Verbier is an amazing ski resort with a reputation for its off-piste terrain. In Verbier we are fortunate to have a large team of experienced and highly qualified off-piste instructors and mountain guides and they can help you to enjoy some great skiing in this famous resort. In 2014/15, changes to the law have impacted on how instructors can teach off-piste. If you are looking to book an off-piste lesson or to be guided around in Verbier, it’s important to understand these changes to the Swiss law to enable you to make the best decision on booking off-piste guiding or instruction.
Off piste law changes in force for 2014-2015
The new law regarding teaching off-piste is now much more black and white than in previous years. Please read the following steps carefully:
1. The angle of the off-piste run
Previously there were no limitations regarding the slopes that could be skied with clients. Now instructors are limited to hiking a maximum of 34 Degree slopes and skiing maximum of 39 Degree slopes. There are still lots of great slopes which fall within these limitations, however examples of slopes that are clearly considered forbidden for ski instructors to teach on, include:
X Hikes into slopes such as ‘Stairway’ and ‘Rock Garden’;
X Skiing slopes such the couloirs below Attelas and the area of Col de La Chaux;
X The area of Mont Fort with the exception of the main pistes, including the backside of Mont Fort.
2. What qualifications are required to take clients off-piste?
To take clients off-piste up to 39 Degrees Instructors must now be Federal qualified (top level Swiss) or hold an equivalent qualification.
Mountain Guide or Federal Qualified Instructor?
We offer you a helpful guide to choose whether you should book a UIAGM mountain guide or a Federal Qualified instructor. If you answer ‘Yes’ to any of the following then we would advise you to choose an Off-Piste Lesson or Guiding with a Federal Ski Instructor:
V I would like to improve my technique and learn how to enjoy skiing powder. I’m happy to do this on the sides of the pistes and on itinerary runs. I may or may not have avalanche equipment.
V I wish to be guided around on some gentle off-piste runs and have some tips on my skiing and learn about how to use avalanche equipment.
V I am happy to ski some gentle off-piste runs, such as Creblet and frontside of Savoleyres, I will have m avalanche equipment and I hope to ski some powder.
V I am happy to do some short walks and skinning on gentle off piste to find some fresh snow and I don’t want any tips on my skiing.
V If there is no fresh snow I am still happy to work on my technique, improve my bumps technique and also explore the itinerary runs.
V I don’t wish to ski slopes such as frontside of Mont Gele, Rocky Garden, Attelas couloirs and prefer to stay on slopes less than 39 Degrees.
V Safety equipment including Avalanche Transceiver, Shovel and Probe is compulsory when skiing off piste. I understand that if I don’t have this then I must stay on the pistes and itinerary slopes and work on technique.
V I would like to practice skinning and learn how to use the equipment on gentle slopes.
If answering ‘Yes’ to any of the following then we would advise you to choose a UIAGM Mountain Guide*:
*Please note, if you are choosing Yes to any of the below, to avoid disappointment always verify if your guide is a UIAGM High Mountain guide and not an instructor who prefers to use the title of ‘Off-Piste Guide’!
V I don’t want any tips on my skiing and wish to explore steep off-piste around Verbier, such as Backside Mont Fort, Stairway and Frontside of Mont Gele
V I wish to do some ski touring and also ski on glaciated terrain.
V I only ski with an UIAGM off-piste guide, I don’t need any tips on my skiing and I always carry an avalanche kit.
V I wish to ski tour outside of the ski area and hope to ski some steep slopes and steep narrow couloirs.
V I would like you to take me Heli-skiing.
A final word from Jon West, Altitude Verbier Director
The good news is that for the majority of clients who wish to improve their technique in off-piste conditions, or be guided around without any tips, the law will have little impact on their experience of Verbier’s off-piste terrain. Final thoughts for those venturing off-piste this year…
* When going off-piste always use the advised avalanche equipment, know how to use it and check that it is working correctly. (transceiver, probe, shovel all in a backpack. Airbags are recommended)
* We strongly recommend you to wear a helmet when skiing on- and off-piste.
* Never go off-piste without first getting advice from an expert.
We hope the above has been helpful and informative for yourself or your clients, and can be used positively when making a decision on the type of lessons you require when skiing in Verbier.