety, match you with the most appropriate runs for your ability, and lead the way in any bad conditions.
Verbier is one of the most renowned resorts in the Alps for exploring the off-piste terrain. Popular routes are the Col des Mines and the Col des Mouches, with plenty more to experience further afield in the 4 Vallées.
Monte Gele has a single cable car that takes riders 11,000ft up, where there is a choice of routes for descending the mountain, whilst the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (a Verbier classic) is an easier run for beginner off-pisters.
Verbier’s terrain is also popular on the professional riding calendar, hosting the finals of the Freeride World Tour at the Bed des Rosses.
Avoriaz is already popular with boarders as one of the first resorts that offered Alpine snowboarding holidays, but as part of the huge Portes du Soleil ski area it also offers easy access to miles of off-piste terrain.
The resort is great for snowboarders who are confident on the black runs and want to venture onto their first off-piste snow, with ‘Snowcross Zones’ that are un-pisted but secured areas. There are also perfect areas for freeriders, characterised by natural half pipes and kickers.
We got a good dumping of powder just in time for Valentines Day this year. What better way to spend this special day than with that special lady, Mother Nature.
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The Gigi in his natural habitat, preying on powder, and ultimately slaying the beast.
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