Tips from the pros

Get ready for off-piste skiing

In collaboration with the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier team.

Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier Steve Deschênes | © Sépaq

A brief definition

Off-piste skiing is a discipline that is gaining popularity. It combines trekking and alpine skiing and it is done in off-piste, using specialized equipment. Off-piste sectors are also open to Telemark skiers and snowboarders.

Off-piste skiing is also known as ski mountaineering, ski touring, and mountain skiing and is not to be confused with backcountry skiing, that is more similar to cross-country skiing.

Physical condition

Over 90 percent of the activity consists in uphill climbing. Your body must therefore be prepared for this type of exercise.

The average off-piste vertical drop in Québec is 300 metres, which corresponds to approximately a one hour-long walk. It’s important to try to stay fit by walking, hiking, or biking regularly during the fall. You can also consider more specialized training to make the best of the off-piste skiing season.

Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier Steve Deschênes | © Sépaq
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier Steve Deschênes | © Sépaq
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier Steve Deschênes | © Sépaq

Prepare your gear

Off-piste skiing has expanded considerably and this is all thanks to technological advances in recent years. Make sure that your equipment fits well: ski boot comfort, ski binding adjustment, and climbing skin trimming and storage are some of the things you won’t want to forget.

Go for adventure but stay in control

Off-piste skiing is an adventure. Experiencing the wild is a true source of pleasure for many skiers. Hills and obstacles are unmarked, and sectors are not patrolled.

Because of the cold, intervention times are shorter in winter. You should take special care to plan your itinerary, supervision, and safety. Use maps to trace your outings and make sure that you have the required equipment and avalanche safety and rescue skills to be able to evacuate an injured skiing partner.

Prior to departure:

  • Do alpine touring in a group of at least three people.
  • Wearing a helmet and ski goggles is strongly recommended.
  • Plan to end the outing two hours before sunset.
  • If you’re travelling to an avalanche-prone area, make sure you have the necessary equipment and rescue skills.
  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Bring food and water even if you’re planning to be outdoors only for a few hours.
  • Bring extra clothing (warmer clothes, extra mittens and a tuque, for example).
  • Ensure that the equipment you’ll be using is in good condition.
  • Equip yourself with a whistle, a flashlight, a first aid kit, and a rescue sled.
  • Tell a friend or family member your exact destination, your scheduled return date, and to call emergency services (911) in the event of your absence.
  • Inform the people in your group of the risks that the activity entails.

Once on site:

  • Do not rely on your cell phone: there is no reception in most sectors.
  • Bring a map of the area.
  • Check how much time you need for your ski outing.
  • Respect signs and prohibition notices.
  • Boil, filter, or treat pond, stream, or river water with chlorine or iodine before drinking.

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