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I'm no skier. I can ski, don't get me wrong, but I'm not a 'skier'. I can strap those planks to my feet, aim them downhill and get to wherever I'm going (usually either the base of a route, or the pub, and usually on my bum!). I ski because it's the only way to get around in the mountains in winter; I quickly learnt that snow-shoeing is a nightmare.
Off Piste Essentials
© BMC, Dec 2008
My last winter Alpine trip didn't go too well from a skiing point of view. I hadn't strapped the planks on for at least three years, so in true British style, I zoomed straight up the Aiquille du Midi lift, climbed the Modica-Noury, and then had to ski down the Valley Blanche with a huge rucksack. I was with my friend Adrian, who is of course, an excellent off piste skier, and he shot off as fast he could. I followed, mainly on my bum, and managed to get down without embarrassing myself too much. Only one French guide pointed and laughed at me, so I was quite pleased with that. Later in the same trip I fell over whilst skiing off-piste with a huge rucksack, and I hurt my knee so badly I vomited in the snow. Isn't Alpine climbing brilliant.
So it was with slight trepidation that I pressed play on the new Off Piste Essentials DVD; was it going to be full of ski professionals, smoothly jumping turns in pristine powder? Actually no.
What is it all about?
The DVD was aimed not at the physical techniques of skiing (although I probably could do with some help in that area...) but the safety aspects and techniques involved in moving off piste. The story follows a team of four skiers on their week-long holiday to the Alps. They move from the resort to a multi-day ski tour and the film covers everything they need to know about all the stages of that journey. It was extremely in-depth and the clear voice-over succinctly explained all the finer safety points that the team were covering. The chit-chat from the four skiers themselves put that information in to a real life situation, and I felt like I had been with them for an entire week.
The 50 minute main feature was packed with info, but importantly, it was excellently filmed and put together, with amazing Alpine scenery and some great skiing footage. Watching the team ski powder, listening to them whoop with excitement through their radio mics, the DVD was fun, not just instructional, which I think is really crucial. There is so much more that can be done with a DVD than with a book, and I think with Off Piste Essentials, the team from PyB and The BMC have really hammered that home.
The main feature was great, covering avalanches, transceivers, snow-pack information and even giving useful information about using Alpine huts - what to expect, what to take, all the necessary info. But to me, the real beauty of the DVD came from the additional chapters, which were:
Ski touring, late afternoon, near Melchsee, Switzerland. Are you sure that's the way down?
© Mike Meysner, Jan 2006
Having these as easily searchable chapters means navigating around the DVD is easy and straightforward, almost like using a website. You just click on the topic you want to cover and BAM - you're immersed in a professional instructional session, aimed right at you, in your own front room. It becomes obvious that a professional organisation such as Plas y Brenin has had a major input in to this DVD. The instructional content is thorough, safe and top notch, but they seem to have gauged just how much information the viewer can take on board - without getting too bored!
These tips are essential advice for people wanting to either get off the piste and ski some powder, or for those who want to go ski touring. The DVD is essential viewing for people like me who slide in to routes on their bum without knowing about the real safety precautions that we should be taking. Watch this DVD if you are going to travel in the winter mountains - skis or no skis. It might just save your life.
Price: £19.50 (or £17.50 to BMC members)
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Jack Geldard - UKC Chief Editor: