If we think of a winter sport par excellence, there is no doubt that the first thing that will come to mind is skiing, which we hear so much about in the coldest season of the year. About him there is a whole imaginary that includes adventure, fun and adrenaline mixed even with some danger. If you have always been curious to try this popular sport but you have not been able to dare, here we give you a basic guide to delve into this sport in the best way.
Which skis should you buy? What is the correct equipment? What are the best tracks? etc. are some of the data that we leave you in this article so that you can start your sport knowing the most important thing.
At first, the word ski was used to refer to moving around the snow on two boards, however, this sport has evolved in such a profound way that today there are more than five totally different styles of skiing. ski with its own characteristics. In this article we talk about one of the most outstanding and practiced classes that you should know, especially if you already practice or have ever practiced skiing: the freeride.
What is freeride skiing?
The freeride also known as off-piste skiing was born as a response to the ski competitions that already existed and whose regulations were deeply excessive. This modality that does not have any rules consists of sliding through powder snow, that is, the skier moves through the most virgin snow. As it is not practiced on slopes, those who practice this sport do so by accessing it via chairlifts or walking from where they leave the car parked to walk up and descend at full speed on skis.
Complete equipment list
You have to know that for each style of skiing it is necessary to use different equipment. In this particular modality you must use skis with a wider waist than normal to maintain the greatest possible stability and thus make it easier for you to cross the powder snow and go at a very fast speed. One of the drawbacks of these skis is that they are made to go down intact snow, that is, that is not trodden on, but it is likely that someone else has already gone down the same path before you.
To give you an idea of what skis you need, we leave you a list of all the details that you should take into account when making your purchase.
The size of the skate of this type of ski can range from 95 to 140 millimeters. In this modality, the most important thing to take into account will always be the level of security that your team provides you.
It is essential that you take into account that the wider the skate, the more difficult it will be for you to make turns and adapt to the terrain that others have already trodden.
The boards that make up skis can be found in many different ways. With the sidecut (lateral cut) also called carving or straight dimensions but also in the shape of a parabolic between the spatula and the tail that is usually wider than the front part. There are also different camber or curvature of the skis that adapt better according to the terrain; for the freeride it is best to use an inverted camber as it floats more easily. The shape of this camber resembles that of a banana, since only the center of the ski touches the ground, while the ends do not, but remain in the air.
If you have ever heard about the rocker of skis and you have not understood anything, calm down, here we will explain it to you in the simplest way. The rocker is the evolution of the ski spatula and it is an early elevation of the ski, that is to say, it always stays in the air, thus preventing it from coming into contact with hard snow. This makes it easier to enter and exit curves in the snow.
Alternative to classic skis
As an alternative to this modality and if you feel like trying something new, the use of backcountry skis will also be of great help. However, do not forget to take into account some aspects such as your own weight, which in the end will be one of the keys for you to enjoy this sport to the fullest and without any inconvenience. If the skis you buy are heavier they will be more similar to freeride skis so the experience will be the same or at least very similar, while if the ones you buy are lighter, the ascents you make they will be easier, but you won't have the same experience as with freeride material. At present and with all the advances that day after day arise in the technology of this sport, there are skis called freetouring whose purpose is that you enjoy the sensations of freeride but making your climbs less exhausting and thus having the best of both worlds.
To practice freeride in the safest way, you must understand that everything that happens is under your responsibility, so you must take care of any situation yourself and to face it in the best way, we explain all the equipment you will need in addition to skis
Like any other winter sport, it is mandatory that you wear thermal clothing. You will be exposed to extreme weather conditions, so it will be necessary to keep your body acclimatized but allow you to move and sweat.
A t-shirt and technical underwear, of these that stick to the body is ideal for keeping the body dry without sweating. On top, you can wear a softshell jacket and pants, they are versatile, keep the body warm, protect it from water and also allow you to breathe. A winter coat, that cuts the wind, remember that you are going to be facing strong mountain blizzards.Some shell pants, which are waterproof and facilitate mobility.
Protect your head
The use of a helmet is of paramount importance, a fall where you sustain a blow to the head could be fatal. Also, in virgin snow the biggest risk is that you won't have visibility over the rocks. Make sure the helmet you buy is rigid and open.
The buff , is this cloth that is used to cover the head, nose and ears, likewise the air that enters your lungs will be hot.
The blizzard mask and ski goggles. This security accessory may be the last thing you remember but in the end it is the most important. If you do not protect your eyes, you will not have visibility and therefore you can suffer an unfortunate accident.
In Uller you can find a great variety of blizzard masks and ski goggles of different designs, the important thing here is which of them makes you more comfortable.
In the case of freeride skiing, it is best to use photochromic ski goggles, such as the Avalanche collection from Uller, its photochromic lenses automatically adapt to changes in light in less than 2 seconds, going from CAT 3 bright scenarios to CAT 1 low light scenarios. As you will acquire high speeds in the descents, this type of goggles are ideal since they fit very well to your helmet thanks to its anti-slip strap system, thus avoiding that you have to stop to adjust the goggles or change goggles.
Safety equipment in case of avalanches or accidents:
The ARVA is the search engine for avalanche victims. It is also important that you take a probe or stick with you to nail down and know how deep the victim is, a shovel to remove as much snow, an anti-avalanche backpack equipped with an airbag system that you activate by pulling a rope, a GPS, walkie-talkies and of course a first aid kit will be the fundamental tools that you should take with you when you go to practice this activity.
These devices are very specific and their use must be learned before doing this sport, so it will be necessary for you to take a course to learn before getting ready to practice.
The most important thing you have to know when getting into this sport is that it is not a ski for beginners since when skiing in places where access is limited, the experience required is greater, in addition, the physical condition It is also essential to be able to ascend to the point where the descent begins. So, if you have never practiced this sport, but the modality of freeride is the one that catches your attention, we recommend that you first delve into the world of skiing in general and practice an easier modality than prepare you to make the leap to this one, which is much more difficult and with greater risks.
The best freeride tracks
If after telling you what all this is about, you have convinced yourself that this sport is yours, here is a list of the best slopes in Spain to practice freeride and some in Europe in case you have plan to go on a trip on your next winter vacation.
If we want to stay in Spain and enjoy the best of freeride, then you can do it at:
Baqueira Beret – Vall d´Aran
In the Pyrenees closest to Lleida and its orientation allows year after year the thickness of snow to be more than satisfactory. Many level riders like Aymar Navarro have their location here thanks to the great descents there are.
Pic du midi – Pyrenees
With the Pic du midi observatory behind us, the descent begins where you can enjoy several different itineraries, but if you practice here, keep in mind that the paths are not marked out or insured.
If you feel like traveling to the continent, we suggest some places that enjoy a very good reputation for practicing this sport:
Chamonix – Montblanc (France)
It's one of the most iconic ski spots in the world and the classic itinerary involves taking the Aiguille du Midi cable car up and down to the Mer de glace. Of course, it is essential to do it with a guide, since the amount of glaciers that there are can turn your day into a whole danger.
La Grave (France)
Back in France, we can travel to the Hautes-Alpes-Isére area in the French Alps and enjoy La Grave, which is not a track in itself, but rather some lifts that lead to a freeride area. It is known as the mecca of this modality. It is also more than recommended that it be done with a guide due to the existence of hidden cracks produced by glaciers.
It is one of the places par excellence and the site chosen to celebrate the Freeride World Circuit every year. The north face of Mount Bec de Roses is the most extreme area and also where this circuit is practised.
It's an archipelago where there are really no tracks. What is usually done is to go up with cross-country skis from sea level to the summit and then go down the path that the rider likes the most.
Frequently asked questions about freeride skiing
What is freeride skiing?
Freeride skiing refers to skiing that is practiced off-piste and that consists of sliding through powder snow without taking into account any type of regulation.
What equipment do you need to ski freeride?
To ski freeride you will need the appropriate clothing such as snow pants, a winter jacket and glasses, but also other equipment intended for any possible avalanche such as GPS, a shovel, an anti-avalanche backpack, etc.
What types of skis are there?
Depending on the modality you choose to practice, you will use different skis. The most common types are skis for freeride, alpine or piste skis, skis for freestyle and multipurpose skis, among others. .