off piste snowboarding

Off Piste Isn't A Kids Playground: How To Keep Them Safe

Published on 23rd Oct 2018

Have you noticed your kids tend to wander off the slope into the powder pockets? If so, then it might be time for your children to learn properly how to ski off piste: enjoying the thrill of fresh snow, whilst gaining the skills and knowledge necessary to enjoy skiing safely beyond the patrolled boundary.

When is it the right time for the young'uns to venture past the piste markers and safely experience a whole new side of skiing?

The best way to find this out is through a trained local professional who can recognise all the dangers away from the piste. Local instructors are your best source of all that’s required to help your child progress, whilst providing you with peace of mind that they’re safe. Children's ability can be assessed professionally to decide whether or not they’re ready to try off piste skiing. You could even enquire about hiring a professional to ski with you for a morning, afternoon or even a day so they can offer instruction along the way.

We asked Isabella Milne, a local instructor from Piste 2 Peak in the Three Valleys, a few questions about what instructors look for when considering children for off piste skiing and what they can learn from the lessons.

kids ski fast
Kids love to ski fast! Off-piste skiing will teach them control
If kids can link turns on their skis or snowboard, they can go off piste

What safety techniques do you teach the children?

It's definitely a case of teach by example, depending on the age of the children the main things I focus on are;

  • How to choose the safest lines of descent.
  • Where to stop safely.
  • How not to endanger themselves, the rest of the group or other skiers.

The older and more competent the child the more responsibility I would allow them.

What do you look for in a child’s ability to know that they are ready to start learning powder skiing?

The key thing I look for is if they are able to steer their skis in order to control their speed and line by doing linked turns and that they are able to balance well as they do so.

This doesn't mean they have to be parallel skiers as depending on the steepness of the terrain available and the texture of the snow almost any level of skier can be introduced to powder-skiing.

Do you teach the children how to use transceivers?

If I were skiing with any client off-piste for several sessions I would do some transceiver work. Children love burying and searching for transceivers so yes I do show them how to search with them. You can have fun making it competitive as in which pair can find the transceiver the fastest.

That being said I would never take children to areas that I considered even marginally dangerous, preferring instead to use fun terrain and good snow.

The older and more competent the child the more responsibility I would allow them.

avalanche safety training
Kids will enjoy learning about avalanche safety and the kit that goes with it

Even if it’s just off the sides of the piste…

Put your trust in a local professional to give your child a structured learning environment where they will learn about different terrains, how to respect the mountain and how not to take unnecessary risks. It can be quite dangerous to just drop off the side of the piste without an understanding of what you may be faced with. Even if it’s just to be made aware of potential rocky patches that could scratch shiny new skis, but a little education would certainly come in handy.

Special thanks to Isabella Milne from Piste 2 Peak, Les Trois Valleés.

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