Let’s be honest. The reason why I moved to Innsbruck was not so much my choice of study program but the possibility to go snowboarding every day. Since I have been snowboarding regularly, I prefer being off-piste. That’s where everything began. “Freeriding” slowly became my new hobby. For me, the mountains, the fresh air, the panorama, the adrenaline kick and the feeling of freedom while deep-snow skiing and snowboarding is absolutely fantastic and always brings a big smile to my face. Nevertheless, the incredible freedom also brings many risks. That’s why I will provide you with 5 hot tips which you should keep in mind when starting freeriding.
1. Never go into the backcountry alone
Each one well knows the saying „no friends on powder days“. However, the probably most important rule in freeriding is: Never go off-piste alone! Going into the backcountry alone is simply irresponsible. And moreover, a shared powder adventure with friends is way more fun anyway! Nevertheless, it is equally important to never ski/snowboard steep runs at the same time. This increases the pressure on the slope and therefore the chance of causing an avalanche.
2. Always have suitable equipment with you
Without suitable gear everything offside marked skiing grounds counts as strictly restricted zone. A helmet and a backpack with safety equipment is a must. The safety equipment consists of an avalanche transceiver with three receiving antennas and with DPS (digital signal processor), a shovel and a probe. With the help of the avalanche transceiver you can search buried people as well as you can be found. Ensure to switch the avalanche transceiver to “send” before riding off. Only in case of locating somebody you change the mode of the avalanche transceiver to “search”. Also, it is always good to have a fully charged mobile phone and a first aid kit with you. Important: Always remove the batteries from the device at the end of the season, they may leak and destroy it. For further information on how to do store your winter stuff properly have a look at “Summertime – How to store your winter stuff properly“.
3. Regularly attend avalanche training courses
Taking safety equipment with you is one thing. The key, however, is to be able to deal with it. Buying everything and reading the operating instructions is certainly not sufficient. You have to become familiar with your own device and test it under reasonable real conditions. Almost every big ski resort offers avalanche training fields or avalanche training courses , where you can learn and train the procedure in the event of an emergency. In Innsbruck, for example, there are regularly avalanche training courses consisting of a theoretical part and a practice day at the Nordkette.
4. Check the weather before going freeriding
Besides having and knowing how to use your safety equipment, you have to analyze the weather and avalanche situation, before you go freeriding. The most important reference for this is the official “European avalanche danger scale”. It distinguishes between danger level 1 (low) to danger level 5 (very high). Starting from level 3 only slopes of no more than 35 degrees are permitted. Level 4 and 5 mean without any exception: No off-piste fun. On top of that, attention should be paid to snow condition, snow load, temperature, slope exposure and wind direction. Learning to read and interpret these factors requires much practice and know how. Therefore, especially as a freeriding beginner, you should always go freeriding with somebody who is familiar with these topics.
5. Make yourself fit
Freeriding can be terribly exhausting and requires plenty of strength, endurance and balance. There are many different possibilities to develop a basic fitness. This summer, for example, I spent my free time with surfing. Apart from that I like going for a run, hiking or sometimes also climbing. On top of that, I am convinced of a structured strength training for the entire body (for example at Happy Fitness in Innsbruck). Stable torso muscles and basic athletics are important prerequisites for freeriding and additionally an injury prophylaxis. Riding in deep snow requires perfect body control, a good body rhythm and especially balance. Besides extreme pressure on leg and torso muscles, flexibility and the ability to react quickly is needed.
6. Respect the nature
Freeriding also means that one penetrate into the nature and in the habitat for many plants and animals. Please have respect the nature and avoid protected wildlife areas (established by the municipality or by the canton) so that you avoid a permanent destruction. After all, it’s the nature which makes the freeriding-fun possible and we should preserve this privilege for a very long time.
7. Practice makes perfect
Oh year and of course the probably most important tip: practice, practice, practice. Skiing and snowboarding in deep-snow can only learned through practice, just like riding over moguls. So let’s go!